I posted a couple of weeks ago on a paper by a couple of economists which argued in brief, that globalisation – taking a historical view – tended to fail for political reasons: effectivedly, those who lose from it put the brakes on. Cross-posting this to Shaping Tomorrow’s Foresight Network prompted a long and considered response by the futurist Stephen Aguilar-Millan of the European Futures Observatory (his blog here), who has done recent work on questions of globalisation. He argued that if you approach it from a geopolitical perspective you get a rather different perspective.

I’m not going to post all of his remarks here, but instead will quote some and summarise others. Stephen wrote:

In our geopolitical study, we identified that the world could be characterised by two countervailing forces – the integrative and the dispersive. In modern times, we call the integrative force “Globalisation”. … Equally, in modern times, we call the dispersive force “Nationalism”, be it in its political or economic form.

The model of globalisation they developed for the study characterised the past as an interplay of the integrative and the dispersive, and from this they projected these drivers forward into the future. They also identified six key actors (the US, the EU, Russia, China, Japan, and India) with a focus to 2025. Of these, only one actor (Russia) benefitted from adopting a ‘nationalist’ stance rather the integrative stance of globalisation.

Findlay and O’Rourke, who wrote the article I quoted in my original post, also suggested that globalisation tended to end with conflict. Stephen noted:

If they are right, and the current wave of globalisation is to end with a systemic war, who would be the parties to the war? We could point to the apparent belligerence of the US, but a relatively small operation in Iraq (compared to, say, Iran or North Korea) has extended the capability of the US to almost its limits. Findlay and O’Rourke cite Norman Angell to say that trade does not guarantee peace. However, the cost of war does. In our project, we relied on some costings by the Brookings Institution that the intervention in Iraq was costing $1bn a day. … Iraq is extremely expensive, and the US does not have the money to pay for the war – it is borrowing it from China, Japan, Russia, and the Middle Eastern nations.

Possibly a larger factor to derail globalisation could be the end of The Enlightenment, but that wouldn’t impact for more than a generation. However, if the dispersive does gain the upper hand, it will only be time before the integrative makes a comeback.

The Game Briefing EUFO developed to test how their six global actors can be found here. Globalisation is also one of the themes of EUFO’s London Futures Symposium on 18th April at South Bank University.