Rodrik Advocates ‘Globalization Without Globalism'

An increasingly global economy doesn’t have to mean the collapse of social institutions within countries, Kennedy School professor and economist Dani Rodrik ’79 argued in a talk held by the Safra Center for Ethics Thursday evening.

Introducing Rodrik, Danielle S. Allen—a Government professor and the director of the Safra Center— emphasized how Rodrik is particularly keen on asking both political and economic questions.

In his lecture, Rodrik outlined the hypothetical tension between economic globalization and democracy using a thought experiment involving two businessmen, one of whom out-competed the other. Rodrik then offered five potential reasons for the businessman’s success.

In one hypothetical, the imaginary businessman brought Bangladeshi workers to the United States—but treated them in a way consistent with Bangladeshi, rather than U.S., labor regulations. Rodrik sought to illustrate how global trade can undermine domestic social norms: while Americans do not bat an eye at buying goods from Bangladesh, he said, they would be outraged if mistreated workers lived in the United States.

“If we are making decisions over these things, it should be decisions that are made openly, and discussed and deliberated,” Rodrik said. “It should be in this form that we are discussing these conditions about what are the gains from trade versus what does it do to our own institutions.”

Rodrik argued that there should be limits to economic globalization, advocating for a “globalization without globalism” that preserves social contracts within countries.

Prior to coming to Harvard, Rodrik received two advanced degrees from and taught at Princeton University. He has published widely on international economic and political economy, and is the president-elect of the International Economic Association.

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