The Two Faces of Globalization

Why do popular and elite perceptions of globalization clash? People in the rich world think globalization resembles an implacably malignant force that snatches away well paying jobs and sends them to faraway places; people in developing countries think it ushers in a self-obsessed consumerist ethic on a train of corrupt privatization and environmental destruction. Elites dismiss their opponents as empty-headed populists, and are accused, in turn, of being out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.

Globalization has always been inherently Janus-like, showing to some the face of limitless progress and wealth, while others see only a soulless giant hurling their lives to and fro. Consider the previous wave of globalization: the period between the mid-19 th century and the outbreak of the First World War. Transportation costs plummeted with the advent of the steamship and the railroad. New telecommunications permitted information to be sent instantly around the world. Capital flowed to remote places like Argentina, Russia, Malaya, and South Africa. A Londoner, as Keynes put it, could send his servant to fetch any amount of foreign currency, and he could invest his sterling wherever he wished.

But this was also the heyday of imperialism, colonialism, violent conquest, and slavery. Several million people are believed to have died in Congo alone under King Leopold's misrule--perhaps the worst imperial crime, but hardly unique. The slave trade continued until the 1850's in most of the world, and in some places almost until the end of the 19 th century.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now