Background

IN THE MEDIA: The Globalization of Protest

From violent clashes to ongoing civil unrest, the world seems to have entered a new era of anti-government protest movements. Yet what do most of these have in common?


Anti-immigration sentiments are fueling popular anger in many parts of the world, writes The Economist in its recent issue. The rapidly accelerating pace of globalization has revealed the hidden downsides of a process that was supposed to bring more prosperity and freedom to citizens all over the planet. Though it delivered in many cases, globalization has also led to a growing sense of powerlessness and alienation. Citizens in Western democracies, in particular, increasingly feel that their lives are being controlled by forces outside the bounds of conventional political control. Immigrants have become an easy target for globalization critics bemoaning increased competition for jobs and a loss of national identity.

Yet the economic case for migration remains strong. “As a tool for spreading wealth, open borders make foreign aid look like a child’s lemonade stand,” argues Robert Guest in Borderless Economics. Increasing Wealth is a big issue. But another is economists who tend to have a narrow measure of what matters to individuals, as humans also have an innate need for a sense of belonging. Indeed, Thomas L. Friedman has described the tension between globalization and cultural identity as the defining conflict of our era in his seminal bestseller, The Lexus and the Olive Tree.

What are some of the political solutions that will help countries balance their own citizens’ increased immigrant fatigue with their need to attract foreign labor and hone their moral obligation to help vulnerable refugees? In Exodus, economist Paul Collier offers a highly nuanced picture of the economic, social and political ramifications of migration. He argues that sensible migration policies must respect the needs and interests of the migrants, the countries they leave behind, as well as the indigenous populations of host countries. In Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, journalist and economist Philippe Legrain debunks many of the widely held prejudices about migrants by detailing the many economic and cultural upsides of less restrictive immigration policies.

We invite you to check out our Migration channel to learn more about one of the defining issues of our era.

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