Humanity is going through a painful process of deglobalization. Whether this process is inevitable or not (and if not, then who is responsible for it) is a matter of debate. In any case, the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 and the postcrisis period of 2010-2013 made it abundantly clear that globalization’s linear development, to say nothing of its exponential development, is a thing of the past. Certain parameters of interconnection, such as international trade and direct foreign investment volumes, managed to recover by the middle of the 2010s, only to collapse once more at the end of that decade. Today, centrifugal processes have already gathered a lot of inertia. This means that those who expect that some single event (even a very significant one, such as Joe Biden taking office in the United States) may stem the process, let alone reverse it, are indulging in wishful thinking.
Globalization, however, will return under pressure from two powerful factors that will become even stronger over time, no matter what the antiglobalists are saying. First, the steadily increasing pressure of common problems – from climate change to the threat of pandemics – requires global society to work together for the sake of common survival. The self-preservation instinct of the human population must manifest itself one way or another. Second, technological progress is accelerating, year after year creating new opportunities for all kinds of remote communication. The planet’s physical space and resource potential are shrinking, while geographically spaced models of work, study, and socialization are expanding. Napoleon’s “geography is destiny” is no longer axiomatic.
Sooner or later, a new globalization model that is distinct from the old model of the early 21st century yet similar in terms of its trends and essential characteristics will emerge and establish itself. The experience of the 2008-2009 crisis suggests that we are approaching the lowest point of a new “deglobalization stage” in the globalization cycle, and that we can safely assume that by the mid-2020s, the world development vector will change once again. Given that the global cataclysms of 2020-2021 are much more complicated and integrated than the 2008-2009 crisis, the vector shift will probably occur two or three years later – closer to the late 2020s.
Let’s take a closer look at the new globalization cycle, which is very different from the globalization cycle that occurred at the turn of the century.
Globalization Without a Hegemon
Globalization of the late 20th and early 21st centuries coincided with the historical peak of the US’s international influence. American presidents from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama determined the main rules of the game in the emerging global world; they spread US hegemony to the spheres of security and development. Multilateral international mechanisms – from the UN, NATO, and the G7 to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization – reflected, in one way or another, the American agenda and more or less successfully camouflaged their main function of preserving the system of Pax Americana.
The new round of globalization will be different; the US will not necessarily become the source and main driver of Globalization 2.0. It remains to be seen whether the world will need another motivated global hegemon to restart globalization. A model of horizontal multilateral globalization looks much more probable. The first examples have already appeared. In late 2020, 15 Asia-Pacific nations signed an agreement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world’s biggest free trade zone with a population of 2.2 billion people and a total GDP of $28 trillion (nearly a third of the world’s total GDP). Partners and allies of the US, as well as its opponents, joined the agreement, which was initiated not by China (as some might think), but by a group of ASEAN countries that had been working on the project for two decades.
In the new round of globalization, Washington will have to accept the fact that it will not dominate always and everywhere as an unrivaled leader. America, like every other country, will in many cases have to be content with the role of an ordinary participant or sometimes even an observer.
This adjustment will inevitably be very painful for the numerous groups of the US political establishment that were formed in the era of the bipolar world, and especially for those formed during the unipolar era.
Globalization Without a Center and a Periphery
When Globalization 1.0 began, it was expected that the waves of globalization would radiate mainly from the economic, political, and technological core of the contemporary world (the “aggregate West”) to its periphery through several big so-called “semi-peripheral” countries – Russia, China, India, Brazil, etc. Experts predicted that opposition to globalization would increase with distance from the core, sparking conflicts, trade wars, isolationism, and nationalism, but that these deglobalization impulses would reach the core in weakened forms.
But the waves of Globalization 2.0 will probably move in the opposite direction – from the periphery to the core: limited migration, revived protectionism, repatriated production, and rising nationalism and xenophobia will separate the “aggregate West” from the periphery. The correlation of the economic potentials of the core and the periphery is changing. In 1995, at the beginning of Globalization 1.0, the aggregate GDP (PPP) of seven leading developing economies (China, Russia, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, and Mexico) was more or less equal to half of the aggregate GDP of seven Western countries (the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Italy). In 2015, the potentials of the two “groups of seven” were equal, while by 2040, the economic potential of the “developing seven” will be about twice that of the “developed seven.”
If humankind fails to agree on a synthesis of civilizations, Globalization 2.0 might end as pitifully as Globalization 1.0.
Today, the aggregate West is generally much more deeply involved in globalization processes than the aggregate non-West. It remains to be seen, however, which of them will become the main driver of future globalization processes. It looks doubtful that any geographical core will become the only center of Globalization 2.0, or that the process will be promoted by groups of countries. It seems that globalization will develop as a network process without any clearly visible geographical hierarchy. This means that in the Globalization 2.0 era, ideas about the core and periphery will lose a lot of their former meaning: Elements of both will be found in any country.
Sustainable Development Instead of Economic Growth
The “old” globalization of the early 21st century was associated with accelerated economic growth and greater individual and social consumption. To be fair, it should be said that during the years of Globalization 1.0, much was done to alleviate poverty and expand the middle class, especially in Asia. Ambitious national modernization projects succeeded thanks to an increase in international trade, the growth of direct foreign investment, and the establishment of global production chains.
This led to the conclusion that “a rising tide lifts all boats” – that the benefits of globalization would become accessible to all. Those expectations have been borne out to a certain extent: Today, on average, people are living better and longer than they did three decades ago.
But the benefits have not been equally distributed. During the 30 years of its development, globalization divided the world into winners and losers, and the dividing line does not necessarily run between “successful” and “unsuccessful” states. More often than not, it runs inside states: between social, age, and professional groups; big urban metropolises and rural areas; rich and poor regions – i.e., between those who one way or another fit into the new way of life and those who were sidelined by it. In the US, for example, in the last 40 years, the average real incomes of the poorest group of households have not risen; in fact, they have dropped even lower.
During Globalization 2.0, ensuring the transition to a sustainable development model will likely replace high economic growth rates as the main criterion of success for individual states. Social equality, quality of life, the environmental agenda, personal and public safety, fighting climate change, etc., will be at the top of national agendas. Consumption in all forms and its linear increase will be relegated to the past, and even the “consumer society” concept will change beyond recognition.
Social Instead of Financial Drivers
Globalization 1.0 was always driven by transnational financial corporations. The internationalization of financial markets, the competition of states for access to foreign investment, the increase in the geographic and sectoral mobility of capital – all this entailed globalization in production, politics, and even culture and lifestyle. But already in 2008-2009, the model showed its limits. In its globalization, financial capital had become too far removed from national production and the national social sphere. As a result, the renationalization of national economic and financial strategies gained momentum as an opposing trend, which become especially pronounced during the Donald Trump administration in the US.
The economic community expected and even hoped that economics would triumph over politics. That did not happen: Politics is consolidating its domination over economics and imposing decisions far removed from the logic of economic expediency. Strange as it may seem, globalization made it much easier for antiglobalists to form international alliances: They are no less efficient than their opponents when it comes to forming international coalitions.
There are reasons to believe that the main drivers of Globalization 2.0 will be social, not financial. It should be said that today, when the level of international trade and direct foreign investment has dropped, the level of transborder information flows is growing as fast as ever. The COVID-19 pandemic that disconnected humankind in the short term also boosted the development of new means of communication, serving as a catalyst of a global civil society – the first in human history. It seems that this society, not national financial elites, will be the source of the new demand for globalization.
Justice Rather Than Freedom
The global processes of the early 21st century reflected the public demand for freedom that dominated the late 20th century. Realized in the programs of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, two leaders of the 20th century, they gained strength amid the crisis of left-wing ideologies caused by the failure of the communist experiment in the Soviet Union and Central Europe. Globalization ideologists from Jacques Attali to George Soros have written a lot about a maximally “atomized” personality with complete autonomy of choice as the ideal future “citizen of the world.”
The global political pendulum peaked and started moving in the opposite direction in the 2010s. It seems that public demand for justice and fairness will become much more apparent and insistent. In the second quarter of the 21st century, we might witness another revival of leftist ideologies, political movements, and parties. Societies might be willing to sacrifice some of their economic and political freedoms to achieve what they consider guaranteed justice. We might see a greater tax burden on businesses and wealthy population groups, politically motivated censorship and other forms of management of information flows, as well as restrictions on privacy in the interests of personal and public safety.
For obvious reasons, globalization that prioritizes justice differs from globalization that prioritizes freedom. Society has not yet agreed on commonly accepted standards of justice within individual states or the international system as a whole. This means that in the era of Globalization 2.0, the world will remain unfair to a greater or lesser extent, depending on personal assessments. In these conditions, successful global and regional governance must be adept at balancing different ideas about justice in the world or in any given region.
A Multitude of Players Instead of States
Deglobalization will add weight to ideas of national sovereignty, the sovereign equality of states, and noninterference in others’ internal affairs, since many societies, let alone national elites, have grown weary of the postmodernity of Globalization 1.0. Bureaucrats, militaries, defense complexes, intelligence services, and to a certain extent the traditional “productive” middle class, are consolidating their positions. The incubators of the role models of the early 21st century – the new creative class, the private financial sector, the cosmopolitan political elite, the liberal media, and intellectual compradors – are losing their status and influence. The world is returning to modernity and in some respects sliding back into the archaic. The traditional nonstate globalization drivers – universities, think tanks, the liberal media, civil society institutions, and the globally orientated private sector – are retreating from the limelight.
States, however, can be strong to a certain extent: Insistence on national sovereignty did not prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the collapse of oil prices, and the volatility of exchange rates. Global offshores survived tightened tax control, but strict border control and visa regimes did not stop millions of illegal migrants from entering Europe. Despite its frantic efforts to tighten control over transborder flows of money, goods, services, people, and information, countries have not won and will not win a decisive victory.
We can surmise that Globalization 2.0 will move stronger nonstate players into the world arena. Many future international problems will defy resolution outside of broad public-private partnerships (PPP). For example, the most dangerous and destabilizing trends of the arms race cannot be blocked without the active involvement of leading defense sector corporations. The “green agenda” cannot win without civil society institutions. Nonstate players involved in future PPP will hardly accept the role of an instrument in the hands of national states. They will aspire to the role of a partner with their own interests and priorities that differ from those of states.
Pluralism Rather Than Universalism
The start of the Globalization 1.0 era coincided with the global triumph of the ideology of political and economic liberalism, making the concepts of “liberal globalization” and “global liberalism” closely connected if not synonymous. The final victory of liberal economic and political models on the global scale was to be a catalyst of globalization and one of its inevitable results. In this context, any nonliberal development models were branded as “archaic” and dismissed as symptoms of illogical and even defective modernization that did not allow its proponents to successfully fit into the new global world.
Today, this construct looks less convincing than it did 30 years ago. Political and economic liberalism and its fundamental principles are being called into question even in the “historical West,” while certain alternative social, political, and economic models are demonstrating their sustainability and, in certain cases, high efficiency. This has been fully confirmed by the American and Chinese experience of combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means that the transition to Globalization 2.0 will inevitably raise the issue of the correlation between the planetary universalism of globalization and the pluralism of national economic and political development trajectories. This means that the rules of the game in the globalized world must be balanced out to become amenable to a more diverse set of participants in various stages of social, economic, and political development.
Globalization 2.0 will not insist on the movement of all of its participants toward liberal democracy; it must be flexible enough to accept participants with different political systems. Multilateral global projects will be based on common interests rather than on common values. It seems that the convergence of certain values might become one of the long-term results of the processes unfolding as part of Globalization 2.0 rather than a prerequisite for countries to join these processes.
Asynchrony Rather Than Synchronization
Although since the early 1990s, globalization studies have focused mainly on its financial and economic dimensions, starting in the late 20th century, globalization began to be perceived as a process affecting all aspects of life. Financial and economic globalization was seen as a driver of subsequent social, cultural, and political globalization. It was expected that humankind would finally synchronize globalization trends in all spheres, and that their interaction would ultimately create a cumulative effect and accelerate globalization as a whole. This mythologeme was probably born from the fact that most globalization theories were formulated by economists and technocrats, hence the economic and technocratic determinism of their theories.
It turned out, however, that in certain spheres of human activity, globalization was much more “inflexible” than in others, and that economic and probably political globalization thus resisted synchronization. The widening gap between economics and politics meant a lot of problems for Globalization 1.0: Economic imperatives demanded strategic, systemic, global, continental, and multilateral decisions, while politics insisted on tactical, ad hoc, local, or unilateral priorities.
Globalization 2.0 will be asynchronic, meaning that globalization in various spheres will occur at varying speeds. For example, the resistance of national cultures to the onslaught of global mass culture will not be perceived as a hindrance to economic globalization. The process of uniting humankind will be naturally complemented by the efforts of individual societies to preserve their traditions and unique individuality. Harmonizing the common and the specific in the world as a whole and within individual states in conditions of asynchronous globalization will require “delicate adjustments” to governance. What those adjustments will entail remains unclear.
Ad Hoc Coalitions Rather Than Inflexible Unions
Globalization 1.0 was based mainly on Western development and security institutions inherited from the Cold War period in expectation that their geographical and functional expansion would unite humankind and solve its problems. Very soon, however, those institutions (NATO and the EU, among others) revealed their limitations, and even in certain respects, defects. Attempts to establish new organizations were undermined by “institutional fatigue,” which often prevented them from becoming anything more than clubs.
Let us hope that the main international organizations will survive in the era of Globalization 2.0, yet a large share of international activity will no longer percolate around and within rigidly organized bureaucratic institutions, but around specific political, social, ecological, and other problems. Old hierarchies will gradually lose their significance. In the new conditions, the terms “superpower” or even “great power” will sound increasingly archaic and even irrelevant.
Specific problems will be resolved by fluid ad hoc coalitions comprising not just national states but private sector actors, civil society institutions, and other participants in international affairs. The old institutional approach to international problems will be replaced by a problem-project approach. Although not perfect or free from shortcomings, it might be more practical and thus more in demand in the future.
North-South Rather Than the West-East Confrontation
It is widely believed that Globalization 1.0 of the early 21st century stumbled on account of the US-China confrontation. The current crisis is expected to accelerate the movement of world politics and economics toward US-China bipolarity. The main question of the future world order is commonly reduced to the flexibility/rigidity of the future bipolar construct. That logic can be accepted if we are looking only a few years out. In the era of Globalization 2.0, however, the bipolar political and economic world will be aligned along the North-South rather than the West-East axis typical of the last century.
The border between East and the West will remain obvious for a long time to come. The Chinese modernization model will remain very different from the Western model for many decades. On the other hand, looking into the distant future, we find more and more reasons to relate China (and Russia) to the notional global North. A historical compromise between the US and China will require a lot of political will, perseverance, patience, and flexibility from both sides; the general contours of this compromise are more or less clear. At the same time, there are no reasons to expect that the global North will offer the global South consistent and comprehensive support like the Marshall Plan that the US implemented in Western Europe after World War II.
In fact, we cannot rule out a surge of racism and xenophobia that would further distance the “aggregate North” from the problems of the global South. The worst variant cannot be excluded: “American,” “European,” and even “Chinese” fortresses rolling out strategies of suspending economic, political, and humanitarian ties with most developing countries, instituting stricter border controls, and curbing migration flows from the South.
The main objective of Globalization 2.0 is not to raise the less developed global South to the level of the developed global North. That is impossible for the simple reason that the current “golden billion” cannot be turned into the “golden eight billion” – i.e., the consumption standards of the Western middle class cannot be adopted by all humankind, because that would tax our planet’s environment beyond measure and thus condemned it to irreversible degradation. It is also impossible because the liberal system is no longer as efficient as it once was. The North is gradually losing its former monopoly on “modernity,” so the South is regarding it less and less as an absolute pattern to follow. Moreover, the geographic boundary between North and South is becoming increasingly tenuous. The North is penetrating the South through the megapolises of South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America through new economic sectors and new consumption models. The South is penetrating the North in the form of migration flows, new lifestyles, and its religions and cultures. Neither the North nor the South can fence themselves off from each other. If humankind fails to agree on a synthesis of civilizations, Globalization 2.0 might end as pitifully as Globalization 1.0.