Of Commodities and Globalization
Globalization encompasses the practice that has led to world scale integration in the economic, cultural and social aspects of different countries. This has led to the emergence of global unity and relations that have enhanced good inter and intra-regional relations. Various factors have contributed to the subject of globalization and they include upgraded modes of transportation, refined communication systems, migration practices, economic liberalization just to mention a few. Commodities have a key role in the process of globalization. Although disparate views have been advanced on what constitutes a commodity and what does not, for the sake of the discussion, we shall take the view that a commodity is a product that can be used in exchange for another. Currently, there has been a rise in the interest towards the role that commodities play in globalization.
Ethnographic studies have indicated that the third world economic systems have been connected to the thriving developed economies through commodity exchanges. Farmers located in the African or Asian continents are now connected to the commodity users located in the North as they form a mass market. Another example is seen in the Western Africa musicians with the bulk being from Congo, who advertise and sell their music mainly to the foreign market. With the issue of economic integration, small-scale producers have now evolved from being profit-oriented and into customer-oriented practices. The marketing strategies that have been adopted currently have given the producers an enhanced system of selling their goods. As opposed to the traditional system that relied on labor-intensive practices, the small and medium enterprises have now adopted capital-intensive systems that have been able to give them an upper hand in production.
Farmers and florists have now learned to invest on preservation facilities like cold rooms for cutting down costs that involved the perishing of goods. Quality has also been enhanced in the production system. Commodities are now being marketed and manufactured in such a way that they entice the global populace. In Allison’s “Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination”, she performs an analysis of the emerging market that has swept the globe with toy creation. The toy commodity market in Japan has been popularized through the creation of a fantasy world that currently appeals to the children. The media-comic books and technological inventions like the internet have played a significant role in the commercializing of the commodity across geographical borders. The transport system has also been used in the campaign notably by the painting of the Pokémon cartoon character on jets.
Allison (2006) further states that “characters, often designed to be cute, come in toys, back-packs, lunch boxes, clothes, theme parks, telephones, wrist watches, bread, snacks, key rings and icons promoting everything from neighborhood meetings and government campaigns to banks and English schools, ” (16). From the awareness creation, the commodity (cartoon) is well able to expand the markets that the commodity can be sold. From the given excerpt, there is a hint of market diversification that has enabled Japan to imprint their comical figures not only in the form of toys, but also in writing materials, food containers and clothes wear. With the product differentiation, the products stand a high chance of consumption mainly captured by the different consumer preferences that are met. With this, globalization is enhanced.
Towards the end of the publication, the author notes that other than the commodity characteristic, Pokémon also has a level of gift exchange. The character has an economic value as well as a factor that creates relations among individuals. The cartoon (commodity) has been used as a form of currency that plats the role of measuring utility derived from a given product by the money given for it. This also aids in the measuring of value accorded to the product by people. On the production of perishables, Wilk’s “Home Cooking in the Global Village: Caribbean Food from Buccaneers to Ecotourists” traces the globalization of food in the fast food industry. The author focuses on the region of Belize that has been a player in the globalization concept since the 17th century (Wilk 236). Belize’s market had expanded with the visits that buccaneers had in the region due to its proximity to their routes. Food was the main commodity in the exchange.
Before this setting, the country had always relied on imported foodstuff from the North countries. However, with the establishment of tourism in the area, the local practices of music and dancing helped recreate the place into a globalized setting that was an area of interest to the foreigners. The native language and the food were also key attraction to the tourists. The music was one in the local language and it had catchy fast beats that were easily danceable. Although all these aspects helped to market the commodities that were available, the area maintained a strict rule in the maintenance of the local culture through the music and the dishes. With the changing eating patterns that saw the transformation of the eating industry into fast eating restaurants famous for fries, burgers, pizzas and the like, Belize was able to maintain its exotic dishes that are still an attraction to many especially with the disappearance of such food hangouts.
As a point of contrast, this commodity has individuals traveling from different places in search of it. The strategy that was adopted fit in the monopolistic competition structure that only bears a few producers with slightly similar products that enable them to set their own target and price levels in the market. It is a very profitable type of business setting that allows globalization in the sense that the given commodity unites the global population to the source of the commodity from the only outlet present. Contrary to these setting where Belize is able to ward off Western civilization, “Street Dreams and Hip Hop Barbershops: Global Fantasy in Urban Tanzania” discusses the culture trend that has sprouted in Tanzania in the midst of economic turmoil. With the popularized Western culture, that has associated hip-hop and sophisticated hairstyles to the profession of hair cutting, the barbershops have coined such names as Brooklyn and Boyz II Men for their businesses (Weiss 171).
Although at first it may not seem appropriate to the topic of globalization, it is very much related in the sense that it is an indication of the trend that is associated with barbershops. In the Western countries and the surrounding areas, the use of hard-core rap music has been a theme that is now shared globally. The economic down trend that has been experienced in the country has led to the sprouting of many barbershops that are used to earn mere survival incomes. The use of the names shows an evolution of the culture in a bid to establish standards that are ‘global’ in nature. Stroller’s “Money has no Smell: The Africanization of New York City” mainly deals with the promotion of African ware conducted by individuals from West Africa. Just like the Congolese musicians that promote their music in the North, these traders purchase African sculptures, paintings and materials from their countries for sell. With these commodities fetching low prices in West Africa, the foreign market has been a good market for the individuals. The wares are displayed just outside a museum and buyers have confessed to buying the items mainly because they resemble and act as reminders of the art that they have interacted with in the museum premises. In addition to this, the traders “manipulate Afro centricity to their economic advantage,” (Stroller 10).
The amplification of the West Africans inhabitance and economic activity in the North towns was exposed when one vendor had accidentally lost his life in a shooting. Immigration has been a contributing factor to globalization. Labor migration and mobility are both concepts that have brought the relocation of individuals to prosperous economies in the bid to have greater economic gain. The traders profess that they have had to leave their families in Africa in pursuit of better economic pastures. As the author notes, these arrangement being a function of commodity selling in foreign lands has effected different social functions in the lives of the traders. Most of the males have confessed to adapting to sexual relations outside their marriages. The family aspect however is still highly upheld in their lives with them confessing that they miss their families and relatives in their native countries.
The staunch Muslims present still maintain a strict adherence to prayer, sexual and moral purity. They cannot sell or buy commodities that they deem as offensive to their beliefs. Apart from the vending business, these Africans are also involved with taxi driving. Women too have enthused in the activities and have taken into selling hot dogs along the streets. This has led to community and societal changes in both groups. “From Cuenca to Queens: An Anthropological Story of Transnational Migration” offers a strengthening view to the case of migrations. The author reveals that migration cases from Ecuador to the United States are a common phenomenon. She argues the case of migration by tracing the moving patterns of a single family (Miles 263) to the earlier situation where the vendors confess to missing their families, here the family actually accentuates how migration has diminished the ties they held with their relatives, leaving their nomadic pattern as the best option to live in.
A few similarities occur in both books where the main factor of the initial migration is in search for better economic power. The United States economy to most people is highly ranked with individuals striving to migrate into the country to better themselves and family as well. Mass migration that has been revealed with the culture of globalization has helped uncover the poverty that has impoverished economies of the world. The political and social institutions in these countries are the causative agents of the ailing economic states. Lacking to resolve these problems on the national level trickles down to a global problem at last. These individuals forced by tough economic and political climates opt to move out to foreign countries. The available resources are now subjected to more pressure from the population influx. The welfare pursuit (commodity) tends to pose different challenges to the groups involved.
Allison, Anne. Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. Print.
Miles, Ann. From Cuenca to Queens: An Anthropological Story of Transnational Migration. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004. Print.
Stroller, Paul. Money Has no Smell: The Africanization of New York City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Print.
Weiss, Brad. Street Dreams and Hip Hop Barbershops: Global Fantasy in Urban Tanzania. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009. Print.
Wilk, Richard. Home Cooking in the Global Village: Caribbean Food from Buccaneers to Ecotourists. Austria: Berg, 2006. Print.