Why all this fuss with this movement? Why have governments, citizens, large corporations and organizations become so fascinated with understand the forces that lie behind globalization? Where did all this interest spur from? To logically answer these pending queries, one must explore in depth the process that has been steadily engulfing out societies, changing the way our economies operate and re-defining decision-making forever.
Even though it has been very much challenged over the course of global history, we are undoubtedly living in an era of globalization – no movement or political development can question this. What has come under the microscope, however, is whether we are experiencing a de-globalization or a slow-balization, as many experts suggest.
With economies being more interconnected than ever, societies marching in the same paths and government aligning their policies to their allies’ interests, the cyclical movement that emerged even before the First World War has altered the course of global social developments forever. Though the world has experienced several waves of this multi-dimensional phenomenon, it never seizes to bring with it changes that alter the course of politics and that changes the functioning of the economy.
Globalization has experienced accelerations that have led to progressive changes: new technologies, more interconnected financial systems, evenly harmonized policies and more similarly oriented political leaders have allowed countries to thrive and pursue significant developments. Though often perceived as a movement originated from the West, the connotation of the word has changed in the last decades. The connection of globalization with Westernization might have been the case for Japan of the 19th century, but this misconception exists no longer, due to the exchange of elements that form a multinational wave.
However, many now ponder at the question of whether globalization has entered a long phase of reverse, one which seems to be accelerating the pace of de-globalization. Political scientists and economists are suggesting that globalization is coming undone, despite the weight that this suggestion carries.
Yet this argument carries a lot of weight with it. Once thought of as an unstoppable wave, the forces of liberalization that spurred many decades of cross-border trade and national policy alignment are now faltering, with whatever results this might carry.
The malaise of interconnectedness appears more profound than ever; considering the growing trade-war between the United States and China as well as the rapid efforts of Middle East nations to dominate in the resource sector, one feels the international tensions that have become more palpable than ever. Political decisions are now aligned with trade ones, in order to pursue a path of self-sufficiency and independence from external influences. What was once perceived necessary for economies to thrive is now redefined as an impediment to national growth.
All this is far from theoretical. Flows of overseas direct investment have fallen to levels not seen since the 2008 global financial crisis; trade restrictions are rising, with tariffs being the most prominent ones; multinational companies are less numerous and profitable than before; the internet, once the most free-spirited and border-free zone, is now brought to heel by autocrats and modern authoritarian rulers, who are poisoning the rivers of unbiased information with propaganda and politicised messages that deviate from reality.
Though the benefits of integration and mutual exchange are undisputable, the political, social and economic tensions that have accompanied this wave are under the microscope. Wondering what went wrong and what led to the undoing of this giant leads to questions about the fundamental existence of the world as it is.
Many point to capitalism and its inability to no longer generate prosperity and mutual benefits; perceived as an outdated political and economic system, many wonder how societies are still up and running despite the social and political costs that have been occasionally associated with this titan. Others view migration as the root of the problem. Massive waves of both legal and illegal movements of people across borders and continents spurred populist cultural backlashes in many countries. With populist leaders still dominating the political scene, many also point to the growing income and political inequality that followed the exchange of populations.
Could the crisis that globalization is currently undergoing simply be a trick of the light?
In criticisms of the movement, many forget about the conditions that allowed Asian nations to move hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. The dyad of capitalism and globalization allowed economies to emerge as winners in the complex game of world trade and to sustain economies that were in severe crises for decades. Emerging markets, prominently in Asia, led to a flourish of new ideas in the fields of technology, medicine and culture and served as a breath of fresh air.
Despite the kind of growth in physical goods that marked the recent waves of globalization which is slowing down, other waves are taking their place. The markets of data analysis, information dissemination and communication filtering continue to expand in directions that cannot be guessed. Though old ties are disintegrating, new forms of cross-border interactions are taking their place. The world might be experiencing less porous borders and rising nationalism, economic protectionism and threats to democracy, yet the result is far from a closed-off world, one in which national borders limit the scope of national activity.
The world is too much of an interconnected and interlinked place to allow this segregation and atomization to take place. No one questions the desire to build more protected economies, which will be immune to large – scale effects like wars and pandemics; yet the approach towards more self-sufficient economic systems doesn’t also refer to the formation of independent and sole political entities. The challenges for the survival of liberalism, democracy and capitalism are there and visible, but the new waves of globalization that have emerged as a result of the current crises spark some hope for the future of this movement.
Though this might seem like some formulaic political response, the end of globalization is not here yet. As optimistic as this may sound, it is considerably hard for a movement of such international scope and liberal perspective to disappear. As it is, globalization has become linked to the well-functioning of financial markets, international bodies, governmental organizations and social constructs; it is too hard to disentangle ourselves from this beast. What is possible is the redefining of this wave; the adoption of a new character, one which is aligned with the current developments.
As globalization takes a new turn, hopefully for the better, the question to ponder at is how long this new wave will last and what will come next. Who knows? Maybe the world is too much of a complex place after all.
Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/l68Z6eF2peA
Originally published at Trai i Leoni (https://www.traileoni.it/2020/10/a-new-dawn-for-globalization/)