Globalisation: Globalisation and Discontent

How should we react to demonstrations against globalisation? Do the protesters have a point – is the process likely to produce significant numbers of victims? And could there really be a backlash against the whole phenomenon?

The World Today Published 1 August 2001 Updated 26 October 2020 4 minute READ

Joseph Nye

Dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government

Political protests against globalisation have been increasing. The recent surge in demonstrations is, in part, a reaction to the changes produced by economic integration. From an economist’s view, imperfect markets are inefficient, but from a political view, some imperfections in international markets can be considered ‘useful inefficiencies’ to the extent that they buffer political change.

As globalisation removes such inefficiencies, it becomes the political prisoner of its economic successes. In addition, as global networks become more complex, there are more linkages among issues that can create friction – witness the various trade and the environment cases that have proved contentious at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

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