The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is being held from 22—25 January 2019 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. The 2019 event will focus on the theme, ‘Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’. The stated mission of the World Economic Forum is to improve the state of the world. I came across a statement of Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, in which he says a “re-moralization” of globalization is needed. He said globalization produced many “winners” over the last generation or so. “But now we have to look after the losers, after those who have been left behind.” The intensity of this revealing statement drove me to write this piece and its title in the form of a question is equally revealing. This question needs to be earnestly answered if any meaningful dialogue has to happen for the required course correction.
The present state of the world clearly indicates that whatever globalization has taken place has failed to provide win-win solutions to those players who participated in this game. Every game has winners and losers but the promoters of globalization were supposed to have taken care of losers alongside the winners and, possibly with their help and participation. They ought to have taken real-time corrective actions to check the losing players and saved them from failing. There is absolutely no doubt that something went terribly wrong with the game of globalization. All those involved in this game have collectively either failed or have knowingly overlooked the plight of those suffering from the pain of the injury caused as the game was being played.
Although many countries have reaped enormous benefits from globalization and technological advances in recent decades, they have also experienced a hollowing out of the middle class; overcrowding within many sectors causing decoupling between productivity growth and wage increases in the midst of robotization. The uncertainties have grown immensely. A newly prosperous middle class is starting to worry whether a path to good education and success will be open to their children. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is staring at us and there is a sense that opportunities for the next generation are dwindling rather than expanding.
It is also quite well known that a lot of players have not played the game ethically or fairly or morally. There was hardly any emphasis on ‘moralization’ of globalization at any point of time in the past. So, where does the question of “re-moralization” of globalization arise from? With the sole emphasis on corporate profits, there are no real concerns about the ethical issues but only a lip service in the name of CSR to get the free advertisement space in the guise of social service. The mad promotion of sustainable products and services is another ploy to profit from unassuming consumers who are being emotionally exploited to pay 10-25% more in the name of saving the planet earth. If such is their concern for the environment why don’t they curb the wastage of products and resources. In the clothing sector, some visionaries have come out with this foolish idea of renting clothing items as a sustainable answer to the problem of clothing waste. Will the brands have (moral)courage to tell the consumers to stop buying clothing items and instead share them to be sustainable?
In a nutshell, “humanization and moralization of globalization” is the need of the hour. For any “re-moralization” to undertake, we must first ensure “moralization” of globalization. Otherwise the next 10 to 15 years will lead to the worldwide chaos with very little scope left for improving the state of the world.