Globalism and the Dialectic of Globalization

This post is part of our symposium on Quinn Slobodian’s Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of NeoliberalismRead the rest of the symposium here. 

David Grewal –


Quinn Slobodian’s Globalists has rightly received praise and critical attention as a groundbreaking study of the ideologies operative in the cloistered domains of international economic law. Indeed, the book has been reviewed favorably by everyone from radical academic critics of global capitalism through to some of the figures responsible for the construction of the neoliberal world order, with some reviews even reposted on the IMF website. Rare is the historical book that can bridge such diverse audiences, providing not just an account of past institutional contestation and reconstruction but the fundaments of today’s politics.

In this post, I want to bring out a dimension implicit in Slobodian’s book but which has not received as much critical scrutiny: the political theory behind what he calls “globalism” or “ordoglobalism” in contrast with what we might call “internationalism.” A confusion about the varieties of cross-border activity and the national politics that each entails is now rampant on the left, with what I believe are increasingly deleterious consequences for democratic and progressive aims of all kinds. A full analysis of these problems is of course beyond the scope of a blog post. Here, I hope merely to suggest the outlines of such a distinction by drawing attention to a key passage in Slobodian’s book to which other interested readers might turn and then to contrast “ordoglobalism” with a prominent form of progressive internationalism that was articulated in the last century. I then want to suggest that the doubling down of ordoglobalism has produced the current and much discussed “crisis of international liberalism” through what I call the “dialectic of globalization” (but which – following Slobodian – I might have called more precisely the dialectic of ordoglobalism).

Continue reading