Chapter 4: Contesting the ‘globalization thesis’: an ethical imperative
This chapter explores a set of controversies in political economy that emerged during the 1990s and that continues to attract immense attention today. These controversies relate to the broad and heterogeneous debate over ‘globalization’. From the start this debate was normative in a particularly high-profile way. Demonstrators against the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank and related institutions emphasized what they took to be deep ethical failures of the neoliberal world order that had been maturing rapidly during the final quarter of the twentieth century. Many argued that this new global regime threatened to deepen inequality, undermine economic security, destroy cultural autonomy, exacerbate the dependence of the weak on the powerful, degrade environmental integrity and weaken democratic governance. Originating as it did among politically engaged civil-society actors rather than among academics, it is hardly surprising that the critique engaged notions of justice and fairness, equality and freedom. And it is certainly the case that the power of the resistance to globalization depended very much on these normative indictments. These matters have by now been contested at length. But the debate over globalization entails other important elements. My goal in this chapter is to explore some of these. In this connection, I will pursue a set of themes that relate in one way or another to the ‘strong globalization thesis’.
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