Globalization as a Historical Process

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George Modelski & Tessaleno Devezas:

“Globalization is a process in time, and therefore it also is a historical process in that its understanding requires tracing it back to its beginnings. These beginnings may arguably be traced i.a. to the Silk Roads across Eurasia, and the projects of World Empire, most prominently pursued by Genghis Khan and his Mongol successors in the 13th century, but more clearly seen in ocean-based enterprises of succeeding centuries. Similarly we cannot expect it to assume final form for possibly another millennium. It also is a historical project in that there is only one instance of it in the experience of the humankind. We cannot generalize about it (in the sense of summing up a number of instances) except by trying to trace that one instance of it that we know, but also by reducing it to a set of constituent processes and elements.

Globalization is transformational-institutional because it traces successive steps in what we might call the development of a planetary constitutional design. Where one millennium ago, the human species was recognizably organized in some four or five regional ensembles, with basically minimal mutual contact, and no organization, common rules, or knowledge, today information is abundant and low-cost, contacts have multiplied, and organization and rules dealing with collective problems are no longer exceptional. The institutions whereby human relate to each other have been undergoing a transformation at the planetary, but also at local, national, and regional levels.”



The Globalization of the 16th Century

Peter Turchin:

“Most people assume that the current period of global connectivity is a unique and unprecedented development in human history. Although the breadth and depth of the globalization that began after World War II is indeed unrivaled, in the past humanity has experienced other periods of heightened long-distance connectivity that resulted in massive long-distance movements of goods, people, ideas, genes, cultivars, and pathogens (Chase-Dunn and Hall 1997; Gills and Thompson 2006). One example of a previous “globalization” is the Age of Discovery of the sixteenth century, during which all major population centers of the world, both in Afro-Eurasia and the Americas, were connected by trade and conquest, which resulted in a massive interchange of cultural elements, genes, and pathogens, known as the Columbian Exchange (Crosby 1972). The globalization of the sixteenth century was followed by the Crisis of the Seventeenth Century, which was also truly global in nature. The wave of state collapse rolled over the whole of Eurasia (with the possible exception of South Asia). Populations declined in such far-flung regions as Spain, Russia, and China. But the demographic catastrophe was even greater in the New World – the Native American population may have declined to perhaps ten percent of the pre-Columbian level. So massive was the world’s population collapse that we can detect it in the decline of global emissions of greenhouse gasses (CO2 and CH4), which even then were affected by anthropogenic activities. According to at least one theory, this decline in greenhouse gas concentration may have caused the Little Ice Age of the eighteenth century (Ruddiman 2005).”