Reimagining Globalism in the Trump Era
All of us must resist the impulse to go blame-gaming and making every international relationship a zero-sum game.
March 28, 2018
Donald Trump rode his “anti-globalist” campaign message all the way to the U.S. presidency. In essence, Trump declared anything and anybody who was not blatantly an American nationalist a “globalist.”
A key reason why Trump and his message mavens deployed the term in that manner was to shield the candidate against predictable charges that it was preposterous for a billionaire — and one truly given to the gilded lifestyle — to get to the White House by pretending to save the common folk.
This broader debate is of particular significance to us here at The Globalist, a magazine established in January 2000. By way of our publishing example, we have always sought to paint a clearer picture of what “globalism” means – and what it does not mean. We remain proud to call ourselves “globalists” even in the Trump era.
Bringing people closer together
At its most basic level, globalism is very simply a philosophy dedicated to bringing people closer together all over the world. It is fundamentally about learning from each other’s successes or failures and promoting cooperation as well as prosperity.
Self-styled “anti-globalists” have tended to flatten the definition conveniently into something more specific – in the sense of defining it as whatever it is that they oppose in the world.
On the left, anti-globalism has focused on trade deals and the abuses of hypercapitalism by a wealthy few individuals and multinational corporations.
On the right, especially in the United States, anti-globalists run the gamut from Americanists – who would prefer a world led and dominated by the United States – to libertarians or small-government conservatives. They all like to misconstrue globalism as a movement for a “world government.”
There are also far-right critics who view globalism through the lens of conspiracy theories that purport to identify shadowy cabals pulling the strings of world events. These conspiracy theories, over the centuries, have at various points been anti-Catholic, anti-Masonic, anti-Semitic or all of the above.
It is difficult to tell where exactly on the conservative-to-far-right spectrum President Trump himself places his anti-globalism. To be sure, his anti-globalism bears little resemblance to the left’s anti-globalism, not least because his administration is filled with the plutocrats they abhor. He also very much seeks to project the U.S. hegemony they abhor as well.
But again, none of these anti-globalist definitions of “globalism” truly capture the spirit of the philosophy at its root.
International cooperation doesn’t equal world government
The pursuit of international cooperation and the attempt to shape an equitable form of global governance do not equal world government. There are problems to solve that are bigger than any one sovereign state.
And as regards global governance, one can have a de facto version of it – traditionally called imperialism – or a more enlightened, better balanced one. That is the one the democratic world is struggling to establish today.
Any constructive vision of globalism, which we have always embraced, simply means finding ways to bridge the cultural and political – even civilizational – divides between governments on areas of common need or concern.
To bridge those gaps, this inclusive kind of globalism dispenses with the belief that any one area of the world is by nature superior to the others and that it has all the right answers. It also militates against the Trumpian notion that nothing positive can be gleaned from other cultures or governing styles.
In the 20th century, this kind of globalism saw a shift toward flexible supra-national forms of cooperation and alliances. Extending that arc of cooperation goes well beyond the oft maligned EU. The 21st century is seeing a plentiful rise of city and other sub-national governments as global actors.
Trump’s zero-sum worldview
In contrasts to the zero-sum worldview of the Trumpists, there is no upward or downward transfer of power in globalism. There are simply ever more actors at the table to work with and learn from each other. And there are many more stages to act on.
Our globalism is also, contrary to the narrowly defined leftist version of the critique, far from the multinational hypercapitalism of today and the heinous colonialism of the preceding era.
The constructive, non-elitist form of globalism we seek aims to re-focus economics on people. Wealth should not be concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and corporations or squirreled away in tax havens and real estate shells.
In fact, those “taxing” games which many billionaires and multinational corporations continue to play need to be rooted out if democracy is to have a prayer of surviving.
Likewise, trade deals should not take away the sovereignty of the people or enhance the prosperity of a few at the expense of the many. International trade and economic cooperation should be for the benefit of all, not for exploiting workers in one country and consumers in another country.
This also involves a sustainable increase in the standards of living of all of humanity to a basic level of comfort and material security. That, after all, matters far more than GDP rises alone.
In short, the reason why we resist the by now instinctive but over-simplified critiques – assumptions that turn globalism into a piñata or easy scapegoat – is not related to the name of our brand.
Rather, it is that we call on everyone to recognize that for all of us to have a shot at shaping the future of the world in a constructive direction requires a simple admission.
We must admit how little we really know so far about the challenges ahead. To make a real impact, all of us must first and foremost resist the impulse to go blame-gaming and refrain from making every relationship into a zero-sum game.
Understanding “the other” is the core of globalism. It is what we must ardently pursue to secure the peaceful survival of humankind.
The constructive, non-elitist form of globalism we seek aims to re-focus economics on people.
The pursuit of international cooperation and the attempt to shape an equitable form of global governance do not equal world government.
Unlike the zero-sum worldview of the Trumpists, there is no upward or downward transfer of power in globalism -- simply ever more actors at the table and many more stages to act on.
We must resist the impulse to go blame-gaming and making every relationship a zero sum game.