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Reflections on the history of globalisation

By Jacques de Larosière

Jacques de Larosière, former general manager of the IMF then governor of "La Banque de France" delivers us his reflections on the history of globalisation.


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We all live in a globalising world and we sometimes forget that the world we had between 1850 and 1914 was also very intensely integrated, and that was true for capital movements, trade, immigration and information.

If you look at the stock of foreign capital related to the GDP of the developing countries in 1914 you see that the figure was some 30% whiles the figure today is only 20%. It's also true for immigration (9 million immigrants to the United States during the decade 1900-1910 against 7 million today). And the trade integration, although it was less advanced in terms of exports to the GDP than it is today, was extremely significant and this was all the more important that there was one international currency at the time which was the gold standard.

This economy of the 19th century and the early 20 th century also created tensions and difficulties which are very comparable to the ones we know today. For instance, the european agriculture, which was facing imports at very low prices coming in particular from America, Australia, Canada...had to face very deep crises which have led to rural immigration and in some cases great poverty. One can also say that the importation of goods produced at very low cost in advanced countries has led to very strong oppositions to globalisation at the time. You had protectionist tendencies in the United Kingdom, but also in France in the agricultural sector. You also had periods of tension in the United States, for instance the abandonment of the gold standard from 1862 to 1879, and the anti-immigration sentiment was rather generally felt. It remains none the less that those sort of 65 years have been extremely beneficial to the general economic situation of the world. The world experienced at that time the highest growth rate that it ever did, and this allowed some countries like Canada, Australia and countries in latin america to catch up in terms of standards of living, the most prosperous countries of the so called west. Some of these' countries very poor in the 1870's had even out performed some european western countries in 1900. And although colonisation was the name of the day in Africa, it knew an important development at the time.

In spite of these successes the globalised world fell apart in a few weeks in a very brutal fashion in 1914.
The fact is that economic nationalism prevailed after the war during the two decades before the second(...)


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