Globalization and Mass Politics: Retaining the Room to Maneuver

Paul Whiteley, University of Essex

PaulWhiteleyThe constraints on democratic governments imposed by globalization have been an important issue in international political economy for some years. The essence of the debate is whether globalization constrains or facilitates democratic politics and policymaking more generally. Pessimists suggest that to attract capital investment,national policies must converge on a neoliberal mixture of policies in which restrictions are placed on public spending and welfare, eventually producing a race to the bottom in social protections. Optimists argue that national policies, particularly in relation to welfare, are not overly constrained by globalization and provide considerable scope for national governments to pursue divergent courses of action.

These debates are dominated by analyses of macroeconomic, social, and institutional variables and neglect the role of individual citizens, even though they are the ultimate arbiters of policymaking in the advanced democracies. In Globalization and Mass Politics, Timothy Hellwig introduces mass politics into this discussion by focusing on the preferences and behavior of citizens and their elected representatives. He convincingly argues that these actors have an important role to play and that issues relating to democratic accountability and representative democracy have been glossed over in this literature. His approach amounts to “bringing the citizen back in” to debates about globalization and its consequences.

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Perspectives on Politics / Volume 14 / Issue 01 / March 2016, pp 198-200 / Copyright © American Political Science Association 2016