The Agony and Ecstacy of Globalization

Alex Lyras, a Bucknell Alumni, plays Mike Daisey.
Alex Lyras, a Bucknell Alumni, plays Mike Daisey.

Bucknell’s play brought in several different aspects of the Daisey controversy that pushed me to think deeper. Several soliloquies allowed the audience to acknowledge background information that both Daisey and Ira Glass did not focus on. It made me think; what really is important? Are the lies? Did it really matter if Daisey’s speech was art? Both questions seemed negligible. The background information focused on something different. It brought new questions to the table. The first soliloquy featured a speaker native to China who addressed the forces of globalization. Yes, factory hours and payment may seem unfair by American standards, but, we must take a more holistic approach. As outsiders, we must develop cultural relativity. This is a term used by anthropologists who seek to diminish one’s ethnocentric judgements in order to understand a foreign or unfamiliar culture. This topic was clearly communicated. Employees at Foxconn may not like their working conditions, but they also see their jobs as opportunities to free themselves from poverty. On the other hand, do these workers actually have a voice? What would happen if workers rebelled for higher wages? Here, we must look at globalization. Companies manufacture their goods in China because it is cheap. Here the demand for labor is large, and workers are willing to work for minimum wage. If employees formed unions and demanded higher wages, they would be replaced. Should Apple take the blame? I don’t think so. Like the speaker, I believe that we should both praise and blame the forces of globalization. For one, they have allowed our world to be dynamic and highly connected among nations and culture. Yet, there are negatives also. Globalization has caused companies to outsource jobs to minimize costs. There are always two sides to a story, if anything, Daisey has certainly taught us that.

The closing speaker reiterates this point also. She justifies the massive use of manual labor with economics. Surely, as consumers, we should be aware of where of products come from. We should also acknowledge the fact that technology has significantly changed our world. Today, we connect on much deeper levels; I can listen to the words of Mike Daisey over my headset while Ira Glass flies around the world to retrace a misleading reporter’s steps. A play that was performed two years ago can now stream across my screen. With all of this, it seems funny that I don’t know more about the world’s working conditions. Certainly this issue has taken center stage in the past, and still carries heavy weight today. I now raise a final question, can we use the forces of globalization to correct a problem that it may have caused? Technology has made significant leaps from televisions to computers, to ipods, to tablets etc. Paradoxically, we have not seen significant improvements in working conditions and are facing the same problems that the Lowell textile mill workers faced in the nineteenth century.

6 thoughts on “The Agony and Ecstacy of Globalization”

  1. Kendall, I think you raise a great question with your final question about using the forces of globalization to correct a problem that they may have caused. There is no doubt in my mind that there are hundreds of places around the world where workers suffer from terrible conditions. A lot of these areas are a direct result of globalization. Foxconn seems to fall under this category as well, despite the fact that the situation there is pretty normal for China. Solving these problems would take a huge global effort, especially from American corporations. I wonder what it will take to force the corporations to take action, because right now they seem content to leave things as they currently are.


  2. I thought your introduction of the term “cultural relativity” was very interesting in relation to the working conditions at Chinese manufacturing facilities such as Foxconn. I agree with you that it seems as though, “Workers at Foxconn may not like the conditions under which they are working, but they also see their jobs as an opportunity to free themselves from poverty.” However, with the loss of these jobs, the narrative of globalization has fostered poverty at home as companies outsource the manual labor force overseas to countries like China. Yet again, the drive for corporations to lower cost in order to increase shareholder value proves to come at the cost of their stakeholders (like the workers in China and labor force in the U.S.). It seems as though when corporations cannot innovate and change their business model to increase the bottom line, the easiest and next best way is to cut costs at the expense of their stakeholders.


  3. Hey Kendall. You and Zack’s comments on how this issue is caused by globalization have made me think about whether the living conditions of the Chinese workers have improved or have become worse over time. It seems easy to me to imagine an idyllic countryside life, free of the stress of industrialization, which would frame the new developments as being negative on Chinese citizens. On the other hand, the comparative living standards in mainland China where famine is much more prevalent as opposed to the coastal area with higher living standards makes me feel much more optimistic about the impact of globalization.


  4. Kendall, really enjoyed this post. I like how you brought up the significance of the term cultural relativity. “This is a term used by anthropologists who seek to diminish one’s ethnocentric judgements in order to understand a foreign or unfamiliar culture.” I think as consumers, in order to attain a better understanding of the motives individuals in China have to work for companies such as FOXCONN, it is important to develop cultural relativity. Without cultural relativity, we would assume that the employees at FOXCONN are being abused and asked to do things they do not want. By gaining cultural relativity we understand that, they are being given an opportunity, which they are asking for, to improve their financial state.


  5. All this technology and connectivity and somehow we are still talking about people who talked to Chinese workers (Daisey, journalists, professors, etc).

    Why is it so hard to actually get their own thoughts and words on life in China, on economic opportunity, on fairness, on the impact of Shenzen?


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