Globalization & Fragmentation in International Relations

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  • 0:01 Coming Together, Growing Apart
  • 0:44 Advantages of Globalization
  • 1:39 Disadvantages of Globalization
  • 2:41 Advantages of Fragmentation
  • 3:54 Disadvantages of Fragmentation
  • 4:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

The past 100 years has been a time of greater globalization, but also greater fragmentation between countries. This lesson explains how this has occurred by comparing international relations to a playground.

Coming Together, Growing Apart

When you were in kindergarten, chances are you could play with just about any kid in your class. Sure, you had your best friend who liked all the same cartoons as you, and you may have even had someone who you didn't like as much, mainly because they stole your snack. In fact, even though most boys or girls had cooties, there was probably even someone of the opposite gender who you liked to play with.

However, by the time you were in middle and high school, it was a very different situation. Sure, you could be expected to say 'hi' to just about everyone, but you kept to your friends. You may even have had multiple groups of friends that didn't necessarily mix well, but just as much as you had groups you embraced, there were groups of people that you didn't like as much. In short, you experienced globalization as a kindergartener and fragmentation later.

Advantages of Globalization

Being a kindergartener had its advantages, primarily that you could play with just about anyone. So too does globalization offer such advantages to countries. It allows them to trade with anyone, and to be connected in new ways. And you may not have thought you'd like playing kickball in kindergarten at first, but chances are you ran home and told your mom how much fun it was.

Globalization provides similar benefits for companies. McDonald's may have never thought of Japan as a likely candidate for expansion, but globalization made the barriers of entry, or cost to enter the market, quite low. Just like being a kindergartener asking to play with a different group, there was no risk of life-shaming embarrassment if they said no. As a result, there are now more McDonald's locations in Japan than anywhere else except the United States.

Disadvantages of Globalization

But there are also some disadvantages of globalization. To understand this, we have to move to every kindergartener's favorite time of day, snack time. Let's say that you were sitting with two friends, and you decided to share your snacks. Your mom made her famous brownies with extra marshmallows, while one of your friends has carrot sticks and the other has apple slices.

If you share, you each get some of what the others have, but have to give up some of what makes your snack special. As a result, you've gained what the others had, but lost part of what you had. The same issues are raised with globalization. One of the most exciting things about visiting Egypt is seeing the pyramids. However, many tourists have been woefully disappointed to see a KFC right across the street - it just doesn't feel right! In short, globalization can erase part of the cultural heritage of a society, whether said heritage is measured in brownies or in lack of fried chicken around one of the oldest buildings in history.

Advantages of Fragmentation

So, fast forward a few years and you find yourself in middle school. You've got your groups of friends, because let's face it, you know people from basketball who don't go to your school, and you know people from soccer who don't either. Still, within these societies of basketball, soccer, and school, you've built smaller groups of friends. Sure, you're cool with everyone, or maybe not actually, but you know you can count on these people. You loan them clothes and video games, talk to them about everything, and generally like to be around them.

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