Despite over four centuries of exchange relations initially with the Middle East, Europe and Asia, including the intercontinental European slave trade and subsequent colonization, Africa was never fully integrated into the global economy—Africa was probably the most globally penetrated continent, yet on the other hand, she remains the world’s least developed continent.—Ghelawdewos Araia, “Africa in the Global Economy”
The worst of the Muslim militants are extremists out to kill their perceived adversaries. But the most rational of the Islamists do believe that the world system has lost the restraints of checks and balances that the United States has become too powerful, and that Islam must introduce a countervailing force to the American empire.—Ali Mazrui, Islam: Between Globalization and Counterterrorism
Both as a concept and a process, the term “globalization” is among the most hotly discussed and debated in the social sciences. It is often defined, generally, as involving an ever deepening and accelerating phenomenon in cross-border economic, political, and cultural relations that are made possible by innovations in technology. As a process, it is often perceived as the integration of all the above and characterized by intensified interactivity and interdependence. James Mittelman defines globalization as “the spatial reorganization of production, the interpenetration of industries across borders, the spread of financial markets, the diffusion of identical consumer goods to distant countries, massive transfer of populations mostly within the South—as well as from the South and the East to the West—resultant conflicts between immigrants and established communities.”
While many scholars contend that globalization is not entirely new, and that it began as early as the fifteenth century, what is new is the pace, depth, breadth, and generalized synergistic impact in communications, technology, culture, and commerce. To many analysts, it is the best thing to have occurred in the development of human societies, as it has provided to many the opportunity for improved lives through economic and other forms of interaction. Others lament its incomplete or partial character insofar as only a few countries are fully integrated and receive most of the benefits from it. Many scholars see it as “old wine in a new wineskin”—an ideology aimed at justifying American, as well as Western, hegemony in the global economy—a sanitized “imperialism” used to conceal continued exploitation of weaker states by the powerful and the rich.