There are few topics in contemporary international relations that attract more nonsense than the notion of globalization. Much of this nonsense comes from the pen of theorists of ‘hyperglobalization’, many of whom work in business schools and write for a particular class of high-flying business executives (Held et al. 1999). Only such a person, for example, could write of the emergence of a ‘borderless world’ (Ohmae 1990). The world may seem borderless to people who turn left when they board an airliner, but one would not want to have to explain, much less defend, the notion to the millions of refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers who find themselves shunted from one holding facility to another while their fate is determined. In fact, since 9/11, new security arrangements have meant that even top business executives are mildly inconvenienced when they cross borders, although passengers to the UK who land in private jets at Northolt Airport still have an easier time of it than the rest of us who use nearby Heathrow. This ‘globaloney’ is extremely irritating, but almost equally misleading is the characteristic professional deformation of the IR scholar, which is to deny that anything ever changes, or indeed could change this side of the apocalypse. It may well be that certain things about human beings do not change and so, say, Thucydides or Hobbes are still useful guides to the darker side of social life, but it would be truly extraordinary if the momentous changes in the way ordinary people live worldwide did not have at least some impact on international relations and the theories that are developed to understand these relations. The task, then, is to keep a cool head; that is, to acknowledge change but also to recognize continuity and all the time remember that this is an unequal and divided world – things that seem important to the rich and powerful are unlikely to be read in the same way by the poor and weak, and any account of globalization that does not place this fact continually before us will be radically deficient.
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