Any social setting is characterised by divergent views on issues that are of social interest. In fact, the levels of diversity in opinions is observed to increase in levels of educational attainment. An explanation to this phenomenon is that with education one gains access to multiple platforms for development of arguments. Whereas the logic in this statement is quite clear, convergence in a social context has always been a controversial subject. The controversy in analysis of convergence arises not just from the need to converge but also on the effects that it has on the society. A look at Europe which is arguably the most successful continent in the globe brings out varying dimensions on the issue of convergence. Eurosceptics are sceptical on the levels of convergence that Europe has attained and are of the view that it is time measures were taken to slow down the rate of convergence. On the contrary, Europhiles are of the view that the levels of convergence attained by Europe are nothing close to the desired level and measures should be developed to put into high gear strategies that promote convergence. These differences are critical and convergence has a bearing on different areas of the society. To fully understand the issues brought out by the two point of views one has to understand the phenomenon of convergence and issues that affect the nature of strategies adopted in the modern world.
Convergence: A Europe Context
Convergence from its most basic definition is the development of a common approach, value or objective. Convergence under this consideration can be analysed from a number of dimensions. Convergence in Europe started even before the idea of the European union was conceived (Eichengreen 2007). Ever since money came into existence and was accepted as legal tender commercialisation of operations has been on the increase. Business has developed in response to changes in standards of living and in the current society business is definitive of nearly all processes. Commercialisation and business trends in the society are affected by such factors as technological development, liberalisation of trade and globalisation. A closer look at some of these variables clearly show that convergence is a characteristic that is common to all of them. Commercialisation is associated with the development of standards that players are expected to meet. The aim in development of standards could be to ensure that the consumer is protected from the activities of industry players or it could be to ensure uniform development of the industry, in either case standardisation is the development of common standard that all other players are expected to conform to thus convergence. Liberalisation which is often characterised by development of free markets and development of trading blocks is based on convergence. In developing trading blocks, there are a set of standards that are developed and all other members are expected to meet this standard thus convergence (Piekkola & Snellman 2005). Critics to globalisation and its effects have often accused it of killing diversity that not only defines the social man but is central to the biodiversity that defines all living things. Is it therefore true that as long as business operations are existent convergence cannot be avoided?
The signing of a treaty that led to the coming into place of the European union in 1993 is one of the greatest landmarks in the history of Europe (Albi 2005). The European union under the current economic environment is the largest economic body and has considerable control over global economics. Before the signing of the treaty, convergence was mainly due to the effect of globalisation. The development of a common currency was another landmark development and the stability that the Euro displays has led to its adoption as currency of preference (Piekkola & Snellman 2005).
The European union has made it possible for Europe nationals to travel across the continent like it was one nation. Moreover, the EU is responsible for formulating strategies that affect development efforts in its member states. EU as a force that has been involved in peacekeeping initiatives all over the globe. In fact a majority of NATO member states are EU members and thus the EU has considerable effects on decisions made by NATO (Sunzi 2003). EU as a body has been central to the development of a more convergent Europe in the areas of economy and finance.
A phrase like ‘a convergent body’ is hard to come by since the goals in convergence are rarely achieved. In fact, convergence as a social construct is near impossible to attain. Take Europe as a continent, the levels of development attained by a nation like England and Turkey do not compare (Synergy 2004). Convergence efforts are often aimed at the uniform development of a number of nations as a block and if nations that had advantage before integration maintain their advantage after convergence efforts what will be the essence of integration? This is not just from an economic perceptive but also social dimensions (Synergy 2004). Consider development in professional soccer in Europe, both UEFA champion leagues and Euro were developed to ensure that the development of soccer in the continent is maintained by ensuring the game develops uniformly across Europe. In the 1950s when such efforts came into place Spain, England, Italy and Germany were the countries where professional football was developed. Harmonisation which is a key objective of UEFA appear to be a lost cause as development in soccer still exhibit the same trends it did five decades ago. In fact, differences in the levels of professional development are more clear now than they ever were due to the popularity of leagues in the aforementioned countries while other nations’ are rarely had outside Europe.
A critical factor that hinders globalization or development of common approaches is difference in language and culture. While the later aspect has minimal bearing in a continent where global trends and fashion have led to corrosion of culture, language as a factor has solely hindered the levels of convergence that can be attained in Europe. Europe has a diversity of language and an interesting fact on the languages of Europe is that they are so different from each other that one may be tempted into believing that the dialects are from completely different continents (Piekkola ; Snellman 2005). A Portuguese tourists can communicate little to a German tour operator and this communication barrier has hindered the levels of interaction between different societies (Piekkola ; Snellman 2005). Apart from English and French, the other languages are not as developed and it may take a long time to come up with a standard platform for communication.
Diversity of the climate in Europe in another key factor that has hindered the level of convergence that the continent can attain. Consideration on the climatic conditions and therefore the nature of economic and social activities that European nations participate in shows high levels of diversity. European societies involve themselves in a variety of social activities ranging from skiing, swimming, skating, soccer to camping (Piekkola ; Snellman 2005). The nature of activities that the people involve themselves in is determined by the nature of the environment that the society is in. Economic activities follow the same pattern as no ordinary livestock or poultry can survive a day in the Arctic (Kennedy ; Koo 2002). Is is possible to converge all these activities and come up with as society where skiing is as popular as soccer in England?
Before the crisis age became a worry to the economic and social well-being of the society, many theorists and experts had predicted that with the activities of man there is little to expected but a crisis. Liberalisation and globalisation which are key drivers in the business environment are characterised by increase in availability of information and high levels of competition (Nugent 2003). With the development of a more convergent social and economic environment, the effects of competition will be high and availability of informations starts acting the stability of the operational environment through mechanism like high levels of inflation and volatility. It is worth noting that convergence of resources and development of powerhouses that can effectively determine dynamics of global trends lead to a situation where big entities gain at the expense of smaller ones and the essence of convergence is lost (Piekkola ; Snellman 2005).
There is no denying the fact that Europe has one of the highest level of educational attainment. Its institution of higher learning are considered some of the best and they have not failed in churning out to the system professionals who have play varying roles in the development of Europe as a continent. Being a continent whose constituent members are either considered first or second world nation the cost of labour is high and many organisations having realised that Africa and Asia have the same expertise have decided to offshore some of their processes to the ready and cheap labour in developing third world nations (Piekkola ; Snellman 2005). It should be remembered that a reason that led to the formulation of the EU is to ensure mobility of labour and therefore availability. This has not been achieved due to the differences in work ethics that are inherent of the different societies that make up Europe and challenges posed by the multitude of languages used in Europe (Kaplan ; Baldauf 2005). To make the situation worse, most Scandinavian nations have an ageing population and availability of labour and skill threatens to affect the development that have been attained by these nations (Hocking ; Spence 2002). It is evident that application of strategies aimed at convergence like the EU do not address all issues that affected the European society. If Europe will continue using the same strategies that it has been, there is little doubt that the same results will be recorded and the entire continent will be on a retrogressive path.
Global recession and the effects of the economic crisis were felt most by developed economies (Bernardi, Profeta ; Tanzi 2004). No corner of the globe can claim that it was not affected but the effect that the unwelcoming conditions had on Europe can only be comparable to those it had on the US. Experts are of the view that the high levels of volatility and instability of the global business environment are characteristic of the modern and future environment and one has to just look at trends since the turn of the century an all doubt will be dispelled. Recession is ever looming and it is upon all members of the society to come up with strategies that will effectively address this issue. Convergence is at the centre of the problem and approaching the issue by use of approaches that are convergent could prove counter-productive. It is worth noting that biodiversity is defined by divergence and this is the natural stable state even in business activities. Obsession with convergence should never be mistook as being a depiction of problems in application of divergent strategies (Dracklé ; Edgar 2004). A strategy is only as good as its functionality and if a strategy continuously fails to deliver some of its goals then it is time new approaches were implemented.
Another tragic comedy in convergence comes in warfare. As trading blocks develop they have a tendency to develop their super armies that are characterised by size (Coker 2002). The EU army is a good example and its is tasked with the same defence obligation as any other army. A look at the nature of warfare in the current environment makes one wonder how the world can ever be safe with such approaches. Terrorism, clan wars and religious wars have all taken on divergent approaches where small well organised group are used to wreck havoc on the system and no laws govern warfare as the end justifies the means (Hambling 2005). A convergent approach was efficient in the world war era and has since lost relevance due to the global nature of security threats.
Another threat to Europe is Asia. Asia has for a long time been a source of cheap labour for European nations and America. The education explosion in Asia and lack of employment created a labour force that could effectively be used by offshoring which is made possible by developments in technology. Recent reports show that East Asia is a region that is developing so fast and it is only a matter of time before they absorb their entire labour force (Synergy 2004). But this is not the major worry for the EU which should be more worried about the loss of market share that it has experienced due to popularity of goods made in East Asia. Most Asian nations compete at a national level where individual nation competencies are brought out clearly. Could it be that it is time EU operated at a lower national level or it is time the union included more members to gain more advantages over other global players?
A coin has two sides and so do issues that affect the society. Eurosceptics and Europhiles have the right to whatever point of views they adopt. However, the society is much larger than individual perception and therefore an objective approach to issues that are of interest to the society is necessary. The existence of polarised points of view in any arguments often is a depiction of views that have pros and cons. Diversity and homogeneity have cons and pros and therefore the decision on who are correct between Eurosceptics and Europhiles should be based on the nature of the environment. A look at global economics and the state that Europe is in currently in could automatically lead to a wrong conclusion that convergence should be done with. Woes of Europe ranging from social degradation, an ageing population, failure of natural industries and increase in the levels of competition from other parts of the world in the global market can all be blamed on globalisation which is a form of convergence. However, business activities which support all economies are based on convergence and failure in adopting this convergent approaches could lead to loss of relevance in global operations. Development of free trade areas and negotiation of deal at higher levels are definitive of trends and no country can survive without adoption of these trends. It is apparent that the adoption of convergent approaches was in response to changes in the social and economic environment that made integration more profitable. Over the years there have been considerable changes in the nature of the environment and in the current environment some social and economic issues are aggravated by convergent approaches. The same logic that was used in adopting convergence which finds basis in ensuring relevance to change in the nature of the environment should be adopted.
Sustainability of developments attained in Europe can only be made possible with continued convergence. Developing nations in Europe require the benefits that come with integration and convergence to develop their economies and developed nations have little option but to adopt the same approaches since failure of developing nations will obviously have an effect on them. On the contrary, modern warfare which include such strategies as terrorism, clan warfare, destruction of public utilities, destabilisation of governments and religious wars make convergent approaches less effective. Economic development is a result of not just robust business strategies but also an operational environment that is politically stable and peaceful. Insecurity be it on the ground or perceived effectively affect economic and social dynamics and should be ensured if sustainable development is to be achieved. The challenges that Europe is faced with are a result of irreversible events in its business and social activities. The role that availability and information consciousness play in propagating volatility cannot be reversed due to the role it plays in identification of threats and opportunities which is key to profitability and development of robust business operations. There is no social or economic rule that states that convergence has to be applied to all processes. Diversity defines Europe and should be definitive of approaches and strategies it employs, the application of both divergent and convergent approaches is an approach that embraces diversity (Alesina ; Giavazzi 2006). Both Eurosceptics and Europhiles are correct and wrong in the stances they have chosen with regards to convergence of Europe. Convergence has some dangers and proposing that its should be taken to a whole new level without considerations on what areas need to be taken to this whole new level is a risk that Europe must not even think of taking. Subjecting all processes to a go slow on convergence may be logical but fails to acknowledge the role that convergence plays in the modern society. It is apparent that none of the stance is correct for in this day and age divergence and convergence have to coexist for they play different roles in the development of the society depending on the nature of the processes being considered.
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