Walden Bello on Deglobalization

Filipino legislator and activist Walden Bello has been a steadfast critic of globalization and a proponent of the concept of “deglobalization” as an alternative paradigm. In this essay on the Foreign Policy in Focus website, he argues that the current global economic crisis marks the death of globalization. He outlines what he calls the 11 pillars of deglobalization:

  1. Production for the domestic market must again become the center of gravity of the economy rather than production for export markets.
  2. The principle of subsidiarity should be enshrined in economic life by encouraging production of goods at the level of the community and at the national level if this can be done at reasonable cost in order to preserve community.
  3. Trade policy — that is, quotas and tariffs — should be used to protect the local economy from destruction by corporate-subsidized commodities with artificially low prices.
  4. Industrial policy — including subsidies, tariffs, and trade — should be used to revitalize and strengthen the manufacturing sector.
  5. Long-postponed measures of equitable income redistribution and land redistribution (including urban land reform) can create a vibrant internal market that would serve as the anchor of the economy and produce local financial resources for investment.
  6. Deemphasizing growth, emphasizing upgrading the quality of life, and maximizing equity will reduce environmental disequilibrium.
  7. The development and diffusion of environmentally congenial technology in both agriculture and industry should be encouraged.
  8. Strategic economic decisions cannot be left to the market or to technocrats. Instead, the scope of democratic decision-making in the economy should be expanded so that all vital questions — such as which industries to develop or phase out, what proportion of the government budget to devote to agriculture, etc. — become subject to democratic discussion and choice.
  9. Civil society must constantly monitor and supervise the private sector and the state, a process that should be institutionalized.
  10. The property complex should be transformed into a “mixed economy” that includes community cooperatives, private enterprises, and state enterprises, and excludes transnational corporations.
  11. Centralized global institutions like the IMF and the World Bank should be replaced with regional institutions built not on free trade and capital mobility but on principles of cooperation that, to use the words of Hugo Chavez in describing the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), “transcend the logic of capitalism.”

What do you think of Bello’s critique? Is globalization dead or dying?


5 Responses to “Walden Bello on Deglobalization”

  1. 1 Samuel Quintanar 17/11/2009 at 6:35 pm

    I don’t think there’s any reason to think that globalization is dying. Bello might not like the face of globalization, but there’s a difference between his preference and reality. The forces of globalization are not turning back and I doubt there’s any power in the world that could stop them from continuing to develop at this time. Critiques of globalization like the ones that Bello offers do little to affect the way that human society is currently developing. Although some of the ideals that he espouses may be considered to be desirable from a humanistic perspective, the trends of globalization cannot be stopped by the mere prpositions of alternative worlds. I won’t consider Bello to be worth paying much attention to until he shows me a vuiable strategy by which his propositions could become reality.

  2. 2 Taylor Rens 18/11/2009 at 7:04 pm

    To begin with, it it’s worth noting that Mr. Bello is a current member of the Pilipino House of Representatives, so there is a good possibility that there are some political motivations underlying his arguments. The fact that he concedes that deglobalization is mainly an alternative for developing countries leads me to believe that he is outlining a strategy which he believes should be adopted by his country, and possibly other developing countries.

    There are several possible flaws in his paradigm, a few of which are particularly problematic. The main flaw is that it would be quite difficult to apply most of the “prongs” of his paradigm to developed countries. For example, in his first prong, he argues, “Production for the domestic market must again become the center of gravity for the economy rather than production for export markets.” Considering that most developed economies are service based, for them to enact such policies, they would have to convince or coerce educated people with good jobs in the service sector to give up there jobs to go work on the factory floor or farm. This, no doubt, would cause major conflicts, especially in democratic developed countries. There are many potential difficulties with implementing most of his prongs in developed countries, and as long as the economically powerful countries continue on the path of globalization, the world as a whole will remain largely globalized.

    Another flaw is in his sixth prong. In one sentence, he argues for a simultaneous de-emphasis on economic growth, and emphasis on upgrading the quality of life. This is problematic because economic growth provides more resources for mutual satisfaction, and situations in which everybody gains something. Without economic growth, one person’s gain becomes another person’s loss. It seems as though economic growth, in whatever form, would be necessary to improve the overall quality of life in a country.

    His eighth is also troubling. He writes that strategic economic decisions cannot be left to the market place or technocrat. Instead, he argues that all vital questions, including which industries should develop and which should be phased out, should become subject to democratic discussion and choice. However, as history has shown, it is basically impossible to maintain a centrally planned economy, even with highly trained bureaucrats on the job year round. Surely, leaving such complex economic decisions to the general public would have disastrous consequences.

    Overall, this theory of deglobalization seems out of touch with reality. While many of its principles could probably be adopted in developing countries, and possibly even with success, the theory as a whole is not applicable to the countries whose activities encourage globalization the most. It appears as though, for now at least, the forces of globalization will continue to shape the world in which we live.

  3. 3 Anna 27/11/2009 at 6:18 pm

    I got the sense that the ’11 key prongs of the deglobalization paradigms’ are not just about deglobalization,but also are anti-capitalism, like the prong 3, 5 and 8 are all about advocating a greater role of intervention by the state rather than leaving the things to the market.

    In addition, in some prongs, I don’t see the relation between the paradigms and deglobalizaton because some of them are being practised by both developed and developed countries like the prong 3, 4 and 7. Thus, I don’t quite see why these prongs can help deglobalization.

    Afterall, I admit that the current financial crisis and unstable global economic environment can be partly attributed to the globalization but I think the focus should not be the globalization itself. Since every change must bring both pros and cons, this does not entail that it must then be bad and must be discarded completely. The attention should be paid is whether there is something wrong in the process of globlization which needs to be adjusted.

    Another query raised is whether deglobalization will bring greater benefits to the developing countries or they are simply no better off and no worse off at all. If there is no change in their positions, who bothers to deglobalize, in face of the unanswerable fact that globalization cannot be contained in a region.

  4. 4 Cheong Man Lei, Lillian 30/11/2009 at 10:07 pm

    • Bello’s concern for deglobalization has not been something unrealistic or exaggerated .many scholars have also been alerted of the trend of deglobalization. Accordingly, as what quoted form the article “Dangers of Deglobalization” , it is observed that many foreign workers, ranging from construction laborers to Harvard-educated bankers, have been forcing to return home as once-booming economies around the world contract. New protectionism rose in the age of economic downturn. Companies in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are required to first lay off foreign workers if needed to downsize. Law imposing strict restrictions on hiring of skilled immigrant workers by companies receiving government bailout money has been enacted in the United States in 2009. Protests against the use of foreign workers at oil refineries were frequently held in Britain. 66 percent of 66 percent of Irish felt that their immigration policy should be made more restrictive. Many of these examples echoed with the ideas from the first 5 key prongs.

    Though this is the case, whether this trend of ‘deglobalization’ can sustain is really doubtful. Economic downturn will not prevail forever. When economy starts to grow again, the demand for workers will increase also.

    With the thriving of mnay inter-countries, inter-cities, and inter-regions cooperation, these kinds of integration will create more and more cross-border issues which can‘t be solved by sole country but by global governance. Therefore, though there are many concerns regarding deglobalization, I do not think it will comes to a dominant position in the near future.

  5. 5 Rosie Macgill 10/12/2009 at 9:03 pm

    Walden Bello outlines some interesting protectionist policies for a future without globalization. I feel however that it is not easy to turn back. The forces of globalization are so strong now that even if deglobalization was to be applied to the economic regulations, its many other cultural and political significances would thrive on, I do not think you can prevent things like the pace and ease with which information spreads in the current age, or prevent NGOs and multinational corporations from being transnational.

    The current global economic crisis was caused by human mismanagement and greed among other economic market explanations. I do not believe that globalization caused it purely. Overall I think that the idea of a global market system and the acceleration of interconnectivity through our increased interdependence with globalisation is a positive step. The idea is positive but the current system has many flaws and I can see many advantages to some of Bello’s points, I just feel they are unrealistic and idealistic. Policies like the Washington Consensus applied to developing countries appear blatantly unfair and the IMF system as a whole needs restructuring. True, global institutions are not working in ways which bring benefits to all states and often place developing countries in severely
    I can also see why protectionist principles work. Japan for example developed rapidly for a number of political reasons; its security guarantor the US being one of them, but it grew also because of heavy state influence and regulation, the creation of artificial comparative advantage and strategic trade policies. The Newly Industrialised countries like Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore applied protectionist, government intervention policies while they developed their internal economies before joining in with the free market and this proved very successful to their development.

    However if no free market existed, these economies would not have been able to proper in the way they do. I feel the answer lies in a free global market however states should only join it as relative equals on the playing field. Bello talks of the domestic market, of subsidies, protection, and strengthening internally but all of these are no use when you can only rely on your domestic economy. Protectionist policies have appeared since the financial crisis but this appears to be temporary solutions until the global economy has picked up once more. Globalization I feel is needed to create the trading of new technology and ideas, competition that lowers prices, incentives to keep producing and developing new ideas and easy access to resources that are not available within the state. The ‘invisible hand’ that guides the market, free from state intervention, should be left to drive itself unless crisis is approaching.

    Although I really like the idea of democratic discussion and civil society monitoring state and private sector activity, I don’t think it is realistic. True, transparency and accountability are key in any policy objectives but involving the masses on every economic decision would be a slow and unproductive process.

    I do not think that globalization is dying. Instead I think that the majority are aware of its need to evolve, the necessary restructuring that may allow advocates of deglobalization the ability to witness the benefits of globalization.

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