A Nightmare Called … Deglobalization.
Posted by inspir3d on January 17, 2007
Do you remember what you were doing one hour just before the New Year celebrations in 2000? Probably not – as for me, I was dressed in my army No.4 camouflage strapped with 20 sticks of granola bars hunkering in my makeshift bunker in the backyard with my Bible thumping kid sister.
She was reading the book of Apocalypse and I was straining over the wireless tuned to the BBC world service. When midnight came, I registered a faint static over the air waves and said to her, “That’s it, they are dying now, quickly close the hatch and remember, if I die you can eat me!” As it turned out later when our neighbors reported us to my mom and dad because they heard some crazed moaning in the garden. We realized nothing happened – airplanes didn’t drop from the skies like cats and dogs, trains didn’t derail and intercontinental ballistic missiles didn’t launch automatically – it was just another new year.
Like members of some apocalyptic cult who gathered on a side of the hill waiting for the end of the world only to look silly when the meteors and rivers of fire didn’t come, I felt cheated. (Trust me you would feel the same thing when you invested all your pocket money buying books about how to gut Rover and make a meal and use the rest to make a post apocalyptic hand bag.)
Since then I had a hard time reconciling myself with any prediction that tends to lean towards the inevitable, irreversible and inexorable (trust me when you spend a whole year smelling of tinned tuna because you overstocked yourself with survivalist rations, you begin to start seeing the world like flipper the magical seal – even bad news makes you clap). I am of course talking about globalization.
A number of books proclaim that, whether we like it or not, globalization is here to stay. Yet, despite the huge benefits of free trade and other aspects of the global economy, an open and integrated economy is neither as extensive and inexorable, nor as irreversible as many often assume.
Those who describe the advent of globalization as inexorable see it as a logical end – that is terra-forming a world that is not only tightly connected but also peaceful and prosperous. It’s a cogent case when one considers how fast and far the globalization movement has actually taken hold especially during the last decade when international integration accelerated so dramatically.
In “The Lexus and the Olive Tree,” Thomas Friedman described globalization as the proverbial sun rising in the morning, since,
“Even if I didn’t much care for the dawn there isn’t much I could do about it.” (he must be a vampire!)
But against this imagery of a merry suffused light that brings with it the promise of peace and prosperity – there are also long and disturbing shadows which question whether globalization’s inexorability isn’t as robust as it is often made up to be – for one there is still considerable debate among those who analyze the subject, whether the future could be anything but integrated and harmonious. Skeptics foresee the possibility of globalization being derailed by disruption, distrust, decay, or disillusionment. Specifically they believe globalization could fail because of the presence of serious fissures within the systematic construct of globalization itself.
These fissures take many forms such as the anti-globalization movement who see it simply as an institutional means to victimize workers, the poor and the environment. Even the main proponent of globalization, the US, is not exempt from being fingered as a probable saboteur in the guise of US unilateralism, since it often exploits its status in ways that continue to alienate and exasperate other nations. For instance, it undercuts trade agreements which it deems harmful to its labor unions e.g. steel and farming. The decline of shared values also poses a threat to globalization as evident in the failure by the US and other countries to bridge differences on treaties covering everything from land mines, arms control, pollution limits, global warming indices and the International Criminal Court. The recent execution of Saddam Hussein exposes deep divisions ranging from, “you deserve it!” to “it’s disgusting” and how these sentiments seem to be divided squarely along continental blocks separating the EU and the US merely represents the tip of iceberg on how fractious and fragile: the notion of world view – we are starting to realize we don’t even see the world in the same way, let alone seek common ground in politics, economics, sociology or technology!
The assertion is these developments reveal a trend away from consensus and teamwork. The drift is towards nationalism and protectionism rather than global institutions and open markets. Quite a contrast from the conventional wisdom that globalization is often depicted as a fait accompli, where all subscribing parties are unanimously in happy agreement as to what globalization is and how we should all go about globalizing. In a nutshell, reality presents a very different and disturbing picture and this highlights the need to appreciate the possibility of deglobalization.
Deglobalization as a body of knowledge doesn’t really exist for the same reason cavemen who play paper, scissors and stone, use only the latter because the first two haven’t been invented yet. It’s still considered the black arts of economics because world leaders and the clique ridden bureaucrats in the IMF and world bank still believe given the political will and the economic attention directed at building the machine that will one day change the world – something will definitely give. (This people have obviously never read up on the history of alchemy!)
People are quick to forget. Should liberal democracy fail to deliver on its political overreach, then arguments for regulation, protection, and control (of markets and people alike) will inevitably surface again. Presently based on hostility to immigration (because of concerns about the labor market), a belief in capital controls (as the ones seen when Malaysia introduced capital controls in 1998, in order to prevent shocks emanating from the financial sector), skepticism about global trade, the prevailing atmosphere has shifted from belief in the near – inevitability of globalization to deep uncertainty about the very survival of the global order. This brings into focus the need for our government to develop an exit strategy or fall back plan should the proverbial globalization train suddenly run out of steam – or worse still decide on a lane change – or dare I say, to do a U-turn!
In essence, the main phalanx of this paper lays down the basic outlines of why and how deglobalization may occur despite the prevailing hold globalization seemingly appears to have over international trade and commerce. It is perhaps time to appreciate the complex possibilities at work as various people and money issues push and pull for primacy in the global arena. The future is still very uncertain and it may be too late for us all to jump out of the bed with our proverbial bed partners in this dream called globalization. Perhaps it is time to simply wake up to the prospects. And if we don’t wise up to the possibility of deglobalization, we may just be headed to the nod land. Only this time, it’s a nightmare that we the sleeper may never ever awake from.
(By Astroboy / Politics / Economics / The Brotherhood Press / E: 99303693/2007)
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