Redefining What Globalization Means

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Redefining What Globalization Means

Slate's Robert Wright urges the Left to read Thomas Friedman's new book, The World Is Flat -- even though its pro-globalization message may sting a little. According to Wright:
This theme will get the book read in business class, but the reason leftists back in coach should read it has more to do with Osama Bin Laden's transformation of the political landscape.

Islamist terrorism has been a godsend to the American right, especially in foreign policy. President Bush has sold a Manichaean master narrative that fuses neoconservativism with paleoconservative hawkism, the unifying upshot being the importance of invading countries and of disregarding, if not subverting, multilateral institutions.

... If the left is to develop a rival narrative, it will have to honestly address the realities of both globalization and terrorism. Friedman's book ... contains the ingredients of a powerful liberal narrative, one that harnesses the logic of globalization to counter Bush's rhetoric in foreign and, for that matter, domestic policy.

... These days hardly anyone accepts the label "anti-globalization." Most leftists now grant that you can't stop the globalization juggernaut; the best you can do is guide it.

... Even globalization's downsides—such as displaced American workers—can have an upside for liberals in political terms. A churning workforce strengthens the case for the kind of safety net that Democrats champion and Republicans resist.

... Friedman outlines an agenda of "compassionate flatism" that includes portable, subsidized health care, wage insurance, and subsidies for college and vocational school. You can argue about the details, and you can push them to the left.

... this is clearly a Democratic agenda, and, as more and more white-collar jobs move abroad, its appeal to traditionally Republican voters should grow.

Globalization's domestic disruptions can also be softened by global institutions. As the sociologist Douglas Massey argues in his just-published liberal manifesto Return of the L Word, the World Trade Organization, though reviled on the far left as a capitalist tool, could, with American leadership, use its clout to enforce labor standards abroad that are already embraced by the U.N.'s toothless International Labor Organization. For example: the right of workers everywhere to bargain collectively.

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