5 May 2010
India’s Globalization Through the Lens of Slumdog Millionaire
Much has been made of the term globalization, over the past couple decades. Indeed, with communications, culture, and trade going transnational, the world as we know it is becoming more and more interconnected. Globalization has led to American styles in Japan, Chinese goods in America, and even a burgeoning tourist industry in Dubai. Some would argue that globalization has been going on for centuries. After all, as a global community we have traded amongst each other for at least that long. Others would argue, however, that globalization is far more complex, and far more interwoven than it once was. The globalization of today transcends the simple trade of goods. Globalization is an all encompassing phenomenon that includes, not only trade, but culture, labor, and even entire economic systems. For this reason, there is an ongoing debate as to whether this new breed of globalization is indeed healthy for the global community. Debate aside, the truth of the matter is this: globalization, and the benefits/drawbacks thereof, is an extremely complex phenomenon that exhibits both positive and negative characteristics.
Take India for example. India is a prime example of globalization because it exhibits both the good and bad qualities of being recently globalized. In fact, much of India’s globalization can be found in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Using the movie as a backdrop, let’s look at the positive aspects of India’s globalization. In one scene, we see Jamal working in a call center. Through western eyes, this may be cause for concern, as we see portions of the Indian workforce as competition. After all, it’s no secret that myriad American companies outsource their call centers to India. Through the eyes of an Indian, however, a job at a call center is an opportunity to succeed, to do something greater. And while working at a call center may not be the most high profile position in the world, it is certainly better than working in the slums, a place that is oft depicted in the beginning of Slumdog Millionaire. Thus, we can see Jamal’s work in the call center as kind of a microcosm of India’s burgeoning economy. Worthy of note, is the fact that wages in India have “gone up fifty percent over the past fifteen years, and, not surprisingly, much of that leap is owed, in large part, to the globalization of India” (Panagariya 253). Taking that fact into account, it’s easy to see how globalization can be a good move for India.
Positives can also be found in the industrialized scenes in Slumdog Millionaire. Part of the brilliance of the film is the director’s deft choice of disparate locations. In one scene, we see Jamal and Salim playing in the slums. Homes are more akin to shanties, bathing is done in the river, and food seems to be scarce. Conversely, in the city, there are shops, apartment buildings, and people with appropriate attire for the climate. One could argue that globalization has had a hand in helping build these communities. The outsourcing of labor and the trade of Indian goods has led to the creation of the eleventh largest industrialized nation in the world: India.
These statistics can also be used to attack the argument for globalization as well, however. For every rich business man in India—like Salim in the latter half of the movie—there are three indigents. As Fernando Coronil states in his essay, "Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism: Speculation on Capitalism's Nature,” globalization has led to “new patterns of global integration and a heightened social polarization within and among nations” (Coronil 358). In short, the upper class is getting richer and the lower class is getting poorer. Prem Kapur, the man who hosts Who Wants to be a Millionaire; the people who are able to sit and home and watch the show on their televisions; and even the people in the audience are exceptions to the rule. True, India is industrialized, and yet much of the nation still lives in poverty. For a nation that “boasts homegrown programs in space exploration” (267 Panagariya), an ever growing hub for technical expertise, and a dozen legitimate Indian corporations listed on the NYSE, it still “still struggles with providing basic amenities, such as clean water, sanitation, and electricity” (268 Panagariya). And though India’s economy has grown by leaps and bounds, it only contributes 1.5% to world trade. As a result, naysayers of globalization have begun to ask: at what cost?
If anything is for certain, it’s that the benefits and/or drawbacks of globalization are somewhat nebulous, and a bit relative. Positives can be seen in the sharing of culture, of trade, of technology, and general well being. We are more of a global community than we have ever been, which in turn, allows us to work on some of the world’s greatest problems with a collective human effort. Negatives can be seen in the disparities created by globalization—namely social. It has been argued that much of the success that industrialized nations have seen through globalization have come at the cost of supposed third-world countries. It’s easy to see globalization as a net positive through western eyes. I wonder if the kids depicted in the slums of Mumbai feel the same way, though.
Coronil, Fernando. "Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism: Speculation on Capitalism's Nature." Public Culture 12.2 (2000): 358. JSTOR. Web. 3 May 2010.
Panagariya, Arvind. "Globalization and the Offshoring of Services: The Case of India." Brookings Trade Forum 36.9 (2005): 253-68. JSTOR. Web. 3 May 2010.