Throughout the summer, Les Roches students had the privilege of attending a series of insightful and thought-provoking lectures by political scientist Professor Yves Schemeil, who lectures at Sciences Po Grenoble. Now, with the help of journalist Stuart Pallister, we can share with you the highlights from these sessions. This is the first of five features that will give you a fresh perspective on our world…
“Yes, we can overcome these difficulties and take this crisis as an opportunity to reset the system.”
Professor Yves Schemeil began his 16-session course on ‘The World After 2020’ with these words, echoing Barack Obama’s slogan “Yes, we can”.
Prof. Schemeil, a specialist in global and comparative politics, told students that “resetting the system means we are not going to de-globalize. We are not going to have de-growth”.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, there had been increasing calls for politicians and business leaders to slow the pace of economic growth due to the climate emergency. Prof. Schemeil said such calls for ‘de-growth’ were not new as this had “already happened in the ‘70s during the energy crisis because of the price of oil which skyrocketed at that time. So, this is an old story”.
“We have to make globalization acceptable”
However, he continued, “It’s impossible to abandon the idea that we’ll need growth because if we don’t have growth, we can come back to a state of poverty – or at least a number of pockets of poverty – and the related deprivation of a number of people who feel frustrated or even cheated because they haven’t reached a stage of economic development in which they would enjoy a better life and some welfare if needed.
“We have to make globalization acceptable,” Prof. Schemeil added, while acknowledging it will be difficult to get everybody on board everywhere. However, he noted that it should be fairer than it had been in the past.
“So, the new mantra for people who are cosmopolitan rather than entrenched in their national origin, is that we have to accept the idea that states will delegate more powers to international organizations.” We should prefer collaboration over competition, he said, even though collaboration entails sacrifices.
“We should also rethink economics, because we are in a perilous time and possibly capitalism isn’t going to be fully abandoned, but rather reformed and improved because quite a number of things are out of control.”
Quality should take precedence over quantity “and we should combine fairness and freedom”. This has also become the motto of the World Trade Organization as it tries to engage the developed global north and developing global south, as well as large economies and tiny nations.
Prof. Schemeil then asked, somewhat rhetorically, is it time for globalization to be reset, since it has been effectively halted by the pandemic?
“Globalization may be stopped; but if it is, we’re all going to suffer. It’s not exactly an opportunity to go back to times where people couldn’t travel. We should ask ourselves is globalization going to be stopped by the pandemic, or what?” The ‘or what’ is important, he said, as there are other options and solutions.
Globalization in waves
Globalization is regarded as a problem because it is viewed by some as a source of division, creating tensions between nations. During his course, Prof. Schemeil outlined several waves of globalization over the centuries (and you can read more about these in future reports).
“But, in our present time, it’s massive and intense, as well as a contraction of time and space. This means you can do things nearly simultaneously in two very remote parts of the world.”
This compares with previous eras when it may have taken someone a week or two to cross the Atlantic by ship.
“Globalization is also a source of contradictions,” Prof. Schemeil said, highlighting a book by British journalist David Goodhart, which discusses the differences between cosmopolitans or citizens of the world and those from ‘somewhere’ who are attached to a particular location or community. This growing gap between the two was laid bare in the Brexit referendum and in Trump’s presidential campaign. “This is a confrontation between two attitudes to ideology and lifestyles,” he noted.
There have clearly been “winners and losers of the globalization process”. This, then, leads to a number of questions: will winners share with losers? Will developed states share with developing countries? And the last one, and probably most important of all: are international organizations able to support sharing?
“We cannot do it on our own”
Prof. Schemeil’s answer is in the affirmative, but in his view collaboration will be needed. “We cannot do it on our own – nobody and no state, even the most powerful, can handle these issues alone.”
In particular, collaboration is needed in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as health is a global public good which has no market value but has to be produced for everyone worldwide simultaneously. As states are unable to do this, “there is no alternative but to delegate this capacity to international organizations”.
During his series of webinars, Prof. Schemeil would return again and again to the issue of globalization; but his message was clear: globalization does have its downsides, but it is will continue to evolve much as it has done over the centuries, if not millennia, because he believes nations need to work together through international organizations in order to be able to tackle global crises such as the current pandemic.
- Keep watching our blog for more insightful instalments from Prof. Schemeil’s course in the coming weeks!
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