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Highlights of the current debate on defining globalization

For the purposes of this module, globalization is presumed to be occurring.  However, it is important to keep in mind that a minority of scholars argue against a current globalizing process.  This section will outline the two major debates amongst the majority of scholars who believe globalization is occurring.

Debate 1:  Timing

The timing debate is the basis of much disagreement amongst globalization scholars.  The field is largely divided into two separate camps with opposing views:

  • Globalization is not a new phenomenon - its origins stretch into the distant past, and it is merely a continuation of a very old process. 

  • Globalization is a product of the contemporary world - it is an unique entity which is discontinuous with the past.

For the purposes of understanding the connections between globalization and health, it is not necessary to understand this debate any further.  Just be aware that when reading articles and papers related to the subjects, you need to consider the author’s definition.  For example, scholars who see globalization as a continuous, historical process may use past events, such as the industrial revolution, to help support current claims about the impact of globalization on health.  Conversely, scholars who believe today’s globalization is unique may argue that modern technologies, such as the Internet, make it impossible to compare modern globalization with anything in the past.

If you are interested in learning more about this debate click here.


Debate 2:  Content

As mentioned previously, there is less disagreement surrounding the content debate than that of timing.  As you probably saw from the previous list of definitions, most scholars agree that a large component of globalization is economic and trade liberalization or the opening of world markets.  Beyond this, the content definition becomes much more context-dependent.  What a scholar includes in her/his definition largely depends on his/her background and research interests.  For individuals interested in the intersections between gender, globalization and health, a more holistic definition is generally used - one that is not limited to economics, but also includes social, political, technological, and cultural implications of globalization.


When you’re reading articles on globalization, think about the definition of globalization the author is using.



What does globalization mean to you?


Why is globalization important to health professionals?