In this essay, I will be exploring

In this essay, I will be
exploring the approaches of both political geography and social geography, when
studying the key geographical issue of globalisation. Social geography focuses
on the socio-spatial differences, inequalities and power relations which shape
society (Del Casino 2011). Political geography concentrates on how politics,
power and conflict create spaces and places (Gregory et al. 2009). However,
social geography is strongly interlinked with political geography, with an
emphasis on many of the important political questions and issues within the
world (Del Casino 2011). Globalisation refers to a particular geographical
imagination of an increasingly interconnected and shrinking world (Sidaway et
al. 2016).  It is about ‘the emergence of
an integrated human society’ (Jones 2012 pp. 23) as a result of the compression
of time and space (Harvey 1990). Globalisation combines a number of processes
that have significantly changed the relationships between people and places,
creating new networks of activity and flows of people (Jones 2012).


However, globalisation has always
been a contested geographical concept. Some see globalisation as a process with
positive impacts, increasing the efficiency of capitalism across the globe,
whereas others view globalisation as a process with negative impacts witnessing
the loss of culture and identities (Sidaway et al. 2016). There is no one
definition of the concept (Murray, W. E. and Overton, J. 2015). However, Crang
(2013 p. 36) attempts to define globalisation as:


The economic, political, social and cultural
processes whereby a) places across the globe are increasingly interconnected b)
social relations and economic transactions increasingly occur at the
intercontinental scale c) the globe itself comes to be a recognisable
geographical entity.



Political geography has become
increasingly more complex in a globalising world (Murray, W. E. and Overton, J.

2015). This is due to the processes of globalisation causing a dramatic shift
in world politics (Baylis et al. 2016). A strength of political geography is
it’s critical nature which has enabled geographers to explore questions
concerned with how best to manage and adapt to the consequences of
globalisation (Murray, W. E. and Overton, J. 2015). The nation state was once
very powerful but globalisation has caused the demise of state power and the
rise of global governance (Murray, W. E. and Overton, J. 2015). We are
currently living in a multipolar ‘tangled web’ of interdependence (Dicken 2011
p. 52). The rise of global governance is of interest to political geography,
particularly the spatial nature of the activities of governance (Jones 2012). Global
governance refers to the increasing number of intergovernmental organisations
(IGOs), such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund
(IMF), World Bank and the United Nations (UN), and non-governmental
organisations such as Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and activist groups
(Murray, W. E. and Overton, J. 2015).  Due
to the emergence of such IGOs and NGOs, nation states struggle to control the
political and economic activities taking place within their territories (Jones



However, the idea of
globalisation causing a powerless state is only one view explored by political
geography. According to Hirst et al (1996) the demise of the nation state could
be a mere misconception of world politics which suggests that national
governments have little power politically and economically. This misconception
causes governments to stop developing policies to control national economies
and therefore their lack of territorial power becomes a self-inflicted state
which could be changed. This has led Hirst et al (1996) to believe that
globalisation is not as extreme as we all think. Firstly, the idea of an
international economy is not unprecedented and our current international
economy is arguably less open than in previous years. Secondly, transnational
corporations are very rare and actually most companies are national but just
trade internationally. Thirdly, foreign direct investment (FDI) tends to be
highly concentrated in the developed world with the developing world receiving very
few benefits. Finally, trade and investment is confined to different trade
blocs such as Europe, North America, China and Japan and these blocs could
regulate global markets if they coordinated policies. Therefore, the global
economy is not beyond control of the state.


Drawing upon ideas of Hirst et al
(1996), political geography is also concerned with how globalisation is causing
the exploitation of the developing world by the developed world (Baylis et al.

2016). Political geography has used Wallerstein’s world system theory to
explain political relations between developed and developing states.

Wallerstein argued that the world consisted of a wealthy core and a poor periphery.

The core exploits the periphery for resources and cheap labour in order to
satisfy their own economic interests. However, it has been argued that due to
the complex nature of globalisation Wallerstein’s ideas of the world being a
‘system’ are unsuitable as society is not systematic as once thought. Therefore,
maybe a weakness of political geography when approaching the issue of
globalisation is that it is based on simplistic theories and models of the
world that are not applicable to the complex world we live in.


Social geography explores how
globalisation has helped create a global civil society (Jones 2012), referring
to the beliefs and values of social movements, charitable organisations, NGOs
and global citizens (Chandhoke 2002). Examples include organisations such as
Greenpeace, Amnesty International and Oxfam, which transcend government powers
and work beyond the state (Jones 2012). These organisations tend to focus on
finding solutions to global issues to do with, for instance, the environment,
development and human rights and they have the potential to reshape
international politics (Chandhoke 2002). Therefore, the idea of a global civil
society is also of interest to political geography. Arguably, the emergence of
a global civil society is due to concerns raised over the effectiveness of the
state to deal with global issues and the undemocratic nature of IGOs such as
the World Bank and the UN (Murray, W. E. and Overton, J. 2015). For example,
one argument for Brexit in 2016 is that the European Union (EU) decision making
process is undemocratic (Baylis et al. 2016). The undemocratic nature of IGOs
is of concern to social geographers in terms of the exploitation of the
developing world. This is because IGOs are often created by a few very powerful
nation states and so favour rich industrialised countries when making decisions
and the socio-economic needs of developing countries are usually forgotten
(Murray, W. E. and Overton, J. 2015).


The possible exploitation of the
developing world leads on to the view that globalisation is an extension of
western imperialism where only western values and culture are spread at the
expense of other world views (Baylis et al. 2016). This is of particular concern
for social geographers who have fears of a homogenised society (Jones 2012). This
is because in the world today there seems to be an emerging global culture, for
example urban areas generally share a common city culture which has descended
from a wealthy western lifestyle (Baylis et al. 2016). According to Zukin
(2009), homogenisation of culture is evident where commercial development
projects, such as the building of high-rise luxury office blocks, combined with
expensive shops and green spaces, are symbols of economic modernisation in
urban areas across the world. However, Zukin (2009) suggests that the redevelopment
of city centres, due to the globalisation of a western consumer society, has
become a method of moving poorer residents to marginal areas as they can no
longer afford to live in the city creating social conflict. Furthermore, traditional
methods of self-support, such as black markets, the selling of illegal
substances, prostitution and begging, that were once a means of survival for
some people, can no longer continue as they have been shunned by the wealthy
who now regulate the streets through increased security measures.


Social geography is also
interested in the role of technology in a globalising world and how a new
shared social space has been created. According to Mcgrew (2016), technological
advances have revolutionised the way in which people communicate and such
advances have enabled like-minded people across the world to come together
without the need to travel. This idea has been demonstrated by the spread of
uprisings and protests as a result of communications via social media and
mobile phones in the Middle East during the democratic movement in 2011 known
as the Arab Spring (Alhindi 2012). Technology as a driving force of
globalisation can also be viewed through the lens of political geography. It
has proved to be instrumental in recent political campaigns in the promotion of
political parties and candidates but also in the attack of opposing political parties
(Bourne 2017). Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, have changed how we
communicate and how we have knowledge of world politics (Baylis et al. 2016).


and social geography are both interested in how globalisation can be a source
of conflict and insecurity. This is also due to technological innovations
driving globalisation processes, making it easier for criminal and terrorist
organisations to communicate and operate. For example, technology has contributed
to the rise of so-called Islamic state (Mcgrew 2016). Illegal activities such
as the trafficking of drugs, weapons and people have also been increased by
globalisation through open borders. This leads on to the issue of migration
which both sub-disciplines are heavily interested in. Globalisation has caused
migration rates to rise to an unprecedented level. This is mainly as a result
of economic globalisation which has increased the number of economic migrants
by widening the development gap forcing people to leave their home country in
search of better economic opportunities (Ciarniene and Kumpikaite 2008).


In conclusion, globalisation is a
complex phenomenon that has significantly reshaped both the political and
social landscapes. It is a much-contested geographical concept which has been
hard to define, although many attempts have been made. Political geography
explores how globalisation has caused the demise of the nation state and the
rise of global governance, the positive and negative impacts this has had on
the world and how it has caused a significant shift in global politics. However,
contrary to this there have been ideas that globalisation is not as extreme as
most people think and that the view that the nation state has become powerless
is a complete misconception. For example, TNCs are actually very rare and most
companies are national but trade internationally and FDI is not global as it is
highly concentrated in the developed world. This leads on to one of the
negative impacts of globalisation that is of concern to political and social geography.

This is the view that globalisation is imperialist and exploitative of the
developing world which is evident in Wallerstein’s world system theory. The
spread of an imperialist western consumer culture leads to fears of a
homogenised society at the expense of other cultures and also the
marginalisation of the less wealthy leading to possible social and political


Social geographers are concerned
with the idea of a growing global civil society. This is as a result of
questions being raised over the effectiveness of the state to deal with global
issues and also concerns over the undemocratic nature of IGOs. Furthermore, technology
plays a huge role in the globalisation of the world and can be explored in both
a political and social context with positive and negative impacts. For example,
technology has been used in the promotion of socio-political campaigns and
protests, but there are concerns that technology has made it easier for
criminal and terrorist organisations to operate, as well as enabling the mass
migration of people across the globe.


Overall, political and social
geography are interested in different aspects of globalisation but these
aspects are invariably interlinked due to the interconnected nature of the
concept. The multidisciplinary nature of both sub-disciplines is arguably a
strength for both when approaching the issue of globalisation. Therefore,
traditional divisions between the sub-disciplines of human geography, such as
political and social geography, have been blurred as geographers focus on the
connections that link them together rather than thinking of them in isolation
(Painter and Jeffrey 2009).