Updated: Jun 6, 2021
Image credits: Foreign Affairs
Globalisation has been a buzz word for quite a while now. We see it everywhere, in our textbooks and newspapers, and political analysts talk about it on a daily basis. Once reckoned as the forbearer of advancing human civilisation towards higher and higher levels of modernity and economic growth, it has been facing the brunt of the same polities from where it originated and developed with time. So what is exactly globalisation?
A common viewpoint considers it as the economic interdependence around the globe. While that is true, globalisation is much more than that and has far more reaching implications. So what is exactly the phenomenon of globalisation and what has covid taught us in its regard. What lessons should we embody in our thinking and execute them in the face of challenges that lay ahead? In today’s piece, we aim to find that out.
GLOBALISATION-A WAY OF BEING
The pre-WWI era was largely based upon the absolute principles-where rise in power and influence of one empire or country meant the fall in others. The world was essentially a zero-sum game, and the idea of cooperation across borders-something that forms the very core of Globalisation was fairly restricted. WWI’s causes are largely attributed to the power dynamics at play in the heartland of Europe. Germany-the rising hegemon felt encircled by France and the Czarist Russia on both sides.
The insecurities in the Austrian empire ran high, mainly over their issue of Slavian independence which further threatened to disintegrate their extremely diverse empire into small principalities. Classic power dynamics at work. America-the coming flag bearer of globalisation; chose to follow its policy of isolationism in the safe refuge that the Atlantic ocean provided. Do we find any trace of the cooperative organisational framework across the vast number of nations and empires that existed? I think not. Efforts made for such a system culminated in the formation of the League of Nations. However, due to lack of absolute participation in its functioning by the major powers led to its breakdown and WW-II on the horizon.
Leaders of the victorious nations were determined to put up an end to the magnanimity of the horrors that we inflicted upon ourselves for reasons aligning with aggressive and egoistical nationalism. Cooperation across the borders emerged as the potential solution. It was believed that if nations were increasingly dependent upon each other economically and strategically, they were most likely to avoid wars to pursue mutual survival. This is where I believe the phenomenon of globalisation took roots.
The ambitious Marshall Plan proved to be a catalyst. America showed its intent and ambitions to lift the war-tormented Europe to heights of unprecedented economic growth and development. Thus, it was proven that nations could increasingly collaborate on a plethora of aspects-economic, strategic, political-security and rise mutually with time. This interconnection and interdependence of the world are what we call Globalisation. But then why has it been facing opposition? Let us find out.
GLOBALISATION - A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD?
Globalisation in its present form involves the unimaginable transfer of goods, capital, people, ideologies and ideas daily. No country is self-sufficient. All of them have their importance in natural resources, technological know-how, manufacturing capacities, soft power, etc. They then leverage in the course of their interaction with the world. This seems alright, right? We need to have a close look.
Globalisation has been increasingly facing hostilities on two fronts: economic cultural insecurities. Asian populations have been increasingly acquiring jobs into the western economies, leaving large masses of their populations away from white-collar jobs. Also, not all societies are open to mass interactions-migrations and immigration, particularly perhaps with people of other regions and nationalities. They perceive it as a threat to their cultural heritage. Look at the Middle East-except certain countries like UAE essentially keep their interactions to a minimum.
GLOBALISATION IN THE FACE OF COVID
There’s no doubt that covid has struck us hard. Human fatalities, strict lockdowns, massive unemployment, decreased economies, unprecedented pressure on health infrastructure, social unrest. You name it. A virus emerging out from Wuhan spread across the globe, leaving no corner untouched. Why? The interconnectedness forms a crucial by-product of globalisation. But can you blame it? You cannot because it is the same globalisation that is relatively easing our collective fight against the virus. Scientists and medical communities around the world joined their forces to invent possible vaccines. Corporations like AstraZeneca received billions in funding from countries across the globe for the same.
Our supply chains were put to the ultimate test when vaccines were not around, and countries were under the grip of lockdowns—the same thing with vaccines in hand. Now we’re facing immense challenges of allocating vaccines across the globe-when. More prosperous economies hoard significant portions for their citizens, nothing wrong with that but economics at work. However, poorer nations need them as much. Eventually, we will catch up, but one thing is for sure, covid has alarmed us about making our supply chains more flexible and at shorter lengths of time. Another crucial issue-although highlighted for years is our global dependence on China. So much dependence on one nation is a choking threat in itself, and that, when combined with the aggressive nationalism of the Chinese Communist Party, is a recipe for disaster. We need to diversify our dependence-obviously to prevent a virtual monopoly but ensure its full-fledged functioning during unforeseen events.
Covid is not the only global problem that we face. Climate Change is a reality, and it has the potential of inflicting far more damage -political, economic and environmental than covid ever could. AI is another challenge at work. Not to say that it is a force for no good. However, with its automation in development, it can threaten to uproot masses towards unemployment. Look at ensuing political problems in the Middle East-the centre of which forms around Iran. America under President Biden is desperately trying to re-enter the Nuclear Agreement. Stability in the Middle East has global consequences- for, among many other things, it remains a significant supplier of oil and natural gas for the world’s ever-increasing energy needs. And for that, America needs allies. It needs allies to counter-balance China’s aggression in Indo-Pacific. QUAD is an example.
As our world goes through fundamental changes and faces many problems ahead, global cooperation-strengthening and reforming globalisation remains our best hope.
BY PRATYAKSH KUMAR
CO-FOUNDER THE GEOSTRATA