The contemporary economy is characterised by the process of the world globalisation. This process affects dramatically the life of societies of different countries as well as the life of individuals. Moreover, the economic globalisation accompanied and, to a certain extent, stimulated by the development of new technologies and communication, changes the life of people so significantly that the purpose of human life gets to be reshaped under its influence.
The process of globalisation and the development of new technologies lead to the creation of the society of consumption in which the consumption becomes the main moving force of the progress and even the main purpose of human life. Naturally, this engenders a number of discussions as for the role of globalisation and the development of new technologies in the changes that take place in the society and their perspectives. This is why, it is necessary to trace the essence of the process of globalisation and its main effects that would permit to better understand whether and how it can change human society and life of an average individual.
The economic globalisation serving to interest of large corporations of developed countries
Speaking about economic globalisation it is necessary to briefly discuss this phenomenon in order to better understand its essence and possible consequences. At this respect, it should be pointed out that this process is relatively new in historical terms and it is the result of a rapid economic development of some countries, both developed and developing ones, that provided great opportunities for the development of international economic relations, trade and cooperation. At the same time, it is very important to underline that the rapid progress of technologies has played a significant role in the development of the process of economic globalisation. In fact, it was one of the strongest stimuli for economic growth and active international trade. Among new technologies widely implemented in the contemporary world, IT, computing, Internet, and communication have made a particularly significant contribution into the development of economic globalisation.
Basically, the process of economic globalisation is characterised by elimination of financial barriers in the international trade that stimulated the development of trade between countries. Furthermore, such elimination of financial barriers led to the specialization of countries on production of certain products and services and the more developed the country was the wider range of goods and services it could offer on the international arena, while, in stark contrast, the less developed countries were narrow specialised and often were characterised by domination of a single, particular industry, where a developing country could be the most competitive. It means that globalisation is “characterised by economic specialisation of different countries” (Danaher 1996:235).
Nonetheless, in certain cases the process of world globalisation contributed to a growing cooperation between both developed and developing countries. This was basically the result of the development of new technologies and communication. For instance, it is not a secret that the development of IT and wide spread of Internet made the cooperation between different countries situated in parts of the world easier because geographical boundaries have been eliminated. In practical terms, it means that company or people that are in different countries may easily work on one and the same product in cooperation as well as provide some services without the necessity to be geographically close to each other. Consequently, new technologies provided companies and people with a possibility to be closer to each other without changing their geographical location.
Furthermore, the development of international trade and economic cooperation led to the creation of different international organisations either regional or global that aimed at the regulation of the international relations within certain regions or in global terms. Among such organisations may be named WTO, NAFTA, OPEC, etc. It means that the world as well as human societies has started to change dramatically since a new institutions has started to be created, which were even more powerful and significant than national institutions. At this respect, it is also worth to mention “the increased role of multinational corporations that spread their operations all over the world” (Khor 2001:155) and many of them are presented in different countries. For instance, there are such famous corporations as McDonalds that is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, Microsoft, and many others. In fact, the appearance of international institutions regulating economic relations was to a significant extent “the response of national governments to the growing power of multinational corporations” (Khor 2001:157) which potentially stronger than any single national government in the world.
In addition to the social changes in the global scale concerning the structure of states and the formation of larger international institutions, which in some cases contribute to the integration of national states and become even more important than national governments , there are also significant socio-economic changes that take place within countries. At this respect, it is possible to estimate that the effect of economic globalisation and the development of new technologies, communication, IT, etc. is dubious because, on the one hand, it is profitable for developed countries and very dangerous for developing ones, to the extent that some specialists estimate that globalisation leads to the widening gap between developed and developing countries when “profit flows basically in developed countries, while developing getting even more dependent” (Gomory 2002:412).
As for the societies of developed countries they obviously proliferate from the development of economic globalisation because for developed countries this process is accompanied by the opening of new markets and, consequently, the local population can profit from economic growth within the countries and more opportunities for employment because the goods and services produced in developed countries can be solved in new markets of developing countries opened for free trade. At the same time it should be pointed out that it is basically not ordinary citizens that profit from globalisation but large corporations that enlarge their market share all over the world, while the profit of citizens turns to be secondary and indirect.
On the other hand, societies of developing countries are in great danger of socio-economic crises because, despite the fact that the cooperation with developed countries provided them with access to new technologies and foreign investments basically from the part of large corporations, it also fixed the position of developed and developing countries. What is meant here is the fact that developing societies became highly dependable on the international situation, which, in its turn, depends on the policy of developed countries, or to put it more precisely, on the policy and strategy of development of large corporations. This is particularly dangerous for ‘mono-industrial’ economies. As a result, the societies of developing countries would suffer the first if there were any economic crisis.
The consumption society and consumption as the main purpose of human life
Obviously, the process of globalisation affects all countries and all societies but, despite the fact that this process seems to be too global to affect the life of individuals, it still influences dramatically the position of people in society, their lifestyle, cultural norms and social behaviour. At this respect, it is necessary to say that there is a great danger for individual’s life in the process of globalisation as well as for the society at large. This danger is the result of the formation of a new society, the society of consumption, which makes consumption the main purpose of life.
Actually, such a situation leads to the transformation of the purpose of human life and lifestyle that results in the formation of stereotypes concerning the social status of individuals. According to such stereotypes, “the more an individual may consume, the higher his social status is” (Mitchell and Schoeffel 2002:234).
Naturally, each individual is influenced by such changes and it happens even regardless, individual’s will since often social behaviour and cultural norms are acquired subconsciously. Nowadays consumption really becomes the dominating ideology in the contemporary society, as it has been just mentioned, and in the future this trend would be only stronger. What it practically means is that the ideology of consumption affects all spheres of human life and even changes its purpose.
In order to better understand these changes, it is necessary to discuss the entity of the consumption society. At this respect, it is necessary to analyse the situation from two different positions. On the one hand, there are producers of goods and services whose main goal is to sell their goods and services to consumers. On the other hand, there are consumers for whom the consumption of the goods and services has become the main goal of their life.
Speaking about producers of goods and services, it should be said that it is natural for them to strive for new market, and consequently new consumers in larger quantities. At this respect, the implementation of new technologies and communication systems is very helpful for them since they “contribute to the expansion of the goods and services of large producers in new markets” (Danaher 1999:297). Moreover, the process of globalisation also plays a very important role since it eliminates any financial boundaries and restriction in the international trade making goods and services become accessible for a larger number of consumers in new markets. In order to better understand the essence of this process, it is possible to draw an example. For instance, a company produces a certain good but when the national market gets saturated the company naturally expands in the foreign markets but in order to make the good more accessible for the consumers worldwide it can use Internet to promote and distribute the company’s product. As a result the company get enormous perspectives of economic growth.
The individual and collective agenda defined by the communication environment
Naturally, there are also consumers, which are also affected dramatically by the ideology of the consumption society but unlike companies, or producers of goods and services, the effects of this ideology and recent trends of globalisation, enforced by “the spread of new technologies and improvement of communication” (Dolan 1996:317), are rather negative. Moreover, the development of IT and media deteriorates the situation dramatically because individuals are constantly informed from different sources and in the future such ‘informatization’ of individuals will only increase. As a result, individuals are not simply informed but “are stimulated to increase consumption of goods and services” (Ellerman 2003:271).
As a result, in such a situation the consumption becomes the main goal of human life. In practical terms it means that people aim at the acquisition of goods and use of services of possibly more prestigious brands. As a result, the social status of an individual may be defined by his/her consumption abilities, i.e. by his/her ability to buy or use goods and services of a prestigious brand. But what is even more important in this situation is the fact that the quality and even necessity of these goods and services are not important for people what they are really interested in is the prestige of a brand.
Moreover, such attitude affects all spheres of human life, which includes culture as well. Not surprisingly that nowadays such terms as pop culture or mass art appear. In fact the main goal of such a kind culture is the same: to sell certain cultural product to a consumer and the consumer aims at consumption of a product that is currently the most prestigious or simply best selling. Actually, it should be pointed out that the role of new technologies and communication is particularly important in this process because the contemporary media distribute products of pop culture in enormous quantity practically without restrictions. In the future, it may result in a complete cultural degradation of human society and each individual in particular because, if the current trends kept growing, it would lead to the development of new generation of individuals which would be members of the consumption society where all moral and ethical values are susceptible to one main goal to consume and new technologies would “provide more opportunities to consume wider range of goods and services” (Khor 2001:388) that could be even objectively useless if not promoted via sophisticated means of communication, or media and, in all probability, due to the globalisation of the world economy, this process would involve all countries and, consequently, all people of the world.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the current process of globalisation and development of new technologies, especially IT, Internet and communication can produce a stimulating impact on the socio-economic development of different countries. However, even now it is obvious that the process of globalisation affects differently developed and developing countries, notably it is rather profitable for developed countries while developing countries are very susceptible to international situation and are dependent on developed countries. Moreover, the current positive effects of globalisation and development of technologies may turn to be rather negative in the future if profound structural changes did not occur in human society. it means that human society and each individual should refuse from the dominant ideology of the consumption society and return to basic humanistic values and cultural norms that make humans really human. Otherwise, the perspective of cultural degradation of people, overflowed by the most advanced and sophisticated but not always useful goods and services spread with the help of new technologies, would be quite real.
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