Photo: Dean Bruce Stronach posing at his office.

Reactions to Globalization

December 21, 2016

TUJ is all about global education. If an American university-style liberal arts education is designed to produce good citizens, then TUJ’s education is designed to produce good global citizens. We believe that by educating people from many different cultures, religions, ethnic groups and nations through mutual interaction, the diversity of the learning environment becomes a major factor in preparing graduates to be ready for the global workplace, and ready to take on the world. It would appear that what we are doing meets an international demand as our undergraduate population continues to grow…from 723 in the fall of 2013 to 1,076 this fall. However, we have to be honest and say that while we know globalization is an inevitable result of the kinds of communication and information technologies I wrote about in the last Dean’s Update, many people still find the idea of globalization threatening.

Although one can point to many reasons for the unexpected election of Donald Trump as the next American president, I believe that it comes down to a combination of two fundamental traditions in American politics—one old, one new. The old tradition is the fundamental distrust of the so-called “elite,” or political and media establishment, by many Americans. Those who know American history can see the recent election as a re-run of the upset of Adams by Jackson in 1824. The newer tradition, one that has been around for about 45 years, is to combine the older distrust of the establishment with the fear of globalization.

But this is hardly an American phenomenon. Recently we have seen the rise of old school nationalism in the Brexit vote, the backlash against the TPP, Putinism in Russia, China disparaging the UN arbitration decision on the Law of the Sea, the German backlash against immigration, and the French reaction to “burkinis,” among many others. The truth is that humans still need to find a place to belong, need a group with which to identify, need the security of the collective. Unfortunately, for thousands of years the best way to define one’s own group is by differentiation from other groups.

When I went to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1974 to study international relations and international law, everyone in the field knew we were at the dawn of a new era of integration and super-state formation in international relations. The end of WWII was only 30 years in the past and most of us, no matter what country we came from, had close relatives who were involved in that global conflict. The ideal of “never again” had real meaning. The role of the World Bank as an international institution that was intended to support developing economies, albeit with colonialist remnants, had real meaning. Trade as a necessary economic mechanism but also as a vehicle for cultural exchange had real meaning. It was also the time when Rachel Carlson was better known than Ayn Rand and ecology, the science of global interrelatedness, was just beginning to be recognized.

But even with all our idealistic enthusiasm for a connected and integrated world, very few of us were really ready to comprehend a system that would supersede more than a modified nation-state system. It has only been 200 years since the foundation of the modern nation-state system was laid down by the Congress of Vienna and only 100 years since the nation-state system became truly dominant through the Treaty of Versailles. These are relatively short spans of time in the history of human political and economic development, but the nation-state system has proved itself to be almost intractable. Is this because it fits the Goldilocks model of human psychology and identification—not too big, not too small—or is it because the institutions are self-perpetuating those psychological bonds through national education and political indoctrination?

Whichever the case may be, the modes of production in today’s world are information and communication technologies, which know no boundaries, and the relative distribution of the factors of production means that there can be no economic development without trade. In addition, the growth of the world’s population, the consequent economic demands, and the use of fossil fuels to sate those demands all mean that neither problems nor their solutions have borders. This was true 40 years ago, and it is even more the case now. There is nothing wrong with the nation-state system as long as the nations realize that their dealings with each other have to be collaborative with multiple win solutions, not zero-sum solutions.

That is why it is so important TUJ students learn from each other that although each may need to find a sense of identity in the self, there is also room to identify with, and empathize with, the other. TUJ is dedicated to doing our part to educate those future leaders who will understand how to manage the reality of globalization.

With best regards,

Bruce Stronach