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Globalisation and Ideology in Britain

Globalisation and Ideology in Britain: Neoliberalism, free trade and the global economy

Craig Berry
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Globalisation and Ideology in Britain
    Book Description:

    The 'globalisation' concept has become ubiquitous in British politics, as it has in many countries of the world. This exciting new book examines discourse on foreign economic policy to determine the impact of globalisation across the ideological landscape of British politics. The book critically interrogates the assumption that the idea of globalisation is derivative solely of neoliberal 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 neoliberalism and globalisation, it 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, the book examines how responses to the global financial crisis have been shaped by globalisation discourse, and upholds the value of ideology as an analytical concept able to mitigate debates on the primacy of material and ideational explanations in political economy. It will be of vital use to students and scholars of global economic change, financial crisis, the state, the impact of globalisation on national governance, and those interested in ideological change.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-420-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Preface and acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. List of abbreviations
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    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. Gordon Brown’s speech to the Labour Party conference in 2008 – amid a worldwide financial crisis originating on Wall Street and intense political pressure on his position as prime minister – proclaimed that

    each generation believes it is living through changes their parents could never have imagined – but the collapse of banks, the credit crunch, the trebling of oil prices, the speed of technology, and...

  6. 1 Globalisation studies, the materialist bias and the ‘third wave’
    (pp. 11-39)

    In surveying globalisation discourse, this book’s main purpose is to analyse the idea of globalisation and its invocation by real-world political actors. As such, the term itself is appraised as anideologicalconcept. However, the idea of globalisation has a second life; that is, in the less-real world of academic research. In the social sciences, globalisation functions as ananalyticalconcept, whether as shorthand for something discovered in the socio-economic universe, or as something that must itself be sought, tested, theorised and so on. This has given rise to what has been termed narrowly as ‘globalisation theory’, more broadly as...

  7. 2 Political economy and ideology
    (pp. 40-68)

    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 political economy in this regard. Simply, most forms of ideational analysis influential within political economy fail to recognise the ideational realm as a sphere of agency. The chapter will argue that ideology enables this approach.

    First, however, it surveys the...

  8. 3 Competition and change: the case of New Labour
    (pp. 69-98)

    The ideological significance of the rise of New Labour and its conduct in office is often reduced to the question of whether the Labour Party abandoned social democracy and moved to ‘the right’, towards Thatcherism and neoliberalism. Yet the role of the idea of globalisation in these apparent changes – a concept largely absent from the discourses of the Conservative governments of the 1980s and 1990s – has not been fully explored. This chapter examines the communicative discourse surrounding New Labour’s foreign economic policy in government. The department most responsible for foreign economic policy was the Department of Trade and...

  9. 4 Serving the ‘offshore’: the case of International Financial Services, London
    (pp. 99-119)

    International Financial Services, London is a not-for-profit lobbyist organisation for City-based financial services providers (known as British Invisibles until 2000). Its membership is drawn from the largest private sector organisations operating in the City of London, but includes also the Bank of England and the City of London Corporation. The organisation was in fact first established in 1968 by the Bank of England as the Committee on Invisible Exports. It formalised relationships between governmental and private sector (primarily City-based) actors, evolving into the Committee on Liberalisation of Trade in Services, which today forms a distinct portion of the IFSL structure....

  10. 5 The free trade dilemma: the case of the Liberal Democrats
    (pp. 120-143)

    Among the political groups discussed in this book, the Liberal Democrats were the most likely to consciously associate themselves with a particular ideological tradition, that is, liberalism – indeed interviewees claimed to uphold an explicitly liberal approach to globalisation. Of course, this self-identification should not be taken at face value. It does mean, however, that it is necessary to preface a discussion of the Liberal Democrats’ discourse on foreign economic policy and globalisation with a discussion of how the party presented its fundamental values and beliefs. The chapter’s empirical focus is exclusively the Westminster-based party, that is, members of Parliament...

  11. 6 Trade justice and development: the case of Oxfam
    (pp. 144-163)

    Oxfam is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in the world. While it has an organisational presence in many countries, it is a predominantly British-based actor. Whereas IFSL, for instance, provided representation within Britain for predominantly transnational actors, Oxfam enables a transnational political platform for British activists. This orientation may itself say something significant about the organisation’s approach to globalisation. Given Oxfam’s principal focus on trade policy and the WTO in recent years (its high-profile campaigns Make Trade Fair and Make Poverty History both have ‘trade justice’ as their main objective), it is one of the loudest voices within the...

  12. 7 Capitalism’s final phase: the case of the Socialist Workers’ Party
    (pp. 164-190)

    The Socialist Workers’ Party is the largest far-left organisation in Britain. It is also the dominant member of the International Socialist Tendency (IST), a partnership with similar parties in several Western countries. The SWP is usually identified as a Trotskyist party. It is probably more accurately described as neo-Trotskyist, given its origins in Tony Clift’s ‘state capitalism’ thesis (his reinterpretation of the Soviet Union) and subsequent split from the (Trotskyist) Fourth International. Clift eventually established the SWP in its present format in 1977, having evolved through various incarnations. Throughout the 1990s the SWP was established as the dominant player on...

  13. Conclusion: towards a new understanding of globalisation in the ideological landscape of British politics
    (pp. 191-209)

    The preceding five chapters have demonstrated the pervasiveness and importance of the globalisation concept in debates on foreign economic policy within British politics, in the period 1997 to 2009. The idea of globalisation played a crucial role in how the actors studied here interpreted the context of their actions, how they formed policy agendas and how they constructed arguments in support of their agendas. In most cases – in fact, in all cases to some extent – the globalisation idea was weaved into a tapestry of both traditional and novel ideas and policy proposals, creating distinctive approaches to globalisation in...

  14. Index
    (pp. 210-212)