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Long live Vicky Pollard! Or maybe not.

Long live Vicky Pollard! Or maybe not.

22.1.2013 16:23

We were talking about globalization on Monday. Social scientists argue that economic globalisation is only one aspect ?though the main one? of globalisation. Economist Takis Fotopoulos used "political globalization" to refer to the emergence of a transnational elite and a phasing out of the nation-state as far as economic sovereignty is concerned. "Cultural globalization" is a term describing the worldwide homogenization of culture by for example the American movies which seem to hold a worldwide appeal from Puerto Montt to Islamabad. "Social globalization" refers to the homogenisation of today’s’ mode of life which is based on an individualist and consumerist culture.

Neoliberals adopt an unqualified positive stand towards globalisation. They maintain that globalisation is beneficial to everybody, as well as to the environment, because it allows healthy competition to develop and, consequently, it leads to improvements in efficiency and the spreading not only of knowledge, but also of the benefits of growth, through what they call the ‘trickle-down effect’.

Antagonists view one or more globalizing processes as detrimental to social well-being on a global or local scale. This includes those who question either the social or natural sustainability of long-term and continuous economic expansion, the social structural inequality caused by these processes, and the cultural assimilation that underlies such processes. Critics also point to the challenges which include growth of risk associated with the speed and power of technological innovation, the concentration of power, and the extent to which the move towards the creation of global free markets leads to instability.

For countries in the vanguard of the world economy, the balance between knowledge and resources has shifted so that knowledge has become the most important factor determining the standard of living, more than land, than tools, than labour. The World Bank has acknowledged in its 1998 report that today's most technologically advanced economies are truly knowledge-based. The gaping divide between rich and poor nations and within the nation states appears to be accelerating under 'knowledge capitalism'.

The evidence of the past twenty-five years or so indeed shows that the more open and flexible the markets become the greater the degree of concentration of income and wealth in a few hands. According to official UN data, the income gap between the fifth of the world’s people living in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest, which was 30 to 1 in 1960 has doubled to 60 to 1 by 1990, and by 1997 it was 74 to 1. Within these countries, the gap between the richest and the poorest has widened, too.

Globalization has created a new breed of individual, one that belongs to the transnational elite. The transnational elite consists of the economic elites, that is people who work as executives of large multinational corporations and their local affiliates and who play the dominant role within the global market economy. There are also the transnational political elites, the globalising bureaucrats and politicians in Brussels or elsewhere, and the transnational professional elites, employed in various international think tanks, research departments of major international universities, and the mass media. These people are all well educated, often internationally and are perfectly mobile, often internationally. They don’t necessarily align their interests with those of their home countries, although they don’t hesitate to use the nation state push and pull power to enforce their interests.

Few, for instance, are aware of the European Round Table of industrialists (ERT), an alliance of the chief executives of Europe’s largest companies, whose purpose is to formulate policies for adoption by the European Commission. Thus, the Single European Act, which opened and liberalised markets in the European Union, was framed not by the EU but by Wisse Dekker, the president of Philips and subsequently chairman of the ERT, whose proposal became the basis of the EU’s 1985 white paper. Also, the EU enlargement plan, approved by the European heads of government in Helsinki at the end of 1999, which required new entrants to deregulate and privatise their economies and invest massively in infrastructure designed for long-distance freight, was mapped out by Percy Barnevik, head of the Swedish company Investor AB and chairman of an ERT working group.

Jeff Chu pointed out in the Time magazine in 2004 that the brain drain, i.e. migration of educated and skilled workers, from Europe to the United States means that some 400,000 European science and technology graduates now live in the U.S. and most have no intention to return to Europe. In fact, nearly fourteen million immigrants came to the United States in 2000-2010. Czechs have never been big on leaving their motherland but if you walk into any café in London, chances are that you will be served by a Slovak or a Lithuanian. Brain drain has become a huge socio-economic problem in the Baltics. In Lithuania, out of 3.3 million inhabitants some 670,000 mostly well-educated young people left the country. In neighboring Latvia, the number of inhabitants dropped from 2.3 to 1.9 million in the last ten years. While the remittances which they send home from their waiter, but also doctor jobs in London may pad the local spending power, the long-term demographical consequences of the wholesale emigration look fairly dire for the little countries up north.

That much about the educated classes. What do you have on the other side of the fence? In modern Britain, the working class has become an object of fear and ridicule. From Little Britain's Vicky Pollard to the rise to dubious stardom of Jade Goody, media and politicians alike dismiss as feckless, criminalized and ignorant a vast, underprivileged swathe of society whose members have become stereotyped by one, hate-filled word: chavs. When has the working class gone from 'salt of the earth' to 'scum of the earth'? The truth is that in the modern world, very few developed countries offer any genuine prospects to people who are unable or unwilling to achieve high education and skill set. Despite the very recent revival of manufacturing drive in the USA, there are very few unskilled and basic manufacturing jobs left in our ‘knowledge society’.

Where does it leave a little open economy like the Czech Republic? Education, innovation! The only hope for a sustained long term development of a country like ours is to maintain and support, whether through state budget, linking of academia with business or pure philanthropy, higher education and innovative industries. Support for academic research and development in the field of nano-technologies, medicine, bio-technologies. Create an eco-system which will foster innovation and allow pioneering research in whatever the field. Because producing cars from imported metals is not going to carry us very far.

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