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A Debate on De-globalization Would Be Highly Profitable

Translated Saturday 29 October 2011, by Isabelle Métral

Unimpressed by the intense barrage fire on the notion of de-globalization, Michel Rogalski , economics researcher (EHESS-CNRS) and editor of the review Recherches internationales, explains why we should not fight shy of a debate on this issue. The intensity of this fire reveals how unbearable the notion is to all those who for decades promoted the blessings of globalization even though day after day brought fresh evidence of globalization’s failure. A debate on this issue, he argues, brings up key questions that would otherwise be swept under the carpet.

We are told that we must be patient and that all our evils come from the transitional situation we are now in. The line of argument opposed is that the Nation-State is bleeding yet still alive, that a global economy has not yet been instituted and has difficulty in setting up a global (or European) governance. And so, the argument runs, we are suffering from the erosion of borders and cannot yet benefit from the advantages of their dissolution.

And yet this transition, which has been going on for about thirty years, has so far engendered nothing but a crisis and can less and less be offered as valid proof that worldwide neo-liberal expansion is the proper way out. Waiting for a global government to solve the problems engendered by the pursuit of that goal is sure to lead nowhere. This option is unbearable to peoples. Any country that seeks to get itself out of this bog must needs initiate a de-globalization process. To refuse this or to underestimate its potential leverage involves conditioning all change in France upon possible or rather unlikely changes in Europe or in the world.

A shield against uncertainty, Europe has always been used as a gluey straight jacket in order to reduce the amplitude of electoral or political swings one way or the other in the two-party system and so to be the modern-day counterpart of the Holy Alliance [1] or the Silver Bar [2] Which leads us to raise the inevitable question of the exercise of sovereignty, that is to say of the necessary coincidence of the sphere where democratic politics takes place and the sphere within which economic and financial flows can be successfully regulated: the national perimeter is a must.

Why should re-location on a regional level be at a pinch acceptable, relocation within European federal limits recommended, and national sovereignty vilified? Why should the Nation-State inspire so much hatred and be held so to speak in a vice between the higher and lower levels? Latin-American Leftist parties have shown that within the national framework substantial social advances are possible, which can spread to other countries and encourage cooperation.

Submission to a global and for that reason, allegedly superior rationality is misrepresented by our élite as “external constraint”, which is merely the feedback of goals that have been deliberately pursued. Globalization is boomeranging on us, but we set it flying through repeated deregulation, savage slashing of duties, systematic privatization and relocation, free circulation of capital and goods, the priority given to finance. the sinking of peoples and States into deeper debt. Globalization comes up against social benefits that have been conquered in the course of history, which in the eyes of those globalizers consequently become “internal constraints” that run counter to their objectives and must be disposed of in order to observe the rules of the markets. International competition becomes the weapon used against social rights and lays waste territories.

The advantage of debating de-globalization is that the debate throws light on the head-on conflict between the two logics, the logic of external constraint being actually invented in order to defeat the other, and also on who are the winners (the mobile factors - capital and finance, the big companies, the mafias) and who the losers (the static factors: the peoples and the territories).

Another advantage is that discussing this issue brings back the economic platform to the centre of the political debate. The growing demand of social protection gives top priority to all the social rights conquered during the Trente Glorieuses [3], and secondarily the advantages of French capital now exposed to savage competition. During those thirty years tariffs were levied, exchange was put under control, the French currency devalued not a few times, but this never led the country to withdraw into itself, to close its borders or adopt a North-Korean model. What we are invited to look upon as a “national-protectionist” monstrosity was actually and basically a period of growth, higher standards of living, and full employment.

The current crisis calls for the return of the State as a major economic agent. No protection is possible without the State’s role being increased by enlarging the sphere of its action and the range of its interventions.

It will be retorted that cultural and scientific exchange, tourism, and cooperation between peoples, whatever serves to intensify international life or contributes to building a public sphere on that scale are a desirable form of globalization, but this form should not be confused with the object of the current issue: namely the global neo-liberal expansion that should be stopped.

Let us not evade this debate: it would be highly profitable.

[1The Holy Alliance (also called the Grand Alliance) was a coalition of Russia, Austria and Prussia created in 1815 at the behest of Czar Alexander I of Russia, signed by the three powers in Paris on September 26, 1815, in the Congress of Vienna after the defeat of Napoleon.[1] Ostensibly it was to instill the Christian values of charity and peace in European political life, but in practice Klemens Wenzel von Metternich made it a bastion against revolution.cf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Alliance

[2The Silver Bar or Silver Wall was a phrase used in the 1920s to designate the opposition of banks and finance to any economic and social reform in France. It was used for the first time in 1924 by a Leftist prime minister.

[3i.e. the thirty glorious years: the period that extends from the late forties to the late seventies.

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