Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lamy: "Démondialisation" is "Reactionary"

"Démondialisation," a word that has been in vogue in certain circles for some time and that has been seized upon as a campaign-defining slogan by Arnaud Montebourg, is denounced as "reactionary" by Pascal Lamy, head of the WTO. Well, if Lamy didn't defend globalization, I guess he'd have to resign, but his argument--that it is technologically determined, by container ships and the Internet--rather than driven by policies and ideas is open to criticism. Technology is what it is, but policies can be modified and ideas can evolve, as we saw yesterday when the European Commission proposed a Tobin tax. Globalization can be shaped, tamed, and regulated, and Lamy would be a better defender of free trade if he recognized this rather than polarize the debate in response to an opportunistic polemic.


Louis said...

Another interesting piece by Zaki Laidi on the same subject:

The piece itself is nothing surprising. The comments, I think, are worth a look. A vast majority of them condemns the article and its message. Laidi is portraited as a lackey of the capital, the representative of internationalized, unsensitive elites, a herald of the conservative right, an academic egghead stuck in his ivory tower. Free trade is the root of all evil, etc etc.

There is no shying away from the social and environmental problems we face in the "globalized" societies we have built. But this kind of reactions and the whole "demondialisation" line does absolutely nothing to help find reasonable solutions to these problems. Hoping for pure political will to just bend things into shape will only get you so far.

And on an aside: the fact that what is basically a defense of protectionism needs to be "rebranded" as "démondialisation" seems weird. This is finding new bottles for old wines. And creating uggly words.

FrédéricLN said...

@ Art: I fully agree. And the word "réactionnaire" is very negative in French (as you know! as it is in the USA, I guess), because it's not only about technology, "le progrès technique", or about personal ethics vs. "décadence": the word "réactionnaire" sets you among the opponents to the French Revolution, to Human Rights, democracy and so on.

Curiously, Lamy's text (so the excerpt published online) ends up with the same conclusion as yours: " Il faut une régulation qui maîtrise les forces en présence. Ce n'est pas la mondialisation qui fait problème, mais l'insuffisance de garde-fous."

"Démondialiser" is "réactionnaire", but "maîtriser les forces en présence" (and the driving force is technology, so Lamy, and I agree) is required!

So, to be progressive requires to put democracy above technology. Great! said...

Dear Art
Pascal Lamy is someone I know and think well of, full disclosure. The piece in le Monde is a sound bite, not a real argument and certainly not a convincing essay. But it is certainly the case that Lamy believes in the positive dimensions of globalization. As you aptly point out, this, beyond his very great competence and probity, is why he is Director-General of the WTO, why he was such a successful European Commissioner for Trade, and why he was such an important actor in the relaunch of the European Union single market. But, and this is what needs to be underline, he is also a firm social democrat, and here his track record is quite as clear. For a very long time now Pascal Lamy has spent time and effort, not least in European social democratic circles, arguing the deep need to "master" globalization through creative political reform, new regulation, and solidarity with the world's very poor. Indeed, one would be hard put to fine anyone at his level of responsibility who has used his voice and influence in these directions more than he has (see, for an earlier illustration, his little book Démocratie Monde, or Google him to check out his many recent writings and speeches). It would be interesting to know how he has worked to "master" globalization in the WTO, but it is really too early for this. But the WTO, once called "medieval" in its workings by Lamy himself, is a member-based organization in which the freedom of action of its Director-General is pretty completely constrained, however. Perhaps one ought to be careful about polemics about "demondialization," Montebourg, and the writings of a few neo-Chevènementistes in the past few months. We do need to think and act very strongly about steering and humanizing globalization. But we need to keep in mind that this deglobalization stuff is being tossed about pretty lightly in what is a chaotic pre-election punchup inside the PS about who will get what nomination and what jobs later if the PS and the French Left can overcome its self-destructive infighting and that lots or irresponsible things have been, and will continue to be, proffered as solutions to France's very real problems. The demondialization flurry, at least on a quick reading, is as much or more populist rhetoric than serious proposal. Lamy is a serious center-left proposer, on the other hand. Give him at least this, then.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Thanks, George, I think that's right on, and I appreciate the background on Lamy, about whom I didn't know much.