Globalization's Perilous Imbalance: Constraints for Canada's Governments, Opportunities for Canadian Citizens

By Clarkson, Stephen | University of New Brunswick Law Journal, Annual 2010 | Go to article overview

Globalization's Perilous Imbalance: Constraints for Canada's Governments, Opportunities for Canadian Citizens


Clarkson, Stephen, University of New Brunswick Law Journal


It has been fifteen years since the birth of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which marked the apogee of United States-driven, neoconservative economic globalization; nine years since Osama bin Laden's attacks on New York and Washington, which laid a terrorism-obsessed, border-raising paradigm on top of the previous market-liberalizing, border-lowering paradigm; and two years since the collapse of the American financial system, which heralded China's entry onto the world's stage as its next political and economic giant.

It may therefore appear disconnected from present reality to focus the Viscount Bennett Lecture on such a cliched subject as globalization's constitutional challenges. But for a Faculty of Law that considers Canada's position in the world through the lens of legal theory, globalization still presents a legion of conceptual and normative puzzles that cry out for a comprehensive, interdisciplinary analysis that is capable of guiding the policies of Canada's governments and channelling the energies of Canadian citizens toward the effective but urgent action needed to correct the perilous imbalances that threaten the sustainability of human society on our planet. I will defend this broad claim first by explaining my approach to the phenomena known as globalization; second, laying out the framework that defines the still dominant, exclusively domestic conceptualization of constitutionalism in the legal academy; and third, elaborating on the evidence that the world's constitution has produced dangerous asymmetries that are being operationalized by states and market players. Finally, I will make a properly Canadian--that is, muted--call for both governments and citizens to work toward a new paradigm so that our governments and citizens can contribute constructively and deliberately to saving our still-resourceful planet.

I. GLOBALIZATION: THE CONCEPTUAL CHALLENGE

* Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing end of the Cold War, we have required a new label--globalization--to make sense of everything happening beyond national control. Most of the many aspects of what we have called globalization are obvious as soon as they are stated: political globalization, the rise of transnational political regimes in which corporations, civil society organizations and governments establish new norms for global trade, environment and human rights.

* Economic globalization: lightning-fast flows of currencies, a spectacular increase in transnational investment and a dramatic expansion of world trade in goods and services.

* Societal globalization: massive movements of peoples, transnational networks of activists and a transformative proliferation of personal interaction in cyberspace.

* Technological globalization: the instantaneous worldwide communications networks now provided by information technology, employed particularly in the industrialized world.

* Medical globalization: societies' increasing vulnerability to epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, SARS or influenza, the devastation of which respects no borders.

* Cultural globalization: the increasing global domination of American (and to a lesser extent European) entertainment industries and cultural products.

* Ecological globalization: the emergence and rapid intensification of environmental trends, from ozone depletion to climate change to biodiversity loss.

* Criminal globalization: spreading networks of sex trade, narcotics trafficking and terrorism, as well as the rise of white-collar corporate crime employing sophisticated tools and having transnational effects.

* Military globalization: the rise of "humanitarian intervention;" the War on Terror; the Iraq invasion and resulting civil strife; a burgeoning global arms trade and the presence of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, Haiti and other states torn apart by conflict, crime or corruption.

* The globalization of consciousness: a growing collective consciousness of humanity, the planet earth and its ecosystems as a single community with a shared fate.

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