Globalisation, made possible over the past half-century through more speedy and efficient forms of travel (commuting intercontinentally) and telecommunications (mobile technology and fast data transfer through the internet), is the process of interaction and integration among people, companies and governments all over the world. S Guttal (Globalisation, Development in Practice) notes: “As a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, globalisation is considered as a form of capitalist expansion which entails the integration of local and national economies into a global, unregulated market economy”. Removal of cross-border trade barriers has made the formation of global markets easier, many companies benefitting from the potential of new customers and increasing their respective brand footprints. In 2000, the International Monetary Fund identified four fundamental arms of globalisation: trade and transactions, capital and investment movements, migration and movement of people, and the dissemination of knowledge – all very visible over the past few decades. Also visible have been some of the negative aspects suggested by many to be related to globalisation: global warming, cross-boundary water, air pollution and indiscriminate over-fishing of the ocean.

“De-globalisation”, on the other hand, is the process of diminishing interdependence and integration between people, companies and nation-states around the world. The word is widely used to describe the periods of history when economic trade and investment between countries decline (two examples – the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the Great Trade Collapse of 2008/9 and the early 2010’s, the latter happening ironically during a period of globalisation, but perhaps signalling changes to come). Just of late (during this current decade), signs have started appearing that de-globalisation may be gaining some momentum –

  • BREXIT – Britain voting to leave the European Union for a number of stated reasons, among which are the vast sums of money that they are required to contribute to the European Union, their inability to protect their own borders from illegal immigrants, the protection of the own citizens’ jobs, wanting to create their own new trade opportunities without any liabilities that my occur from being a member of the EU, etc.
  • Trump’s “America First” philosophy and agenda – the building of the wall between Mexico and the USA, trade “wars” (note the rhetoric – not trade “negotiations”) with China, closing down the possibility for immigration to the USA, etc.
  • The rise of extremism and intolerance – while terror attacks have slightly decreased in the last while, extremism in other forms is on the increase – often characterised by hate crimes, hate speech, racism, xenophobia, anti-refugee and illegal immigration sentiment, crimes in the name of religion, etc.
  • The demise of pluralism – whilst pluralism sees diversity as a strength, more and more people seem to be viewing diversity as a threat (we want to keep the good of our own culture and not have other cultures coming in to our country and diluting our cultural heritage)
  • The bridling of information – in periods of globalisation, knowledge is disseminated liberally. With the introduction of “fake news” to skew opinion, Russia’s involvement with influencing the democratic electoral process in the USA via all forms of social media, companies like Facebook and WhatsApp being held to account regarding their data encryption policies, and even Vladimir Putin calling for rappers to be censored, there seems to be a renewed look at information protocols, protection and safety in this digital age.
  • A hesitancy to invest in many of our world’s countries – cross-border investments have slowed down all over the world and insecurity plagues the international monetary markets.

Are we on the verge of de-globalisation? The signs certainly point that way. De-globalisation is destabilising and produces insecurity. 21st Century leadership is going to be challenging, to say the least, if we are to achieve a sustainable future. Some of the characteristics needed by leaders of today include the following: agility, flexibility, speed to perceive opportunity, the ability to lead change well, the ability to articulate vision and also the ability to listen well. Most importantly, 21st Century leaders need to demonstrate that they care authentically.

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