Globalisation is good for you


From Red Pepper

Many socialists look to the state as the decisive instrument of social change. Nigel Harris argues that, on the contrary, nation states, with their priorities and resources focused on maintaining power through military might, hold back the reduction of poverty. He insists that globalisation, despite all of its ambiguities, is essentially a liberation from the shackles of the competing nation state. We have to look to NGOs and social and labour movements to constrain the market, he says.

It seems dicey that NGOs and movements would be able to constrain the market in a globalized world, something they certainly can’t do now. Given the recent credit crisis, it’s clear that governments can’t either. Nor can the markets themselves, for that matter. So where will the control mechanisms come from?

We do not know what structures of governance will emerge, but emerge they must. The left’s role is to ensure they are directed to protecting all equally – to establishing the equality of all in the world, and, insofar as national governments survive, that they are obliged to accept the free flow of people internationally and the protection of all within their territories, not merely their supposed citizens.

A key insight here is that the forces of globalization basically oppose and wish to override the nation states. Thus, rather than oppose globalization (a pointless and losing task), we need to make it work for us. What other choice is there, really?

In essence, the left has to help and lead in recreating a world society that corresponds to the new world economy. Within that poverty really can be conquered and war eliminated.

If globalization takes over as the dominant mode from nation states – and I think it will – then the world will be vastly more decentralized. Therein lies the challenge that socialism hasn’t really thought out. In a decentralized world, there will be no powerful states that can manage things, much less be the owners of the means of production. For socialism to stay relevant, it needs to find new ways to address our fast changing and decentralizing world. This Red Pepper article helps find that path.