Learning to change
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Learning to change

4.2.1 Theories of globalisation

There are many different theories relating to globalisation. Some see globalisation as positive or beneficial. These theories argue that globalisation will encourage ‘good things’ like the growth of online communities that can span the world and might be able to break free of repressive regimes. Others suggest that there will be negative consequences to globalisation. They argue that globalisation makes it easier for jobs to be exported to wherever labour is cheapest. In this view there are many more losers than winners in a globalised world. Both these positive and negative views of globalisation agree that globalisation is a major force in the world.

There are other theories about globalisation that disagree with this. One theory, known as ‘internationalist’, argues that there has always been international trade and that the idea of globalisation does not add much to our understanding of the world. Finally, those who support theories that have been labelled ‘transformationalist’ suggest that it is too soon to be able to fully grasp the implications of a globalising world. They argue that those who see benefits occurring as a result of globalisation may yet be proved right; equally the more pessimistic theories about globalisation may prove to be more accurate.

These theories are summarised in Table 4.

Theories of globalisation

Globalists – see globalisation as inevitable and powerful. The impacts of globalisation are felt everywhere in the world. They cannot be resisted or influenced by people.
Positive globalists Point to the benefits for the quality of life. Bringing people together, promoting sharing and understanding. Negative globalists See the world as becoming more homogenous and less diverse as major economic and political interests dominate the world and impose their own agenda. Internationalists Are sceptical about globalisation. They dispute whether there has been a fundamental change in the way that the world is organised. The global flows of trade and money are not substantially different to previous historical times. Transformationalists Also think that globalists have exaggerated their case but believe that it is not easy to dismiss globalisation or underestimate its impacts and effects.
(Adapted from Cochrane and Pain, 2004, pp. 22–3)

These theories compete with one another as they attempt to explain important aspects of economics, politics and culture. What is important about globalisation for this discussion is the way that governments, including the UK Government, tend to focus on the need to deal with the negative aspects of globalisation and, in particular, the negative economic aspects of globalisation. Consequently, many areas of government policy are said to result from trying to respond to the pressures caused by globalisation. Nowhere is this more apparent than in government policy about education and training. As Evans et al. (2006, p. 118) have noted, government has a role because ‘the State has an interest in promoting the competitiveness of the economy as a whole’. They go on to point out that: ‘Economic competitiveness requires an adequate supply of skills in the economy.’

These concerns underpin a theory known as human capital theory.


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