Date written: September 14th, 2006
Challenges of Globalization
For the past month I have been pondering to myself, why is there so much pizza in Norway? Before I came to Norway, I had the perception that all Norwegians ate was a lot of fresh fish and possibly some reindeer meat. Since Norway is on the sea and fish is a major export, it seemed like a reasonable assumption. Not being much of a fish lover, I was shocked and some what pleased when the first thing I ate in Oslo wasn’t salmon or reindeer for that matter, but instead cold pizza from Dolly Dimples, a large pizza chain found almost everywhere in Norway. And it’s not just pizza, but kebabs, hotdogs, and even burgers from McDonalds and Burger King!! I feel that the fast food from America has followed me here, however, it was already here before I got here. Is this all a product of globalization? Or a cause of globalization?When we discussed this earlier in class, someone pointed out just the sheer number of kinds of frozen pizza that one could purchase in the REMA or RIMI supermarkets. From there we went on a tangent on how “globalized” Norwegians are through food, mass media, and technology. I started with food because everyone, regardless of location, requires food to live and most often cultures have distinct food or meals that make them “traditional food” such as Norwegian Lesfa. I wonder however, the degrees to which these foods are available in Norway because Norwegians have traveled around the world, tried different foods, and now want to eat them at home. Or are these foods in Norway because Norwegians heard about them through the media and food companies marketed them as desirable alternatives to traditional fare. In this case the food becomes a source of globalization rather than an indicator that it has occurred. In regards to fish, I didn’t have my first piece of fish until I had Fish and Chips at the Fish Market in Bergen last weekend and again in a Cauliflower Soup with some Salmon for dinner at Preikestolen (which was quite good). My new appreciation for fish is due to my exposure to Norwegian culture, not marketing, and so when I eat it at home it will be a sign of globalization.
Another channel of globalization, television, surprised me as well. Whenever I have had a chance to do some channel “surfing” I have seen many programs from the U.S. and the U.K. with spoken English and captioned Bokmal. However, whenever the nightly news comes on the spoken language reflects the local dialect from which the news is being broadcasted. This has been (and will continue to be) very interesting to observe, although a little disappointing. I think I could learn more about Norwegian culture by watching Norwegian sitcoms or shows that are uniquely Norwegian. Maybe there are other channels out there in the void that I still need to stumble upon, but so far it strikes me as odd that Norwegians rely on other countries for their TV programming.
Globalization is defined by the Wikipedia (2006) as: An umbrella term for a complex series of economic, social, technological, cultural and political changes seen as increasing interdependence, integration and interaction between people and companies in disparate locations. The Wikipedia, which is created and modified by internet users, provides a common, non-technical, understanding of the term and is in turn an example of globalization as well.
With this definition in mind, it is reasonable to argue that globalization is not a new phenomenon. Rather globalization began occurring when the first human beings set sail across the seas and began interacting with other people through trade as seafaring peoples such as the Phoenicians traveled the ancient world. The Romans and the Vikings also spread their language and customs around the globe as they conquered other peoples and forced them to assimilate to the conquering culture. In more recent times the British, French and Dutch established large empires that included colonies that were exploited to increase the wealth of the colonial powers. For many years the Merchant Marine of Norway traveled all over the world delivering goods and exchanging people, ideas, and practices which all contributed to what Norway and the world are today. However, abuses that are associated with conquest and colonialism raise issues about modern globalization which is accelerating due to new communication technologies and economic policies such as the Washington Consensus. The issue of who wins and who loses through globalization has been brought to the front burner once again. Is globalization a new type of colonialism is disguise?
The readings we were assigned for this topic and the two guest lecturers, Peter Vilsted and Kirk Samson offered interesting insights into the benefits and problems of globalization. Vilsted and Samson described globalization in the context of social justice issues such as the need of fresh water in most of the developing world. They also described the tensions between the U.S. and Norway such as Norway's lack of support for current President George W. Bush and the general pendulum swing of US interest away from Europe to more contested areas of the middle east.
In the readings, Bhagwati (2004) painted a rather rosy image of globalization stating that in general globalizing policies that favor large transnational corporations or NGO/TNG’s do more good than they do harm. Bhagwati argued that globalization is central to solving the third world’s economic problems. On the opposing side, Susan George (2004) provided a great analysis of the failures of the Washington Consensus and described the increases of inequalities in the world that have resulted from neoliberal economic policy. However, she does not offer new solutions to the economic problems faced by third world countries unless these are brought up in other chapters.
An optional reading for that same week, that I feel should have been required and am disappointed to have not finished, was the article by Held (2005) who also attacks the failures of the Washington Consensus but suggests that these policies need to be amended and changed along with what is referred to as the Washington Security Agenda to a human one. I hope to finish this article, and that all are fully discussed soon in the course of this class.
Norway and Scandinavia have benefited much from globalization. Norway specifically has gone from being one of the poorest countries to being one of the richest countries after discovering oil in the North Sea. The sale of this oil on the world market was made possible by globalization. Norway also benefited from its relationship with NATO after the post-war years and during the Cold War when Norway was a crucial ally to the US. However, now that the Cold War has been over for almost three decades and the E.U. is increasingly becoming more responsible for its own security, NATO it seems is becoming less important. As Kirk Samson stated in his lecture, "if American interests are moving from Europe, who is going to come to the aid of Norway if it is ever threatened?" It will be interesting to see what changes occur in the next decades and if Norway becomes an active participant of the E.U. rather than a state that plays lip service for economic purposes.