Neoliberalism & Globalization

Table of Content

Neoliberalism and globalization are the most current and controversial concerns today.  It could be argued that the current state of global business and commerce due to advancements in internet and cellular phone technology could represent the core beliefs inherit in neoliberlaism.  Neoliberalism focuses on the privatization of corporations so that they might freely do business globally without tariffs on free trade.  It can be identified as the essence of what is internet culture today.  The gloabal popularity of the push to “go Green” can be seen as a byproduct of Neoliberalism and globalization.  Globalization’s contribution to this great initiative is recognizable in the ability of the intenet and cellular phone culture to transfer information so rapidly that massive groups of people are able to act omnisciently as one unit and make collective efforts in a more immediet fashion.  This powerful force fueled by globalization appears to move in the direction of neoliberalism, this can specifically be seen true in the way web businesses operate.

            Globalization is most often defined as the global integration of economic, cultural, religious, and social systems.  Thomas L. Friedman’s book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century assesses globalization and its influence on the global economy.  He argues that globalization has leveled out the competitive economy.  He compares the business practices of global super powers to a hilly terrain, where they enjoy the pleasure of running down hill, wheras  less affluent countries are forced to work their way up hill. Friedman’s argument poses that the present era of outsourcing supported by the world-wide-web has equaled out the playing field.  Ironically, a large part of the United States’ major corporations are now outsourcing.   In his book, Friedman identifies American corporation’s major reliance on the internet has resulted in a decrease of employment in the states. Friedman’s book, very clearly points out the multifaceted state of globalization.  He confronts the influence globalization has on global politics, corporations and the internet.  This establishes Freidman’s work as the most inciteful and current authority on globalization.

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            Neoliberalism stems from classic liberalism, which basically places an emphasis on human rationality, the protection of civil liberties, natural rights, and property rights.  This idea of privatizations of corporate trading is the most prevalent ideal relative to globalization, because internet corporations operate freely independent of tariffs.  This puts digitally based companies in a cross-governmental position.  No companies demonstrate this more than web companies like Wikipedia, MySpace, You Tube, and Google.  This concept is exactly what Thomas L. Friedman grazes upon in his book.


In the opening of Freidman’s novel The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century he argues that the fall of the Berlin Wall was the key moment that ended the Cold War, and in turn marked the start of the 21st century and what is identified as globalization.   Friedman  makes a clear understanding of how small the world has shrunk due to the type of global expansion fueled by the internet and cellular phone technology.  A great example Freidman uses, and one that shows the influence of neoliberalism and globalization on politics  is best demonstrated through the description of an interview Friedman has with Colin Powell. In it Friedman says, “Before Colin Powell stepped down as secretary of state, I went in for an interview, which was also attended by two of his press advisers, in his seventh-floor State Department suite.  I could not resist asking him about where he was when he realized the world had gone flat (Friedman, 212).”  Powell replies with one word, ‘Google’.  Furthermore, Powell tells Friedman that prior to the abundant success of Google he was forced to rely on his aids to assit him.  He would be forced to wait days for information.  In Friedman’s article he makes sure to point out that Powell was insistant on making it understood that  the freedom to do his own research pretty much eliminated his need for his aids, unless they were able to come up with solutions, as opposed to inform him of the problems he of which he already knew (Friedman, 212). The author states, “Powell, a former member of the AOL board, also regularly used e-mail to contact other foreign ministers and, according to one of his aides, kept up a constant instant-messaging relationship with Britain’s foreign secretary, Jack Straw, at summit meetings, as if they were a couple of college students(Friedman, 212-13) .”  The perspective the author takes from this is that “when the world goes flat, hierarchies are not being leveled just by little people being able to act big.  They are also being leveled by big people being able to act small (213).”  The relationship between the world-wide-web and politics is most definitely demonstrated here. through Freidman’s interview with Powell.

Media & Society

Pierre Bourdieu’s position that public opinion doesn’t exist presents the question, how should one conceive public opinion?  In his book, Outline Theory of Practice, Bourdieu deconstructs human instinct in its association with mass culture.  Neoliberalism promotes freedom of individuality.  In the context of what Bourdieu refers to, individuality is in threat of being demolished by the relationship between capitalism and the media.   Bourdieu forces one to ask whose opinion is public opinion?  One view that Bourdieu opposes is belief in Rational Choice Theory. This theory states  that ‘human beings form their opinions and decisions based on collective observations and calculations (Bourdieu, 1977).’  ‘It also assumes all individuals are well informed of all of their options and that it is an inherent human tendency to think everyone makes decisions this way (Bourdieu, 1977)..’  This explains the blind faith people have in public opinion, and shows why the media has such a powerful influence on the sociology of nations.  Bourdieu speaks of the human nature to conform in his book when he says, .

Doing one’s duty as a man means conforming to the social order, and this is a fundamentally a question of respecting rhythms, keeping pace, not falling out of line. ‘Don’t we all eat the same wheat cake?  Don’t we all get up at the same time?  These various ways of reasserting solidarity contain an implicit definition of the fundamental virtue of conformity. (Bourdieu, 1977)

He further  states that the opposing position to conformity is eccentricity, which can only feel natural for those intrigued by irregularity.

…the opposite of which is the desire to stand apart from others.  Working while the others are resting, staying in the house while the others are working in the fields, traveling on deserted roads, wandering round the streets of the village while the others are asleep or at the market – these are all suspicious forms of behavior.  The eccentric who does everything differently… (Bourdieu, 1977)

It is this sociologists view tha society cannot just be analyzed in terms of economic classes and ideologies, but that individual education and culture must be applied as well.  Bourdieu does not separate people based on class and then analyze them, but groups everyone into what he calls a field/ social arena.  This contradicts classic Marxism.  In this field people compete and struggle to attain their desires.  It is a system of social positions organized by terms of power relationships.  This idea of terms of power is most easily defined as the differential between a judge and a lawyer.  Within this field the social agents fight over monetary gain, or whatever holds symbolic significance.

            In all of Bourdieu’s beliefs, his most popular is his assertion that the public does not exist (1984).  This concept is addressed in his book, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, in that he feels there is a different of class taste between the ruling class and popular culture.  But, within this conflict, there is no public, only a media mediating between the two and a culture to which they often cater to do so.  Jon Simons addresses this concept in his essay, Governing the Public: Technologies of Mediation and Popular Culture, when he says,

…technologies constitute the people as a mediated public. The public is only amenable to representation in the form of an electorate which is an effect of technical organization that can mediate between people at a distance from each other. The key point of this analysis is that the public does not exist prior to or outside of its constitution. (Simons, 2002)

He asses the importance of media technologies within a democracy.   Bourdieu feels that in this field of power struggle, the ruling class uses their cultural capital to assert their distinction (1984).  Clearly, in the way politicians only tend use terms understandable to the elite of their cultures.  The separation between popular culture and the elite culture of a society makes it virtually impossible for government officials to ever get the unanimous appeal for which they often aspire.   In response to the unquestionable influence media has on the sociology of nations, and the aggressive nature with which globalization and neoliberal commerce expand Western and Eastern ideals to cross boundaries with oneantoher, many countries applys very strict censorship laws to their media outlets.  Egypt is one such example.

            Ever since the passing of the Democratic Egyptian constitution in 1971, censorship in Egypt has been a major conflict.  President Mubarak’s corrupt regime is assited by the unsaid help of parliament. Mubarak’s laws control the extent to which personal freedom is practiced in Egypt.  Censorship in Egypt is much more complex than just what is aired on the radio, allowed on television, or published.  Censorship in Egypt has been conditioned intricately enough to prevent regular citizens from assembling, even if just to do so for the benefit of their community.  Egyptian censorship alienates all opposition and neglects all social concerns of its people; but more importantly, it allows for a tyrannical government to prevail underneath the veil of Democracy.

Ali Abu Shadi is the chairman of the central Censorship Department in Egypt.  In October of 2005, he gave a speech on the Freedom of musical expression in Beirut.  In the speech, he points out that censorship has created a lack of Freedom in the Egyptian media which he feels should always be countered by artistic outlets.  His intention is to promote the expansion of artistry within the boundaries of the law.  Shadi is also very adamant about refraining from amending any censorship laws.  He feels that to amend the censorship laws in Egypt will only result in the passing of more strict and confining censorship mandates.

            The Egyptian Radio and Television medium has not been modified over the past four decades.  In Egypt, terrestrial broadcasting is run by the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU).  The Egyptian state broadcasting system is currently facing many challenges thanks to globalization and shifts in world wide media.  Commercial broadcasting that is produced world wide with little or no regulation over content performance is incapable of being aired in Egypt.  Egyptian citizens are growing evermore liberal with their viewing choices, due to the rapid expansion of satellite broadcasting and the internet. There is also an unlimited number of audio and visual materials that are accessible to Egyptian citizens through the internet.  In Rasha Allam’s dissertation From Obligation to Opportunity: Enabling the Egyptian Broadcasting for Independent Media he analyzes the progress of terrestrial media in Egypt in relation to its censored audiences.  In his essay, he points out that all domestic broadcast media is run by the ERTU.  They are a government owned union affiliate with the Ministry of Information.  Television didn’t become common in Egypt until the 1960’s.  When Nasser came into power, it was immediately understood that this product would be used as a tool of propaganda for the government.  There are 5.8 million television households in Egypt, which makes it the highest in the Middle East and North Africa.  In 1985, the Egyptian Television broadcasters started a policy in which they broadcasted several local channels, and each channel was required to serve constituencies. As time progressed different channels began to only cover news and information stemming from specific areas.  In 1989 Channel 4 covered Ismailia, in December of 1990 channel 5 started covering Alexandria, until eventually their were a little more than eight channels that covered only their designated regions (Amin, p.129).  This tradition of regional broadcasting has continued to expand.  Ratings have gradual changed dependant on the particular constituents of the regions.  In Rasha Allam’s study at The American University in Cairo, he researched the intricacies of Egyptian ratings (that can be found later on in the research section of this essay).  He basically found what Shadi talks much about in his speech concerning the compromise between art and censorship.  The concept that validity and importance of material has a direct correspondence to ratings is perfectly displayed by Allam’s results, and the core argument of Shadi’s speech.


            Aside from the internet, global expansion can most aggressively be seen implemented by companies such as Wal-Mart.  In his book, Friedman directly targets Wal-Mart’s relation with its employees and how that relationship is effected by such major global expansion.  Known for a very faulty code of ethics, if one were to skim any recent news briefs about Wal-Mart’s code of ethics, the doctrine would be found to not always be followed as intended.  The company has actually come under much scrutiny constant breaches of its ethical code.  Freidman argues this is mostly due to Wal-Mart’s obsessive inclination towards rapid expansion, as opposed to caring for its employees.    On top of the fact that corporations like Wal-Mart fail at caring for their employees within the United States, many of these corporations are finding it more rewarding to outsource.  On a lighter note, jobs are emrging in the state as a result of neoliberal commerce and globalization which are designed specifically in response to this new information era.  Such corporate advisors as Kimball Fisher and the Fisher group can be credited for this new shift.

Kimball Fisher’s knowledge teams are implemented by corporations to decipher and make use of the rapidly changing information age.  These groups focus on mental work, and are considered very complex to manage; but it’s the complexity that drives Fisher’s profession.  Most of the work processes are mental rather than physical as well; which means, there is rarely a visible focus or product produced. In January of 1998, Management Review had a sit down interview with Kimball Fisher, in which they assessed some of his ideas on the advancement of information technologies and his take on how knowledge teams can be implemented in corporation to keep up with this change.  When asked what types of challenges knowledge teams help companies to meet, it was fisher’s view that,

Companies used to be able to solve business problems based on the information and [technological expertise] contained in one person’s mind. That is rarely true today. The problems businesses face are much more complicated and typically cannot be solved from the framework of one technical perspective… (Fisher,1998)

Fisher further corresponds this understanding of perspectives with the strategic planning involved in launching a corporation. But, not all members of corporations have advanced knowledge of technology, or advertising, or engineering.  This brings us back to perspectives and Fisher’s view of segmenting groups to handle the needs of the corporation through the use of, and solely focusing on, their own personal expertise.  Fisher best explains this concept in his interview when he says,

If you want to be effective in a hightech industry and you approach [the market] only from an engineering perspective, you won’t get things marketed very well. If you approach it from marketing only, you might create things that cannot actually be built. A variety of experiences and technical perspectives are required in today’s complex business environment. (Fisher, 1998)

His concept of knowledge teams can be seen utilized throughout multiple corporations, specifically internet companies like: Google, MySpace, YouTube etc… These companies base most of their major mergers, and structural changes, on a constant awareness of how information is exchanging hands among the people.

Internet companies operate differently from other corporations.  As apposed to utilizing the information age for their best interests, they survive on it.  They have also proven to be the main disciples of Fisher’s method. Whatever websites are receiving the most hits, whatever search engines are being used most often, or whatever is simply most popular at the time, are the core tools for these corporations to generate income with each other.  This advertising culture is a completely different media from its previous counterpart and its continuously changing. The complexity entailed with creating a knowledge team to asses the companies best interests, but still producing intangible results is the factor of how the company’s management gets a hold of the work produced by these teams.  Fisher explains this when he states,

Part of the difference between managing knowledge teams and managing physical teams is that you don’t really control their work. (In fact, you really don’t do so with a physical team either.) Getting your arms around the work would mean approaching management from a “control paradigm.” The best managers in these organizations approach it from a “commitment paradigm.” (Fisher,1998)

As shown in this statement, Fisher largely bases the key success for the communication between knowledge teams and corporate management to be in understanding the difference between management from a control paradigm and from commitment paradigm.

As previously shown, globalization and neoliberal commerce have an effect on gloabal politics, as well as business. but there is also the world of the internet.  This perspective is largely overlooked because the internet is viewed as one of the main factors feuling globalization in the name of the neoliberal ethic.  It is rarely assessed, the way globalization responds to the Inernet and inadvertently influences the conditions of the web market. Freidman recognizes this though when he cites Microsoft’s chief technology officer Craig Mundie in saying that, “The world is decidedly not flat when it comes to uniform treatment of intellectual property (217).”  The view felt here basically has to do with the fact that pharmaceutical companies as well as virtually ever web company that pops up on the scene is duplicated instantly flooding the market with competition but no real market for quality (217).  Firedman argues that this will eventually force the web to call for a system of global governance.  This is a very negative aspect of neoliberalism and globalization.


            In sum, globalization is untamable but in essence adheres to the core ideals of neoliberalism.  This adherence can be seen in the way such web corporations as MySpace, You Tube, Wikipedia and Google have revolutionized global commerce.  Their privatization of uniform intellectual property coincides directly with the Neoliberal ideal of corporate privatization and free trade across borders.  Dually, corporations like these only contribute more authority to an overbearing media system that as sociologists like Piere Bourdieu point out dictate the sociology of nations.  Such global regions as Egypt and China have implemented strict laws censoring the media in response to this new advanced culture.  Corporations have developed information departments, solely designed to use this new technology to transfer information faster.  As Friedman argues, the world is now flat creating a new age of global neo liberalism for corporations to practice through the web and cellular technology.  He suggests with the flooding of these markets, it’s only a matter of time before the internet will require some form of governance.

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