Globalisation and anti-globalisation

In: Uncategorized

6 May 2008

A column by Lawrence Summers, a former US treasury secretary, in today’s Financial Times shows how far the mainstream has gone in taking on “anti-globalisation” arguments. Tackling inequality and raising labour standards are integral to the conventional wisdom:

“The domestic component of a strategy to promote healthy globalisation must rely on strengthening efforts to reduce inequality and insecurity. The international component must focus on the interests of working people in all countries, in addition to the current emphasis on the priorities of global ­corporations.”

Yet, as I have argued elsewhere, this sentiment is not about raising the living standards of ordinary people. On the contrary, it is essentially a demand for greater social regulation to protect society against the alleged disintegrative effects of inequality. It can also be a form of protectionism against developing countries.

Dani Rodrik of Harvard also recognises the mainstream character of anti-globalisation thinking in his blog. He says that much of the Summers column could “have been written by, say, Robert Kuttner or Tom Palley”. He later complains about a student who pigenholes him as an anti-globaliser. The student’s retort was “[Joseph] Stiglitz doesn’t think he is an anti-globalizer either.”