The Globalization Phenomenon: Different Perspectives of Analysis

An overview of the literature on globalization shows the presence of four great waves of theoretical approaches to the analysis of this social phenomena (Martell 2010, Berry 2011).

The first wave is represented by the hyperglobalist approach, which is focused on the idea of globalization as economic transformation, from both a neoclassical (Ohmae 1993, 2001; Wolf 2005; Levitt 1986) and marxist perspective (Callinicos 2001, 2002; Bieler et. al. 2006; Gill 1995; Robinson 2001). This approach conceives globalization as a matter of fact: the inevitable emergence of a single global capitalist market economy.

The second wave is represented by the skeptical thesis, which disputes the reality of globalization as a structural change (the emergence of a single global economy and the impact of global market forces on state capacity). For this approach globalization doesn’t exists: the world is not globalized or globalizing; nation states still have the power to influence the effects of globalization and regional alliances – on the basis of common interests – can contrast the structure of global power (Hall 1986; Helliwell 2000; Ruigrok & van Tulder 1995; Zysman 1996; Weiss 1998, 2006; Hirst & Thompson 1996; Cerny 1995, 2000, 2006; Hobson & Ramesh 2002).

The third wave is represented by transformationalism or geographical approach. This wave, which has been strongly influenced by Giddens (1990, 2002) and Castells (1996, 1997, 1998), consider globalization essentially in terms of geographical transformation (the inevitabile emergence of a supraterritorial social space) and uphold the role of cosmopolitan democracy in dealing with its economic, political and social effects (Held, McGrew, Scholte 2005; Rosenau 1997; Phillips 2005a, 2005b).

All these waves treat globalization from a materialist perspective, in terms of structural change. The role of ideas and subjective reflexivity in shaping social reality and influencing agents action is not taken into consideration. People act in function of their location in the structural context and material interests are the main drivers of human behaviour (Berry 2008).

The fourth wave represents a variegated approach to the ideational and discoursive dimensions of globalization. Within it Berry (2008, 2011) includes four main perspectives: Hay’s third wave of globalization theory, the post-structuralist, the neo-gramscian and the ideological ones.

The Hay’s perspective conceives globalisation as a set of ideas produced by certain economic and political actors to justify or legitimate change. These ideas provide cognitive frames through which interpret social reality and defining what is economically and politically acceptable in terms of public policies. This perspective, which draws upon the skeptical thesis, is focused on the empirical investigations of these ideas, especially in British political discourse, with the purpose of demistifying globalization as a false idea (Hay 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002; Hay & Marsch 2000; Hay & Rosamond 2002; Hay & Smith 2005; Hay & Watson 1998, 1999; Rosamond 1999, 2003; Smith 2005; Watson 1999, 2005).

Post-structuralist perspective conceives globalization as a set of narratives which provide meaning to reality and exercise of power by reframing the collective economic imagery of society on the basis of a space-time compression. The core concept of these narratives is the arrival of a post-national economy represented by three different domains: the offshore and global economy; the national economy, subservient of the first as states become competitive in serving the global economy; the peripheral economy of socially excluded, which must be retrieved in order to take part to the competition. In this sense, globalization prescribes a new role for the state as an exclusive economic actor subject to economic logic, rather than being capable of shaping economy from an independent point and relating with its citizens only in economistic terms. Hence it would be more related to the subjectivities of the powerful than with objective fact. (Cameron & Palan 2004).

Neo-gramscian perspective focuses its analysis on both the structural and the ideational dimensions of globalization: the former conceived as the emergence of a single global capitalism system and the latter as the dialectis between hegemonic (the liberal globalization based on the ricardian free trade theory and the anti-statist individualism), and counter hegemonic ideology (the global democratization of the global movements). Drawing upon foucauldian thought (Foucault 1969, 1971), this perspective considers globalization as a form of intellectual power expressing through the knowledge system of neoliberal ideology and propagated by institutional authority (Rupert 2000; Mittelman 2004; Antoniades 2007).

The ideological perspective is represented by the work of Manfred Steger (2002, 2005, 2008), which is focused on the emerging of the new ideology of market globalism: a hegemonic ideology fostered by elite to legitimate their power and which represents the dominant perspective on what globalization. It is conceived as the product of globalization discourse made by neoliberalist by associating globalization with market, in order to legitimate the notion of free trade.

The fourth wave challenges the materialist approach of previous three waves, focusing on the role of ideas and beliefs about the structural change in shaping its meaning and influencing action upon it. This approach proposes a radical change of perspective on the analysis of globalization, moving the focus from the dispute about the fact that the world is or not globalized or globalizing to the beliefs about globalization. It conceives as more important understanding how people interpret globalization, than globalization itself, because the belief that the world is globalized, will make act as it is. Globalization is considered thus an ideational force which influence human action and policy making (Martell 2010; Berry 2008).


Mario D’Andreta is a psychologist. He works as clinical and organizational psychologist and conducts independent research on the psychosocial dimensions of globalization and power. On his own blog,, he writes about psychosocial and socio-political issues concerned with social coexistence, local development, power elites, biopsychosocial wellbeing and acoustic ecology, aiming at promoting the development of a culture of pacific and creatively productive social coexistence. He can be contacted at [email protected].


Antoniades, A. (2007). Examining Facets of the Hegemonic: The Globalization Discourse in Greece and Ireland in Review of International Political Economy 14(2), 306-32

Berry, C. (2008). International political economy, the globalisation debate and the analysis of globalisation discourse.Working papers, University of Warwick. Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, 247

Berry, C. (2011). Globalisation and ideology in Britain: neoliberalism, Free Trade and the Global EconomyManchester: Manchester University Press

Bieler, A., Bonefeld, W., Burnham, P. & Morton, A. (2006). Global Restructuring, State, Capital and Labour: Contesting Neo-Gramscian Perspectives.Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan

Callinicos, A. (2001). Against the Third Way, Cambridge: Polity press

Callinicos, A. (2002). Marxism and Global Governance in D. Held & A. McGrew (eds.) Governing Globalization: Power, Authority and Global Governance, Cambridge: Polity, 249-266

Cameron, A. & Palan, R. (2004). The Imagined Economies of Globalization, London: Sage

Castells, M. (1996). The Rise of the Network Society, Oxford: Blackwell

Castells, M. (1998). End of Millennium, Oxford: Blackwell

Cerny, P. (1995). Globalization and the Changing Logic of Collective Action in International Organization 49(4), pp.595-625

Cerny, P. (2000). Political Agency in a Globalizing World: Toward a Structurational Approach in European Journal of International Relations 6 (4), 435-463

Cerny, P. (2006). Multi-Nodal Politics: Transnational Neopluralism in a Globalizing World, plenary lecture presented at British International Studies Association Annual Conference, University of Cork, 18 December 2006

Foucault, M. (1969). L’archéologie du savoir. Paris: Gallimard

Foucault, M. (1971). L’ordre du discours. Paris: Gallimard

Giddens, A. (1990). The consequences of Modernity, Cambridge: Polity Press

Giddens, A. (2002). Runaway World: How Globalisation is Reshaping Our Lives, London: Profile

Gill, S. (1995). Globalization, Market Civilization and Disciplinary Neoliberalism in Millenium. Journal of International Studies, 24, 399-423

Hall, P.A. (1986). Governing the Economy: the Politics of State Intervention in Britain and France, Cambridge: Polity Press

Hay, C. (1997). Anticipating Accommodations, Accommodating Anticipations: the Appeasement of Capital in the Modernization of the British Labour Party in Politics and Society 25(2), pp234-256

Hay, C. (1998). Globalisation, Welfare Retrenchment and “the Logic of No Alternative”: Why Second-Best Won’t Do in Journal of Social Policy 27(4), 525-32

Hay, C. (1999). The Political Economy of New Labour: Labouring Under False Pretences, Manchester: Manchester University Press

Hay, C. (2002). Globalisation as Problem of Political Analysis: Restoring Agents to a “Process Without a Subject” and Politics to a Logic of Economic Compulsion in Cambridge Review of International Affaire 15(3), 379-392

Hay, C. & Marsh, D. (2000). Introduction: Demystifying Globalization in C. Hay & D. Marsh (eds.) Demystifying Globalization, Basingstoke: MacMillan

Hay, C. & Rosamond, B. (2002). Globalization, European Integration and the Discursive Construction of Economic Imperatives in Journal of European Public Policy 9(2), 147-167

Hay, C. & Smith, N. J. (2005). Horses for Courses? The Political Discourse of Globalisation and European Integration in the UK and Ireland in West European Politics 28(1), 124-158

Hay, C. & Watson, M (1998). The Discourse of Globalisation and the Logic of NoAlternative: Rendering the Contingent Necessary in the Downsizing of New Labour’s Aspirations for Government in A. Dobson & J. Stanyer (eds.) Contemporary Political Studies, Vol. 2 (Nottingham: PSA), 812-822

Hay, C. & Watson, M. (1999). Globalization: Sceptical Notes on the 1999 Reith Lectures in Political Quarterly, 418-425

Held, D., McGrew, A., Goldblatt, D. & Perraton, J. (1999). Global Transformations:Politics, Economics and Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press

Helliwell, J.F. (2000). Globalization: Myths, Facts and Consequences. Toronto: C.D. Howe Institute

Hirst, P. & Thompson, G. (1996). Globalization in Question: The International Economy and the Possibilities of Governance, Cambridge: Polity Press

Hobson, J.M. & Ramesh, M. (2002). Globalisation Makes of States What States Make of It: Between Agency and Structure in the State/Globalisation Debate in New Political Economy 7 (1), 5-22

Levitt, T. (1986). The Marketing Imagination, London: Free Press

Martell, L. (2010). The sociology of globalization. Cambridge: Polity Press

Mittelman, J. H. (2004). Whither Globalisation? The Vortex of Knowledge and Ideology, London: Routledge

Ohmae, K (1993). The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the Global Marketplace, London: HarperCollins

Ohmae, K. (2001). The Invisible Continent: Four Strategic Imperatives of the New Economy, London: HarperCollins

Phillips, N. (2005a). Globalization Studies in International Political Economy, in Phillips, N. (ed.), Globalizing International Political Economy, pp20-54. Basingstoke: Palgrave

Phillips, N. (2005b) (ed.). Globalizing International Political Economy, Basingstoke: Palgrave

Robinson, W.I. (2001). Transnational Processes, Development Studies and Changing Social Hierarchies in the World System in Third World Quarterly 22(4), 529-563

Rosamond, B. (1999). Globalisation and the Social Construction of European Identities in Journal of European Public Policy 6 (4), 652-668

Rosamond, B. (2003). Babylon and On: Globalisation and International Political Economy in Review ofInternational Political Economy, 10 (4), 661-667

Rosenau, J.N. (1997). Along the Domestic-Foreign Frontier: Exploring Governance in a Turbulent World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Ruigrok, W. & van Tulder, R. (1995). The Logic of International Restructuring, London: Routledge

Rupert, M (2000). Ideologies of Globalisation: Contending Visions of a New World Order, London: Routledge

Scholte, J.A. (2005). Globalization: A Critical Introduction, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan

Smith, N. J. (2005). Showcasing Globalisation: The Political Economy of the Irish Republic, Manchester: Manchester University Press

Steger, M. B. (2002). Globalism: The New Market Ideology, Oxford: Bowman and Littlefield

Steger, M. B. (2005). Ideologies of Globalization in Journal of Political Ideologies, 10 (1), 11-30

Steger, M. B. (2008). The Rise of the Global Imaginary: Political Ideologies form the French Revolution to the Global War on Terror, New York: Oxford University Press

Wolf, M. (2005). Why Globalization Works, New Haven: Yale

Watson, M. (1999). Rethinking Capital Mobility: Re-Regulating Financial Markets in New Political Economy 4 (1), 55-75

Weiss, L. (1998). The Myth of the Powerless State. Cambridge: Polity Press

Weiss, L. (2006). Michael Mann, State Power and the Two Logics of Globalisation in Millennium: Journal of International Studies 34(4), 529-539

Zysman, J. (1996). Myth of a Global Economy: Enduring National Foundations and Emerging Regional Relaities’ in New Political Economy 1 (2), 157-184

Comment on Global Research Articles on our Facebook page

Become a Member of Global Research

Articles by: Mario D’Andreta

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. The Centre of Research on Globalization grants permission to cross-post Global Research articles on community internet sites as long the source and copyright are acknowledged together with a hyperlink to the original Global Research article. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: [email protected] contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of "fair use" in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than "fair use" you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: [email protected]