ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Future of Globalisation

Learning from History

An analysis of globalisation in a historical perspective can help us understand how the past or the present may shape the future. In so doing, this article outlines the contours of the present era of globalisation since its inception, circa 1975, to find that the successive epochs of globalisation during the second millennium came to an abrupt end because of their own consequences embedded in the process. Given this, the article seeks to focus on the present conjuncture, at the intersection of economics and politics, when globalisation is again in crisis to reflect on its future.

The ideas developed in this article have evolved in public lectures over the past two years, beginning with the Abid Hussain Lecture at New Delhi in December 2017, followed by the Karl Marx Lecture at Patna in June 2018, and the Malcolm Adeseshiah Lecture at Chennai in August 2019. The author would like to thank Ronald Findlay and Romila Thapar for helpful discussion on the subject, and Dipankar Gupta for valuable suggestions.

Globalisation is a multidimensional phenomenon that has profound implications for economies, polities, societies and cultures. Thus, globalisation means different things to different people. In the economic sphere, the word globalisation is used in two ways, which is a source of some confusion. It is used to describe a process of integration into the world economy, or to prescribe a strategy of development based on such an integration. It can be defined, simply, as an expansion of economic transactions across national boundaries, where international trade, international investment and international finance provide their cutting edge. More precisely, it can be defined as a process associated with increasing economic openness, growing economic interdependence, and deepening economic integration among countries in the world economy. This process extends beyond trade flows, investment flows and financial flows, to flows of services, technology, information, ideas and people across borders.

The last quarter of the 20th and the first decade of the 21st centuries witnessed a phenomenal acceleration in this process of globalisation. There is a common presumption that this world is altogether new and represents a fundamental departure from the past. But globalisation is not new. In fact, there was a similar phase of globalisation, which began around 1870 and gathered momentum until 1914, when it came to an end. A comparison of these two epochs of globalisation reveals striking parallels in many characteristics of the world economy. In some ways, the 2010s also resemble the 1910s. History does not repeat itself. Even so, there is much that we can learn from history, for there is the past in our present. Indeed, the past might also help us to explore how the future might unfold.

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Updated On : 11th Nov, 2019
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