Double-Edged Sword

What is now perhaps obvious is that the divide between globalism and nativism is a major theme – if not the most important theme – in international affairs which has arisen from our discourse over the last few years, and it deserves yet another elaboration or iteration. Henry Kissinger highlighted some of the positive aspects and the upside of globalization when he wrote the following: 

“The spread of democracy and participatory governance has become a shared aspiration, if not a universal reality; global communications and financial networks operate in real time, making possible a scale of human interactions beyond the imagination of previous generations; common efforts on environmental problems, or at least an impetus to undertake them, exist; and an international scientific, medical, and philanthropic community focuses its attention on diseases and health scourges once assumed to be the intractable ravages of fate.” 

But the benefits of globalization have not extended to all people, and as a result: “A countervailing impetus has arisen in several parts of the world to construct bulwarks against what are seen as the crisis-inducing policies of the developed West, including aspects of globalization.” Globalization, as Francis Fukuyama wrote, has been “producing significant populations of people left behind by the overall growth that occurred around the world.”

However, and as Joseph Nye argued: “Because globalization will spread technical capabilities, and information technology will allow broader participation in global communications, American economic and cultural preponderance will become less dominant than at the start of this century. But that is not a narrative of decline.” Nye added: “The United States is unlikely to decay like ancient Rome or even be surpassed by another state, including China. The first half of the twenty-first century is not likely to be a ‘post-American world,’ but the United States will need a strategy to cope with the ‘rise of the rest’ – among both states and non-state actors.”

Does globalization necessarily have to lead to growing economic and social inequality? Can’t we have both the benefits and upside of globalization and the mitigation of economic and social inequality over the course of time instead of defaulting to nativism and angry populism simply because a certain number of people have been left out of the benefits and upside of globalization? As Moises Naim wrote: “A concomitant belief is that globalization has merely increased the concentration of power in individual industries and economic sectors, with market leaders cementing their hold on the top spots.” But is nativism and angry populism necessarily the remedy or solution for the ages-old dilemma or problem of “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”? 

But as Naim also noted, globalization has proven to be a double-edged sword, in the sense that while globalization has concentrated power and wealth in the hands of the few, globalization has also diffused and dispersed power around the world. People have been able to break the barriers to power, circumvent power, and undercut power as a result of globalization and the diffusion and dispersal of technology stemming from globalization, as Naim argued. Hence, not all is doom and gloom because of globalization, and in turn one can even build on the gains of globalization with a few adjustments and tweaks here and there. 

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