Back to the 80s? Globalization and economically-driven jingoism

October 19, 2007

The latest ‘Chinese toothpaste’ panic and the way ‘China’ is constructed in the American public discourse reminded me of another episodes of economically driven or perhaps, economically reflected jingoism, that of the 1980s American car industry (see, for example, here and here). There are many similarities between what we are experiencing now with regard to ‘Chinese Import’ in general and between the ‘Japan is going to overtake Detroit’ of the 1980s. A quick look at both cases shows that transformation process took place whereby products, production methods, wholesale and retail practice were reduced into a national character. Hence, those were not Toyota or Nissan who were threatening the dominance of GM or Ford in the American auto market. Instead, those Japanese’ were gaining dominance over ‘an American industry’. Of course, the social and, indeed, societal processes that unfolded were much too complex for a blog post. Nevertheless, the fact that we see again, 20 years after that wave of jingoism, the emergence of another one should raise some question marks about the omnipotent power that we tend to assign to global economic factors. After all, if globalization in general and ‘the global economy’ in particular have gained dominance, why does the question of where exactly the cars or the toothpaste come from make headlines?

2 Responses to “Back to the 80s? Globalization and economically-driven jingoism”

  1. danielbeunza Says:

    While there is little than I can add to this appropriate rejection of economic nationalism, it seems to me that the anti-Chinese sentiment may reflect a different, and financial dynamic. I am referring to the constant state of recombination and creative destruction that has taken place in American industry manufacturing since the 1980s. It used to be hostile acquisitions, but nowadays it is private equity. And the case of Chrysler and Cerberus is only the last example of it. What is it about the state of American manufacturing (or about the incentive system at Wall Street) that has put car-making under control of people who work in an office on Park Avenue?


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