How Globalization Affected Democracy in the Developed World

At present, globalization has become one of the most debatable topics. Even though it promotes social development and benefits the global economy, this process also presents challenges for the political and social spheres. Globalization is a process during which the world is being transformed into a single global system. The issue of globalization became relevant in the 1990s, although various aspects of the integration have been seriously discussed since the mid-twentieth century. Nevertheless, the ambiguous consequences of this process became apparent by the end of the 20th century.

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The main features of globalization are changes in the structure of international economics and the formation of the global market. Globalization also contributes to the standardization and harmonization of the legislation of individual countries. Hence, the concept of democracy may be interpreted in different ways. Democracy is defined as a conjunction of liberal and participatory elements, excluding social justice as democratic policies consequences (Heyne, 2018, p. 230). Another approach is that democracy is a government elected by the citizens through representatives; therefore, these definitions are discussed throughout the paper.

There are two different approaches concerning the question of how globalization affected democracy in the developed world. These are optimistic and pessimistic attitudes towards this global trend. The first focuses on advantages that democratic societies of developed nations receive after getting used to new tendencies of integration. Another approach emphasizes that developed countries demand national protectionism; hence, liberal democracy and the social contract have met difficulties regarding globalization. Thus, the paper presents the positive effects of globalization on democracy in developed countries, highlighting the benefits for human rights, civil society development and economic integration. The second part examines the adverse effects of globalization on democracy in the developed world, examining concerns about the supranational level of governance and populism. In conclusion, the response to whether globalization affected democracy in the developed world negatively or positively is provided.

Positive Effects of Globalization on Democracy

The optimistic approach towards the consequences of globalization for democracy emphasizes the benefits for democratic values and political institutions in developed countries. Heyne (2018, p. 230) defines democracy as a set of values with three fundamentals: freedom, equality, and control. Globalization contributes to the spread of the principle of liberal economics and market relations. Due to globalization, there is an upward trend in increasing levels of political openness and overcoming impunity for corruption and abuse of power and expanding political representation (Heyne, 2018, p. 236). Accordingly, globalization diminishes the governments’ prerogative power and the expansion of democratic human rights and freedoms.

Human Rights

Globalization also provides a high level of interaction in developed countries’ communities, which leads to the emergence of global movements towards human rights. According to Heyne (2018, p. 233), it furthers the progressive political forces and promotes democratic energy. For instance, it concerns fair trade, eliminating child labor, and promoting a culture of universal human liberties. It is performed in NGOs and social movements activities addressing the rights of women, LGBT, political, ethnic or religious minorities (Heyne, 2018, p. 233). Despite the substantial technological gap between low-income and high-income countries, this impact of globalization is presented by democratizing the media through social networking platforms. Thus, one of the positive results of globalization is that it raises awareness of the importance of human rights.

Civil Society

Due to globalization, the information revolution helps people living in developed countries to perceive their belonging to the global community and transnational solidarity. Heyne (2018, p. 234) claims that it helps to lessen information costs by advancing communication and transport. The requirement of prosperous democracy is well-informed citizens (Heyne, 2018, p. 234). Through their websites and other channels, civil society organizations inform citizens about the options that can be made in politics (Heyne, 2018, p. 234). As a result, information flow increases and people can strengthen critical thinking by obtaining information from governmental and independent sources. Thus, globalization benefits democracy in developed countries by encouraging civil society.

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Economic Globalization

Globalization has a positive impact on economic development, whereas the latter fosters democracy. There is a labor force shortage in developed countries due to declining birth rates and the aging population (Diamond, 2018, p. 40). Consequently, migration is an advantage for high-income states as it prevents a decline in production. According to Heyne (2018, p. 235), life and human development depend on the economic condition in developed countries. For instance, the crucial factors are a high-income level, a better quality of healthcare, access to education for all inhabitants (Heyne, 2018, p. 235). According to Heyne (2018, p. 235), good living conditions stimulate transparency by minimizing incentives for corruption. Therefore, economic globalization increases democracy by reinforcing by improving conditions of life.

Negative Effects of Globalization on Democracy

Opponents of globalization believe that adverse effects prevail, leading to the concentration of capital in the developed countries. There are trends in the growing scale of illegal migration and ethnocultural conflicts. According to Colantone and Stanig (2018, p. 5), the political arena experiences “the manifestation of a cultural backlash, racial resentment in the US, hostility to demographic changes driven by immigration in Western Europe”. Structural shocks due to financial crises and the undermining of representative democracy is viewed through Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidency and the growth of populist parties in European established democracies (Hoekman and Nelson, 2018, p. 38). According to Hellwig (2008, p. 1130), global integration has an adverse bearing on democratic performance. The impact of globalization on democracy is a significant process; there is a change in traditional democratic institutions regarding their integration.

Concerning developed European states, the continent has faced a severe socio-economic crisis, managing globalization outcomes. According to Salvatore et al. (2018, p. 250), the part of European citizens suggests that it has transformed their way of living, particularly values, habits, safety, by new economic, social and political circumstances. Salvatore et al. (2018, p. 256) note that democracy in developed European countries undergoes significant changes in terms of weakening of support for European Union (EU) institutions and the wave of intolerance and aversion towards others. The latter is manifested in social and political forms such as populism, increasing support for far-right parties.

Supranational Level

Moreover, the trend towards lack of democracy in developed countries is an objective phenomenon associated with transferring some government management functions to the supranational level. According to Heyne (2018, p. 237), due to global interdependencies and denationalization, citizens are affected by other authorities. Bartels (2014, p. 209) claims due to the global financial crisis, most governments of developed states faced significant pressures from powerful economic and political interests of supranational organizations to pursue fiscal austerity and structural reform. For instance, these could be decisions made by other national governments, including immigration or taxation laws. It concerns such international organizations as the European Union (EU), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Heyne, 2018, p. 237). These actors cannot be considered democratically accountable to national electorates (Heyne, 2018, p. 237). This impact can be notable, encompassing human rights, parameters of economic regulation, dealing with migration issues, and security. The population demands the response regarding the sovereignty restoration, the control of the elites by the electorate, diminishing the influence of the international structures.


With regard to developed countries, mainly Europe, globalization causes another socio-political problem called populism. Democracy and sovereignty are fundamental elements of the political economies of the developed states in the global economy (Hoekman and Nelson, 2018, p. 39). According to Hoekman and Nelson (2018, p. 35), the benefits of integration arise primarily from resource reallocation. Nevertheless, democratic institutions face the rise of far-right and populist parties, waves of xenophobia, and no-immigration attitudes (Salvatore et al., 2018, p. 249). According to the study conducted by Hellwig (2016, p. 42), “due to increased pressure to adhere to the logic of neo‐liberal market forces, globalization pushes parties to advocate increasingly right-of-center positions”. Populism is recognized as the most dangerous consequence of globalization for developed countries.

The main danger of populism refers to the fact that it abuses the institutions of democracy. Some regions receive stronger globalization shocks, systematically becoming less supportive of democracy and liberal values (Colantone and Stanig, 2018, p. 30). They argue more in favor of strong leaders and are mainly concerned with immigration, especially with the cultural threat (Colantone and Stanig, 2018, p. 8). For instance, such instruments as universal suffrage and political freedoms can be used to humiliate these freedoms, and in the long term, to replace them with the opposite authoritarian regime (Salvatore et al., 2018, p. 366). A common reason for the emergence of populism lies in the loss of public confidence in national governments.

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In the majority’s opinion, people do not trust the national political elites and institutions of global governance that have demonstrated their unwillingness to integrate effectively. The latter is accused of the inability to stop the deterioration of the social sphere, being unable to prevent the destruction of democratic institutions. Considering the opposite situation, the most prominent example is British public opinion during the first Cameron government. It was formed according to myopic retrospection when the Conservative Party won the 2015 election due to an improved economic state during the last two years (Tillman, 2016, p. 132). Consequently, in the case of the global financial crisis, there is a growing structural conflict.

The conflict provides the potential for new radical parties promoting ethnic nationalism, separatist nationalism, or religious fundamentalism. At present, there are examples of the recent changes in Europe and the USA, namely, the victory of the right-wing parties in elections in Europe and Brexit (Hellwig, 2016, p. 46). Trump’s election can also be considered a populist choice. In these circumstances, a shift to the right becomes possible, for instance, social mobilization under the slogans of the revival of national identity, sovereignty, national consolidation and revolt of the masses against the elites.


To sum up, the balanced attitude towards globalization processes rejects extreme positions in assessing the consequences of globalization. The main idea is that the processes designated by globalization are objective and inevitable. New trends provide new opportunities for countries and peoples, but they also present further challenges, requiring a strong and effective state. The changes affect all components of democracy in developed states along with national sovereignty. Under the influence of globalization on the nation-state, it loses part of its sovereignty but at the same time retains state autonomy – the ability to formulate its political goals and achieve them independently. However, answering whether globalization positively or negatively affects the quality of democracies is of practical relevance. Negative consequences prevail as developed countries face socio-political crises. In terms of economic development, their financial state benefits from the global market and migration, but democratic fundamentals undergo significant changes. Thus, the growing social conflict should be addressed by maintaining political and socio-economic equality.

Reference List

Bartels, L. M. (2014). Ideology and retrospection in electoral responses to the Great Recession. In Bartels, L. and Bermeo, N. (eds.), Mass politics in tough times: Opinions, votes and protest in the great recession. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 185-223.

Colantone, I. and Stanig, P. (2018) ‘The economic determinants of the ‘Cultural Backlash’: Globalization and attitudes in Western Europe’, BAFFI CAREFIN Centre Research Paper, 91, pp. 1-39.

Diamond, P. (ed.) (2018). The crisis of globalization: Democracy, capitalism and inequality in the twenty-first century. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

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Hellwig, T. (2008). Globalization, policy constraints, and vote choice. The Journal of Politics, 70(4), pp. 1128-1141.

Hellwig, T. (2016) ‘The supply side of electoral politics’, In Vowles, J. and Xezonakis. G. (eds.), Globalization and domestic politics: Parties, elections, and public opinion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 31-50.

Heyne, L. (2018) ‘Globalization and democracy: Does denationalization affect the quality of democracy?’, In Merkel, W. and Kneip, S. (eds.) Democracy and Crisis. New York, NY: Springer, pp. 229-252

Hoekman, B. and Nelson, D. R. (2018) ‘Reflecting on populism and the economics of globalization’, Journal of International Business Policy, 1(1), pp. 34-43.

Salvatore, S. et al. (2019) ‘Globalization, demand of sense and enemization of the other: A psychocultural analysis of European societies’ sociopolitical crisis’, Culture & Psychology, 25(3), pp. 345-374.

Tillman, E. R. (2016). Has the global financial crisis changed citizen behaviour? A four-country study. In Vowles, J. and Xezonakis. G. (eds.), Globalization and domestic politics: Parties, elections, and public opinion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 113-133.

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