Relation Between Cultural Globalization and Democracy

by Jason Shaw

Theories that have been notoriously questioned in their interpretations are globalisation and democracy. This report is not an attempt to provide an overview of the fundamental interpretative frames imposed on democracy or democratization by social science, but an endeavour to focus on a chosen approach to globalization in order to understand the relation between cultural globalization and democracy and how they intrinsically matter to each other. Undeniably, the processes of globalization have been transforming the conditions under which territorial democracies function today; therefore only by understanding the factors and players connected with the mechanisms that shape ‘community’ under glocalized conditions will it be possible to define the way in which the present day democracy and cultural changes across the globe influence each other.


Globalization may be considered the conceptual trend between various systems, culminating in stronger interconnections between socio-cultural, economic and political processes on a global scale. Many have described it as the misbalanced mechanism that has contributed to the worsening of the interdependencies of the world’s major economies with rising hostility against economies departing from these major economies. The complex consequences of globalisation with multi-faceted impacts from various systems on different countries have been continuously found to be interlinked across the chains of globalisation.

Because of the amalgamation of many national economies into the world market in the context of commerce, capital transfers, foreign direct investment, migration and technical diffusion and developments, it has been widely referred to as economic globalisation.

Relation Between Cultural Globalization and Democracy

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Democratic Globalization

Chase-Dunn has presented a model of the processes and structures of the modern world-system and has proposed a project to transform the system into a democratic and collectively rational global commonwealth. The article states that popular transnational social movements are challenging the ideological hegemony of corporate capitalism2. The global women’s movement, indigenous movements, the labor movement, and environmentalist movements are attempting to form strong alliances which are capable of challenging the emerging transnational capitalist class domination (Chase-Dunn, 2003). Chase-Dunn argues that new democratic socialist states in the semi-periphery will be critical sources of support and allies for the anti-systemic movements.

Globalisation supporters claim that it increases economic prosperity as well as opportunity, especially among developing nations, leading to a greater efficient allocation of resources and enhancement of civil liberties. Economic theories of comparative advantage suggest that free trade leads to a more efficient allocation of resources, with all countries involved in the trade benefiting3. In general, this leads to lower prices, more employment, higher output and a higher standard of living for those in developing countries (Sachs, Jeffery, 2005).

Proponents of laissez-faire capitalism say that higher degrees of political and economic freedom in the form of democracy and capitalism in the developed world are ends in themselves and also produce higher levels of material wealth4. They see globalisation as the beneficial spread of liberty and capitalism (Wolf, Martin, 2004).

Vices of Globalization

Critics of globalisation argue that poorer countries are sometime at disadvantage since the main export of poorer countries is generally agricultural goods and it become difficult for these countries to compete with financially stronger countries that subsidize their own farmers5 (Hurst, Charles, 1993).

It has also been argued that globalisation has led to deterioration of protection for the weaker nations by stronger industrialized powers, resulting in exploitation of the people in those nations to become cheap labours6. With the world in its current state, it is impossible for the exploited workers to escape poverty (Chossudovsky, Michel, 2003).

Globalisation is being emphasized as a process that is mediated according to corporate interests, and typically raising the possibility of alternative global institutions and policies, which are believed to the answers to the moral claims of poor and the working classes throughout the globe, as well as environmental concerns in a more equitable way7.

The concept of free market or globalisation, it has been argued is a mere façade to conceal the money trail and puppet strings behind the world changing crisis and wars, being used constantly by super power nations to engulf developing nations into capitalistic subjugation8 (Holloway, 1994).


Democracy is a word familiar to most, but the concept of democracy is still misunderstood and misused, especially in today’s time when both military dictatorships and totalitarian regimes have attempted to claim popular support by fixing democratic labels upon themselves9.

Today, economics and democracy are being used in one breathe, but, democracy does not generally imply any specific doctrine of economics nor does economics imply democracy. Present day democratic governments all over the globe have embraced committed socialists and free marketers. Undeniably, a good deal of debate in any modern democracy concerns the correct role of government in the economy of not only the country but other countries as well. All the same, it would be quite correct to say that the supporters and followers of democracy usually view economic freedom to be a key ingredient in any form of democratic society. 

Globalization and Democracy – Possible Intersections

To begin with, globalization has been defined as a global wave of re-democratization10 emphasizing the strategic behaviour of the political and economic actors in defining the present-day governance and economy. It has become imperative to understand that democratic transformations across the globe, irrespective of the geography, are being determined by different social, economic and political conditions, but they are constantly being accounted for in reference to the global logic of the world-system.

Today, globalization has become a logical extension of imperialism, a victory of empire over republic, international finance capital over local productivity and nation-state democracy11(Parenti, Michael, 2007). However, in recent times, due to growing popular protests, many multilateral trade agreements have been voted down or stalled. Many multinational corporations have taken up “local development and progress” on their agenda as a part of their ‘social responsibility’.

In the convergence of the international market, the current global developments for a freer movement of investment and commerce across boundaries have resulted. Globalization is improving the quality of life and competitiveness of citizens in countries that have opened themselves to the global economy through the extension of economic independence and rising rivalry. For less developing nations, the wasteful monopolisation and suppression of safe domestic manufacturers has culminated in greater access to international resources, global export markets and advanced technologies. In contrast, this economic development has contributed to a decline in poverty, democratisation, and better standards for jobs and the climate. In essence, accelerated development facilitates poverty elimination, democratisation, and better standards for jobs and the climate. While globalisation has undergone several tough decisions by government authorities, people have enjoyed greater individual freedom. Globalization has worked in this respect and serves as a brake on the strength and authority of government, rendering it more harder for states to exploit the rights and property of their people.

Many economic arguments against globalization have concentrated on the alleged “loss of jobs: in advanced industrial countries attributing the phenomenon to the extension of the worldwide trading nexus. In the United States, in specific, this alleged loss of jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector, is being attributed to the outsourcing practices of the corporations who substitute domestic workers with workers from outside the country13.

With trade crossing borders and foreign investments making the foundation of globalised economy, the issues of crisis, wars and political unrest among various nation states are coming to the forefront. The debate over the role of multinational corporations and economically stronger nations triggering unrest in these countries for economic gain have become one of the major highlights of several important international business, political and social forums. It is becoming increasingly important to answer the questions of moral responsibility of the corporations and the role that these corporations along with their parent country are playing in developing the underdeveloped countries.

While there have been several cases of mal practices and misleading of the local governments of the under developed countries by the multinational corporations and developed countries for their economic gain giving rise to political and democratic unrest along with social injustice; it can not be denied that there have been cases promising hope and future for these under developed nations too.

Globalization of Democracy in Africa

In the following sections, an attempt has been made to understand the globalization of democracy with specific reference to the case of strife fraught Africa. The issues of diamond mines of Angola, the dairy industry in Uganda and the environmental conflict of oil companies in Niger delta are being highlighted to determine the impact of globalization on not only the democratic framework of the continent but also on the socio-cultural and economic aspects of the African people.

Angola’s Blood Diamonds

The diamond sector, coupled with civil war and global upheaval, stretches through Africa. In the past three decades, Angola has gone through a civil war, and the tragic incidents in Angola and Sierra Leone have had devastating effects for the citizens living in the country. This is an effort by wholesalers and retailers to examine the difficulties and successes relevant to the legislative environment leading to the ‘chain of assurances’. In international relations, the writers consider war diamonds to be an immediate human security issue, and trace the evolution of the Kimberly Mechanism in shaping world governance and multi-track diplomacy’.

The beginning of diamond mining for economic benefit in Angola can be dated, based on one of the sources, back to the finding of seven diamonds in a river in Angola in 1912. Five years later, this contributed to the establishment of Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Diamang). The corporation began mining alluvial diamonds from river beds and hillsides, and until after the Second World War, diamonds were Angola’s most important commodity, overtaken by coffee exports. In order to encourage the recovery of diamonds from the beds, as Diamang’s operations grew, it began diverting rivers. While Diamang had originally permitted its operations in Angola, its business operations were later largely geographically limited. In the area, Diamang proceeded to construct homes, colleges, clinics, secondary industry and hydroelectric stations. The position of Diamnag as a provider of jobs, infrastructure and social service has thus become a big influencer in colouring the views of the citizens of this country. This led to the creation of similar demands from the Angolan state and its successor firm, Endiama. However, historical reports show that Diamang was not a generous employer, actively taking advantage of the colonial administration’s oppressive policies to secure inexpensive labour.

After independence, the government substituted Diamang with Endiama. With the withdrawal of many of Angola’s trained expatriate workers and the cloud of civil war shrouding the diamond refuge, mining activities have been compromised, contributing to a decline in demand. This reduction in mining activities after independence contributed to the slow decline of Diamang’s secondary industry and social infrastructure set-up. The Government of Angola has taken measures towards commercialising the diamond industry by authorising international companies to establish an alliance with Endiama in order to rebound from the dilapidated condition in the country. However as the guerrilla movement gained momentum from the diamond mines in areas under rebel occupation and by taxes levied on local diamond diggers, the civil war situation in the region did not change.

With the signing of the Bicesse Accord between the government and the insurgents, peace conditions strengthened, contributing to an increase in the confidence of international investors. This time saw the introduction of a variety of well-known diamond dealers, including De Beers. Endiama started to build critical social facilities, such as a clinic and communal water points, with considerable funding from De Beers.

This period also saw the expansion of informal diamond mining known as garimpo which led to legalized possession and sale of rough diamonds. This resulted in a rush to find diamonds by foreigners, government armies and rebels alike. With growing demand, the diamonds smuggled out of Angola came to be known as ‘blood diamonds’ owing to the heinous path traveled by such stones to reach the end customer.

Though some have argued that the situation have improved drastically in Angola since 1992, especially after the Kimberly process, yet when the current situation in the country is analyzed, the scenario seems rather dim and deplorable.

DeBeers and Endiama both follow the Kimberly Process to insure there diamonds are not traced to rebel groups or conflict.  Endiama, the national diamond company of Angola, while DeBeers a multinational, collaborates with many different governments including Botswana for the diamond business. The Kimberly Process is part of their core business strategy to avoid aiding war and human rights abuses.

Via a series of meetings and negotiations involving members of the government, civil society and the diamond industry, the Kimberley Mechanism was established to establish a structure aimed at ending the diamond trade dispute. The idea of ‘blood diamonds’ or ‘conflict diamonds’ arose from the reaction of the media to these incidents and caused the United Nations and the international community to find mechanisms to remove all diamonds traced to rebel groups from international trade.

Though in books and records, the situation in Angola may seem to be heading towards a brighter and stable future, the locals have a different story to tell, a story of continued oppression, social injustice and constant deprivation. The economy of the region is still in tatters, with local people surviving on subsistence agriculture. Red-tapism and nepotism are prevalent throughout the governmental hierarchies. The voice of the activists in Africa along with intervention from the United Nations and the international community in the form of the Kimberly process looks to be the silver lining in the era long strife-stricken country of Angola. The success of the Kimberly Mechanism relies on the fact that it is approved by the government. It is also valid, though, that this endorsement of the Kimberly Procedure is deferred to Angolan national sovereignty and does not provide a framework for monitoring the violations perpetrated by the state and its officials. Up to now the idea of ‘blood diamonds’ has been traditionally related to the violent struggle in the region. National stability has been found to no longer be an assurance that the mining of the diamond wealth in the area would be carried out in a manner that protects fundamental human rights, or that will lead to the well-being and prosperity of the diamond producing community and of the world as a whole. Perhaps now is the best moment to re-think the notion of what a’ blood diamond’ actually constitutes.

On reviewing the website of Endiama, it was found that there is a web page which lays out eight recommendation that the company should take to establish social and community responsibility. This is proof enough that though things still look bleak in the Angola, there is an intention to try and do something constructive for the country. This might be a voluntary action, or an action under pressure, yet anything which might help provide relief to this violence-stricken country, will be a welcome relief. An example recommendation in this web page is “ENDIAMA and Companies of the Group should establish partnerships with the provincial Governments, with the aim of defining the programs to be executed in the economic and social sectors, paying special attention to the sectors of education, community health, basic services (water and electricity), sports, culture and housing”  The company does not provide examples or case studies to demonstrate that their principles have been carried out in the Angolan community.  This website is useful to understand the direction Endiama is moving in, but sheds limited light on what steps what already been taken to improve social conditions in the country15.

In order to understand the true nature of the issues that Angola has faced and continues to face, background information on administrative entities that have operated in Angola beginning with the Portuguese colonial administration, which had a secondary role in developing the region and providing services; needs to be studied thoroughly.  According to several activists and authors active in the region and analyzing the Angolan problem, the common understanding is that there is currently “the perception that the mining companies, rather than the state, are responsible for the welfare of the population”.  People believe that the government and the mining companies share the same interests, and are benefiting from each other, therefore share responsibility for building infrastructure and providing services.  This belief seems to be only with the local people since while many of the foreign corporations that work in partnership with Endiama profess to have social responsibility programs, there is little evidence of any recent social investment in the areas where these corporations are most active.  One might also be tempted to criticize Endiama’s internal dealings and its business with its partners, because they are conducted in an atmosphere of secrecy.  In fact “there is no clear data available to facilitate comparison between Endiama’s revenues and its contributions to the treasury.” The argument and evidence provided by Endiama, mostly present a critical viewpoint of the operations of Endiama, and further call into question the company’s history of improving the communities they are involved in16.

In an endeavor to understand De Beers’s role in development of Angola, or its plan for contributing to Angola’s future, a study of De Beers’s website was carried out. According to its website, DeBeers has made a commitment to be active in addressing issues of poverty that are within its sphere. They suggest that diamonds have “provided significant economic and social benefits where DeBeers operates.” They acknowledge that the Kimberly Process and the system of warranties do not cover all aspects of diamond collection, and developed an initiative to address “socio-economic deprivation affection small-scale informal diamond diggers.” DeBeers also launched a Diamond Task Force to provide skills to nations seeking to rebuild its diamond industry after a conflict17

Ugandan Dairy

In this section, an attempt has been made to understand the role of globalization and democracy on the socio-economic situation and development in Uganda18. The growth and[1] prosperity of the dairy industry in Uganda has been a result of the work of the international development division of Land O’Lakes in the country.

Land O’Lakes is little recognised for its Foreign Development Division, as the manufacturer of America’s largest butter brand, one of the country’s biggest farmer-owned cooperatives and a significant player in agricultural supplies. For a quarter of a century, the dairy cooperative giant’s Foreign Cooperation Division has supported producers and rural enterprises improve production in developing countries around the world.

Since 1994, Land O’Lakes has been employing a private sector based dairy development project in Uganda, east Africa. In an endeavor to privately assist the development and growth of a region which provides an excellent source of revenue, Land O’Lakes’s project has been providing technical assistance at every level of the dairy value chain. Smallholder farmers, milk-bulking cooperatives, processors of milk, milk and other dairy products collection centers and value-added products like yogurt and cheese have all been recipients of Land O’Lakes development assistance. 

The International Development Division has worked to expand the dairy industry by making the process more efficient and by increasing consumption of the dairy products among consumers.  They have raised income and profits for smallholder dairy farmers and rural enterprises.[1] The primary goal of the Ugandan project has been to stimulate a sustainable economic growth in the region to alleviate rural poverty since the country’s economy is mainly agriculture based and more than two-thirds of Uganda’s population below the poverty line is the smallholder farmers. This goal has been kept separate from the political or democratic influence of the Ugandan government.

The project workers, primarily U.S. farmers and agribusiness specialists, are located in Uganda and provide advice on issues such as cooperative growth and distribution, milk bulking and storage, value-added processing, developments in production methods, policy changes, coordination of the sector, etc. Support for the Ugandan project and other overseas economic growth projects at Land O’Lakes comes largely from the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) and the U.S. International Development corporation.

Though, Ugandan dairy industry, with assistance from Land O’Lakes development project has made great progress over the last ten years, yet there remains a scope for more work and development. At present, the Land O’Lakes project looks all set to continue its work for increasing the income of the farmers in the program, increase the formal market size as compared to the informal dairy sector, advance the quality and range of the dairy products, and explore the possibilities for Uganda to become a key regional exporter of milk and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt.

In an attempt to have a greater insight into the Ugandan Project, a study of the Land O’Lakes website [[2]] was undertaken. The Land O’Lakes website describes its involvement in international development working to improve the efficiency of the dairy, crop and livestock production and marketing and in doing so improve the products and the member services. These goals are expected to lead to agricultural development, which in turn can pave way for economic progress, initiate trade opportunities, leading to further growth, secure stability in the region and reduce hunger and improve nutrition for Ugandan women and children. The website also provides interesting insights into the various sectors in which the company experts are working in and provides case study examples of the communities they have engaged in.

Even though, from the above discussion, Ugandan future of socio-economic democracy and political support seems to be on a path of constant development, there is a compelling need for support services, sector policies and organizational structuring for the dairy farms in order to strengthen the informal sector and encourage specialized small and large scale dairy production20. There is also a need for many similar multinational corporates to come forward with development programs in Africa and the rest of the world, practicing a high standard of professional business ethics and following through on their stated corporate value. Its time to not only “take” from these under developed regions of the world, but also a time to “give back”.

Oil in Nigeria

This third scenario, which focuses on the partnership between globalisation and the environmental dispute in the Niger delta in Nigeria, Africa, is being addressed in this article. Efforts have been made to investigate how the social contradictions and resource shortages created by the multinational conglomerates working in the Nigerian oil industry have caused tensions contributing to the region’s socio-economic, cultural and political decline.

“The environmental conflict in the Nigerian oil industry, especially in the oil-rich Niger delta region, has become “globalised” due to the intervention of global actors in local communities; the incorporation of communities into the global economic system through oil production and the links to the global human rights agenda through local social movements; and the international h This parallels how globalization21 seeks representation in the personalities, elements and modalities of the multiple collective movements that are submerged in the Niger Delta environmental conflicts. Midgeley (Midgeley, 1997)

It’s important to understand that the rights of the populations in the oil producing regions were subjugated by the oil multinationals “and their partner the state” in their “quest for profit”. The role of globalization in the local community is demonstrated by the changes brought by international players in the industry.  This case provides a contrasting view of the oil companies, and draws from examples like the state execution of opposition leaders to show how the community has been negatively affected. It is relevant in the inquiry to demonstrate the viewpoints of stakeholders who have differing perspectives and needs22.

 Even though the conflict of interest between stakeholders ravages Nigeria and its people, a look into the Exxon Mobil website, helps us to understand that there is a hope of improvement of the situation, since there is a well defined motive for being a part of the socio-economic development, beyond the profit making interest for some of the oil corporations operating in the region.

The Africa section of the Exxon Mobil corporate website states that, “We are committed to promoting respect for human rights and to serving as a positive influence in the communities where we operate.”23 It discusses the programs it has implemented to combat malaria and HIV/AIDS as well as other issues. Exxon Mobil follows standards that “are consistent with the spirit and intent of the United Nations’ (U.N.) Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it applies to private companies and with the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of the 1998 International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration. These policies support our commitment to human rights, freedom of association, elimination of forced or compulsory labor, abolition of child labor, and equal employment opportunity.”  The website describes the company policy for a number of the challenging situations present in the Niger Delta region, but does not highlight and specific examples.  Though this information helps demonstrate the ideals of business ethics in the oil company, but does not provide much insight into how the ideals are carried out.

So long as the course of globalization maintain to deepen contradictions in the Niger Delta and the oil Multinationals continue their “usual business” in a Nigerian state wounded by factional politics, the chances of peace and sustainable environmental practices seems distant. Peace will reign, provided an emancipatory project that objectively respects the rights of the suffering oil producing communities is developed. It is increasingly becoming imperative for the oil multinationals to start to work out a genuine plan to help in socio-economic development and environmental safeguard in the region, with the assistance from the true stakeholders of the region. It will no longer be beneficial to hide behind a façade of state repression, non-accountability and weakness.

So as the continent is over-run by powerful multinational corporations and developed nations seeking to increase their trade options and gaining military influence, one can wonder about the lasting effects on the continent. China, Brazil, Germany, the US, who is next to join in this last rush for the resources of the African continent? Will this last ‘battle’ and investment tear the continent apart?


It is time to rethink whether the fight against or for globalization is a fight for the right to politico-economic democracy, public services, and a social wage, the right not to be totally at the mercy of big capital. The constant struggle to answer is turning out to be a drastic phase of class struggle. As the case has been commonly found, globalization has mostly had little to do with trade or anything that is “free”. It has reputation of being beneficial for the rich nations over the poor ones, playing with their democracy and political situations; also the rich classes within all nations at the expense of the ordinary citizens. It has turned out to be a new specter that haunts the same old world. However, there have been sparks of emancipation, of progressive policies and cause for human rights, and globalization, thus has the potential to turn the fate of misery of so many in this world into one of upliftment and equal rights to life.

Works Cited;
  • Bhagwati, Jagdish. In Defense of Globalization. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press (2007).
  • Chase-Dunn. Globalization from below: Toward a Collectively Rational and Democratic Global Commonwealth. Gernot Kohler and Emilio Jose Chaves (eds), Globalization: Critical Perspectives, New York, Nova Science Publishers (2003).
  • Sachs, Jeffrey. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time Penguin Press (2005).
  • Wolf, Martin. Why Globalization works. (2004).
  • Hurst E. Charles. Social Inequality: Forms, Causes, and consequences, 6th ed. P.41
  • Chossudovsky, Michel. The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order. Edition 2nd ed. Imprint Shanty Bay, Ont.: Global Outlook. (2003).
  • Wade, Robert Hunter. The Rising Inequality of World Income Distribution, Finance & Development Journal, Vol. 38, No 4. (December 2001).
  • Holloway. Global Capital and the Nation State, Capital and Class. (1994).
  • Cincotta, Howard (ed.). International Information Programs. USINFO Publication. US Department of State. Defining Democracy. <>
  • Przeworski, Adam. Some problems in the study of the transition to democracy. In: Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Comparative Perspectives. O’Donnell, Guillermo, Schmitter, Philippe C., Whitehead, Laurence (eds). Baltimore, MD. (1986).
  • Parenti, Michael. Globalization and Democracy: Some Basics. (2007) <>
  • Griswold, Daniel T. The large Stake of U.S. Small Business in an Expanding Global Economy. (June13, 2007) <>
  • Buchanan, James M. Free Trade and Producer-Interest Politics, Essays on the Political Economy, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press. (1989).
  • Grant, Andrew; Taylor, Ian. “Global governance and conflict diamonds: the Kimberley Process and the quest for clean gems” The Round Table, Volume 93, Number 375, (July 2004), pp. 385-401(17). Routledge. <>
  • Social Responsibility. Endiama- National Diamond Company of Angola- Company website. <>
  • Pearce, Justin. WAR, PEACE AND DIAMONDS IN ANGOLA: Popular perceptions of the diamond industry in the Lundas. Published in African Security Review Vol 13 No 2, (2004). <>
  • Ethics: Poverty Elimination. DeBeers Group webpage. <>
  • Thompson, Todd. “Bottling hope in Africa: Land O’Lakes providing boost to Ugandan dairy industry”. Rural Cooperatives. (May-June 2006). <>
  • “UGANDA USDA Food for Progress Program” Land O’Lakes International Development. <>
  • Ndambi, Hemme and Latacz-Lohmann. “Dairying in Africa- Status and recent developments”. IFCNDairy Research Center at the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kiel, Germany. Livestock Research for Rural development 19 (8) (2007). <>.
  • Midegely, J. Social Welfare in Global Context. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications. (1997)
  • Obi, Cyril I. “Global and Environmental Conflict in Africa” African Association of Political Science. Vol. 4 No. 1, 40-62 (1999) <>
  • Responsible Employer: Corporate Citizenship Report. 2003-2008 Exxon Mobil Corporation. (2006). <>
  • [1]  The referred article has been written by an employee of Land O’Lakes, and is not an objectively scholarly critique or analysis of the efficacy of the projects.  However, it demonstrates how the company is applying professional ethics to improve the community is operates in.
  • [[2]] This site is useful because it contains the corporation’s values and business ethics as well as giving examples of how they have been implemented.


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