• Rawi Abdelal


July 15, 2020, Paper, "Every order is a bargain with disappointments and trade-offs. Thus is every order an unstable equilibrium. The first era of globalization, circa 1870-1914, created both international prosperity and domestic instability. That instability was fully realized during the interwar years, which were characterized by financial chaos, virulent populist movements, and war. European and American political leaders learned hard lessons from those decades: that the international order must tolerate a diversity of national capitalisms; and that capitalisms within nations must be tamed in order to made compatible with democracy. A generation later, both scholars and policy makers seemed to have forgotten how important the post-war bargains were for maintaining economic and social stability. Instead, preoccupied by the disappointments of the 1970s, a new pro-market, pro-capital consensus emerged between the center-Left and center-Right. A second post-war international order emerged as a result: a new era of globalization made possible by this “neoliberal” political consensus. The new order was more trans-Atlantic than American, for European political transformations made it possible. This era of globalization created both prosperity and instability, just as the first era had done. Instability took the form again of virulent populism, driven by economic inequality, financial volatility, and a crisis of dignity among those who felt left behind by it. Although we are learning that neither national societies nor the international system can manage the trade-offs of globalization and neoliberalism well enough to avoid a backlash, in fact those lessons were learned once before. The cycle continues: learning, forgetting, and re-learning why these equilibria are unstable. "

Non-HKS Author Website - Rawi Abdelal