From Interdependence To Globalization Essay

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From Interdependence to Globalization

The literature on interdependence in the 1970s and on globalization in the 1990s reveals remarkable similarities, of which two are especially striking. The first is that the interest in both interdependence and globalization can be seen as an expression of a `poorly understood but widespread feeling that the very nature of world politics is changing' (Keohane and Nye, 2000: 104). The second is that both concepts never reached the status of a sound theory of world politics. While most users of these concepts realize that they challenge conventional theories of world politics and have pointed to, and in a sense created, new research agendas in international relations (IR), endeavors to formulate an interdependence or globalization theory of international relations have so far not succeeded.

Not least because of these commonalities, the more recent literature on globalization is confronted with questions like `What's new?' and `So what?' In the United States at least, theorists of international relations seem to have adopted this point of view. As an example, the special issue `International Organization at Fifty: Exploration and Contestation in the Study of World Politics' contains no articles on the effects of interdependence or, for that matter, the effects of globalization on the constitution of world politics. That globalization studies are suspected of being nothing more than a revival of interdependence literature, however, is only one way to interpret the common attributes of the interdependence literature and recent works on globalization. Another way would be to argue that interdependence theorists of earlier times - a first wave of literature was published before and after the First World War, a second wave in the 1970s - were right and it just took us some time to realize it and learn from it. When the First World War broke out, Sir Norman Angell commented: `No, we have not been successful. We have been merely right' (cited after de Wilde, 1991: 92).

In this chapter I want to defend a third position, which emphasizes two differences between interdependence and globalization research. On the one hand, the notion of globalization differs from that of interdependence in that it refers to qualitatively different conditions. Whereas the notion of interdependence refers to a growing sensitivity and vulnerability between separate units, globalization refers to the merging of units. Evidence indeed suggests that the driving force of change itself has changed. Nevertheless, the causal mechanisms mentioned in connection with the driving forces and the ongoing change in world politics are quite similar in both fields. Therefore, a reassessment of those propositions made by both interdependence and globalization literature is called for. In addition, to the extent that the notion of globalization refers to much more than just interdependence between distinct...

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