Academic journal article Global Economic Observer

The Emerging World Order

Academic journal article Global Economic Observer

The Emerging World Order

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

That first wave of globalisation is a warning to us that globalisation, in all its manifestations, is not an irreversible process. Unlike some opinions expressed in the literature in the field (Hopkins, 2003), I am not one of those who think that the current wave of globalisation will come to a shuddering halt as that first wave did in 1914, as Europe plunged itself and then the whole world into war. It could have come to a halt five years ago as the Global Financial Crisis hit, but we managed to avoid the retreat into protectionism that characterised the reaction to the Great Depression in the 1930s. However, I think the past five years have also reinforced for many people the perception that, despite all our hopes, it is not inconceivable that parts of Europe could slip back into populism, authoritarianism and conflict. So a sudden end to the current wave of globalisation is not impossible, but it does look pretty unlikely.

2. Globalisation in the Emerging World Order

Some analysts (Al-Rodhan, Nayef and Stoudmann, 2006) consider that globalisation is, of course, an omnibus term for a number of features of our current world, largely on the economic side, and, to a degree, on the social and political sides. The economic side is pretty clear, I think: the emergence of economic links and structures across the globe, and of global supply chains and global trade and financial flows. Global efficiency but also global interdependence has increased dramatically. Economic resilience has probably increased, as dependence on others has been balanced by multiple possible supply chains. However, paradoxically, financial fragility may have increased, as we saw five years ago.

By the social side of globalisation, I mean everything which affects people in their private lives: the ability to communicate instantly across the globe and hence the ability to build personal relationships across the globe; the ability to travel relentlessly as many do; and to study and work in other countries, as many do; and, for certain segments of society- usually a very privileged segment - to feel that they are increasingly citizens of the world, rather than of any particular country.

However, as showed previously in some analysis (Acocella, 2005), this economic and social globalisation has not led to anything which approaches a globalisation of political structures, or even political ideas. There was, of course, a time early on in the process when many in the West believed that the combination of liberal economics - the Washington Consensus if you like - and democratic politics had shown its prowess in winning the Cold War, and now ruled the world. There was only one route to development, just as there was one dominant economic, political and military power, the USA. We would all now live in a Brave New World of the Pax Americana.

A combination of factors shredded this concept - perhaps, for some, this hope. Firstly 9/11 and the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Secondly, the rise of China, and of other emerging economic powers, all of whom expected to exert political influence and power along with their increased economic leverage; and not all of whom believed that there is a necessary link between successful capitalism and democracy. I think the jury is still out on whether the Chinese, in particular, can sustain their successful capitalist economy beyond the "catching up" phase, without substantial liberalisation of their political system. However, that is certainly the intention of Chinese leaders. At the very least the West cannot be said to have yet won the battle of ideas.

Perhaps the two most important things to say about the so-called "New World Order" to emerge over the past 25 years is that it is not showing that it is particularly full of order; and that it has certainly not emerged. In fact in many ways we could say that we are living through a period of considerably less global order than in the post-War period; and that having lived through relative stability - not to say ossification - of systems for about 40 years, we are now living through a period of rapid and rather disorienting change. …

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