Sunday, May 15, 2016
Milanovic, nativism and methodological nationalism
I apologize to Branko Milanovic because I am reading his last book, "Global Inequality. A New Approach for the Age of Globalization", in a very disorganized way. My only justification of this disorganization is that I attended an advance presentation of the contents at Barcelona before last summer, and I had the privilege to talk to the author after that. I have also presented the main graph of the book to my students in a couple of class groups. In this now famous graph, Milanovic explains how the main losers of globalization have been the middle classes of developed countries, and the main winners have been the middle classes of the emerging countries and the richest one percent in the developed countries. In the book, the author explains the main forces driving these results, both the forces explaining the evolution of within country inequality and those explaining the evolution of inequality among countries. I already knew about some of these explanations, and that is why I went straight to the last two chapters, where Milanovic analyzes the politics of inequality and summarizes some of the main ideas and proposals of the book. Here and there, the author goes back to something that also appears in the rest of his work: the relationship between inequalities and the organization of power and sovereignties. The last chapter questions the methodological nationalism that still guides many of our thoughts, the idea that the nation-state is the main unit of analysis. Of course, politics works mostly still at the national level, but we would do better if we started changing the paradigm to better deal with phenomena that today trascend this level. The national politics is working in worrying ways (and mainstream parties including socialdemocratic parties are at least partly responsible for that) that are very difficult to predict, with the upsurge of populist and nativist right wing parties or candidates in many countries (I missed the Italian Northern League in Table 4.11). When he explains the differences between the USA and other non-European countries and Europe relative to the experience of immigration, he has a wonderful sentence: "...European nation-states have historically been either ethnically homogeneous (...) or, when they were not (as in Spain), the diverse groups have lived next to each other for such a long time that the cultural and normative differences between them would seem rather small to an objective observer." As if realizing that the usual suspects would not like this sentence, he clarifies in a endnote: "I am aware that "objectively" small differences may loom large in the view of people concerned." Read this book.