FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, the economist Joseph Stiglitz published a book called Globalization and its Discontents (WW Norton, 2002). For Stiglitz, globalisation meant ‘the closer integration of the countries and peoples of the world which has been brought about by the enormous reduction of costs of transportation and communication, and the breaking down of artificial barriers to the flows of goods, services, capital, knowledge and (to a lesser extent) people across borders.’[i] While the global economy has continued to expand, Stiglitz could not foresee the extent to which the movement of people would become a toxic political issue, as refugee flows and draconian measures to prevent them have increased.
Stiglitz was primarily concerned with the impact of globalisation on the world’s poorest countries, but he also acknowledged its impact on democratic institutions. Contrary to the neoliberal belief that economic globalisation would ensure the triumph of Western-style democracies, it appears that democratic institutions everywhere have been weakened by their inability to satisfy an increasing number of voters. (This was remarkably prescient, given Stiglitz was writing before the catalyst of the global financial crisis.)
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