Blind spots on globalisation

24 April 2008 at 10:44 pm 1 comment

David Eppstein, Containers, 2001

Joe Ballantyne writes:

Back in the late 90s, and even more recently, globalisation was all the rage. Some people thought this was a jolly good thing and it would make us all rich and free, while others thought it was a really bad thing. which would lead to greater poverty and environmental damage. Either way, almost everyone agreed that we were careering towards a brave new globalised world, ruled by the free flow of capital between nations, and characterised by global institutions and global flows of people and goods.

Fast forward a decade, however, and things start to look quite a bit different. Countries like India, Russia and China are much wealthier and more powerful than ten years ago, the expansion of international groupings such as the EU seems to have all but halted, and the ongoing drama of the credit crunch suggests that financial deregulation has reached its limits. Protectionism is a recurring theme in the Democrat candidates’ contest in the US, and the chief executive of Deutsche Bank was recently quoted as saying that he “no longer believes in the market’s self-healing power” – and when the head of a major bank starts saying that financial markets need some sort of state intervention, you know something’s up. The public seem to think so: most of us admit a growing suspicion around the role free markets in the economy.

So how did the global theorists – from both the left and the right – so misjudge globalisation? There’s a whole thesis to be written on this, but some pointers could be:

  • Many of them were working in internationally-focussed institutions such as universities or global banks – which probably blinded them to the attitudes of the majority who weren’t globetrotting, post-national types.
  • Many of them had come to believe the widely canvassed idea that financial power will always trump state power – where as in fact, nationalism is a tremendously strong driver of domestic politics and therefore of political change.
  • The Brits in particular lived in a country which had probably gone further than almost any other towards developing a ‘post-national’ identity, embracing the market and minimising the role of national symbols such as the monarchy, religion and so on. But what happened in Britain wasn’t replicated elsewhere.

One of the things we say in futures work is that if the filters you see the world through are too strong, they act like the blinkers on a horse – and create blind spots which make it harder to see signs of change. It’s interesting to think of other blindspots our assumptions about the world might create for us.

The picture was taken by David Eppstein.

Entry filed under: economics, future, global.

Flying the flag (post 2 of 2) Something more permanent

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Competition between global cities « thenextwave  |  16 May 2008 at 11:07 pm

    […] may also explain, as my colleague Joe Ballantyne argued recently on the Henley Centre HeadlightVision blog, why British and American commentators seemed to be blind […]

    Reply

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The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.


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