The end of an era

For as long as I can remember I’ve been hearing the word globalisation. It probably started in junior high social studies when they assumed we could wrap our heads around the concept. It followed into high school social studies and could be a debate drinking game. Globalisation and interconnectedness were buzzwords we threw around at the drop of a hat and that cast a shadow over most political science courses or discussions.

Apparently they are taking on a new meaning. Or as a book cover I saw earlier today put it history is back. In reporting on a recently collapsed Canada-EU free trade agreement the New York Times writes:

Liberalized trade has amplified economic growth, but the spoils have been largely monopolized by wealthy and corporate interests. Recriminations over the resulting economic inequalities are now so ferocious that modern history has been altered: The phase of globalization that began with the ending of World War II is essentially over.

In the seven decades since that conflagration, world leaders have forged a series of increasingly large and complex trade deals, pinning hopes for peace and prosperity on the value of turning wartime adversaries into commercial partners.

The era of globalisation we have been talking about since I’ve had the mental capacity to grasp such a concept is not the same one that we will be talking about in the future. Globalisation is shifting and being redefined. Some of the assumptions made about it like the samenessing of everywhere have simply not appeared. Local still thrives even in a world of global trade. While ever Scottish high street looks exactly the same they look little like one in Canada, the US or Denmark. Even 7/11s vary widely between countries. The idea of unlimited ever expanding free trade also seems to be dying. This may be in part because the idea of it has never been well applied and has instead been replaced by a race to the bottom and deregulation.

There are many people who feel deeply excluded from globalisation. They include the poor English and Welsh individuals who voted for Brexit to stick it to endless wealth that they got no part of. No jobs for them then why not cost London 100,000. Then there are those of us who see the wealth created by globalisation and wonder what the point of it is. Why build a system of low wages, no workers rights and weak environmental protections? Maybe there’s another way. The rise of Bernie Sanders and the feelings of many millennials reflects this rejection of what globalisation has meant so far. I am excited to see what happens next and how we can build a better regulated and more equal form of capitalism to replace it.

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