The strange death of globalisation

Trump’s presidency is about to usher in a movement away from worldwide integration, says Alfie Steer

Photo: Flickr

A lot can happen in a year. For the past thirty it seemed as though the west, and indeed most of the developed world, was moving towards one single destination: an increasingly interconnected, globalised, consumerist society. Liberal, democratic, multicultural, and metropolitan.

A destination of such political inevitability that even Francis Fukuyama was willing to describe the capitalist liberal democracies of the west as the end points of human development, the end of history as we know it. Any threat to the inevitable march of globalisation, be it from the anti-capitalists, religious fundamentalists, nationalists and fascists, were all cast to the side lines, knocked down by the waves of lattes and cosmopolitan liberalism. But history isn’t always linear.

The political shockwaves of Donald Trump and Brexit have not only shaken the very foundations of the mainstream political establishment, but have diverged the course of history in the west.

Perhaps more than at any point since the Second World War, we face uncertainty, and impending calamity. The populist rhetoric of demagogues, tapping into the deep frustrations of large swathes of the population has seen the greatest kickback against globalisation ever. It is no surprise, that with the rise of the Neo-Fascist Alt-Right, and the shocking increase in racist incidents on both sides of the Atlantic, many have sounded the death knell of globalisation completely.

It is undeniable that the death of globalisation—in its current incarnation at least—has been delivered by its victims. The white working classes have felt little more than a sense of complete abandonment over the past thirty years at the hands of globalisation, stripped of their sources of lifelong employment, and thrusted into alienating and precarious service-sector jobs and zero hours’ contracts.

Deprived of a voice through harsh trade union laws, and marginalised by a system that values the south over the north, the urban over the rural, the white collar over the blue collar; is it any surprise that they seized the first promise of radical change offered up to them? The most bitter irony of all, however, is that those they have rewarded and empowered in this kickback, the rich white males of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, will be anything but the champions of the forgotten that they shamelessly claim to be.

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The death of globalisation will no doubt be greeted both by joy and terror. But that is not to say that the idealistic values of it are doomed. The liberal globalised society that rewarded and marginalised millions in equal number has been cast off and replaced with the most nationalistic collection of odious demagogues since the Second World War.

Those that have given them power, often out of sheer despair at the political status quo, will not be rewarded for their contribution. We as progressives must recognise its faults and failures, and why people rejected it, but we must never fall into despair or give into the pseudo-fascism of the old right.

Though globalisation in its rampant, unregulated and unequal form may be dead, its immensely positive values, the core, fundamental beliefs of solidarity, democracy and progress that made it a fundamental force for good, as flawed as it was, can and must continue to be championed. The very future of the west depends on it.