« L'Europe se fera dans les crises et elle sera la somme des solutions apportées à ces crises »—Jean Monnet
French Elections, round one: Centre-left out, Centre-right out; Cosmopolitans in, nationalists in. The 2017 French elections seem, prima facie, a textbook case of the death of the traditional Right/Left divide that many have forecasted since the end of the Cold War.
Yet, the Right/Left divide is not dead, it’s sleeping. Globalization has sent it in hibernation, but not yet killed it. To be sure, the rise of globalized markets and partially globalized societies constitute the ultimate threat to the effectiveness of domestic political action. While, for initial levels of globalization, the economic might irradiating from open markets may strengthen the capabilities of domestic policy-makers, higher degrees of globalization render domestic action increasingly inefffective. Redistributive and social welfare policies – classical object of contention between the Left and the Right- are particularly vulnerable, since economic globalization implies increased competition on the fiscal, regulatory and labour costs frequencies of the economic spectrum. In these fields, globalization has made political action at national level ineffective at best, redundant otherwise. Politics and economics should, in principle, progress hand-in-hand (50° line in figure 1**) but they clearly haven’t.
Of course, two solutions are obviously in sight: either addressing hyperglobalization by scaling-up political and regulatory competences, or addressing the capability shortages of nation states by scaling globalization back. The majority of western people, with all their cognitive limitations, economic insecurities and “voting by the belly”, get it pretty well and they are starting to align their electoral action accordingly. The new cleavage does not therefore concern, foundamentally, social preferences on redistribution, but where the political action is to be relocated: whether politics shall be globalized to keep up with the markets, or whether the markets should be scaled back to the point they left the politics behind. The new cleavage, thus, is “cosmopolitanism” versus “nationalism”.
Does it mean that the right/left divide is dead? not at all. But in powerless nation-states, that divide has little sense since no real space of action is left anyway. Thus, the “left/right” divide is not dead, but suspended till further notice; we will have to come to a general agreement concerning the milieu, the level of the political action, and follow suit on market structures; once we globalize politics, or once we re-nationalise the economies, the right/left divide will return prominent. Which in turn requires coming to an agreement concerning how much societal preferences, ethnicities, languages and group identities are exogenously defined (and thus, forever constraining our capacity of moving towards a united Humanity) or whether, instead, they are socially constructed and thus, through mutual learning process, will increase their rate of convergence.
** Update: since I have received quite a few requests to elaborate on the model, a dedicated blog entry to the theories will be released soon. The issue that seems to concern the readers the most is the “50° degree line”. The rationale for it is simple: it assumes that preferences for the degree of regulation of the market is exogenous to the level of global market integration. Meaning that if you have a preference for environmental protection built-in in the production regulations, this remains independent in whether the good is originated domestically or abroad. If this is true (i.e., that regulatory preferences are exogenous to the degree of openness) increases in openness not matched by increased supranational regulatory powers will result in unwanted hyperglobalization.
Microgravity environment for social thinkers