Globalisation simply means that social activities and social consciousness has a worldwide reach. It is not a new phenomenon, and we just can't wish it away. It is a continual process which has been going on for thousands of years in the form of continual intermingling of races, cultures and religions; in form of wars, trade and commerce, mass-migration and so on. These days, we tend to overemphasise the economic aspect of globalisation, but it has other dimensions like political and cultural dimensions, which are equally important.
This worldwide reach could be both good and bad depending on what we are looking at. Take global human rights. This is a concept that is becoming more universal these days. Everybody would recognise it as a positive global process.
We should remember that globalisation is not considered negative everywhere. If you went to South-East Asia, they would talk about it in more positive terms. Sure, some people have been badly affected by globalisation. There are those who are facing unemployment because of IMF programmes. Certainly they have a good reason to be angry. In poorer countries, globalisation is an option and offers hope, but it is also true that it has a tendency to widen that gap between the have and the have-nots. This causes distrust and unrest. Demonstrations against globalisation should be seen as protests against the arrogance of organisations like the IMF which claim that globalisation will bring benefits to everybody. They ignore the fact that this has not been happening in some cases, and they are not willing to accept this. It is this neo-colonial arrogance that sparks off demonstrations.
If globalisation means that the rich countries exploit the poor ones, why do we see most of the protests coming from the rich countries?
Yes, this is an interesting point. Although we see protests from the US pressure groups, there have also been serious anti-IMF riots in many Third World countries, and other mass movements against what has been seen as a sell-out of the country. The latest case was Bolivia last autumn, where the President had to flee to Miami.
Throughout its history, the US has seen provincial trade. The competition from countries like Japan is worrying many Americans. So it is not only the poor whose jobs are threatened, but also the rich. Hence they resent globalisation. One very important and interesting aspect of globalisation is the emerging form of new radical youth culture. It does not really know what kind of future society it wants, but is very hostile to the neo-liberal economic paradigm. These young people are not as insular as the earlier generations, and that is perhaps because of the television, and other mass media. They are more aware of not only their own rights, but also of the rights of the unfortunate multitude of peoples around the world. They have a much more international outlook. They believe everyone has a right to live. That's why we saw so many war protests against the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions recently.
The negative aspect of globalisation does not seem to have manifested itself in the Scandinavian countries. How have they managed to avoid it?
Scandinavian countries have managed rather well. Latest ranking by the management body organising the World Economic Forum in Davos shows that Sweden and Finland are on top of global competitiveness. Scandinavian countries have shown that high dependence on world trade and a competitive capitalistic enterprise can be combined with an egalitarian distribution of income, and social welfare healthcare and general equality. It appears that an open economy is not necessarily unequal.
How do you see the world 25 years from now?
I guess what we can say is that India and China will play a much larger role in the world. Another important factor would be the success or failure of the European Union. So far it has emerged as a major player but with the emergence of other significant players, we can't be sure how the EU will fare.