Interconnectedness does not threaten sovereignty
For much of the 20th century, ideological discussions and debates have centred on liberal versus conservative, left versus right. No longer. The ideological divide of the 21st century is emerging as globalism versus nationalism. Since the end of World War II, global integration and technological progress have fuelled a new world order centred on free trade, open borders and interdependent economies. Goods, capital and people should be able to move freely across borders, which is actually the meaning of globalization. But Greg Ip of the Wall Street Journal argues that globalism is a “mindset that globalization is natural and good, that global governance should expand as national sovereignty contracts.” The new nationalist surge has startled and shocked the advocates of globalism. This new nationalism is the vital centre of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.
Speaking in Washington in April 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared that “we will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism.” Trump’s supporters on the American far right, such as the pseudonymous “Virgil,” similarly attack the “old globalist vision” as a “gospel,” a “new kind of religious faith” of “murky international enterprises” seeking to abolish national borders and undermine democracy.
These views caricature globalism as a liberal, capitalist and anti-democratic alternative to nationalism. This understanding, however, is far from the historical meaning of the term. Indeed, the idea that globalism is fundamentally at odds with national sovereignty is a false and misleading narrative. To understand the meaning of globalism today, we need to look back at the emergence of the idea in the 1940s. After World War II, American, British, and émigré intellectuals suggested that the rise of globalism would define the postwar world order. Thinkers such as Raymond Aron, David Mitrany, Owen Lattimore, Nicholas Spykman, Barbara Wootton, Lionel Curtis, Clarence Streit, Lionel Robbins, Friedrich Hayek, Charles E. Merriam, Michael Polanyi, Richard McKeon, Jacques Maritain, and Luigi Sturzo were among those who identified increasing interconnectedness throughout the world, including in technological, cultural and economic terms. Globalism in the postwar period embodied their commitment to find an international political order to fit this newly-interconnected world.
This growing international interconnectedness, however, did not signify a blanket rejection of all national political units and communities. What it meant was that polities of all scales – nations, empires, federal unions, non-state communities and international organizations – were adjusted to fit the reality of new interdependencies.
Globalism, in this postwar definition, meant an awareness of the political implications of the interconnected globe. The recognition of the world’s “oneness” did not mean that political or cultural homogeneity was inevitable or desirable. Very few globalists argued for the abolishing of existing states or the banning of patriotic ideologies. Rather, the most influential globalist thinkers measured the desirability of balancing unity and diversity, according to their understanding of how best to create a stable, prosperous and peaceful world order.
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