Skip navigation

Foreign Policy Centre

Ideas for a fairer world

Publications

Globalization

[Cover of Globalization]

KEY CONCEPTS, Number One

David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt, Jonathan Perraton

April 1999

Globalization is the buzz-word of the age - but how many people understand it? In this much-needed concise and authoritative guide, globalization's leading theorists thrash out what it really means, and argue that we need to rethink politics to keep up with the changing shape of power. Globalization launches the Key Concepts series - holding all of the hidden assumptions behind foreign policy up to the light, and unpacking the key terms to find out what they really mean for policy-makers today.

About the pamphlet

Quote from Clare Short's The Challenge of Our Age, The New Statesman Essay:

There is a curious paradox at the heart of globalisation. While economies and peoples are being drawn ever more closely together, some political forces seek refuge in narrow nationalism and isolation - for example, the right-wing forces in the US that reject America's participation in multilateral organisations such as the UN, the World Bank and the IMF. One strand in British Conservatism is similarly in retreat from international engagement. But there are also those on the left who seek to turn back the tide of globalisation, who want to put the globalisation genie back in its bottle. They see the IMF and WTO as hostile institutions and want, like King Canute, to rail against the power of global market forces. They fail to remember, however, that the great multilateral institutions were created not by conservatives, but by progressives.

The task today is to strengthen and renew institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO and to recast them to greet the new millennium. Labour is closely involved in seeking to strengthen and reshape the work of the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF. Past World Bank policies often paid too little attention to the social and environmental costs of economic reform. That is changing. And Britain is a major player in World Bank discussions, working with like-minded forces to change the approach of the bank to adjustment and economic reform programmes.

This is a large agenda. But it is the agenda on which a new politics must be constructed and new alliances forged. As a recent Foreign Policy Centre paper on globalisation (David Held et al, 1999) pointed out:

"The challenge of globalisation is ultimately political . . . This means rethinking politics. We need to take our established ideas about political equality, social justice and liberty and refashion these into a coherent political project robust enough for a world where power is exercised on a transnational scale, and where risks are shared by peoples across the world.

"And we need to think about what institutions will allow us to tackle these global problems while responding to the aspirations of the people they are meant to serve."

This is, indeed, the challenge of our age. Our political tradition - working with progressive forces across the world - is well placed to rise to that challenge, to help manage globalisation in pursuit of the common objectives of global peace, sustainable development and social justice.

Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, The New Statesman Essay, 16th August 1999.

"An indispensable counterweight to optimists and pessimists alike" Will Hutton
"This is the agenda on which a new politics must be constructed and new alliances forged" Clare Short, Secretary of State, DFID