From global to local The making of things and the end of globalization

Finbarr Livesey

Book - 2017

"This brilliantly original book dismantles the underlying assumptions that drive the decisions made by companies and governments throughout the world, to show that our shared narrative of the global economy is deeply flawed. If left unexamined, they will lead corporations and countries astray, with dire consequences for us all. For the past fifty years or so, the global economy has been run on three big assumptions: that globalization will continue to spread, that trade is the engine of growth and development, and that economic power is moving from the West to the East. More recently, it has also been taken as a given that our interconnectedness--both physical and digital--will increase without limit. But what if all these ideas are What if everything is about to change? Indeed, what if it has already started to change but we just haven't noticed? Increased automation, the advent of additive manufacturing (3D printing, for example), changes in shipping and environmental pressures, among other factors, are coming together to create a fast-changing global economic landscape in which the rules are being rewritten--at once a challenge and an opportunity for companies and countries alike."--Jacket.

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2nd Floor 337/Livesey Checked In
New York : Pantheon Books [2017]
Main Author
Finbarr Livesey (author)
First American edition
Physical Description
ix, 210 pages ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Go Ease, Young Man?
  • 2. From Putting Out to Getting Out
  • 3. "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot," or How We Will Make
  • 4. All Hail Our Robot Overlords
  • 5. Getting from A to NA in a Hilly World
  • 6. Manufacturing the Environment
  • 7. Looking Through the Other End of the Telescope
  • 8. Mapping the Fracture Between the Physical and the Digital
  • 9. The Changing Politics of Manufacturing
  • Epilogue: The Post World
  • Notes
  • Select Bibliography and Further Reading
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Livesey, a Cambridge lecturer on politics and international studies, puts forth the thought-provoking and disruptive premise that globalization is not the way of the future. He posits accepted wisdom on globalization's victory as misleading and argues that, instead of being in the midst of an ever-expanding world economy, societies are operating on an economic model that became obsolete over the past few decades. As evidence that globalization is already on the decline, he cites the United States's increased tariffs on foreign goods and current pledges to end trade deals, and the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union. In addition, he cogently points out one downside of globalization's ascendancy: what he calls the "hollowing out of the industrial common," in which skills and infrastructure leave a country along with outsourced manufacturing jobs. To bring to light a positive alternative to this trend, Livesey discusses how localization in manufacturing is already taking place, with a print-on-demand machine at the Harvard Bookstore and a process currently under development at Wake Forest University for creating artificial human organs rather than relying on donations. Livesey's insightful and reflective work makes a convincing argument that the economic landscape of the future is already being significantly reshaped. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Kirkus Book Review

Just as Francis Fukuyama was wrong about history, this book of geopolitical wonkery has it, so all our assumptions about globalization are mistakenand, perhaps worse, woefully out of date.What if the free trade models that hold that capital, commodities, and labor should move at will from country to country are wrongif, that is, they proceeded from "an outmoded theory of comparative advantage"? That outmoded theory has, after all, resulted in the flow of manufacturing jobs from Oshkosh to Harbin as well as offshoring, outsourcing, multinationalizing. Livesey (Politics and International Studies/Cambridge Univ.), who notes that his own family stretches across the world's time zones, posits that there are any number of good reasons why, in the near future, economic players should question received wisdom and realign accordingly. For one thing, he writes, the near-future economy is likely to be much more highly automated than it is today, meaning that most labor will be done by machines rather than cheap workers in the developing world. The need will be for highly skilled workers to direct and service those machines, and in this regard there is no penalty for manufacturing work to stay close to home. In such a scenario, domestic markets would need to deepen. As the author points out, the in-China market for iPhones is now greater than the market for that commodity in the U.S., so it's not a stretch to see this happen, even if China "will no longer be able to depend on its role as producer to the world to continue its development." In a world of 3-D printers and robots, Livesey cautions, international trade will continue but likely with a more regional than truly global emphasis. The argument, accessible and without jargon, is more complex than the simple-minded anti-trade pact economic nationalism that has come to the fore in recent months, but it may still comfort everyone from Occupy Wall Street to the West Wing. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An excerpt from Chapter 1: Go East, Young Man?   For the past thirty years or more, the global economy has been run based on three big assumptions: that globalization will continue to increase, that trade is the route to growth and development, and that economic power is moving from the West to the East. More recently, it has been taken as a given that our levels of interconnectedness--both physical and digital--will rise without limit. But what if some or all of these assumptions are wrong? What if everything is about to change? Indeed, what if the global economy has already started to change its rules, but we just haven't noticed? This is a story that is hard to tell. When there have been thousands if not millions of books, articles and academic papers claiming that globalization is the only game in town, saying that it isn't so may lead to me being put to the back of the class. If you are to believe much that is written on the evolution of the global economy, we have arrived at the equivalent of Fukuyama's (in)famous End of History, but this time for companies.1  The caricature version of Fukuyama's thesis was that liberal democracy had won out over all other forms of political organization. Communism had fallen, socialism was nowhere to be seen, there were no more challengers left on the field. Twenty-five years later what was an irresistible thesis had fallen from grace. "Today, it's hard to imagine Fukuyama being more wrong."2 Globalization has become something analogous, portrayed as the end of economic history in many articles. In the common currently accepted version of the story of our world economy, offshoring of production to Asia by the developed economies came, made and won. The specter of China in particular looms large, with millions of cheap workers, huge industrial cities created instantly where there was nothing and a scale of ambition that seems to dwarf that of the West. For many commentators, politicians and economists this is a game that is already over. In their eyes we've seen a permanent deindustrialization of the West and economic power has shifted significantly and permanently eastward. But sometimes the stories that seem the most secure are actually fading away from the inside out. Our faith in the shining city on a hill, the project of American democracy, appears to have been significantly tarnished through the presidential election campaign of 2016. The long running Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis that it has spawned have challenged our ideas of progress and the march of peace through democratization. And there are new voices questioning whether we've really settled on this new global economic order, questioning whether we are telling the right story about the world economy as we move further into the new century. These are the voices that will be heard in this telling of the global economy. The core argument of this book is that the accepted interpretation of the future of globalization is misleading and awed. We are running the global economy on a model that went out of date without anyone noticing at some point in the past decade. But working as if continuing globalization (or hyper-globalization for some) is the only show in town opens us all up to huge risk, potentially as dangerous as the financial crash of 2008 that brought the world economy to its knees. The Titanic provides an unexpected metaphor for this phenomenon. Apparently, the most senior officer to survive its sinking, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, said on his deathbed that there had been an order to steer away from the iceberg but that it had been misinterpreted. If true, how could such a thing have happened? Left is left or in this case, port is port--surely? Maybe not. At the time of the Titanic 's maiden voyage the shipping industry was going through major changes as sail was giving way to steam. With that came a change in how ships were steered, from tiller to wheel. Why is that important? Well, with a tiller you steer away from the direction in which you want to go, whereas with a wheel you steer toward it. So the order the captain would have given to turn to port on a steamship such as the Titanic was the exact opposite of that used on a sailing ship. And the helmsman may have misunderstood his command. e order and the execution were carried out in two different languages. This may be just another great tall story to add to the Titanic archive but, whether it is true or not, it highlights the importance of having a narrative that reflects how the world works today, rather than how it worked yesterday. For if the story or shorthand we carry in our heads is out of date and wrong it can lead to catastrophic consequences, whether it is the loss of a ship, the greatest recession in a hundred years, or, as this book will suggest, many countries entering an economic wilderness in the coming decades. Out-of-date stories and understandings are everywhere once you start to look, from our private lives up to narratives about the world itself. On a personal level, for how long after a relationship has effectively ended does one of the soon-to-be ex-partners cling to the belief that all is well? And how long do we hold on to a mental picture of ourselves in our twenties when we've long ago passed into our forties or fifties? On a macro level, the world has a long history of out-of-date stories causing more than a little trouble--the long and bloody history of proving that the earth revolves around the sun, the Cuban missile crisis and, of course, every financial crash from the South Sea Bubble to that of 2008, in which many individuals, investors and governments believed wrongly that risk had been designed out of the financial system when the exact opposite was true. It is hard to shake a story once it has become established. But without challenging our world view on a regular basis we run the risk of steering the global economy into another iceberg. Excerpted from From Global to Local: The World of Things and the End of Globalization by Finbarr Livesey All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.