Researching Globalization

David Held and Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton 1

How can globalization be mapped? How can it be measured? Where should empirical research on globalization begin?

In order to help address these questions, this guide sets out an approach to globalization and an initial research agenda that can be followed-up by all those with an interest in this area. The document is meant to provide some interesting starting points for empirical inquiry and a guide to particularly helpful sources.

Data can be difficult and time-consuming to collect. It is always important to know why one is collecting certain kinds of information and what relevance it has. The theoretical background to the suggestions in this guide can be found in David Held and Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton, Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture, especially the Introduction (pp. 1-31) and the Methodological Appendix (pp. 453-456). But a few guiding orientations can be offered here.

Theoretical backdrop

A detailed account of our conception of globalization can be found here. The document is entitled 'What is Globalization?'. See also the paper by David Held and Anthony McGrew, 'Globalization', on the same site.

The following points help clarify the meaning of globalization and an approach to its delineation:

  1. Globalization can best be understood as a process or set of processes rather than a singular condition. It does not reflect a simple linear developmental logic, nor does it prefigure a world society or a world community. Rather, it refers to the emergence of interregional networks and systems of interaction and exchange. In this respect, the enmeshment of national and societal systems in wider global processes has to be distinguished from any notion of global integration.
  2. The spatial reach and density of global and transnational interconnectedness weave complex webs and networks of relations between communities, states, international institutions, non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations which make up the global order. These overlapping and interacting networks define an evolving structure which both imposes constraints on and empowers communities, states and social forces. In this respect, globalization is akin to a process of 'structuration' (Giddens) in so far as it is a product of both the individual actions of, and the cumulative interactions between, countless agencies and institutions across the globe.
  3. Few areas of social life escape the reach of processes of globalization. These processes are reflected in all social domains from the cultural through the economic, the political, the legal, the military and the environmental. Globalization is best understood as a multifaceted or differentiated social phenomenon. It cannot be conceived as a singular condition but instead refers to patterns of growing global interconnectedness within all the key domains of social activity. To understand the dynamics and consequences of globalization, therefore, demands some knowledge of the differential patterns of global interconnectedness in each of these domains. For instance, patterns of global ecological interconnectedness are quite different from the patterns of global cultural or military interaction. Any general account of the processes of globalization must acknowledge that, far from being a singular condition, it is best conceived as a multidimensional process.
  4. By cutting through and across political frontiers globalization is associated with both the de-territorialization and a re-territorialization of socio-economic and political space. As economic, social and political activities are increasingly 'stretched' across the globe they become in a significant sense no longer primarily or solely organized according to a territorial principle. They may be rooted in particular locales but territorially disembedded. Under conditions of globalization, 'local', 'national' or even 'continental' political, social and economic space is re-formed such that it is no longer necessarily coterminous with established legal and territorial boundaries. On the other hand, as globalization intensifies it generates pressures towards a re-territorialization of socio-economic activity in the form of subnational, regional and supranational economic zones (e.g. the EU, NAFTA), mechanisms of governance (e.g. the WTO) and cultural complexes (e.g. the Asian diaspora). It may also promote the 'localization' and 'nationalization' of societies. Accordingly, globalization involves a complex de-territorialization and re-territorialization of political and economic power. In this respect, it is best described as being aterritorial.
  5. Globalization concerns the expanding scale on which power is organized and exercised, that is, the extensive spatial reach of networks and circuits of power. Indeed, power is a fundamental attribute of globalization. In an increasingly interconnected global system, the exercise of power through the decisions, actions, or inactions, of agencies on one continent can have significant consequences for nations, communities and households on other continents. Power relations are deeply inscribed in the very process of globlization. In fact, the stretching of power relations means that sites of power and the exercise of power become increasingly distant from the subjects or locales which experience their consequences. In this regard, globalization involves the structuring and restructuring of power relations at a distance. Patterns of global stratification mediate access to sites of power, while the consequences of globalization are unevenly experienced.

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Indicators of interconnectedness and the enmeshment of states in regional and global processes

In order to explore the extent and depth of global interconnectedness a number of 'indicators' of interconnectedness can be used. These indicators are based on empirical research in political science, international relations, international political economy, geography, development studies, and sociology. The construction of indicators creates an opportunity for gathering empirical data on global and regional flows, as well as on a state's enmeshment in processes, networks and flows at both the global and regional level. Indicators can be developed in respect of the key areas of state activity and the degree to which individual states are embedded or implicated in global or regional networks of interaction.

Sets of indicators have been developed for the following domains: the political-legal; the military; the economic; the socio-cultural (migration, and media and communications); the environmental; and global stratification. Indicator sets can be applied and developed for global flows, for individual countries and for various time periods, depending, of course, on data availability in particular countries. (As a working rule, the availability and quality of information improves the more developed a country and the more recent the time period under investigation is.) For each domain it is possible to map global flows and networks historically, in some cases back to the 18th century, but this guide focuses on the post-1945 period.

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Political-legal Indicators

Political-legal indicators can be used to map the enmeshment of individual states in processes and networks of regional and global governance. They form a critical marker of the extent of a state's participation in the global political order, and of the way this has changed over time. The indicators cover participation in international governmental organizations (IGOs); interaction with regional intergovernmental networks and structures, such as the European Union and the Organization of American States; the transgovernmental activities of domestic political and bureaucratic personnel; the international interactions of domestic political agencies, such as political parties and trade unions. They can also be used to map the general pattern of global diplomatic, inter-state, and transnational activity.

  1. Diplomatic Connectedness of States
    1. connectedness for individual selected states
    2. average connectedness of states
    3. total connectedness of all states
    4. bilateral vs. multilateral diplomacy.
  2. Growth of Foreign Ministries
    1. number of foreign ministries
    2. growth in personnel and budget of foreign ministries
    3. types and changes of activity range
    4. size of aid and development programmes
    5. number of 'non-foreign office staff' engaged in foreign affairs (e.g. staff employed in other ministries).
  3. Development of Customary International Law
    1. growth in complexes of customary law over time, recognized by states, IGOs and other political groupings
    2. number and types of customary international law recognized by national legislatures or by domestic (or foreign) courts
    3. development of surveillance mechanisms to monitor enforcement.
  4. Number of Formal International Treaties
    1. bilateral, number by signature and ratification
    2. multilateral, number by signature and ratification
    3. average and total numbers over time for selected states and all states
    4. number and range of surveillance and enforcement mechanisms and organizations (and the number of states involved in these)
    5. proportion of national legislation which reflects international standards and agreements
    6. proportion of national court cases referring to international legal agreements
    7. evidence of growth of private/commercial international law, cases, and adjudication.
  5. Change in Types of Formal Treaties
    Development of number of treaties in:
    1. geopolitics (see military indicators)
    2. health and welfare
    3. economic and technological
    4. human rights
    5. the environment
    6. international criminal action and so on.
  6. Domestic/Foreign Frontier: Extent of 'Intermestic Issues'
    1. domestic sources of regional or global issues, by type and number
    2. foreign sources of domestic issues, by type and number
      national policy spill-overs (impact on other countries of national decisions and policies)
    3. policy networks across domestic-foreign frontier, number, type, content
    4. number of domestic government departments with international bureaux, roles, activities.
  7. Growth of Regional Links and Associations
    1. total number of regional organizations
    2. membership by individual states in regional organizations and associations
    3. involvement in key regional engagements (roles) and organizations, by number and type
    4. total budget(s), and percentage contribution by individual states
  8. Growth of IGOs and INGOs
    1. development of total number of IGOs and INGOs over time, and functional spread
    2. membership by individual countries (states and civil associations) in IGOs and INGOs over time
    3. involvement in key global roles and organizations, by number and type
    4. personnel involved in IGOs and INGOs, by number and categories of staff
    5. total budget, and percentage contribution by individual states.
  9. Key Multilateral Economic Fora
    1. number
    2. size, measured by personnel and budget
    3. activities, types and extent.
  10. Political Communications
    1. number of bilateral and multilateral summits of government and state personnel
    2. number of transgovernmental meetings of domestic bureaucratic personnel
    3. growth of mail, phone, e-mail traffic, etc., between governments, states, IGOs, etc.
    4. growth in number, type of informal and formal agreements for formulation, co-ordination and implementation of policy.
  11. International Transactions of Domestic (and Foreign) Political Agencies
    1. political parties
    2. trade unions
    3. business organizations
    4. think-tanks
    5. social movements etc.


Further useful lists of treaties:

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Military Indicators

Military indicators express the degree of enmeshment of individual states in the world military order, from power projection capabilities to dependence on external arms supplies. Reliable data tends to be fairly readily available although, given national security constraints, it may not be comprehensive or systematic for some states. On the whole, sources such as Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies do provide global and country data which is considered to be the most accurate. These should be the starting point for any enquiry. The SIPRI website is also very useful.

  1. Military Indicators
    1. security treaties
      1. multilateral
      2. bilateral
    2. security arrangements
      1. multilateral
      2. bilateral
    3. peacekeeping activities
      1. i. UN
      2. ii.regional
    4. deployment of military forces
      1. i) bases abroad
      2. ii) numbers abroad
      3. iii) basing arrangements.
  2. Defence Production
    1. domestic production
      1. foreign penetration of arms industry
        1. ownership
        2. technical and production tie-ups
        3. licensed production
        4. strategic alliances
        5. consortia, etc.
      2. arms exports and imports
        1. scale - value
        2. numbers of countries and regions exported to
        3. numbers of countries and regions imported from
        4. major (top 5) importers and exporters from/to
        5. % of high tech weapons systems imported/exported
    2. production arrangements
      1. memorandum of understandings for military production or R&D - number of countries
      2. levels of public or private ownership
      3. arms exports and imports agreements
  3. Military Forces
    1. size
      1. numbers of military personnel
      2. defence expenditure
      3. expenditure in defence procurement
      4. military as % total public expenditure
    2. force projection
      1. naval forces
      2. transport aircraft
      3. range of fighter aircraft and missile systems
    3. military R&D
      1. expenditures
    4. training
      1. officer numbers or personnel with training abroad
      2. direct military to military training arrangements
    5. communications
      1. satellite systems domestic and foreign
      2. semi-conductor import/export, domestic production as % of domestic military requirements
    6. weapons of mass destruction
      1. types
      2. facilities
    7. involvement in
      1. international wars
      2. military interventions
      3. shows of military force
      4. regional or UN peacekeeping activities
  4. Arms Control
    1. numbers of arms control treaties and types
    2. signatory and ratification of major multilateral treaties on regulating war and use of weapons, e.g. ICC, NPT.


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Economic Indicators

  1. International Trade

    Data for global trade flows and individual state enmeshment are both readily available.

    Trade-Gross Domestic Product ratios (Exports + Imports)/GDP. This can be measured in current or constant prices. Trade can be merchandise - goods only - or trade in goods and services.

    Private trade-GDP ratios: (Exports + Imports - Government Expenditure)/ GDP. Since government output is largely not traded this shows trade relative to private sector economic activity.

    Data for these can be obtained from International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics Yearbook.

    Merchandise trade/Merchandise Value Added. This measures trade in goods relative to the value of all goods produced in an economy. Merchandise value added - which can be obtained from national country economic data sources - is the total value added together of agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

    Services Trade/Services Output or Services Trade/Private Services Output. This may be harder to obtain data for. The World Trade Organization, International Trade Yearbook, produces estimates of services trade for many countries (available from Data on services output may be obtained from the OECD Services: Statistics on International Transactions, and from national economic data sources.

    Data on (inter-regional) global and intra-regional trade flows may be calculated from the above sources, but in particular from the IMF Direction of Trade Statistics Yearbook (annual).

  2. International Finance

    Data on international financial flows can also be found in the International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics Yearbook. Under 'International Investment Position', there is data for both assets (outflows) and liabilities (inflows). These are broken down into direct investment (as undertaken by multinational corporations - see below), portfolio investment (equity and debt securities, the latter are also known as bonds) and other investment (this is mainly bank loans). These flows can be expressed as a ratio to GDP using the GDP data from this source.

    More detailed data is available from the International Monetary Fund, Balance of Payments Statistics Yearbook. This source gives annual flows as well as total stocks outstanding at the end of each year (i.e. the asset stock is the total amount of investment overseas in each category held by residents of the country; the liabilities stock is the total amount of investment in a country held by foreigners). These can also be expressed as a percentage of GDP using the data from International Financial Statistics Yearbook as above.

    Under 'Banking Institutions' in the country pages of the International Financial Statistics Yearbook there is data for commercial banks' foreign assets and foreign liabilities. These can be expressed as a percentage of their total assets/liabilities. Some data on international financial enmeshment is available (irregularly) from the annual International Monetary Fund report, International Capital Markets, such as the percentage of budget debt held by foreigners.

    For global flows the Bank for International Settlement publishes annual reports covering all types of financial data and is a tremendous resource for financial statistics (including derivatives trade and bank lending). (Much of this is available on The OECD also publishes annual data on financial market trends (OECD, Financial Market Trends, Paris -

  3. Multinational Corporations

    As in 2 above, data on countries' foreign direct investment positions can be obtained from the International Financial Statistics Yearbook. Data is also available from the annual UNCTAD, World Investment Report (; excellent 'country fact sheets' which give access to basic FDI information for nearly all countries can be found at: FDI can be expressed as a percentage of GDP using data from International Financial Statistics Yearbook as above. For OECD countries data is also available from OECD, International Direct Investment Statistics Yearbook. The OECD source also gives data by sector of investment and by country invested in/investment received from.

    National data sources may also give data on percentage of national output produced by foreign affiliates of multinationals.

    For an overview of data sources, see J. Dunning and J. Cantwell (1987), IRM Directory of Statistics of International Investment, London, Macmillan. The Fortune 500 list details the largest global corporations as does J. Stopford (1992) The World Directory of Multinational Enterprises, London, Macmillan. Data on various aspects of the globalization of production networks, transnational mergers activity, technological and other collaboration agreements can be found in UNCTAD's World Investment Reports (annual). A good source on production is M. Castells (2000, 2nd edn), The Rise of the Network Society, Oxford, Blackwell.

    On labour and migration see the annual International Labour Organization Statistics Collection ( For a discussion of historical patterns see A. Hoogvelt (1997) Globalization and the Postcolonial World, Macmillan, London.

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Migration Indicators

Migration indicators are both simple and complex: simple, because one is simply measuring the movement of people over national borders: complex, because the geography, purpose and recording of the data vary enormously.

Any study of global migration data needs to bear the following in mind: Is the migration legal, recorded migration or illegal, unrecorded migration? Is the migration permanent or temporary - particularly where it involves seasonal workers and workers on short-term contracts?

Is the migration simply for work or is it family reunion or is it short-term tourism/ business travel, etc.?

Is the migration voluntary or involuntary? In the latter category comes international refugee movements, asylum seekers and the modern slave trades.

Creating comparable indicators of any of these categories requires data on the population of the receiving or sending countries so ratios of, say, asylum seekers to home population can be compared across countries with very different sized populations or across eras as countries populations grow. Key sources of data for constructing these kinds of indicators include the following:

  1. Population
    United Nations Population Division (1998) Annual Populations, 1950-2050, New York: UNPD
  2. Labour Force Data
    ILO (1996) World Employment, Geneva: ILO
  3. Migration OECD
    SOPEMI (Annual Publication) International Trends in Migration, Paris: OECD
  4. Refugees
    UNHCR (Annual Publication) State of the World's Refugees, UNHCR, Geneva.

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Culture Indicators

Indicators of cultural globalization are reasonably plentiful but they must be handled carefully. For example, while there is plenty of information available on the international sales of the American culture industries, it is not possible to read off in any simple way the impact of those sales on other cultures and identities. In the domain of culture, perhaps more than any other domain of globalization, quantitative indicators need to be accompanied where possible by qualitative data on the impact, meaning and translation of cultural products.

Indicators of globalization and enmeshment of national cultures in global flows can be calculated in a number of different ways.

Data on the infrastructure of global cultural flows can be calculated for telecommunications and use of languages. The overall size of international telephone and internet traffic for nations can be calculated and compared to both past usage, domestic usage and other countries. Language use is more complex, but it is worth looking for indicators of the use of 'global languages', particularly English. Indicators of global enmeshment might include numbers of books translated from different languages, numbers of English speakers/teachers as a second language.

Data on other culture industries might include the percentage of TV output that has been imported from other countries. Similarly, the number of imported films or their share of box office receipts compared to domestic films can serve as an indicator of enmeshment. Access to foreign based satellite TV stations is also worth looking at.

Finally, it is worth looking at large cultural corporations in each country - TV, press, film, radio, etc. From annual reports particularly one can gauge the percentage of foreign ownership and foreign sales for these companies.


  1. Telecommunications
    ITU (annual publication) Yearbook of Common Carrier Telecommunication Statistics, Geneva: ITU
  2. Television
    UNESCO (annual publication) Statistical Yearbook, Paris: UNESCO.
  3. Films
    UNESCO (annual publication) Statistical Yearbook, Paris: UNESCO.
  4. Culture Industry Corporations
    See annual corporate reports.

For useful background information see:

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Environment Indicators

An enormous amount of environmental data is available now, though its coverage across the world and across different types of environmental problem can be patchy.

With regard to global environmental problems in which every society is enmeshed - like global warming and ozone depletion - indicators can be created which distinguish between the contribution of each country to the problem and (to some extent) the problems each country faces.

So, for example, it is possible to calculate the % of greenhouse gas emissions that each country releases and its contribution per capita as well. Impact of global environmental problems is more complex to quantify. But qualitative data banks of climate change, associated disasters, storm damage, loss of land to the sea, etc. can be usefully accumulated.

Other areas in which enmeshment in global rather than local environmental problems can be collected (though generally not in any systematic way) include sending and receiving countries in the international toxic waste trade, including the nuclear industry; and production and reception of cross-border pollutants like acid rain.


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Mapping Patterns of Global Stratification: Inequality and Exclusion

A common element running through all of the above indicators is that not all countries, places, or communities are equally enmeshed in global flows or networks. Inequality and exclusion are a dominant reality of globalization. But mapping patterns of global stratification is a complex business whilst the causal relationship between globalization and inequality is subject to controversy. However, it is possible to identify and map three kinds of inequality: international inequality (between states/nations), intra-national inequality (within states), and global inequality (between the wealthiest individuals/communities/locales and the poorest). This can be done fairly systematically for economic indicators but less easily for the other indicators discussed here. Some indicative attempts to map inequality in this way can be found in: Hoogvelt (see above); C. Thomas (2000) Global Governance, Development and Human Security, Pluto, London; and A. Hurrell and N. Woods (eds) (1999), Inequality, Globalization and World Politics, Oxford, OUP.

Statistical data can be found in: UN Development Programme, Human Development Report (various annual) (see; World Bank (annual), World Development Report (Oxford, OUP); World Health Organization on global health inequalities (see

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You are invited to send interesting findings in relation to the above research agenda to breffni.o'connor. Please send submissions either in MS Word (version 1997 on) or in Excel. (If neither is feasible, please forward in RTF.) Subject to the usual editorial checks, they might then be put on the Global Transformations website at Full acknowledgement will, of course, be made to those whose research is placed on the web site. It is hoped that the site will become a valuable world resource for globalization research.

1 There are no restrictions on the use or copying of this guide, but due acknowledgement should be made.

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