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The world is not flat: putting globalization in its place Susan Christopherson a , Harry Garretsen b and Ron Martin c a Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University, 129 Sibley, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. [email protected] b Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, PO Box, 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands. [email protected] c Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN, UK. [email protected] Globalization and the ‘flat earthers’ Since the 1990s, the term ‘globalization’ has become an increasingly prominent feature of economic, so- cial and political discourse, not just within the aca- demic community, but also in the popular press and in the world of policy making. It is, however, a notion that is far from straightforward. Definitions and debates have proliferated around the syndrome of processes and outcomes alleged to characterize globalization. 1 Everyone agrees we live in a more ‘globalized’ world, but views differ as to what this means and whether it is a trend for good or ill. Those on the neoliberal right are typically pro-globalization, arguing that it has opened up markets across the globe, that it is a force for spreading opportunity and wealth across nations and that the intensifica- tion of competition it engenders stimulates innova- tion and productivity. Those on the political left tend to be anti-globalization, arguing it is a process dominated by global corporations that have be- come more powerful than nation states, that it increases inequality within advanced economies and undermines the ability of the world’s poorer countries to improve social welfare or protect their natural environment. To this day, debates continue over the causes, historical antecedents and conse- quences of globalization (e.g., Crafts and Venables, 2003; Gray, 1998; O’Rourke and Williamson, 1999; Steingart, 2008; Stiglitz, 2002, 2006; World Bank, 2002, 2008). One of the contested aspects of globalization concerns its geographies and especially whether globalization is rendering the significance of loca- tion and place redundant and irrelevant. Several writers have argued that globalization—especially as driven by the revolution in information and com- munications technologies (ICT)—marks the ‘end of geography’ (O’Brien, 1992), the onset of the ‘death of distance’ (Cairncross, 1997), the emer- gence of a ‘borderless world’ (Ohmae, 1995), of ‘de-territorialization’ or ‘supra-territorialisation’ (Scholte, 2000) and the ‘vanishing of distance’ (Reich, 2001). The most provocative—certainly the most colourful—of these claims is Thomas Friedman’s recent pronouncement that as a conse- quence of globalization, ‘the world is flat’ (Friedman, 2006). He contends that the ICT revolution, the deregulation of markets by states and increasing economic integration have contributed to a marked time–space compression of economic processes. The alleged result is that there is no longer any ‘friction of distance’ in economic relationships.
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