In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Globalization

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works and Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Theories of Globalization
  • Economics
  • Development and Inequality
  • Politics
  • Culture
  • Migration
  • Security
  • Crime
  • Environmentalism
  • Technology

International Relations Globalization
David Atkinson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 November 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 02 March 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0009


Globalization is one of the most vibrant, contested, and debated issues in modern international relations. The process is subject to a wide-ranging number of definitions, but most scholars and observers agree that it represents a global process of increasing economic, cultural, and political interdependence and integration, with deep historical roots. It is a process fostered by liberalized international trade and innovations in information technology and communication, which has been promoted and managed to a greater or lesser degree by international institutions, multinational corporations, national governments (especially the United States), international nongovernmental organizations, and even individuals with access to the Internet. The field is particularly subject to the vagaries of events, and as such it is a dynamic literature that is constantly in flux. Nevertheless, the basic outlines of the field are clear. Economic interdependence remains the most obvious and significant manifestation of globalization. Nevertheless, scholars have increasingly turned their attention to the myriad additional symptoms of this process; in particular, challenges to the state’s primacy, migration, global security concerns, culture, crime, the environment, and technology. It remains a controversial process that has engendered both withering critiques and staunch defenses, while other scholars debate whether the process is irresistible, irrevocable, reversible, or even whether it represents the global reality at all.

General Overviews

Scholars of globalization are well served by a number of excellent general introductory texts. These overviews provide an indispensable entry point for new students, yet they are rigorous enough to provide new insights, approaches, and methodologies for graduate students and experienced scholars. Osterhammel and Petersson 2005 is a brief historical primer that emphasizes globalization’s deep historical antecedents. It is an indispensable guide for those seeking to explore the context of globalization’s most recent iteration. Ritzer 2010 offers an excellent orientation for those seeking a textbook-style introduction to the theory, debates, critiques, and scope of modern globalization. Similarly, Steger 2009 provides a concise but effective introduction to the myriad issues inherent in the subject. Scholte 2005 also provides an accessible overview of the major debates and themes, while stressing the overarching concept of superterritoriality. For those ready to delve into the often eclectic issues and implications raised by globalization in the modern age, Lechner and Boli 2007 presents a diverse assortment of essays and articles that run the gamut of opinion and methodology. Held and McGrew 1999 is an older but nevertheless excellent introduction to the major themes and debates facing globalization scholars. Once oriented in the theory and issues, new researchers will find Friedman 2000 and Greider 1998 excellent introductions to the often vigorous debates regarding the inevitability, impact, and sustainability of political, economic, and cultural globalization.

  • Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Rev. ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.

    Popular journalistic account. Sees the process of globalization as inexorable and irrevocable; posits tension between consumer desires and traditional attachment to community. Insightful anecdotes illuminate the argument, but are increasingly outdated. Often betrays bias toward US-led free-market solutions, and its contrived jargon may grate. Lively introduction, best read in conjunction with Greider 1998.

  • Greider, William. One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

    Engaging polemical journalistic treatise against unfettered economic neoliberalism in particular and unregulated global capitalism in general. Sees globalization as a recipe for exploitation and severe economic inequity. Advocates global labor reforms, corrective tariffs, and capital reform. Unashamedly biased toward the left; best read in conjunction with Friedman 2000.

  • Held, David, and Anthony McGrew. Global Transformations: Politics, Economics, and Culture. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.

    Somewhat dated, but nonetheless an extremely well organized, thorough, and largely objective introduction to globalization and its many facets. Includes well-researched and historically grounded sections on historical precedents, violence, trade, finance, corporations, migration, culture, and environmentalism. Highly recommended to beginning undergraduates and graduate students, who should nevertheless bear in mind its age.

  • Lechner, Frank J., and John Boli, eds. The Globalization Reader. 3d ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

    Exceptionally rich collection of essays on various aspects of globalization. Impressive roster of contributors, ranging from esteemed academics to distinguished practitioners, along with statements from international nongovernmental organizations. Offers something for every researcher, from novice undergraduates to experienced scholars. Highly recommended, albeit eclectic, introductory text.

  • Osterhammel, Jürgen, and Niels P. Petersson. Globalization: A Short History. Translated by Dona Geyer. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

    Translated from the German original (2003). Short, accessible primer on globalization’s deep historical roots. Brief introductory chapter on theory and concepts, but major focus on historical trends including imperialism, industrialization, emergence of global economy, and modern challenges to globalization. Especially suited to undergraduates and beginning graduate students.

  • Ritzer, George. Globalization: A Basic Text. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

    Thorough, extensive, and coherent introductory textbook. Particularly appropriate for undergraduates and new researchers. Effectively outlines contemporary theories, debates, criticisms, and issues. Includes chapters on historical antecedents, economics, culture, technology, the environment, migration, crime, and inequality.

  • Scholte, Jan Aart. Globalization: A Critical Introduction. 2d ed. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

    Highly praised theoretical introduction to globalization. Clearly presented and well-organized overview of major debates and concepts. Adopts superterritoriality as its organizing theme. Excellent bibliography provides readers of all levels with directions for future research. Suitable for use in the classroom, while experienced researchers will also benefit.

  • Steger, Manfred B. Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. Rev. ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    Recently updated text from a popular series of introductory readers. Wide ranging and instructive despite its brevity. Thematic chapters on historical antecedents, economics, politics, culture, ecology, and ideology. Evident bias toward “compassionate forms of globalization,” which may irritate readers seeking a wholly dispassionate account. Nevertheless, an illuminating brief introductory text.

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