When we talk about the dark side of globalization in academia we often point to the Seattle protests at the beginning of this century as the touchstone for the anti-globalization movement. The protests were held during a World Trade Organization conference as had happened before and has continued globally since. One dark side of globalization is the violence and disrupted business environment that accompanies the protest of globalization.
Another dark side to globalization are the Foxconn employee suicides that horrify iPhone fans across the world. Hope destroying work conditions drive employees to end their lives at a rate that mirrors US military suicides during the same time period, an alarming statistic considering the size of the Foxconn workforce is proportional to the US military.
Darker still are the lowering of domestic wages and lost jobs to the lower paid workers in China, who are working in suicidal conditions. The products produced are more cheaply made, but in many cases turn out to be unsafe and at times poisonous. Some studies link exposure to heavy metals found in imported Chinese toys leading to violent crime in childrens’ later lives. Outsourcing has also lead to coal pollution in China creating a respiratory health crises in many areas.
But globalization has pulled millions out of abject poverty in China and in emerging markets around the globe. Desperately needed infrastructure is developed alongside industry in many impoverished nations rich with employable individuals. The adaption of marketing strategies by global firms has extended product distribution channels through untraditional regional partners, namely under-employed women, and allowed them to bring home livable wages for the first time in their lives. Firms have utilized globalization practices to market to bottom-of-the-pyramid consumers and not only reach this “new market segment”, but improve sanitation and quality of life in these regions on a large scale.
The benefits of globalization are not only seen through the lense of firm and consumer segment development in emerging markets, but even in the popular culture references to its opposition. Protest movements create awareness of and begin dialogue about the dangers of this new/old business strategy, globalization.
Throughout history humans have seen it grow and decline before, and if the pendulum theory holds true we will see globalization fluctuate again. Globalization protest efforts have lead to employment growth in the legal defense industry as well as destruction repair firm growth. If, through globalization you build it, they will come, and they will shop and they will knock it down for us all to rebuild again.