Deglobalisation?

March 26, 2009

“Deglobalisation: ugly word, scary concept and now painful reality.”  Thus began an article in yesterday’s Financial Times, the fourth time this week that I’ve seen the term “deglobalisation” crop up in the newspaper.   But what does deglobalisation mean?  And is it really happening?

If globalisation is, as LSE Professor David Held has defined it, “the expanding scale, growing magnitude, speeding up and deepening impact of transcontinental flows and patterns of social interaction,” what is deglobalisation?  Diminishing scale of cross-border social and economic interaction?  Slowing down of the growth of that interaction?  Shallow interactions?

The press to date seems to be using it to talk about dimishing scale of finance and trade flowing across borders.  The article I cited above was particularly concerned that the WTO has estimated that global trade will decline by 9% this year, the largest drop since World War II.  But as the article goes on to point out, this is because of decreased demand, not because of a significant surge in protectionist measures.   Does the reason for the slow down matter if the result is less global trade?  Is it still deglobalisation?

It seems to me that the answer is no.  If world leaders, citizens, NGOs, businesses and a variety of other actors remain committed to the idea of a more interconnected world, then a decline in demand of imports doesn’t imply deglobalisation.  In fact, neither does a slight up-tick in marginal measures of protectionism (like “Buy American” clauses or tariffs on the basis of environmental protection), if leaders continue to pursue trade liberalisation through the WTO and regional arrangements.  I haven’t seen any sign to date that post-crisis financial regulatory frameworks will significantly diminish the flow of capital across borders either. A slow down in capital flows at the moment would be linked to demand and risk perception, not regulation.

As researchers of anti-globalisation protestors have pointed out, people who started out against globalisation have become advocates of “alternative globalisations.”  It seems to me more likely that the current financial crisis will not turn globalisation advocates into deglobalisers, but perhaps create more people who subscribe to ideas of alterantive globalisation.  When faced with the prospect of closed borders and a deglobalising world, the slogans and ideas of once radical protestors begin to look more moderate.

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One Response to “Deglobalisation?”

  1. This is very up-to-date information. I think I’ll share it on Facebook.

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