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What is a globalist?

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 of life, except within the ideological (and highly debatable) claim that free markets naturally lead to these things.

Justice globalism

In contrast, justice globalism prioritizes establishing fundamental human rights around the world, rooted in democracy, principles of equality and dignity, and international law.

Justice globalists claim universal principles applicable to all societies irrespective of religion or ideology. This view privileges human rights, democracy, and the rule of law as incontrovertible global goods. In bringing all persons under the rule of international laws enforced through national or international courts, the cause of global justice is advanced. Conversely, exceptions to the rule of law weaken justice and undermine global order.”

This is highly related to the global justice movement, which seeks to establish a more equal distribution of resources worldwide. The global justice movement is less concerned with international law, so the two things can’t be considered entirely equivalent.

(If you’re wondering: of all the ideologies on the list, this is the only one that resonates with me. I identify as a justice globalist.)

Religious globalism

From Oxford University Press: “Religious globalisms strive for a global religious community with superiority over secular structures.”

New World Order globalism

There’s a reason the term has become more common post-2016. In right-wing movements lies the idea that there’s a “global cabal of elites” who seek to control the world.

It’s a dog-whistle:

[It] recalls one of the most widespread anti-Semitic stereotypes: that a Jewish cabal secretly controls the world from behind the scenes. It’s a smear popularized by “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a turn-of-the-20th-century anti-Semitic Russian forgery purporting to detail how Jews will use socialism, international institutions and control of the media to take over the world.

After the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last year, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke called it a victory over the “Jewish globalist agenda.” “Jewish globalists” are likewise a favored topic of The Daily Stormer, an anti-Semitic site.

From Donald Trump to Viktor Orban, this rhetoric has been used as a thinly-veiled reference to Jews in an attempt to rile up a racist base. It’s notable that the examples of individuals who are a part of this supposed cabal - for example, the hedge fund manager George Soros - are Jewish.

A note about globalization vs globalism

Globalization can be defined as the rate of expansion of globalism. So whereas globalism is the thing, globalization is the process of getting to the thing.

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Twitter: @benwerd

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