The World Bank Development Research Group based in Kuala Lumpur is organizing its third international conference, with the theme Globalization: Contents and Discontents. The conference aims to bring together policymakers and academics to discuss the consequences of various aspects of globalization including trade, migration, financial flows, cultural exchanges and the diffusion of ideas.
For at least twenty years, scholars have debated the pros and cons of globalization. Jagdish Bhagwati, Anne Krueger, and others have made compelling arguments in favor of reducing trade and migration barriers to improve economic growth, and to have it more equitably distributed. The sociologist Saskia Sassen in her 1998 collection of essays Globalization and Its Discontents raised doubts, saying that it resulted in “hyper” mobile capital which has changed the nature of sovereignty and heightened the salience of inequality. Joseph Stiglitz, in his 2002 book with the same title, critiqued how globalization was managed by international financial institutions and argued for policies that gave greater importance to the interests of individual countries. The anthropologist Arjun Appadurai has influentially theorized that globalization is a multi-dimensional process that is not just about financial flows and trade but also about cultural flows and the exchange of ideas. The historian C.A. Bayly borrowed from this perspective to understand how previous waves of globalization led to the Birth of the Modern World. David Autor and Pinelopi Goldberg are some of the leading representatives of research that employs careful econometric analysis to examine the effects of globalization on macroeconomic conditions, labor markets, and inequality. More recently, Dani Rodrik has reframed the debate as being about “smart globalization” versus “maximum globalization,” an approach that is cognizant of the winners and losers from the powerful forces unleashed by globalization.
The goal of this conference is to revisit these and other issues to understand the processes underlying globalization and how they may, or may not, shape a better world. The conference will be anchored by keynote presentations by noted experts: Shanta Devarajan (Senior Director for Development Economics at the World Bank), William Easterly (Professor of Economics at New York University) and JP Singh (Director of the Center of Cultural Relations at the University of Edinburgh). The organizing committee is headed by Norman Loayza and Vijayendra Rao, Lead Economists with the Development Research Group.