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In their book, Global Transformations, authors David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton describe three perspectives on globalization.

Scholars David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton provide an overview of different perspectives on globalization dominant in the 1990s. They describe the general conceptual contours of each perspective and note the limitations of each. The authors identify identify the perspective as:

  • The Hyperglobalist perspective,
  • The Skeptical perspective,
  • The Transformationalist perspective.

Hyperglobalist Perspective

The authors describe the hyperglobalist perspective as an approach which sees globalization as a new epoch in human history. This new epoch is characterized by the declining relevance and authority of nation-states, brought about largely through the economic logic of a global market. Economies are becoming “denationalized.”

Held and his colleagues point out, however, that even within this perspective, different authors assess the value of these changes in very different ways. While hyperglobalist scholars may agree on the general factors behind globalization and the likely outcome of this process, they disagree sharply over whether these forces are good or bad. The authors distinguish between neo-liberal versus neo-Marxist orientations, and describe their different assessments of the outcomes of globalization.

Greater Benefits or Greater Inequality?

In terms of the “winners” and “losers” of the new global order, both orientations agree that the lines and cleavages of economic benefit are changing. One the one hand, neo-liberals view this as largely a good thing. They say that nearly all countries have a comparative advantage in one way or another within the global economy. There will be groups who will be worse off, but on the whole, the benefits are greater than in the past.

On the other hand, neo-Marxist scholars view the neo-liberal optimism with deep suspicion. Global capitalism, they believe, will only create and reinforce inequalities within and between countries.

The Demise of the Nation-State

With increasing economic globalization, transnational governance organizations will become increasingly important. The result is that national governments will lose influence and be forced to operate increasingly according to rules they do not create.

This may be a bad thing, according to some scholars, as the democratic social models implemented and protected by nation-states will become increasingly insupportable. Other scholars counter, however, that the diffusion of a “consumerist ideology” is the first step in breaking down traditional modes of identification. The spread liberal democracy will extend the global reach of more universal principles of economic and political organization. A truly global civilization will become possible.

Both assessments agree, however, that the fundamental reconfiguration of the global economy will spell the demise of the nation-state and the irrelevance of the welfare state.

Skeptical Perspective

Held and his colleagues say that the skeptical perspective on globalization views current international processes as more by fragmented and regionalized than globalized. In fact, according to skeptical authors, the “golden age” of globalization occurred at the end of the 19th century. Current processes show, at best, a regionalization.

The authors say that skeptics also disagree whether old cleavages are becoming increasingly irrelevant. The third world is not being drawn into a global economy that destroys old lives of benefit and exploitation. Quite the contrary, the third world, say skeptical authors, is becoming increasingly marginalized.

In contrast to perspectives that emphasize the growth of global capitalism, scholars in the skeptical perspective view global capitalism as a myth. The growth of multinational corporations does not mean that nation-states are no longer relevant for governing the flows of economic benefits. Held and his colleagues say that skeptical authors point to the fact that foreign investment flows into the control of a few advanced economies. Multinational corporations are still tied primarily to their home states or regions, and these ties produce benefits for these states or regions.

Authors with a skeptical perspective reject the notions of the development of a global culture or a global governance structure. What is really going on, they argue, is that global governance structures and culture exist as a disguised version of neo-liberal economic strategies that benefit the West.

Transformationalist Perspective

Held and his colleagues say that the transformationalist perspective differs fundamentally from the other two perspectives in that:

  • There is no single cause (that is, the market or economic logic) behind globalization,
  • The outcome of processes of globalization is not determined.

So, even though transformationalist authors describe many of the same general changes involved in globalization, their approach is considerably less certain about the historical trajectories of these changes and less limiting of the factors driving globalization.

For instance, hyperglobalist authors believe that the power of national governments is waning. Skeptic authors argue that the power of national governments is growing. Transformationalist authors, however, view the nature of national governments as changing (being reconstituted and restructured) but a description of this change as merely growing or waning is oversimplified.

Hyperglobalist authors describe the erosion of old patterns of stratification. Skeptical authors argue that the global South is becoming increasingly marginalized. Transformationalist authors understand that a new world order “architecture” is developing, though the exact nature of the emerging patterns of stratification are not yet clear.

In general, argue Held and his colleagues, the authors of the transformationalist perspective have a much less determinate understanding of the processes of globalization than authors from the other perspectives. For transformationalist authors, the range of factors influencing processes of globalization is much greater, and the outcomes are much less certain.

An Alternative Approach

The hyperglobalist and skeptical perspectives suffer from two underlying problems:

  1. They are unacceptably teleological. They compare current processes of globalization to ideal types. The processes are automatically progressing in a linear manner toward these ideal outcomes.

  2. They are unacceptably empiricist. Statistical patterns do not speak for themselves, but have to be interpreted with reference to a range of meanings.

In contrast, argue the authors, the historical process of globalization must be understood in more sophisticated terms.

Data and Methods:

Data Source:

Historical and theoretical research.


Research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Full Text Availability:
Available for purchase at

Held, David, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt, and Jonathan Perraton. 1999. Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Introduction, pp. 32-86.

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