LONDON – In a recent symposium in the Financial Times on globalization’s prospects in 2011, the columnist Gideon Rachman observed that, “When Barack Obama visited India recently, the US President warned his hosts that the debate about globalization has reopened in the West,” and that “a backlash…is forming…and growing in advanced economies.”
But Rachman’s alarmism is misplaced. The fear of globalization in the West is nothing new. Articulate intellectuals and groups such as labor unions and environmental organizations in the advanced economies have voiced anti-globalization fears and sentiments for at least a quarter-century.
The fear of globalization, however, began historically in the East, not the West. After World War II, the West dismantled barriers to trade and investment flows, and worked to eliminate exchange controls and move to currency convertibility. What was sometimes called the liberal international economic order was the order of the day, and it was embraced by public opinion as well.
By contrast, the East generally embraced the fearful view that, as the Chilean sociologist Oswaldo Sunkel put it, integration into the international economy would lead to disintegration of the national economy. Many intellectuals shared this dark anti-globalization vision, and policymakers in much of the East were not far behind.