Why is Geography Important in a Globalizing World?

Globalization is not only a feature of our time, but also a trend that is unfolding over a longer historical horizon. The ancient Roman Empire can already be regarded as an undeniably globalized arrangement, unifying a major part of the world as it was known at the time. Major milestones paving the way to globalization have included the great geographic discoveries, from the discovery of America to Magellan’s first voyage around the world, and much later, the expeditions to discover the unknown internal territories of various continents up until the 19th century. The unquestionable milestones of globalization were the colonial empires of the 19th century spanning most of the world, among which the largest, the British Empire, covered 22% of the world’s territory and constituted 20% of its population. It was held together in a unified administrative and economic framework when it was at its peak in 1922. Although the large empires disintegrated, with the USA and Russia being the only exceptions, unification picked up speed and spread at a pace that was unfathomable in the past.

Today, human society and the economy along with it have been radically transformed in the wake of globalization. The integration and the rise of networks within the global economy is unfolding at an accelerating pace from one decade to the next. The elimination of the barriers within the economy, the global unification of standards and the global homogenization of consumption habits have given rise to a global economy that is increasingly becoming a unified whole and behaving like a single unit.

This unification is also apparent in the global networks maintained by major financial institutions, spanning global hubs from Hong Kong to New York, and from London to Buenos Aires, allowing capital to flow freely between the different regions of the world. Therefore it is no surprise that the role of geographic space has also been radically transformed in this new economic and social structure. The significance of geographic location and physical distance seems to be disappearing completely. In the wake of falling transportation costs and technologies spanning physical space, distances are shortening and space is becoming “denser”.