Is Globalisation Dead?

Globalisation and its promise of free trade between countries and across borders is under attack from many quarters. Will it survive?

A changing landscape

The mood in many areas of society is turning away from globalisation as even long-term supporters are reluctant to defend its virtues. Recent elections in the United States and the United Kingdom have belied the belief that everyone is a beneficiary.

For the first time its more sinister side is discussed in mainstream media, as communities are ignored or abandoned. There is a growing realisation that globalisation cannot continue to operate as it has in recent decades.

A clamour for greater equality and a spread of the wealth created by a policy driven by open borders and freedom of movement is finally being heard. Even supporters of free trade understand it has to change to avoid a backlash from those disenchanted and disillusioned by its charter.

For many, globalisation means the loss of jobs and little chance of getting well-paid secure replacement work where they live. The movement of manufacturing jobs, which are often substituted by poorly paid part-time posts, has hit many cities and communities

Fighting against globalisation seemed pointless in recent years, as its ability to generate wealth was celebrated by business leaders, academic research and politicians alike. Even the loss of jobs to other countries was staunchly defended, as casualties were encouraged to retrain and up-skill as traditional work moved to low cost locations.

A growing opposition

Opposition to globalisation and the idea that it was going too far was considered no more than a minor irritant given its standing as an economic holy grail. Times have changed, however, and anti-globalisation sentiment has stretched its sphere of influence to reflect social disquiet from many quarters.

Opposition to globalisation was evident in the election results of countries across Europe before the tsunami that hit Theresa May’s vote on Brexit and the election of Donald Tump via a large ‘America First’ vote. Finally, the disadvantages were felt as the spread of low wages and short-term contracts seeped into people’s homes.

The biggest problem was a breakdown in trust between the haves and have-nots, as the gap between average wages and the wages of the elite soared to indefensible levels. Many areas of society reacted to the reality that globalisation was disproportionately advancing the rich at the expense of the poor.

The alleged prize of globalisation was stripped bare, as even its most ardent advocates ceased to defend its shortcomings. Today, its loudest supporters backtrack in an effort to address the challenge of bringing equality and fairness to small countries and even smaller communities.

So, the free-trade promise of globalisation has lost its way as history reflects how it has benefited the few, not the many.