Will Globalization be a Victim of Imploding Economies?

Last Updated Oct 28, 2008 2:15 PM EDT

BNET readers usually have a lot to say about globalization, especially when it comes to outsourcing jobs to other countries. So those of you who see globalization as more threat to national strength than a positive might take some solace from Harvard professor Dani Rodrik.

Although supportive of globalism, Rodrik believes that the unfolding economic crisis may check its expansion. In a recent interview he observes:

"I think what that is going to lead to is not necessarily a major backlash or an overnight reversal, but a gradual erosion of those principals -- of multilateralism, open economic borders -- that over time could be quite dangerous."
He says policy leaders and economists need to arrive at a consensus around "what kind of globalization we want, what kind of institutions come with it and how can we reinvent our global economic arrangements. Because they do need reinvention."

It's an interesting observation. And we've seen this before in other contexts. When commidity food prices started to overheat the last few years, more and more countries began to sing the "self-sufficiency" song. China, for one, now aims for 95 percent self-sufficiency to feed its own citizens and keep prices stable.

Problem is, solving a growing demand worldwide for food that could double in 40 years calls for countries to work together to share resources and serve markets in need. (The increasing demand reflects changing diets as much as population gowth.) A bunch of nations looking out for only their own citizens leaves little left over to ship to countries that rely on imports.

Do you think our rapid rate of globalization is going to become unplugged in this downturn? Is that a good thing? Or is coordinated global action the best way through this recession?

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.