London, England has been a microcosm of globalization for thousands of years. The evidence of Roman occupation can still seen in parts of the Tower of London built in 1066 by William the Conqueror. London also has a number of historic buildings that reflect England’s past conquests. In the past, England absorbed Wales and Scotland creating a new entity called “Great Britain.” London, as the capital city, has always been the linchpin that held Great Britain together. Whatever style, fashion or economy the world at large has gone through, London reflects back to the world. In studying the effects of globalization, London can be seen as a prime example.
Great Britain as a whole has weathered many “shocks” and setbacks in their economy. Free trade between countries in the Middle East, Asia and the Americas has opened up new markets for the country. At the same time, certain sections suffered as their industries declined, jobs were shipped overseas and immigrants moved in. Some sections like Kings Cross have emerged from being a symbol of homelessness and prostitution in the 1960s to a symbol of rebirth and renewal at the turn of the millennium. Rich neighborhoods like Mayfair and Marylebourne benefited first from the infusion of new capital and investments. London boasted a 12.5 percent increase in property sales between 2007 and 2011 and an output by gross value added per capita of 175 percent of the British average in 2012.
Property values have skyrocketed in London making them worth more than the combined property market values in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Neighborhood once considered squalid like Kings Cross, made known in the 1966 film “Alfie”, are now considered the richest neighborhoods in London.
In contrast, some of the poorer neighborhoods like Tower Hamlets and Hackney still struggle daily with declining job opportunities and unequal distribution of wealth. Unsanitary conditions can still be spotted in some of these areas of London as migrant workers take jobs that no one else wants and bring down the property values.
A part of the mindset is the fact that some Londoners feel that they should be separate from the rest of Great Britain and ignore the negative effects of globalization. Exploitation of migrant workers has been noted and efforts are being made to persecute employers. The hard truth is that one of the negative effects of globalization is exploitation. These effects eventually spill over to the entire workforce and become devastating leaving long term consequences for everyone.
The inequality of wealth has spurred some negative feedback between the “haves” and the “have nots” as gleaming skyscrapers replace beautiful old buildings that have provided subsistence to those in need. The environment has also been adversely affected by the increased construction and added landfill costs. Consequently, more international companies are setting up “shop” in London and creating new landscapes where there once were meadows and parks.
London, in some sections, is still considered a cesspool of poverty while other sections have grown into a mega city. People come to London from other parts of the country and the world for opportunities they are not getting in their area of the country or world. Because of London’s welcoming attitude towards foreigners, one third of its population is foreign born compared to 13 percent in the rest of the UK. This is good for diversity and growth, but culture connections are lost in the shuffle.
There is evidence that this is happening in London now. Forces are at work to build new buildings without regard to historical preservation and reuse. A concentrated strategy that works with existing historically relevant buildings and incorporates new technology is a “win win” strategy for resolving development issues.
The effects of globalization can be seen in how long someone lives and what unknown diseases are brought into the population. The twin specters of poverty and homelessness contribute to the lower life expectancy. For instance, in Lewistown the life expectancy is 75 whereas in Knightsbridge where the life expectancy is 91.
Life style often reflects life expectancy. People living in the slums have little opportunity to grow because they are living hand to mouth. Opportunities in the richer sections abound as foreign investors move their operations there and create jobs. Unfortunately one of the negatives of living in a city like London is the risks of exposure to an unknown contagion escalate due to close contact with foreigners and frequent travel to foreign countries.
To recap what was covered; globalization in its truest form is the process of exchanging ideas, products and services between countries and merging them into a new entity. London has been known for centuries as a global melting pot with many diverse cultures making their home here. As recently as the 1980s, London’s future was looking pretty bleak. Ken Livingstone’s Section 106 agreements helped revitalize London by creating affordable housing, environmental facilities and viable growth industries. The blooming growth spurt has taken some by surprise making them long to go back to the simpler times when people had a sense of place. The memory of dilapidated warehouses and unsafe transit stops drives others to eradicate everything that is over 50 years old.
This is not feasible for a number of reasons. The future of London as a microcosm of globalization rests on the strategies they can incorporate to negate the negative aspects of globalization such as a loss of culture and place while remaining open to the world.