Social Consequences of Economic Integration in Asia

Social Consequences of Economic Integration in Asia

June 3, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 06 No. -23 May 31- 2013 (Jestha 17, 2070)

It is hard to mention anapprehending of social consequences of economic integration in Asia, although there are at least some different ways of understanding the concept of social integration. For some, it is an inclusionary goal, implying equal opportunities and rights for all human beings. In this case, becoming more integrated implies mean to be improving life chances. To others, however, increasing integration has a negative connotation, risingup the image of an unwanted imposition of uniformity. And, to still others, the term does not necessarily imply either a positive or a negative state. It is simply a way of describing the established patterns of human relations in any given society. In the case of Asia, integration is used in this sense, as a goal in itself, certain problems are often arisen. Some problems can be summarized in the points:

(a) It is intellectually easy and often politically expedient to assume that grave problems of poverty and in justice can be alleviated through including people formerly excluded from certain activities or benefits. Yet in many cases, the existing pattern of development may be economically and ecologically unsustainable, or politically repressive. Therefore it is always necessary to ask inclusion in what and on what terms.(b) It can be sought without giving sufficient attention to the need for cultural diversity. When this occurs, there can be an imposition of uniformity. (c) In all too many cases, national and international discussion of social development is also phrased in terms of integrating those with nothing into the modern mainstream, as though the groups defined as excluded are surviving in a virtual vacuum. Yet even the most impoverished and apparently disorganized have Asian forms of social organization. Ignoring the real world of the disadvantaged is a danger associated with inclusionary rhetoric, and it makes for bad policy. (d) Finally, there is a risk that narrow concentration on the normative goal of social integration will make disintegration undesirable by definition. In some cases, however, the disintegration of existing systems of social relations can be essential before progress toward a more just and equitable society can be made. The demising process of poverty provides a case in point.

While rapidly expanding boundaries of economic exchange and cultural contact improve the life chances of some groups, the process of globalization proves devastating for many others. New patterns of integration into a world economy are increasing and the economic insecurity of most people, as farmers, workers and business people around the globe are thrown into competition for scarce resources in hard times. Trends in science and technology promote longer term structural unemployment, thus compounding inequality, marginality and cultural malaise.As opportunity is concentrated in certain regions and countries, and in particular economic sectors, people respond in a number of ways. One of the most problematic is migration, whether internally or abroad. Although migratory processes are positive in many respects, the juxtaposition of people who often share neither a common language nor a common religion, and who have very different customs, makes unusual demands on human tolerance and understanding.

New arrivals also create unusual strains on existing social services. Even if people do not leave their homes, barriers between different cultures are falling under the impact of the revolution in mass communications. Local forms of solidarity are often replaced by new values and ties, which link small groups with access to the global consumer culture to others like themselves across the globe, while increasing the gulf between the global middle class and nationalswho cannot join the group. Rapid economic and social accompanied by far-reaching cultural change, makes unusual demands on political institutions. Economic uncertainty and fear of marginalization encourage electorates in established democracies to favor immediate remedies over long-term policies and the same fears immensely complicate the task of creating effective democratic regimes in countries where such systems of government are only now being established. Furthermore, the global nature of so many of the problems of today reinforces the need for a far more effective system of international governance than that currently available. There is a striking incongruence between patterns of social integration which bind people around the world more closely together than ever before, on the one hand, and the frailty of existing mechanisms for discussing joint problems and promoting joint action, on the other.


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Krishna Prasad Subedi

Krishna Prasad Subedi

Subedi is PhD Researcher in Sociology at Hallym University

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