Impact of Globalization on National Identities


There have been increased changes in the global activities in all the spheres i.e. in the political, economic, and social perspectives. The many changes that are occurring have been highly due to the technological changes that are experienced all over the world. The most industrialized countries seem to have an upper hand in influencing the less industrialized nations in terms of political, social and economic status. This has thus led to various states to see that the changes do not affect their national identities, while others have gone as far as trying to protect their national identities.

This literature paper looks at how globalization has affected the various national identities, and how they have managed to cope with the situation.


Nationalism in terms of social and political phenomena is very important in defining a nation or nation-state in its own identity. The identity has evolved into a different major criterion of identity such as ethnicity, gender and class. The formations of new national identities have been a contributing factor to the conflicts experienced in many parts of the world. Even though the increasing global economy has indicated that national interests and the power of the states are usually compromised, this has been indicated otherwise by the ongoing potency of nationalism. Globalization on the other hand has led to increased democratization in many states. The changes in democracy have also caused changes in the revitalization of identities i.e. in terms of culture, linguistic, religion and ethnic. These changes in general have contributed to the development of what is now known as “polities of difference”. There is the emergence of powerful identities and differences in the whole world. Other resurgences due to globalization are nationalists and ethnic groups in east and central Europe, debates of separatism in Canada, and social movements in the western democracies.

Many current states world wide, are diverse with minority groups composed in them. Some countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Brazil are diverse but with a strong national identity. This is however not in some states. For instance, Canada has had to endure with the separist movement; while it has been even worse in some areas like the former USSR where there have been experiences of bloodshed when the states try to calm the violence due to such movements. Therefore, despite globalization taking place, many people are still dying due to the fight for nationalism, and the protection of their national culture.

Effects of Globalization

Globalization refers to a situation whereby capitalism is internationalized, and there is rapid flow of information, commodities and visual images all over the globe. Globalization has taken a very first pace due to the technological changes that have been taking place, and thus changed the global and local relations that were initially taking place. One of the challenges that globalization has posed to culture is the belief that the culture is tied to a certain place. Rather globalization creates a situation where culture is allowed to flow, there is creolization and deteritorialization of culture. This implies that globalization has changed the area in which the issues of identity, culture and race are viewed. The dynamics are however contradictory since as globalization erodes national identity, these other identities get strengthened as they resist globalization. Therefore as the traditional national identities decline, the hybrid identities are taking place.

Globalization however, is not a new phenomenon, but it started a long time ago, but only on a different perspective. Many nations and states were actually not as sovereign or autonomous as they claimed to be. The world economy also started a long time ago and thus capitalism was never a one nation’s affair but an interaction of many nations with the same interests. This is due to the fact that capitalism never allowed national aspirations to be determined only by national boundaries. Hence both the trends that led towards globalization and national autonomy are deeply rooted in modernity (Hall, 1991 pp 619). Therefore, according Hall, the most common consequences due to globalization on cultural identities are:

  1. National identities are being eroded as a result of the growth of cultural homogenization and “the global post modern”.
  2. National and other ‘local’ or particularistic identities are being strengthened by the resistance to globalization.
  3. National identities are declining but new identities of hyridity are taking their place.

In communication technology, globalization erodes national identities when its citizens shifts their attention from the purely or local concern issues but rather concentrate with other nations cultures that seem to be more appealing. National identities have been known to be strong enough to withstand the challenges caused by global homogenization, “but new technologies do open up new forms of identification; global belongings which transcend nation-state boundaries as well as generating awareness of differences and diversity” (O’Bryne, 2003, p. 47). In this case, it is not possible thus to achieve a total global culture, hence the state identities still remain to be important to the nation’s culture.

The boundaries are important in the establishment of a political community in this modern system. When globalization has been considered as a form of resistance to capitalism system in the world and a world-system of nations, it has allowed for the emergence of new nationalisms (Hall 1996, p. 622), “and allows also for a reconstructed public sphere in which identities are developed and differences respected,” (O’Byrne, 2003, p. 47). This thus opens up a discourse of these nationalists that pose a challenge to the capitalist globalization.

However, globalization of technology does not automatically erase the cultural or national identities, nor does it eliminate the cultural norms and institutions (Gomez-Dierks, 2000, p. 188). It has however been found out that global communication enhances cultural identity in some places. For instance, according to Gomez-Dierks, Canada had to shift all the television programming of American origin from 7.00 to 11.00p.m after a lobby group complained that the programs were eroding the cultures of Canada.

Despite the argument that globalization would unite all the societies into a global village, through the digital revolution, there is still a lot of asymmetry in politics, economic and technology across the national boarders. Some societies have rejected the dimensions of globalization, but a few have been able to ignore globalization as a whole.

Globalization has been taken to be too powerfully in dislocating national cultural identities. This is because globalization implies the society has to move away from the ideas of classical sociology as well as bounded system, and replaced by the perspective of how the social life is ordered across time and space. (Hall, 1996, p. 619). These new temporal and spatial ideas that are as a result of the compression of distance and time space created by globalization are major contributors that are affecting cultural identities.

The increased inter global connection across boundaries happened in the latter half of the twentieth century. In this period, capitalism reached its fullest force and the world seemed so tiny, compressing the time different between states, and making the distance between the states to look shorter. These developments in various states have changed the whole ideas that used to hold the concept of self and communities together. The concepts have thus been fragmented and destabilized by the development of the transnational networks of production and distribution, the issues of mass communication, and the increased cases of immigrants and emigrants.

Ethnicity has become one of the multiple arrays compelling identities due to globalization. As Scheck and Haggis argues, “if the contemporary cultural politics revolve around primordial notions of ethnicity, race and tribe, we should be aware that these primordialisms cannot be understood merely as a pre modern leftovers in a then emerging global order of a rationalized nation state”. In this argument it is pointed out that nationalism contains two languages which are contradictory-“a universal language of rights, national sovereignty, and citizenship and particularistic language of blood and territory, which often involves primordial concepts of race and ethnicity,” (Hall, 1996, p. 295). The concepts of globalization can thus be recognized as post nationalization, in which the situations of national identity are being constantly challenged, to the point of breakdown. Globalization has led to the criss-crossing of national boundaries, and thus shaping the relationships between universality and particularistic aspects of national identity.

Work Cited

Gomez-Dierks R. Introduction to Globalization: Political and Economic Perspective for the New Century. ISBN 083041570X, Rowman & Little Field.

Hall S. Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies, ISBN 155786716X, Blackwell Publishing, 1996.

O’Byrne D. J. The Dimensions of Global Citizenship: Political Identity Beyond the Nation-State. ISBN 0714654442, Routledge, 2000.

Schech S & Haggis J: Culture and Development: A Critical Introduction, ISBN 0632209514, Blackwell Publishing, 2000.

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