Globalisation and Localisation of place
The modern era has really been characterised by globalisation. Globalisation is the process by which the world's local and regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated together through a global network of communication, transportation and trade. This includes societal integration through migration. This process undoubtedly has a major impact upon places and the way we experience them.
Globalisation and place
Some people could argue that globalisation has made local places less important as the huge global economic, political and technological changes that have occurred since WW2 have eroded many local factors such as culture and language. In this argument, the idea of homogenous places comes about, those places that lack distinct character and are of the same or a similar kind or nature. This has been compounded by the spread of chain stores such as Subway or Starbucks resulting in what is known in the UK as “clone towns”. A clone town is one that is dominated by chain stores rather than independent stores. Think about your local out of town shopping centre, how distinct is it from any other?
The Geography of nowhere
James Kunstler talked about the “Geography of nowhere” where the use of the motorcar and development of identical shopping malls has resulted in urban areas sprawling out that have no sense of community of character, hence no sense of place. Placelessness is another term used to describe these suburbanising areas. 'The future will require us to build better places,' Kunstler says, 'or the future will belong to other people in other societies.' Places need meaning, identity and for people to have connections with them. 1
A global sense of place
Doreen Massey is a well-known societal and economic Geographer. She wrote about a “global sense of place” in which it is hard to envisage places as static entities. She stated -
“Much of what is written about space, place and postmodern times emphasizes a new phase in what Marx once called 'the annihilation of space by time'.
The process is argued, or - more usually - asserted, to have gained a new momentum, to have reached a new stage. It is a phenomenon which has been called 'time-space compression'. And the general acceptance that something of the sort is going on the marked by the almost obligatory use in the literature of terms and phrases such as speed-up, global village, overcoming spatial barriers, the disruption of horizons, and so forth.
One of the results of this is an increasing uncertainty about what we mean by 'places' and how we relate to them. How, in the face of all this movement and intermixing, can we retain any sense of a local place and its particularity? An (idealized) notion of an era when places were (supposedly) inhabited by coherent and homogeneous communities is set against the current fragmentation and disruption.”2
This quote contains some key ideas about how globalisation relates to place;
1. Time-space compression refers to the set of processes that cause the relative distances between places (i.e., as measured in terms of travel time or cost) to contract, effectively making such places grow “closer.” Over the past 30 years, we have seen unprecedented improvements in transport technology including better air transport technology and how we move merchandise. Add onto this digital communication technology (video calls etc.) the world is a smaller place.
2. The idea of a global village – this is the metaphoric shrinking of the world into a village with electronic media in particular. This has major impacts on economics and societies and has been observed in many protest movements throughout the world such as the Arab Spring of 2010. It has also been tied in with the spreading of western ideas through social media, known as westernisation. In this idea, people can be mentally connected without being physically near or connected.
3. These processes now directly impact on our places, and they are increasingly under the pressure of globalising forces in many ways such as;
• Demographically – as migration changes the composition of societies in places
• Economically – as global shift in industry and a move to post industrial societies in HICs causes unemployment in deindustrialising areas and growth in areas of research and development
• Socially and culturally – as people are more exposed to more cultures, languages, music, food and ideas than ever before
• Environmentally – as products and waste move globally this can impact upon places, such as plastics pollution
Massey finishes her argument with “It is a sense of place, an understanding of 'its character', which can only be constructed by linking that place to places beyond. A progressive sense of place would recognize that, without being threatened by it. What we need, it seems to me, is a global sense of the local, a global sense of place.”2
So in order for places to survive in a globalised world for Massey those places need to link with the outside world and develop not just a local sense of place but also a global sense of place.
There have been numerous protest movements against the forces of globalisation. People have organised mass movements against the forces of globalisation including a major event in 1999 in Seattle when there were huge violent protests against the World Trade Organisation. This became known as the Battle in Seattle. In less controversial terms many local places resist the imposition of globalisation through resisting big corporations such as Costa in Totnes
Many international firms as a result have resorted to glocalisation. This is a combination of the words "globalisation" and "localisation", used to describe a product or service that is developed and distributed globally, but is also adjusted to accommodate the user or consumer in a local market. McDonalds is good example of this as it operates in 120 countries with almost 37,000 restraunts. To match local dietary and religious requirements in India McDonalds do not provide beef and pork. Instead they have McAloo Tikki (with a patty made out of potatoes which is very popular filling food in India, peas, and spices.) and the Chicken Maharaja Mac (with 2 grilled chicken patties and is topped with onions, tomatoes, cheese and something similar to chipotle mayonnaise).
Impacts of globalisation on Places
Many people have been made to feel powerless by the forces of globalisation. Consider the 3,000 workers made redundant from the Steel plant in Redcar North East England. The plant was closed in 2015 after 99 years of production, victims of falling world steel prices, a Thai owner, SSI, unwilling to help the plant in difficult times and a lack of government support for the plant. They have been supported by an £80million government support package, but one year later 60% of those that had found work were on vastly reduced wages. An immediate place impact was that the Town’s major department store, Beales, closed due to lack of custom. Another is that people have to move away or travel to find work.3
In 2018 a £200million plan from South Tees Development Corporation (STDC) was approved to bring the steel works site under their control. The plans are to clean up the site, decontaminate it and bring it back into industrial use. What impact will this have on the future of Redcar as a place?4
Localisation of Place
To combat the forces of globalisation people are looking locally. There are numerous local movements where people try to take back control of their local communities, economies and places that are under threat of the forces of globalisation such as the relocation of industry of the economic power of TNCs.
Many communities now offer local farmers markets where people can buy products locally knowing that their money is going to be recycled into the local community. Local fairs and celebrations help people to connect with the society around them and celebrate what is unique to their local place. The Lake District National Park has launched the Lake District Pound, which can be bought at a rate of 1 to 1 with a normal pound. Some people will collect them and other tourists might take some home with them as change. It is a marketing tool to get money circulating within the local economy and use independent traders who are more likely to accept the currency. It also stops money leaking out of the local economy into the global economy via large companies. This has followed ion from the success of the Bristol Pound and the Totnes Pound.
Well-being and Belonging
The trend towards localism of place is connected to the ideas of well being and belonging.
Belonging is where people have a close or intimate relationship with a place, i.e. a sense of belonging. It is now being recognised as a key component of places, which need strong sense of social belonging to be sustainable communities. Many regeneration schemes often have a belonging element to them, the redevelopment of Grainger Town in Newcastle had multiple stakeholder community meetings for example to ensure that the views of people in the area were carefully considered before that scheme went ahead.
Indeed, belonging and sense of place creates such a link between the individual and the place that one considers oneself as a part of the place. A place, may be the place of a social relationship and a common experience among people, which creates a sense of belonging and attachment5 (Pakzad, 2009: 319).
Factors affecting our sense of belonging include;
4. Socio-economic status
5. Level of education
Many of our cities now have multi ethnic and multi cultural societies that all have their own identities and sense of belonging.
Attachment is the affection, fondness, or sympathy for someone or something, such as a place.
Well-being is another important factor. The Sunday Time named York as “the best place to live in Britain" in 2018. The walled city topped was said to have had the "perfect mix of heritage and hi-tech". The Times newspaper described it as a "mini-metropolis with cool cafes, destination restaurants, innovative companies - plus the fastest internet in Britain". Places were ranked on factors including jobs, schools, local shops and broadband speed. Bermondsey was named the best place to live in London, with Frome, Somerset, coming top in the South West. These places have common places factors, which generates a strong sense of community, good well-being and a strong sense of attachment for the place.
Localisation of Place: Totnes in South Devon
Totnes is a market town at the head of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon, England within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It has a population of eight thousand people. It is championed as a pioneer of localism.
The Totnes Pound
The Totnes pound is a complementary local currency which is intended to support the local economy. It is part of the Transition Towns concept, of which Totnes is a pioneer. It was launched as an initiative of Transition Town Totnes Economics and Livelihoods group in March 2007. The reason for the currency is because local currency systems provide the opportunity to strengthen the local economy whilst preventing money from leaking out.
Aims of the currency:
1. To build resilience in the local economy by keeping money circulating in the community and building new relationships
2. To get people thinking and talking about how they spend their money
3. To encourage more local trade and thus reduce food and trade miles
4. To encourage tourists to use local businesses
The campaign against Costa
In 2012 many of the people in Totnes campaigned against the opening of a Costa coffee shop. Citizens set up a campaign with a website, notocosta.co.uk, with stylish Trainspotting-style posters. Almost 6,000 people signed a petition and around 300 wrote to the council to object. The town defeated the attempts of the high-street chain Costa Coffee to open a branch and dilute the charms of their independent and colourful high street.
The campaign has its roots in Totnes fierce pride in its independent shops. Totnes High Street has a Superdrug and WH Smith, but the vast majority of its shops are independent retailers, a sight rarely seen in Britain today. It also has 42 places which sell coffee, ranging from a hotel to vegan and Middle Eastern cafes. They wanted to stop Totnes becoming a clone town.
Despite getting permission to open, Costa eventually conceded defeat and dropped its plans.
The Totnes transition town movement
Transition Town Totnes (TTT) is a community-led and run local charity that exists to “strengthen the local economy, reduce our environmental impact, and build our resilience for a future with less cheap energy and a changing climate.”8
TTT is not a 'membership' organisation, but a collection of local volunteers with a small staff team, who come together to work on projects. Anyone can get involved. The movement was founded in 2007 and there are now over a 1000 Transition Town projects worldwide.
TTT projects ranges from increasing low impact affordable housing, sharing skills, creating livelihoods, reducing energy costs and carbon emissions, growing the local food economy and working in partnership with other local projects.
1. The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape – James Kunsler, Simon & Schuster, 1993
2. A Global Sense of Place – by Doreen Massey From Space, Place and Gender. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1994.
5. Pakzad, J. (2009). The Process of Urban Development (3). Tehran: Shahidi Publications.