Harold James


On his book The Creation and Destruction of Value: The Globalization Cycle

Cover Interview of November 09, 2009

The wide angle

Ten years ago, I began writing a book on the phenomenon of globalization, in part in order to try to understand the bitter debate which pitted globalization protesters against international institutions that were attempting to manage the inherently chaotic process of increased flows of goods, capital, and labor.  How permanent and how stable was globalization?

The book that resulted from my reflections then, The End of Globalization, also published by Harvard University Press, in 2001, suggested that globalization was reversible, and that indeed in the interwar period the Great Depression had finally ended the sustained era of globalization that opened up with the steamship and the transatlantic cable in the second half of the nineteenth century.

In that book I also suggested that the anti-globalization protest movement had no widely appealing ideology that was capable of creating a new model of order supplanting globalization.  In that sense the anti-globalization protest movement around the turn of the century was not analogous to the anti-system movements on the left and right that marked the interwar era, those of communists and fascists.

Ten years later, there is an obvious urgency about the crisis.  The complaint against global institutions is not that they are too strong or too interventionist, that they detract from national sovereignty, but that they are too ineffective in the face of a financial crisis of a magnitude whose only precedent is in the Great Depression.