Globalization: Debates and Controversies

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This course examines the definitions of and debates about globalization. Students will consider how globalization has come about and will examine the interlocking political, economic, and social forces that increasingly bind all people together. Students will become familiar with institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and explore the arguments for and against their policies. Through examination of recent scholarly and popular work, we will engage in the complex and passionate debates concerning globalization, from the “Battle in Seattle” to the Slow Food movement. Additionally, students will examine how the processes of globalization affect everyday life for both Americans and people in developing nations, considering the extent to which it introduces “diversity” and new choices or erodes traditional cultures. Finally, students will sample recent works of literature and music deemed to represent the coming wave of our new global culture.


Unit Essential Questions Content Assessment Resources
Definitions of Globalization

What are the competing definitions of globalization?

How have scholars divided their definitions into thematic, component parts?

Is globalization an equal process?

Students read academic writing on defnitional questions.

The history of global interconnectedness.

Schools of thought on globalization.


Reflective Writing.

Definitional Essay.

Friedman, Thomas. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006.

Lechner, Frank J. and Boli, John, eds. The Globalization Reader. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007.

Steger, Martin. Globalization: A Very Brief Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Economic Globalization

What are the debates around free trade?

Is free trade or protectionism better for emerging economies?

Why is there such strong resistance to the WTO, World Bank, and IMF?

How has globalization changed our relationships with consumer goods?

What are sweatshops and what is the best way to help people who live in them?

Definitions of basic macroeconomic terms and concepts.

Recent history of global investment, markets, and banking: the tech bust, the housing bubble, the TARP.

Free trade economics and neoliberalism.

The World Trade Organization, The World Bank, and The International Monetary Fund.

The TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) agreement and its opponents.

Paper tracing the origin of two items of clothing back up the supply chain.

Test on economic globalization.

Response essay.

Cavanaugh, John and Mander, Jerry. Alternatives to Economic Globalization: Another World is Possible. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2004.

Mason, Paul. Freefall: The End of the Age of Greed. London: Verso, 2010.

Redmon, David, dir. Mardi Gras, Made in China. Carnivalesque Films, 2005.

Stiglitz, Joseph. Globalization and Its Discontents. New York: Norton, 2003.

Wolf, Martin. Why Globalization Works. New Haven: Yale Press, 2005.

Environmental Globalization

How does globalization change the sea both in terms of temperature and pollution?

How can global fisheries best be protected?

What is the "global community" doing in terms of addressing the health of the ocean?

What are nation's doing together to combat climate change?

Monterey Bay Aquarium's report on fisheries and fishing methods.

Debates and discussions at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change annual conference.

Brief essay.

COP-17 Conference. United Nations Framework on Climate Change.

"The State of Seafood Report." Seafood Watch. Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Cultural Globalization

Is the ubiquity of American and Western culture worldwide a sign of globalization or cultural imperialism?

What are the connections between economic and cultural globalization?

What forms of resistance are there to these changes?

How have scholars theorized culture and the globalization of culture?

How might a single "globalized object" help confirm or disprove these theories?

Definitions of "culture."

Academic theories of culture, especially as they refer to globalization. These include imperialism, resistance, hybridity, structure/agency, cultural hegemony, borrowing, and postcolonial theory.


Presentation and paper on a culturally globalizaed object.


Fagan, G. Honor. "Placing Ireland: Globalization and Culture." Annals, 2002.

Goldberg, Michael. "Hegemony." Univeristy of Washington.

Proulx, Serge. "Cyberculture, Quebec Identity, and Globalization." Baillargeon, Jean-Paul ed. The Handing Down of Culture: Smaller Societies and Globalization. Toronto: Grub Street Books, 2001.

Van Elteren, Mel. "US Cultural Imperialism Today: Merely a Chimera?" School of Advanced International Studies Review, Summer-Fall, 2003.

Von Eschen, Penny. "Globalizing Popular Culture in the 'American Century' and Beyond." Organization of American Historians Magazine, July 2006.