Globalisation: Hero or villain?

GLOBALISATION IS a controversial subject, and as all of them are, it means different things to different persons. Depending upon the vantage point, it creates opportunities to some and raises threats to others. It could mean xenophobic reactions towards `outsiders' or, at the other extreme, denial of local culture. Everything depends upon the viewpoint!

These are extreme reactions; they could arise from a narrow set of considerations of one's personal interests, or more generally, to some strong ideological moorings. Amid the clamour and din of life the former is perhaps unavoidable for most of us, but the latter? There's where we possibly have a lever to work with.

We need to cast aside a purely ideological approach because that would be eminently unsuitable to the issues and the times ahead. Ideology assumes that everything there is to an issue is substantively and conceptually known.

Nothing is further from the truth about globalisation. There are too many unintended and unforeseen consequences, positive and negative, that cannot be fathomed a priori.

For our purpose globalisation may be described as the physical boundaries becoming progressively less important in economic, social and cultural matters, and means of interchange of ideas and dialogue becoming easier. What would this mean to those in different professions?

To an executive in a company making cars it may mean bewilderment. The quality protocols that he followed up until now may be passe. Perhaps the steel that would go into his automobiles would be produced in Company A in Country B, made into sheet metal in Company C in Country D, shaped into car frame in Company E in Country F, and finally, assembled in Company D in Country Z.

How would he ensure the quality of steel? Should he negotiate with Company A, or only from the fellow in Company C, or some one else, or all of them?

To a journalist the new opportunities are numerous. His or her question would be, ''Well, how can I sit at home and collect local news and do news analysis that could be sold to the newspaper conglomerate sitting 10,000 miles away? I could sign a contract (complete with electronic signature) with the company electronically and get my fees deposited paperlessly.''

To a factory worker the kind of work he does now may already be redundant in developed countries. His thinking may go something like this, ''The process of automation has a way of spreading like the plague! The bane will catch up soon here too in no time.

Therefore, my job is under threat. If only I could be in a position to learn new skills that would help me capitalise on new opportunities current times are throwing up.''

To a lawyer, globalisation may mean some other form of bewilderment, ''I understand the Law of contracts.

To me the place of contract is understood as the place the parties meet and sign the contract.

But in the new age, where there is no physical meeting, how could I possibly decide upon the place of contract''

It seems Globalisation affects every one of us and there is really no way to turn away from the ravages of this peculiar form of planetary attenuation.

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