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Book Review: The Globalization Backlash by Colin Crouch

By Ashish Manav

To put it in simple words, globalization is defined as the process through which the many societies, cultures, and economies of the world come together, affecting each other. The idea of globalization had existed long before the term was even coined in the 20th century. Globalization essentially started the moment humans (Homo Sapiens-Sapiens) set foot outside Ethiopia and the world was never the same again. What began as a “possible relocation of a few hundred humans in the quest for a better place to find food,” has now changed the entire outlook of the world we are currently living in. From fragile arrows and spearheads to mammoth skyscrapers, the entire human history can be attributed to globalization.

People have been shaping and reshaping this idea of globalization through various viewpoints. Articles have been published, journals have been circulated, and books have been written discussing the different aspects of globalization. Some have termed it a boon, talking about the benefits it entails. Whilst others have brought up the myriad of problems that globalization has led to, claiming this process is a curse on the world. One such book on globalization has been written by English author, Colin Crouch, titled The Globalization Backlash.

As mentioned above, most books on globalization either talk about all the good that has been witnessed or focus on the negative side. However, The Globalization Backlash is a unique reading. It argues that despite there being contentions regarding globalization, it would not be an excellent idea to shun this process entirely. This would result in backlash causing more and more problems than those already existing. The core theme of the book is centered on the notion that instead of establishing a whole new world order which is not influenced by the many facets of globalization, it is better to look for ways to ensure that this process of interchangeability of economy, culture, political ideas, etc. runs smoothly and is acceptable by both the Right and the Left.

Author Colin Crouch in the very premise of the book points out a major issue that exists among people on the notion of globalization vis-à-vis their respective nation-states. He argues that globalization ushered in an era wherein people from all walks of life came to one place, primarily to seek employment. This led to an exchange of different cultural identities, lifestyle, languages, etc. and gave rise to ideas such as metropolitanism. This process thrived in the 20th century. However, with the onset of the 21st century, people’s mentality has been changing and there has been a rise of resurgent nationalism which feeds on the doctrine of Us v/s Them. The 2016 referendum of Brexit is an outstanding example to reflect that a sense of pride among people about their nation is also giving rise to hostility for the others (immigrants).

One reason that should convince the readers of the author’s argument is the fact that as more people came and settled in one place, over time, the rate of employment decreased. Subsequently, indigenous inhabitants have expressed concerns over their cultural identities which get mixed as globalization seeks to promote heterogeneity from a cultural and economical standpoint.

Crouch has also engaged with the effect globalization has brought about on the economies in various parts of the world. He has written extensively on the myriad of changes in the economies as a result of globalization. The book discusses 4 major waves that led to globalisation, as well as its discontentment among the people. Crouch has scrutinized these four waves of globalization, described in the book from an economic viewpoint. He argues that the West has influenced the global economic order starting from the first wave, that is European imperialism. This has led to the formation of multiple international institutions, the relaxation in the tariffs and taxes imposed with the US being the leader in these reformations, as well as the rise of Neoliberalism.It has also been pivotal in the collapse of Communism leading to the rise of the European single market. Crouch then puts forward the various benefits and problems economic globalization has led to. He focuses on China because the inequality in the nation’s socio-economy has largely reduced and there has been an increase in the overall economy. The readers would be fascinated to have a look at the statistics Crouch has shown which highlights the rise in Chinese GDP from US$ 990 in the 1990s to US$ 15,500 in the year 2016. Although another interesting point that the readers would love to know about is the fact that the wealth in China has been unequally distributed and it is true for many other developing countries including India.

The Globalization Backlash also reflects the very grave situation of the inevitability of cultures, religions and ethnicities converging over time and how it affects the future. The author, in the third part, talks about how the growing national sentiments among people in different parts of the world has been taken great advantage of by different politicians and political groups. The feeling of pride and loyalty for one’s own country has been marred by these agendas which aim to promote radical sovereignty and discard global solidarity. This in turn aims at establishing institutions focused on strengthening the fluidity of globalization. Colin to reverse globalization,  the situation would be disastrous. Globalization has been constantly evolving and trying to strengthen its roots, while reaching new areas of the world. There should not be a second thought whether we need to formulate new processes aiming to govern the world, based on either the support of Right or the Left, which as a matter of fact is always going to be disputable. Colin Crouch’s book is one of the best works to understand and engage critically on issues of globalization, and how it affects different global aspects such as the economy, the cultural and political framework and the kind of future that is being created. It also makes the readers question certain themes that have been portrayed throughout the book and puts forth many solutions that can tackle such problems.

As the readers reach the end of the book, they get confronted with a very simple dilemma that the author has crisply highlighted through football. He explains how in a Premier League game, English supporters of a particular club would support their Belgian player taking on an English defender of the opposite team, but would not hesitate to criticise the same player when it comes to a Belgium v/s England match day. Crouch essentially means that people would constantly jump from one identity to another depending upon how the world changes, and with globalization, the world is changing drastically. Unlike most books which fundamentally aim at presenting a problem through a single lens and proposing solutions based on it, The Globalization Backlash is a very different piece as it seeks to see the concept of globalization not only from the perspective of a conservative white nationalist but also from the perspective of a middle-class man employed in a Chinese factory. It succeeds in examining both sides of the same coin and delivers a solution that should be acceptable to all.

Ashish Manav is a 3rd-year undergraduate student at Ashoka University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in History and International Relations.

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