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The OECD joins the backlash against unfettered globalisation

TJ Ryan Foundation Board member, John Quiggin, writes in Inside Story (9.6.17) about the widening backlash against the excesses and negative effects of globalisation, with the OECD joining the ranks of organisations pushing for a ‘more human face’ to today’s economic systems. Quiggin asks, though, if an organisation that has promoted a globalised world economy can really take on the massively powerful finance sector?

‘”Define your terms,” Voltaire wrote, “or we shall never understand one another.” He was talking about miracles, but much the same might be said of “globalisation”, a term used by both supporters and opponents to mean a great many different things.

‘The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the institutional embodiment of the decades-long push for globalisation, helpfully follows Voltaire’s advice. It states that “economic globalisation”, or just “globalisation”, refers to “the economic integration of different countries through growing freedom of movement across national borders of goods, services, capital, ideas and people.”

‘Beyond this, however, globalisation is clearly associated with a number of other processes, of which the most important are rapid technological change and a shift in political power away from labour and national governments and towards capital and global financial markets. Showing consistency in naming conventions, the OECD refers to these processes as “digitalisation”, “deregulation” and “financialisation”. Whatever definition is used, globalisation is facing increasing resistance in many countries, reflected in Britain’s Brexit referendum, for instance, and the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

‘Past upsurges of anti-globalisation sentiment, such as the “Battle of Seattle” demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in 1999, were ignored by the global political class, even if many of the concerns they raised have turned out, in retrospect, to be justified. But the backlash this time is too powerful to be ignored.’

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