Globalisation: Good or Bad?
Anthony Giddens, Fred Halliday, Mary Kaldor and John Gray

Editors Introduction In this article, four of the most prominent speakers at the London School of Economics and Political Science--Anthony Giddens, Fred Halliday, Mary Kaldor and John Gray--respond to each other's views on the good and bad aspects of globalisation. Through issues as varied as inequality, education, the environment, human rights and the need for modern states, they discuss how the world can aim for responsible globalisation.

Anthony Giddens

Globalisation experts such as Fred Halliday, Mary Kaldor and John Gray refer to issues such as violence and ecological degradation. But another core issue for globalisation is inequality. There are various key questions that everyone sitting here should try and make up their mind about. Are the inequalities which we see in the world the result of globalising processes, or are they because people are left out of those processes? On the whole, I feel that they are the result of the latter. In a way, the whole continent of Africa is left out of these developments. We must provide a fruitful engagement for groups of people and countries that are left out, for economic development to be possible.

We know of only one way to overcome poverty. Redistribution can make a difference within countries, and anti-poverty strategies can make a difference. However, by and large, we know only one way of overcoming poverty--economic development in which the poor participate. The last period of world history, the last 10 or 15 years, has been dominated by neoliberalism and a form of market fundamentalism. That reign is not wholly over, but ideologically it is largely over. You cannot have effective economic development without the role of active government. Active government is crucial to countering some of the effects of the market in terms of not just inequality but insecurity. We have to discover a role for active government which is different from that of the 1960s, because when people thought that the state could lead in everything it did not work; economic development was not produced by that means. Thus, globally, I think that Joe Stiglitz (senior vice president of the World Bank) was right to say that you need a new relationship between the conception of active government and forming some type of role for markets, but not an unrestrained role for markets.

Therefore, I think the issue of Tobin Tax, having a taxation on global currency transactions, which has been around for approximately 30 years, should be seriously contemplated by world governments. There has not been an effective global debate on whether or not it is a feasible strategy. However, I do not see that it is an implausible strategy, especially in an age of global high communications, where you will soon be able to electronically trace the movement of money very precisely across the world. Thus, at least in this period, when there are quite a number of left-of-centre governments in power in the EU and elsewhere, where we can by the concerted action of government make an impact on world inequality, we should look at that issue in a serious light.

Professor Fred Halliday

Government Action
I'd like to suggest five things that governments and states can do, three of which I acknowledge to Paul Kennedy's book Preparing for the Twenty-first Century, which is all the more surprising and refreshing coming from a broadly structuralist historian.

Education and re-education. How did Singapore get from being a mud flat created by the British with a population of 3 million to producing half of all the computer analysts in the world? They did it through education and re-education. This is something which is within the purview of every single society and government. It happens to be the business we are all in. Thus, I discount the trade unionist argument. More than ever, this is absolutely the key.

The position of women in public, political, social and economic life. For normative reasons--and in my view the norms are slipping--the last decade has not been positive for gender relations worldwide on any major criteria. Like inequality, it is getting worse, because it is being neglected or left to automatic processes. This is not only a major aspect of human equity; it is also one which directly correlates with economic growth and economic development--partly for the obvious reason that it incorporates part of the society into economic and public life, secondly because it directly correlates with lowering the birth rate, which is an important correlate of economic growth. Every society is responsible for the way in which it treats women, for gender relations.

Quality of the leadership. For any government or institution, the more technologically driven, the more unstable and global it is, the more leadership matters. If you think political leadership does not matter, then when Boris Nikolayevich is your president you know about it. When your rulers are thieves, which is the case in many countries in the world, you know about it. Over half the states in the world are basically kleptocracies. It is a little old-fashioned, but that is what they are. Thieves rule them and everybody knows it. There are no culture exceptions. I have been to the most obscure countries, which are culturally very different. The first thing they say to you is that their rulers are thieves. Everybody understands this.

The education of the public in global responsibilities, of which the environment is a very important one. I am not running for office, so I will say that I want higher petrol taxes in all developed countries. The Americans should be paying three times for the litre what they are paying now, and the British should be paying more as well. Of course, no one from an oil-producing state would agree with me, because they think this is an OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) ruse designed to drive them down, but I would disagree with them as well. However, after 30 years of environmental propaganda by our governments, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), etc., where were the politicians who got up in this country during all these wretched petrol strikes and said that this is an outrage, that future humanity depends upon getting a handle on this. The whole world is in denial on the question of motor cars and car pollution, because those who have not got it want it. This is an area where governments can do something.

The media. An area which governments, and more importantly societies, can do something about, but which is a particular national disgrace for the British, is the press. Without a responsible press, which discusses big international issues, without a media that does not waste our time on all the garbage they give us every morning and evening in this country, you cannot have a responsible national or international politics. It is an absolute disgrace. It is the responsibility of the society--not globalisation, imperialism, the World Bank or the Americans. It is the responsibility of the people who print, write, sell and advertise in these papers.

Dr. Mary Kaldor

As Fred Halliday suggests, we need government. But what has happened has been a reaction to the overcentralisation of states, the excessive power of states and the fact that many states were or are kleptocracies or totally dependent on institutions like the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Thus, the policies on education, the environment and the position of women that Fred Halliday talked about cannot be carried out. States are very constrained in what they can do. The answer to the centralisation of states and excessive power is not less state, which is what the neoliberals said, but state at different levels. It is much more, and much more powerful, local government. Moreover, on crucial issues like the environment, human rights and war, it is more power at a global level.

Human rights
Fred Halliday suggests that, on the whole, the world was worse for human rights. I have no idea whether violations have increased or decreased, but there is no question that the new wars happening in the world involve massive violations of human rights. They mainly kill civilians. Ninety percent of the casualties in wars are civilians, and they are victims of many horrible atrocities, including systematic rape, torture and all the things that constitute the worst type of human rights you can imagine. Thus, in that sense, I think, it has not been very good for human rights. However, in another sense, there has been an enormous change in terms of the human-rights regime. Now, there really is something that we can call an international human-rights regime. It is still only in Europe that you can go to a court in Strasbourg. However, the idea that you have some type of redress in international law, that as a local human-rights group you can address the international community, make links, are not alone and states are not closed, is an enormous change and advantage in the world that must continue to be strengthened. Therefore, it is good and bad on human rights.

I think the big risk of de-globalisation is not China but America. America is, if you like, the last nation-state, the last frontier of globalisation. That is why this election really matters. We have seen America going in a different direction from the rest of the world on all types of important international issues--anti-ballistic missile defences, the International Criminal Court, the death penalty, etc. If America moves to the right, there is a real danger that this could open up the possibility of de-globalisation. John Gray believes that the core driver of globalisation is technological. According to Gray, today's technology abolishes or significantly reduces time and distance. The world is now so interconnected, I wonder whether it would be possible even for America to cut itself off from globalisation. Even for America, which is much bigger and has much more power, there are so many possibilities of transnational connections across borders, campaigns and public debates that I would question whether this is possible.

Professor John Gray

The need for modern states
I entirely agree with Mary Kaldor and Fred Halliday's views on not tearing down states further. In the 1990s, one of the big errors was to read the coming century as if the principle danger to humanity would be overmighty totalitarian states. That was true in the twentieth century. The horrors or atrocities--the Holocaust and the terrible prison camps in many parts of the world, including the former Soviet Union--could not have happened unless you had had totalitarian states and regimes. Therefore, for most of the twentieth century it was true that the main enemy of human freedom was an overmighty state. It is not true now.

In much of the world, there is not a modern state at all, or it has collapsed or become deeply corroded. In parts of Africa and Latin America, in much of post-Communist Russia and Southern Asia, there is no state to speak of at all. If we are to have anything resembling a proper human response to the challenges of globalisation, we need modern states. We need modern states to monitor environmental impact. It is no good trying to have intelligent tax policies if there is no state to implement them or if the state which is charged with implementing them is weak, fragmented or controlled by criminals. Therefore, we actually need modern states and should get over our fetishistic hostility to the state, which we inherited from the totalitarian century. That century is over. It seems that if there is a risk in the new century, it is much more one of anarchy.

It is very difficult to control the spread of technologies in a way which prevents them being used destructively. That does not mean it is impossible and that we should despair. However, we have to realise that it is a jolly difficult task. One example is the proliferation of nuclear armament technology. Despite the fact that the most powerful states in the world had a strong joint interest and spent a lot of effort in keeping the nuclear club small, all they achieved was to slow its expansion. Now, there are many states in the world which have nuclear weapons. Therefore we should focus on the immense difficulty of these tasks, not to give up but to strengthen our resolve and the institutions which we have, which I think are rather weak in many respects.

An important error is made by those who think that globalisation means having exactly the same regime, way of life or values everywhere in the world. Undoubtedly, there are human needs, goods and evils that are universal. No one enjoys a short life of sickness and impoverishment. We all need good, clean water and air, safety in the street, freedom and the ability to practice our religions. However, that does not mean we need to have the same way of life, the same regime. The idea that there is only one modernity, only one way of responding to globalisation--and that what globalisation really means is a single, uniform, worldwide civilisation--is a fundamental error.

That leads to one of the risks we are facing, which is excluding countries, peoples or parts of the world which do not correspond to that one, single conception of what civilisation should be like. Thus, you then have the dangerous, and to my mind pernicious, doctrine of the clash of civilisations, you then have the argument that people who will not join in making the world a single type of place, bringing about a single regime, are actually dangerous. Then we have a new cause of war. That is one of the real risks we should strive to avoid. A highly globalised world should not be seen as a world in which differences have been stamped out of existence but as a world in which differences are encouraged in many contexts, particularly contexts of belief, religion, way of life and culture.

This feature is taken from a debate on "Globalisation: Good or Bad?" with Lord Desai, Mary Kaldor, John Gray, Fred Halliday and Anthony Giddens at the LSE on October 11, 2000. Copyright The London School of Economics and Political Science.