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Lecture | L-PEG PhD Network Workshop

Global (Economic) Power in Flux? End of Western Dominance?

Thursday 26 November 2020
Virtual (link will be sent to registered participants)


According to the Pew Research Center (2017) , most people in most surveyed countries agreed: “China is overtaking the US as the world’s leading power”.   Kishore Mahbubani, dean of LKY School, National University of Singapore, writes that

“As American & European power recedes, a global resurrection of non-Western attitudes is taking place.” He reports that Prime Minister Modi and his government see the world moving towards a G-3 of US, China and India. Official China proudly agrees:  the CCP Central Committee , October 29, 2020, celebrated “a profound adjustment in the international balance of power.” The prominent blogger, “Chairman Rabbit” (Ren Yi), close to top of CCP, says: Most Chinese “think of US politics as a huge conspiracy to keep China down.” Extending this thought, it is generally believed in development circles that the binary distinction between developed and developing countries ( West and Rest, or North and South) has lost whatever analytical content it may have had. The world has become “multipolar”, with no hierarchical ordering. Developing countries have no coherence as an income bloc.

In contrast, I emphasise how little “catch up” of Rest to West (in average income) has occurred since the “development industry” was created over half a century ago  – despite intense “globalization”, long identified as  a major cause of catch up (as in Martin Wolf’s Why Globalization Works, 2004). Remember, China’s average income (market exchange rates) is only 15% of the US’s in 2020 !    Causes of lack of catch up include (a) GVCs, (b) distribution of patents, (c) distribution of global profits, (d) rule-setting by western states, giving them structural power such that the system works to the West’s advantage “automatically”.  We have to drop the ur-metaphor behind most development thinking – development as marathon race, where the position of each runner is a function of their internal capabilities – and replace it with the seashore metaphor: what happens at any point on a seashore is a function of both (a) the configuration at that point (“Nigeria is poor because of things internal to Nigeria”), and (b) the laws of motion of the tides (“Nigeria is poor because it forms part of the periphery in the Core-Periphery structure of the world system”).

About the speaker:

Robert H. Wade is a Professor of Political Economy at the London School of Economics since 2001. He is the 2008 winner of the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought, thereby joining the ranks of Amertya Sen, Herman Daly, Dani Rodrik and Daniel Kahneman. His book Governing the Market (Princeton University Press, 1990, 2004) on the role of the state in East Asian industrialization won the American Political Science Association’s Best Book/Article in Political Economy award for publications in 1989-1991. His current research has involved analyzing the drivers and manifestations of inequality in the global economy, through studies of financial crises, trends in global poverty, institutions of international financial and trade regulation, and the evolution of ideological currents of ‘neoliberalism’ and ‘globalization.’

Registration: Please register for the talk by emailing Samir Negash at s.m.negash@fgga.leidenuniv.nl.

This talk is organized by L-PEGGED. We are the PhD network of the Leiden-Political Economy Group (L-PEG), aiming to help PhDs and research masters students grow in our respective niches of the political economy research tradition. We accomplish that by giving each other the opportunity to present our work and receive detailed feedback, as well as by inviting outside speakers who can help shed light on a specific topic, current event, method or theory. To join our mailing list, please also contact Samir at the above email address.

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