Dr Malcolm Fairbrother, University of Bristol
Why have the governments of so many nations decided to globalize their economies in the last 30 years? The literature on this question is polarized with respect to the impact of democracy. According to some scholars, globalization has been an undemocratic project of elites, while others argue that democracy has been an important impetus to globalization. This presentation will confront these "critical" and "liberal" perspectives with evidence from a qualitative, comparative-historical study of the cases of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. I argue that in these and other cases the weight of the evidence supports the core claim of the critical rather than liberal perspective. But critical accounts come to the right answer for the wrong reasons, overlooking cross-national differences in the politics of globalization, misrepresenting the ideas motivating elites to act, exaggerating the intellectual influence of economists, and underestimating the challenge of organizing business support. I therefore propose a revised elite-based explanation of globalization's rise that rectifies these problems.
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