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''Instead of one big-shot controlling all the media, there's a thousand freaks Xeroxing their worthless opinions.'' ~ Homer Simpson

“Last night's 'Itchy and Scratchy Show' was, without a doubt, the worst episode ever. Rest assured, I was on the Internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world. “ ~ Comic Book Guy

“The power is in your hands” ~ Advertising slogan for E*Trade

Globalization is a universal topic of discussion in contemporary political issues, but it is often one of the most misunderstood terms in debate on an almost daily basis. For inhabitants of advanced industrialized countries, globalization usually means a more prosperous lifestyle and the spread of Western commodities, culture, and values throughout the world. For the majority of inhabitants of non-Western countries, globalization often means “cultural imperialism”. For less developed states, globalization means increased poverty, political instability, and cultural marginalization. To fully understand the process of globalization, we must consider four levels of analysis: Economic, Political, Social, and Cultural.

The three central questions posed in this course are:

  1. How do we define and conceptualize the term “globalization”?
  2. Who are the “winners” and “losers” in this process?
  3. What can we predict about the future development and effects of globalization?

Target Group

This is a class that has been popular with all types of students, and while it is primarily offered to juniors, seniors, and second-semester sophomores, it is not exclusive to political science majors and has served as a general education/liberal learning requirement to many from the social sciences, natural sciences, business, and engineering schools.

The course is mainly focused on contemporary issues, roughly from the late 1980s to the present. There is a short comparative historical component included in economic section, but it is one of the few classes that examines everyday issues concerning the internet, digital media, consumerism, popular culture, and the creation and spread of information via non-official means. Those interested in what I call the "study of the here, the now, and the vernacular" have found the class to be very rewarding.

Course Structure

Because Globalization is such a wide topic, I was given considerable leeway in initially designing the course. however, because it was also jointly listed as a Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies class, I needed to include case studies of that region along with others. This was relatively easy, given the events of the time, and selections from the required readings by Barber, Friedman, and Zakaria made it a natural fit.

I decided to provide undergraduates with a series of approaches based around two or three week units: economics, consumerism, popular culture, democratization, and global terrorism. The goal was to show that globalization is more than simple, and often unfounded, arguments of international economic hegemony or elite-controlled information. Rather, it's something as complex as transnational global trade and as simple and common as the clothes one buys, the music one listens to, or the websites one visits.

Work Material

Classes are designed around formal lecturing, class discussion, and small group projects. Readings are also structured to allow students to partially custom design their learning. "Required" readings are just that. "Supplementary" readings give the student the opportunity to select a predesignated amount of short articles from a pool of resources to design their own short papers around, which serves as a component of their bi-weekly group projects. Most of these supplementary readings are updated with each new class to ensure material is up to date.

The in-class final exam is also based around a series of selected readings students had no knowledge of prior to the exam that they must choose two out of a pool of six or seven, and answer one given question that they are allowed to use their class notes for. The exam also has an audio/visual component.

Author Bibliographic Data
Label
Barber, Benjamin
Jihad vs. McWorld 2nd edition. New York: Random House, 2011
[Bar01]
Berger, Peter L. "Four Faces of Global Culture", The National Interest (September 1997) [Ber97]
Cohen, Lizabeth A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America.New York: Vintage Books, 2003 [Coh03]
Collin, Matthew Guerrilla Radio: Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio and Serbia’s Underground Resistance [Col01]
Thomas, Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. New York: Anchor Books, 2000 [Fri00]
Gilpin, Robert The Challenge of Global Capitalism. Princeton University Press, 2002 [Gil02]
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004 [NatCom04]
Sassen, Saskia 
Globalization and its Discontents. New York: The New Press, 1998 [Sas98]
Schlosser, Eric Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001 [Sch01]
Stiglitz, Joseph Globalization and its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2003 [Sti03]
Zakaria, Fareed The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2007 [Zak07]
-- The Post-American World. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009 [Zak09]

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