When most people talk of globalization, it is taken for granted that this is a new phenomenon. The starting point for most people who support the globalization thesis is around the break up of the Soviet Union. Advocates of globalization argue that it arose out of the ashes of the bipolar world. That now serious trade barriers had been eradicated in almost all powerful countries, the global economy and global integration thrived. For instance, Renato Riggiero, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), dates the onset of this phenomenon: "beginning in the 1970s and accelerating in the 1980s, the world economy entered a second phase of development - what is now typically referred to as a phase of 'globalization'".
Riggiero views the development of the world economy in three stages. The first is internationalization where trade was the most important factor, the second was the period of globalization where the production process became broken up and distributed around the globe and investment became more important than trade, and the third period is the borderless, global economy (Renato Riggiero, Sept 1997). As Matthew Horsman and Andrew Marshall put it, the end of the cold war meant "the opening of a new phase for the world economy. No longer was there a significant divide between the East and West, as a hamper on the development of truly global production and consumption... from now on there was to be no support, financial or political for an anti-capitalist agenda from Moscow" (Horsman and Marshall, 1994, p.203). Simply, capitalism became "the only game in town" (Horsman and Marshall, 1994, p.91). International political and economic institutions have grown substantially over the past 50 years.
The United Nations (UN) grew from 51 founding members to around 160 members between 1945 and 1994 (Chambers Dictionary of World History). The numbers of states involved in the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) rounds increased from around 20-30 in the 1950s to 123 by the time it met in Uruguay. The World Trade Organization is made up of 132 members, 80% of which are developing or transition economies (Renato Riggiero, address to the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, March 1998).
However, there are a number of writers who contest the idea that the world has suddenly become so much more integrated. Such writers claim that so-called modern globalization is not really different to the world economy of the turn of the century. Institutions of economic and political co-operation are certainly not things that have just appeared over the last 20 years. Eric Hobsbawm sobers some of the arguments that we are in a new era by suggesting that the truly global free market doesn't exist or may have existed in a purer form one hundred years ago, when the lack of tough immigration laws meant that one of the factors of production - labor - was more mobile, more globally mobile: "whatever globalization theory says, there is relatively less international migration today than there was a century ago" (Hobsbawm, Marxism Today Nov. 1998, pg.5). Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson argue that the prevailing view on globalization is wrong and one of the bases they use to explain why, is that globalization is not a new phenomenon. They assert that the impact of the 'new' global economy is misunderstood as it is not looked at in a historical context, there is, in globalization theory, a "lack of historical depth" (Hirst, P and Thompson, G. 1996, p.2). ...