What is a globalist?

An overloaded term often used as a racist dog-whistle.

Ben Werdmuller

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A word I’ve seen used frequently by people across the political spectrum, particularly since Trump’s election in 2016, is globalism. At first, I understood it to be a kind of alternative to nationalism: thinking on a global scale rather than prioritizing your own nation first. But the more I saw it used — to encompass exploitation of the global south, for example — the more I realized I didn’t fully understand it.

It turns out to be an overloaded term: there are a few different kinds and definitions of globalism. Understanding the distinctions helped me, and I hope they help you, too.

It’s worth saying: I program computers for a living. I’m not an economist or a sociologist. I welcome corrections and comments from more informed readers.

Imperialist globalism

America was very concerned about Soviet expansion after WWII. At the time, the diplomat George Kennan, who heavily influenced the Truman doctrine of involving the US in containing the Soviet Union, said:

[W]e have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. […] Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this position of disparity.

So read through this lens, American globalism was originally a project to maintain American wealth, potentially at the expense of other nations. This is often called visionary globalism, but I hope you’ll agree that imperialist globalism is a more apt name.

Vincent Bevins’s brilliant book The Jakarta Method describes some of the methods the US employed (and employs) to try and maintain this power. It’s easily the best non-fiction book I read this year.

Market globalism

Market globalism is interested in establishing relationships between nations to create a consumerist world rooted in free markets. In market globalism, nations’ economies are integrated and interdependent, with consumer-oriented trade as the goal.

It’s a neoliberal vision of the world: one where market solutions are better than socially-oriented, community-based ones. Here, capitalism and small government are the order of the day and actively promoted in the structure of (for example) aid packages and treaties. The vision does not consider equality or quality…

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Ben Werdmuller

Writer: of code, fiction, and strategy. Trying to work for social good.