The ‘globalisation’ concept has become ubiquitous in British politics, as it has in many countries of the world. This book examines discourse on foreign economic policy to determine the impact of globalisation across the ideological landscape of British politics. It critically interrogates the assumption that the idea of globalisation is derivative solely of neo-liberal ideology by profiling the discourse on globalisation of five political groups involved in making and contesting British foreign economic policy between 1997 and 2009: New Labour, International Financial Services London, the Liberal Democrats, Oxfam and the Socialist Workers Party. In addition to the relationship between neo-liberalism and globalisation, the book also explores the core meaning of the idea of globalisation, the implications for the principle of free trade, the impact on notions of the state, nation-state and global governance, and whether globalisation means different things across the ideological spectrum. Topically, it examines how the responses to the global financial crisis have been shaped by globalisation discourse and the value of ideology as an analytical concept able to mitigate debates on the primacy of material and ideational explanations in political economy.
The case of International Financial Services, London
This chapter notes that the IFSL is obviously closely associated with neoliberal ideology. It is a membership organisation for financial service providers—the focus here is on its leadership and secretariat. IFSL is strongly committed to trade liberalisation and valorises an open global economy. The second section of this chapter looks at IFSL's understanding of development, trade rules and multilateralism. The third section looks directly at the concept of globalisation and asks what can be inferred from IFSL's use of the term in relation to various issues and policies, focusing in particular on spatial connotations. The discussion considers the implications of the financial crisis upon IFSL's discourse throughout.
This chapter on the Liberal Democrats enables inquiry into whether liberalism in general, rather than its neoliberal offspring, is a stronger influence on globalisation discourse. The focus is on the Westminster-based national leadership. It focuses attention on the individuals most influential on the party's foreign economic policy stance and on British political culture more generally. It is also the case that the most relevant documents were published and indeed authored by the party headquarters in Westminster. This chapter shows that the globalisation concept clearly resonated with many of the Liberal Democrats' commitments in relation to foreign economic policy—particularly free trade, economic freedom and the marketplace and multilateralism.
This chapter notes that New Labour provides an important case study, given that the Labour government was responsible for determining and implementing British foreign economic policy during the period in question. The Labour Party's move to ‘the right’ is one of the most important changes in the ideological landscape of British politics in recent years. The policy focus here is on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and its main successor the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), and to a lesser extent the Department for International Development (DfID), as the bodies responsible for foreign economic policy.
This chapter moves the book's focus to theoretical approaches specifically oriented around the analysis of ideational phenomena. It argues, however, that none is fully able to consider the meaning and implications of the emergence of new ideas such as globalisation. The analytical concept of ideology, especially as understood by political theorists such as Michael Freeden, may be able to help the political economy in this regard. It surveys the main forms of ideational analysis influential within political economy: constructivism, post-structuralism and neo-Gramscianism.
This chapter notes that Oxfam occupies an ostensibly intellectual territory but has been chosen here precisely because it upholds the importance of transnational political action, and because its core campaigning focus is on international trade rules. Related to this, Oxfam appears to maintain a stronger commitment to Kantian or cosmopolitan values than other cases. One of this chapter's main concerns is whether it is possible to support, and provide legitimacy for, the contemporary world trade regime without straying into the intellectual territory of neoliberalism.
After a brief note on the wave thesis, this chapter considers the main articulations of globalisation as a material structural reality. It argues that neoclassical and Marxist political economics cover this orientation, but so too do a range of ostensibly more nuanced ‘spatial’ approaches to globalisation. It then assesses a range of political economy approaches to globalisation that seek to uphold structure/agency synthesis by ‘reclaiming the state’ analytically, arguing that, unless materialism is also eschewed, agency remains beneath structure in the analytical hierarchy. The chapter also turns attention to the ‘third wave’ of globalisation theory, that is, analysis of globalisation as a discursive phenomenon conducted or inspired by Colin Hay.
The concept of ‘globalisation’ has become ubiquitous in British politics, as in many countries of the world. The main political parties all subscribe to the view that globalisation is happening and that it matters. This book surveys the ideological landscape through the empirical lens of foreign economic policy. This chapter introduces the key aims of the book and the five case studies of actors engaged in making and contesting foreign economic policy in Britain. The cases are: New Labour; International Financial Services, London (IFSL); The Liberal Democrats Oxfam; and The Socialist Workers' Party (SWP).
This chapter argues that the SWP is the most politically marginal group studied in this book. The chapter gives insight into how far from the centre of British politics the dominant meanings of globalisation discourse have travelled. Moreover, despite Labour's rightwards shift, the SWP's discourse is born to some extent of the same ideological gene pool as its social democratic relations. As such, this contrast also enables insight into globalisation's relationship with left-wing staples such as the state. The chapter first assesses the relationship between the globalisation concept and the SWP's pre-existing commitment to Marxism. The second section looks at the party's approach to foreign economic policy, noting the impact of the financial crisis on SWP discourse in this regard. Finally, the third section looks at organisational issues such as the relationship between anti-war and anti-capitalism, and the SWP's role in and understanding of the wider transnational movement.
Towards a new understanding of globalisation in the ideological landscape of British politics
This chapter argues that despite the inevitable continuation of political and ideological conflict, globalisation discourse contained a core set of meanings; all actors which employed it, especially in a positive sense, to articulate their perspective necessarily imported these meanings into their ideologies. Moreover, these meanings were not dependent on any particular ideological tradition, including neoliberalism. Although the globalisation concept was, at least to some extent, novel and independent, it has meanings that by necessity favoured some policy positions on foreign economic policy in British politics over others. The chapter summarises the empirical chapters, before presenting in detail six major themes and analytical issues which arise from this study. They are: definitions of globalisation, the status of neoliberalism, images of the state, images of spatiality and the status of universalism, globalisation discourse across the left/right spectrum, and whether globalisation is itself an ideology.