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Globalisation and the Concept of Global Citizenship

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“As globalisation promotes a free-flow of people, ideas and products across national boundaries, individuals will be more identified as global citizens and less prone to xenophobic attitudes.” Discuss.

While globalisation promotes a free-flow of people, ideas, and products across national boundaries, it provides opportunities to individuals to become global citizens. However, while this essay will argue that this has made them less prone to xenophobic attitudes, globalisation has also had other impacts which may have only provoked xenophobic attitudes. This essay will examine the impact which globalisation has had on individuals in the workplace, focusing on how Multinational Corporations have increased the need for globally mobile employees, therefore increasing their cultural intelligence along the way. The essay will also explore employees working within global organisations who are not globally mobile, and the impact which globalisation has had on them. The importance of cultural intelligence will also be discussed alongside the growing focus of scholars on cosmopolitan or global citizens, and finally, the essay will examine xenophobia and the impact which globalisation has had upon xenophobic views.

Globalisation is the introduction and growth of products, people, information, and money across borders and is an important impact on the shape of national identities and relationships (Ariely, 2011).  Arnett (2002) argues that globalisation is not just a historical process but is also a change in mind-set of citizens around the world and has positively and sometimes negatively redefined national identity and culture. In effect, globalisation defines the world in which we live, and has changed the way in which citizens identify themselves (Ariely, 2011 & Arnett, 2002). However, some researchers have argued that in the process globalisation has undermined national cultures and identity – creating what is moving towards a single identity for all global citizens (Smith, 2007 & Held, McGrew & Perraton, 1999). Effectively, globalisation has been guided by “economic forces” (Sideri, 1997. Pg.38) with the actions and growth of Multinational Corporations (MNC’s) furthering globalisation (Buckley & Ghauri, 2004).

With MNC’s comes the need for the retention and transfer of knowledge between operating units and countries (Elenkov & Manev, 2009). Expatriates (Expats) are used by MNC’s for three main reasons; to fill positions where no suitable candidate exists in the host country, as an opportunity to develop the expatriate’s skills, and most importantly; to transfer important knowledge and corporate culture from home to host countries (Collings et al, 2007). Within MNC’s expats will work with people of many different nationalities, and globalisation is only expediting the mobility required of expatriates, therefore, the number of cultures in which expatriates are working in and becoming accustomed to is increasing (Lee, 2014). Lee (2014) argues that this is exposure to new cultures has increased the number of people which identify as learned bi-culturals, and who feel accustomed to 2 or more cultures after experiencing the identity negotiation process. The knowledge and understanding of different cultures that being bi-cultural brings allows these individuals to adapt quickly and become more adept to different situations (Hong et al, 2000 & Lee, 2014).

While individuals will generally undergo an identity negotiation process when entering employment with a new organisation, international experience adds to this further (Lee, 2014). Sanchez et al (2000) explain that during the adjustment process to working within a different culture, an individual may become more attached to their home unit, or alternatively, become more attached to their host unit. This acculturation is essentially a process leading to cultural changes within the individual after interacting with members of different cultures (Lee, 2014), and can be portrayed in a number of strategies by the individual when operating in different cultures. This impacts their identification and adaptation with their home and host country and can lead to positive outcomes – however, two of the outcomes of acculturation can be marginalisation or separation, where an individual does not identify with the host country (Lee, 2014 & Berry, 2005). Another theory of culture acquisition is the identity negotiation process, where when individuals encounter a new culture question their values and beliefs leading to a renegotiation of their own identity through experimentation and reflection (Lee, 2014).

While expats seem to have the most experience with operating within different cultures, globalisation has meant that even individuals working within their home country can experience different cultures too (Lee, 2014). Lee (2014) argues that individuals working in organisations undergoing international mergers and acquisitions, as well as those with international subsidiaries can develop an understanding of different cultures. Experience of work within different international contexts may lead individuals to develop a greater understanding of their own as well as different ways of undertaking work (Lee, 2014). It is important to note however, that an individual who is globally mobile may not automatically expose themselves to the culture of the country in which they are working. As mentioned previously, outcomes of acculturation such as marginalisation or separation can mean that the expatriate exhibits low attachment to the society in which they are working.

It could therefore be argued that both expatriation and working within a culturally diverse and international organisation could develop an individual’s global identity. Gupta and Govindarajan (2002) explain that a global identity is the awareness of different cultures and the openness to the integration of these cultures to create a competitive advantage. Lee (2018) argues that this competence and adaptability is gained through 3 steps; the understanding of the individuals own culture and cultural lens, acquiring knowledge of other cultures, and improving one’s cultural intelligence. The exposure to different cultures through international assignments and working within a global organisation can assist with the gaining of knowledge of different norms and values (Crowne, 2008). This exposure to different cultures needn’t just be through work either, Crowne (2008) argues that globalisation has allowed for exposure to different cultures through travel, study, and media such as television and film. While some of these methods may have a greater impact, they are all important to the development of an understanding of different cultures.

Crowne (2008) argues that any exposure to different cultures is directly associated with an individual’s cultural intelligence, yet some methods of exposure such as expatriation, international education and travel have a greater impact. Cultural intelligence is defined as an individual’s ability to effectively adapt to new cultures and has been found to have a positive impact on integration into multicultural teams (Earley, 2002). Furthermore, employees with higher cultural intelligence are able to adjust more easily to new cultures and show greater performance within multicultural teams and tasks (Templer et al, 2006). Cultural intelligence is born through 4 main dimensions; Cognitive – gaining the knowledge of values and norms of different cultures, Motivational – the commitment to acquiring new knowledge and learn, Behavioural – the ability to adapt to new cultural situations, and Metacognitive – the ability to monitor one’s self, and to adjust based on new experiences (Lee, 2018 & Ang et al, 2007).

The importance of cultural intelligence cannot be underestimated, as it assists individuals with seeing past the stereotypes and perhaps xenophobic views of other cultures (Lee, 2018). Furthermore, it stops an individual from casting judgement until all of the facts are known and available (Triandis, 2006 & Elenkov & Manev, 2009). Interestingly, cultural intelligence is directly linked to cross-cultural competence, which reduces the pressure that may be associated with handling difficult decisions in culturally different environments and can increases effectiveness (Elenkov & Manev, 2009). Of course, the cultural intelligence of the majority of individuals will increase through international assignments and working within a global organisation. Elenkov & Manev (2009) further this argument and explain that cultural intelligence is vital for managers within organisations. The GLOBE project found that the leadership styles favoured or expected from country to country vary depending on the cultural variables found in that context (Dorfman et al, 2002), and it can be seen that the cultural intelligence and adaptability of managers and individuals is vital to their performance and effectiveness in different cultures (Elenkov & Manev, 2009). It can therefore be argued that the greater the cultural intelligence of an individual, the more understanding, aware and open they should be to different cultures and therefore less prone to xenophobic attitudes (Lee, 2014).

The emerging concept of cosmopolitan global citizens is one still in debate. In its early conception, cosmopolitanism was seen to be an outlook which transcended national boundaries and complemented cultural intelligence (Woodward et al, 2008). The concept has now been developed to incorporate institutional, political, and cultural dimensions (Woodward et al, 2008). From a cultural perspective, most researchers have agreed that cosmopolitanism can be seen as an openness to different cultures as well as the values and beliefs that they may hold. Woodward et al (2008) argue that while an individual does not need to be globally mobile to hold cosmopolitan values, the cultural exposure that expatriates experience may assist them with gaining the attitudes and values associated with cosmopolitanism (Lee, 2014). Furthermore, cosmopolitan citizens are seen to be more engaged with others that identify as cosmopolitan citizens and hold similar worldviews (Lee, 2014). The concept therefore of a cosmopolitan is that of an individual who defines themselves less as part of a single national or cultural identity, and more as a global citizen – who should be less prone to xenophobic attitudes (Lee, 2014). This is supported by Ariely (2017) who showed that identifying as a cosmopolitan reduces xenophobic attitudes, a relationship which is moderated by the level of globalisation in the individuals home country, with those exhibiting higher levels of globalisation demonstrating a stronger negative relation between cosmopolitanism and xenophobic attitudes.

The dictionary definition of xenophobia is the fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners, it is usually thought that the term overlaps with racism, however, xenophobic behaviour is based on the idea that an individual is different due to being a member of a different nation or social group (UNESCO, 2018). Ariely (2011) argues that the idea of xenophobia can be based on social identity theory which defines social identity as the differences between social groups – with members feeling more strongly associated to the group in which they belong. Xenophobic views are therefore the result of social groups – such as nations and culture, being different from one another (Ariely, 2011). Interestingly, the results of globalisation such as the development of cosmopolitan citizens, bi-culturals and individuals showing a strong cultural intelligence seems to show that globalisation is causing to move towards a more homogenous global citizen identity, instead of heterogeneous national identities (Ariely, 2011). Such “superordinate” identities could reduce or eliminate differences between national identities, and therefore reduce xenophobic views.

It is also important to recognise that some research has shown globalisation to have the opposite effect, heightening nationalistic identities and in turn perhaps causing xenophobic views against those seen with a different social or national identity (Ariely, 2011). Interestingly, Ariely (2011) found that in certain countries, while globalisation may decrease xenophobic attitudes in some people, it can increase them in others. While this study was actually based on xenophobic views against immigrants it paints an interesting picture that globalisation can have many different impacts on different people within the same country, and that context is incredibly important (Ariely, 2011). There are also negative aspects to consider such as the accelerated flows of terrorism, which have only promoted xenophobic attitudes due to the placing of blame on the lack of national borders – which globalisation has had a hand in reducing (Heine & Thakur, 2011).

This essay explored the impact which globalisation has had upon individuals around the world. Whether a cosmopolitan citizen, learned or born bi-cultural, or an individual that has developed a strong cultural intelligence, the ability to adapt and understand other cultures seems to reduce the ownership of xenophobic attitudes. The essay found that as individuals gain a greater cultural intelligence, or identify as cosmopolitan or global citizens, they tend to identify less with their national culture/identity and identify more with a global identity. Using social identity theory from Ariely (2011), it can therefore be argued that while xenophobia is usually based on the differences between social, cultural, or national groups – the fact that more people are identifying as global citizens is reducing the differences between these groups around the world, and therefore reducing xenophobic attitudes.


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