Globalisation: heralding the end of the developmental state?

Is globalisation undermining the policy autonomy of developing countries? Are democratic deficits being created when the demands of internationally organised neo-liberal elites conflict with popular preferences and concerns? What are the implications of this for the poor?

A paper by the Institute of Development Studies reviews the debates on the impact of globalisation on the role of the state in development. Arguing that globalisation has to be understood historically and as a political process, it warns against simplistic assumptions about northern ‘winners’ and southern ‘losers’. Options may be constrained, and there may be more policy choices for some governments than for others, but states are likely to retain some autonomy and capacity to determine the organisation of national economies.

Some parts of the state have internationalised more than others and are more subject to the disciplines of global markets. States should not be seen as unified but as a set of competing bureaucratic jurisdictions. For example, trade and commerce ministries often seek to enhance market access while agriculture and environment ministries promote regulation of the worst effects of liberalisation. There is a growing disconnection between policy-makers enthusiastic about the benefits of globalisation and those most directly affected by the changes it produces, who are often poorly mobilised to defend their interests. It may thus not be realistic to expect elites to institute pro-poor interventions to rein in a process that they themselves, as a class, benefit from.

Other key points made by the paper include:

Reaffirming state agency is important for understanding globalisation historically and for engaging in debate about the future possibilities of state action for development. Analysts need to:

‘Globalisation and the future state’, Working Paper 141, Institute of Development Studies, by Peter Newell, 2002 Full document.

Funded by: Department for International Development, UK

id21 Research Highlight: 15 May 2003

Further Information:
Peter Newell
Institute of Development Studies
Sussex BN1 9RE

Tel: +44 (0)1273 678798
Fax: +44 (0)1273 621202
Contact the contributor: P.Newell@ids.ac.uk

Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK

Other related links:
'Pushed aside by globalisation: what hope for war-traumatised Luanda?'

'Globalisation: a threat or a promise for the rural poor?'

'Globalisation: a threat to social policy?'

'Signing up to globalisation: assessing trends in developing country trade'

'New world order? In search of stability for the global economy'

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