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Nike and Gap

Globalisation is a phenomenon that has been in existence for centuries, from the development of the spice industry through until the present day. The emergence of the internet and the widespread use of telecommunications and digital technology as well as the improvements in global transport infrastructure have combined, making the ease of developing a global network increasingly simpler. Axford sights the historical dimension, pointing to the impact colonialism and imperialism upon the development of a global market. Giddens, on the other hand, focuses upon locality and territory, arguing that globalisation is not about grand centre stage activities such as corporate mergers but increasingly about the autonomy of life worlds. What scholars share is the notion of social connection and interaction.

The global economy is a close-knit triad of geographic centres of North America, the European Union of Western Europe, and Japan. Most of the world’s flow of goods, capital and information are within and between these three centres, with each centre having influence over its own enterprise area. Around this triangle of wealth, power, and technology, the rest of the world becomes organised in a hierarchical order with the wealthy at the top and the poor left lagging at the bottom.

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According to the United Nations Development program (U.N.D.P), the gap between the poorest 20% of the world’s population and the wealthiest 20% increased threefold between 1960 and 1990.

The US has taken authority over the global economy, the establishment of the dollar as the world’s principle reserve currency following the Bretton Woods conference in 1944 makes it easier for US companies to buy into foreign industries, enabling firms to penetrate previously untapped markets, spreading corporate tentacles originally into Latin America but now throughout the world. (The geography of the world economy, Knox and Agnew, Arnold 1998 3rd edition)

The world economy increasingly operates as a united ‘multi-lateral’ system dominated by trans-national corporations, frequently with the ability to act independently of and dominate political arrangements. The adoption of this attitude has led the West to become cocooned in thinking that Westernisation are the guiding principles democratic nation states should seek to follow. Today, however, the world is a divided one.

Divisions exist along a number of axes creating much opposition and anger to western affluence and success. We see opposition to cultural homogenisation and the so called Americanisation of society; secondly we see economic opposition to the money hungry capitalist west. It is bizarre to think that a process ‘theoretically’ bringing people together through time space convergence and time space compression has led to the polarisation of many. Spatial divisions of labour and development exist on truly vast scales. Economic exploitation of previously untapped markets and to a lesser extent cultural homogenization can be seen as the catalyst for opposition.

Global homogenization has an impact on cultures in different ways. It affects directly the production and use of consumer goods. People use the same kind of goods everywhere. Homogenization is superficial and limited to the material level of the consumer goods and consumer culture that is artificially promoted by the media. It does not radically affect how people relate to each other and how they find meaning and purpose in life. (http://eapi.topcities.com/eapr99/mamal.htm)

In 1960, less than 7% of all apparel purchased in the United States had been imported; by 1980, more than half was imported. Leisure wear – jeans, shorts, T-Shirts, polo shirts, and so are important components of the homogenized world in which we live. (The geography of the world economy, Knox and Agnew, Arnold 1998 3rd edition). These types of garments are worn worldwide, they are seen as a symbol of westernisation and prosperity by many, yet to some western clothing represents uniformity, lack of identity and a break from tradition. It is this possible erosion of culture from place and production that has led many to challenge globalisation.

The obvious exploitation of workers by multinational corporations brings the process of globalisation into disrepute. Periphery countries have no other option but to accept the offer of Foreign Direct Investment (F.D.I) as they have no established economic framework by which to develop. For this reason peripheral countries remain, unable to develop a competitive advantage, dynamic or technologically advanced economic infrastructure all too frequently lurching from economic setback to economic setback. Multinational companies would appear to be out to earn as ‘fast buck’ seeking to maximise profits wherever possible by hunting cheaper suppliers and cheaper labour with little or no regard to the welfare of workers.

Nike, the sports garment producer previously owned manufacturing plants in the US and UK. Now however 100% of its production capacity is sub contracted to Asia. Typically these countries include South Korea and Taiwan. At the moment partnerships are diminishing as wage levels “spiral” making production costs greater. New networks of contractors have been sourced in Indonesia, Malaysia and China. The Nike Athletic shoe factory in Wellco, China, sees shocking working conditions with workers in shoe production paid approximately 87 US cents per hour if experienced, workers are expected to commit between 77-84 hours per week, 11-12 hour shifts per day, and 7 days a week. This is however not where the slaves labour ended. Workers are fined if they refused to work overtime; there is no enhanced pay rate for those who do overtime; the overwhelming majority have no legal work contract; corporal punishment for slow work was common place and there was the arbitrary fining of talking and of pregnant and older women (above 25 years). Most workers had never heard of Nike’s code of conduct. (No Logo N.Klein, Flamingo 2000) yet it is these workers who make the millions of dollars for the company each year.

The lack of legislation for workers and indeed human rights in general, coupled with the cheap labour and material costs make the Far East the ideal choice of location for firms like Nike. However, people are becoming aware of how global agreements such as NAFTA are perpetuating sweatshop labour and how institutions such as the World Bank are not helping peripheral economies. Admittedly global companies do offer opportunity, but only in the short term, with jobs anyway amounting to little more than slave labour.

In conclusion it is possible to see that the rise and growth of the united global market has led to the rise and all conquering domination of the Trans national corporation. N.S.M’s are the opposition to firms such as Nike and Gap seeking to open the eyes of the world to their plight. This essay has shown the intervention from organisations such as the W.T.O and NAFTA has led to great opposition. These organisations are seen as invasive and non productive to economic development, whilst also promoting the homogenisation of cultures. The future of globalisation is by no means in doubt and I have no hesitation I saying that it will grow from strength to strength and N.S.M’s will never manage to eradicate the Trans national corporation and the domination of wealth. What N.S.M’s such as the P.G.A will achieve is to give the topic of globalisation greater publicity, making people aware that the global market, although good for the developed west has a cruel and somewhat uneven flip side

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