What Is Globalization?

lobalization is the word used to describe the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations, brought about by cross-border trade in goods and services, technology, and flows of investment, people, and information. Countries have built economic partnerships to facilitate these movements over many centuries. But the term gained popularity after the Cold War in the early 1990s, as these cooperative arrangements shaped modern everyday life. This guide uses the term more narrowly to refer to international trade and some of the investment flows among advanced economies, mostly focusing on the United States.

The wide-ranging effects of globalization are complex and politically charged. As with major technological advances, globalization benefits society as a whole, while harming certain groups. Understanding the relative costs and benefits can pave the way for alleviating problems while sustaining the wider payoffs.PlayPlaySeek00:00Current time01:27Toggle MuteVolumeToggle Fullscreen

Today, Americans rely on the global economy for many of the things they buy and sell, expanding businesses, and making investments. Many products and services have become affordable to the average American through the coordination of production across countries.

THE HISTORY OF GLOBALIZATION IS DRIVEN BY TECHNOLOGY, TRANSPORTATION, AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Since ancient times, humans have sought distant places to settle, produce, and exchange goods enabled by improvements in technology and transportation. But not until the 19th century did global integration take off. Following centuries of European colonization and trade activity, that first “wave” of globalization was propelled by steamships, railroads, the telegraph, and other breakthroughs, and also by increasing economic cooperation among countries. The globalization trend eventually waned and crashed in the catastrophe of World War I, followed by postwar protectionism, the Great Depression, and World War II. After World War II in the mid-1940s, the United States led efforts to revive international trade and investment under negotiated ground rules, starting a second wave of globalization, which remains ongoing, though buffeted by periodic downturns and mounting political scrutiny.

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