One of the most eminent challenges the world faces now is the tide of anti-globalism. In these past several years, we have found time after time evidence of growing anti-globalism across the world. It has appeared most visibly in the wave of populism in the most developed democratic countries.
The important thing is that, however, we should not overlook the fundamental causes underlying such phenomena. Two elements should be mentioned as important causes of rising anti-globalism. The first is the increasing income inequality, accelerated by the development of new technologies. As the famous ‘elephant curve’ posed by Milanovic suggests (Milanovic, 2016), the middle class in developed economies have hardly profited from economic development since 1988. In the case of the United States, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study report, it is clear that ‘The American Middle Class is Losing Ground’ (Pew Research Center, December 2015). In 1970, middle-income households represented 62 percent of aggregate income in the US. In 2014, however, they represented only 43 percent. The process of globalization has accelerated innovation in the development of new technologies. This accelerated technological advancement, including greater automation and developments in artificial intelligence, has helped improve the efficiency of production processes, but at the same time has decreased labor demand. The widening economic divide in developed countries produces a desire for protection from globalization that is, for instance, externally translated into calls for protectionism.
Secondly, cultural anxiety should also be mentioned as an important source of anti-globalism. Globalization is not only accelerates the movement of goods and capital, but also migration and communications. Faster communications, increasing movements of people, and a growing number of migrants cause citizens to fear losing their identities. In addition, this cultural fear is mobilized most powerfully in the unemployed, signifying a possible combined effect of economic and cultural anxieties.
Those domestic causes of anti-globalism are easily connected with nationalism and result in a polarization in politics based on the simple assumption of a division between ‘us’ and ‘them’, e.g., the ‘elite’ and the ‘ordinary people’, ‘native citizens’ and ‘immigrants’, and ‘global winners’ and ‘losers’. These politics of anti-globalism have external implications, shaking up the liberal international order and the spirit of multilateralism that the international community inherited from the end of the First World War. However, while it is easy to blame such politics based on the simple dichotomous assumptions of populism, we first need to recognize the root causes of populism and look for ways to address them. People certainly have needs and demands and, if their voices are not given due consideration in developed democracies, we will need to revamp our approaches to governance to renew the ‘social contract’, countering the appeals of unilateralism and of anti-global nationalism. How can we upgrade our approaches to governance, uphold multilateralism among states, and maintain open, free interactions among nations and peoples instead of building walls? This is the challenge faced in common by all the world.
To address this challenge, many things have to be taken into account: the manner of economic redistribution, the ways of profiting from migration, the necessity of renewing education systems to meet changing needs, and the management of new technologies. A New Social Contract of Future has to be now formulated with wider civic participation beyond public government.
Milanovic, B. 2016. Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization, Harvard University Press.
Pew Research Center, ‘The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground’, 9 December 2015.
Rodrik, D. 2015. ‘Populism and Economics of Globalization’.
Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.
Kenichiro Sasae joined the Japanese Foreign Service after graduating from the University of Tokyo in 1974. His distinguished diplomatic career includes such assignments as Executive Assistant to the Prime Minister, Director-General of the Economic Affairs Bureau, Director-General of the Asian & Oceania Affairs Bureau, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs. During this period of this service in Tokyo, he represented Japanese Government for Six-Country Talk on North Korean affairs. He also worked as Political Director for G8 Summit. He was Ambassador of Japan to the United States from 2012–2018. In July, Ambassador Sasae was named President of The Japan Institute of International Affairs where he leads Japan’s premier foreign affairs think tank.