[Nicola Bullard] The term ‘deglobalization’ spread in debates on globalization after Walden Bello, one of the leading figures of the anti-globalization movement, elaborated the idea in several articles published in 2001. Bello developed the programme most fully in his 2002 book, Deglobalization: Ideas for a New World Economy. There he affirmed that ‘deglobalization … is about re-orienting economies from the emphasis on production for export to production for the local market’.

The idea has earlier antecedents, even if the term ‘deglobalization’ itself was not previously used. For example, in 1933 the economist John Maynard Keynes was thinking along lines of deglobalization when he urged to ‘minimize economic entanglement among nations … let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible and, above all, let finance be primarily national’. Likewise, Bello’s strategy of deglobalization in important respects parallels the earlier work of the Egyptian intellectual Samir Amir, who in 1990 advocated ‘delinking’ and ‘the subordination of external relations to the logic of internal development’.

None of these thinkers has opposed international connections per se. On the contrary, Bello specifies that ‘deglobalization is not about withdrawing from the international community’, and Amin stresses that ‘delinking … is not synonymous with autarky’. Keynes for his part acknowledged that ‘ideas, knowledge, science, hospitality, travel – these are the things which should of their nature be international’. However, advocates of deglobalization argue that top-down and homogenizing processes of neoliberal globalization of the kind witnessed in contemporary history need to be reversed.

Other analysts have used the term deglobalization to describe historical periods rather than as a political programme that opposes neoliberal globalization. For example, economists like Kevin O’Rourke and Jeffrey Williamson have used the term deglobalization in reference to the period 1914-1930, which was marked by a re-emergence of barriers to international trade and emigration following a phase of intensive globalization in 1870-1913. O’Rourke and Williamson take a long-term historical perspective on alternating processes of globalization and deglobalization, warning that globalization cannot be understood in terms of contemporary evidence alone. Likewise, the political scientists Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye identify globalization and deglobalization as contending historical tendencies towards ‘the increase or decline of globalism’.

As developed by Bello, the deglobalization paradigm has several key characteristics. For one thing, it entails the production of goods and services that respond to people’s needs, rather than to the demands created by a corporate-driven consumer culture. With deglobalization, production uses technologies that enhance rather than destroy the community, the environment, and life itself. A deglobalized economy draws most of a country’s financial resources for development from within, rather than being dependent on investment from abroad. These resources would be generated largely through the redistribution of income and land. A policy of deglobalization moreover de-emphasizes growth and maximizes equity in order radically to reduce environmental damage. New accounting systems are adopted that promote environmentally compatible economic policies. The deglobalization approach furthermore acknowledges the centrality of women’s contributions to production and reproduction of economic and social systems. Deglobalization ends the urban-rural divide endemic to capitalist development by re-valorizing agriculture, agricultural communities and agricultural economies. Strategic economic decisions are subjected to democratic choice and not left to the market. The private sector subordinated to state regulation, which is kept firmly under popular, democratic control. The new production, exchange, and distribution complex in a deglobalized world includes community cooperatives, private firms, and state enterprises, while excluding transnational corporations. Deglobalization enshrines the principle of subsidiarity in economic life by encouraging production of goods and services at community and national levels wherever possible. The framework upholds human rights, promotes self-determination, and supports rather than undermines cultural and political diversity.

Critics of this deglobalization paradigm persistently equate it with autarky and protectionism, seeing it as a backward-looking rejection of the “positive” aspects of globalization. To repeat, however, in Bello’s vision deglobalization is not the pursuit of autarky. His thinking is influenced by Third World nationalism (as a response to First World imperialism), which regards the state as an important bulwark against the forces of globalization. But he does not oppose international connections and exchanges per se.

Rather, deglobalization is about reversing neoliberal policies of trade and financial liberalization, export-oriented production, privatization and deregulation, particularly as pursued through international trade agreements and international financial institutions. For its advocates, this deglobalization paradigm provides a strategic approach to challenging neoliberal globalization which can be summarised as “deconstructing” the power of global corporations and financial markets and “reconstructing” social relations, communities, the environment, and the local economy. Deglobalization thinking shows that alternative worlds are possible.

Bello’s vision of deglobalization has other limitations, though. For example, he does not specify how the state itself might be transformed in the process of deglobalization. He goes beyond traditional Third World nationalism by attempting to integrate feminist and ecological perspectives, but the perspective is not fully developed. In addition, Bello’s approach has not adequately thought through the role in his alternative model of new progressive global networks and organizations. Although he speaks of internationalism and globalization of people, his dominant view is decidedly local and state-centric. Finally, the deglobalization strategy as developed so far has not gone very far in elaborating the kinds of alternative economic systems that might emerge. Patrick Bond has criticized the deglobalization program as a combination of “globalized regulation and utopian localization strategies” without a clear anti- or alter-capitalist perspective.

Nicola Bullard

Focus on the Global South, Bangkok


Amin, Samir. Delinking: Towards a Polycentric World. London: St Martin’s Press, 1990.
Bello, Walden. Deglobalization: Ideas for a New World Economy. London: Zed Books, 2002.
Bond, Patrick. “Deglobalisation? Sure, but…” ZNet, January 12, 2003.
Keohane, Robert O., and Joseph S. Nye. “Globalization: “What’s New? What’s Not? (And So What?).” Foreign Policy. Washington, Spring 2000.
Keynes, J.M. “National Self-Sufficiency,” Yale Review, 22, 4, 1933.
O’Rourke, Kevin H. and Jeffrey G. Williamson. Globalization and History – The Evolution of a Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000.