What Is Globalization?

“Globalization” means different things in different contexts, and we offer this journal as a forum for communication and exchange among the many research agendas that now involve this concept. In our view, “globalization” refers to complex, dynamic legal and social processes; it is not–or at least not necessarily–a synonym for “universality” or “homogeneity.” Nor is “global” necessarily a synonym for “world-wide.” Global processes can be intensely local or regional. They may result, for example, from economic or political forces that create markets for goods, capital, or labor that are beyond the control of any one nation-state. Similarly, global processes can be the result of problems such as ozone depletion, global warming or reductions in biodiversity that create issues transcending the boundaries of nation-states. Some of these transnational forces and issues generate transnational law and global legislation such as the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer; however, different localities and different domestic legal regimes may and often do respond to such global forces in different ways.

Domestic law–local, state, or federal–may thus be affected significantly by a variety of forces outside the control of any of the local decision-makers involved. Global forces may encourage new forms of economic and legal integration or harmonization across local legal and economic systems. On the other hand, such global forces may also trigger local, domestic reactions that deepen tensions between multinational and local forces, resulting in legal regimes designed to resist globalization. In this sense, globalization also can help provide a framework for understanding difference. By focusing directly on globalization as involving not only a shift in the scale of law, but also (and especially) the dynamics of domestic legal processes, we hope to advance understanding of the ways in which law, politics, culture, and economics respond to and shape each other. The Journal’s title thus signals our commitment to exploring and advancing some of the most pressing questions of our times.

There are numerous signs that a global era necessitating such analysis is well established: massive changes in the world’s political economy such that no single nation can exert dominant control over global markets; the rise of global technologies, e.g., satellite communications, data processing, computer technology, creating a global reality in which communication and financial transactions occur regularly in a global context; advances in science that enable us to take our global “pulse” in areas such as the environment with much more accuracy and from a more global perspective than ever before.

We currently stand at a watershed in the public law history of the United States. We have moved from local and state common-law, regulatory regimes that dominated the 19th and early 20th centuries, to national regimes that dominated the public law of the 1930s to 1980s, to the present global era. In the present era, law formulated solely in terms of purely state or national entities, without taking into account the significant role played by transnational forces embodied in multinational corporations, global capital markets, and rapidly advancing technologies and new scientific discoveries, is likely to be not only ineffective, but counter productive. Today, the line between domestic and international is largely illusory. As a result, we need fresh assessments of issues such as the role and theory of the nation-state in the twenty-first century, the need for and development of new international and global institutions, and, in particular, the kinds of domestic legal reforms necessary to mesh with or respond to global economic and political forces.