Jeremy Adelman Keynote Lecture

Global interdependence and freedom of cross-border movement of people. An analysis in historical perspective

On 30 January 2019, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised the Keynote Lecture "Global Interdependence and the Attitude towards Foreigners" by Jeremy Adelman.

Professor Jeremy Adelman joined Princeton University after completing his graduate studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Oxford University. At Princeton he is Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, Director of the Global History Lab and Chairman of the Editorial Board of Princeton University Press; prior to that he was Chairman of the Department of History for four years and founder of the Council for International Teaching and Research. His recent books are Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2009), Worldly Philosopher. The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman (Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2012) and, as co-author, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart (New York, Norton, 2013).


On 30 January 2019, Jeremy Adelman, Professor of History at Princeton University, gave a lecture at the Rafael del Pino Foundation entitled "Global Interdependence and Attitudes Towards Foreigners". Adelman began by recalling that Adam Smith said that 1492, the year of the discovery of America, was the most important year in the world because it initiated global interdependence. We now find ourselves in a situation where many people wonder whether what has been built up over the last five centuries is crumbling. Today it could be said that we are at the end of a very long cycle of global integration, where we all need each other. We depend, for example, on international trade and we have to face problems such as climate change together. In other words, we have a selfish interest in what others do. In this context, the migrant crisis is a global problem, as global integration poses limits to social integration between and within countries. But the migrant crisis is also about understanding. The question, therefore, is how to frame this relationship between interests and understanding. Adam Smith thought that the more integrated we were, the more understanding there would be in the world. The fact is that we need foreigners, but societies are dominated by a rejection of foreigners, which means that integration is exhausted. Are we, then, facing the end of globalisation? Adelman thinks not, but he does think we are going through a painful phase linked to it, which could trigger a crisis like that of 1929. At the moment, we are stuck in a wait-and-see situation in the narrative of interdependence. Moreover, we struggle to understand a paradox in relation to globalisation, which is that we need foreigners and they need us. If we understand these, we can formulate a new narrative of integration based on the need to be together. The world we had at the end of the 20th century no longer serves us because it lacks legitimacy and tears at our social fabric. So we are caught between the arguments in favour of globalisation that have become obsolete and the appeal of attacking them on all fronts. We live in a world that does not make the slightest effort to try to understand, which is a problem because narratives are what create the context of our shared identities. They define the boundaries of who we are. They also have an economic function, because they give rise to externalities that make it easier for us to trade with each other. Therefore, the more narratives we have, the more we trade and the greater our prosperity. One of the most important enabling conditions for global integration since 1945 is the memory of the Great Depression and the Second World War, as well as the thirty years of great economic development that followed the war. But, as these memories have faded, so too have the elements of unity that allowed societies to trade with each other. This deterioration is also due to the emergence of modern income inequalities. Other parts of the world also pursued these common narratives, which helped legitimise elite power and mobilise societies to a common end. These were times when communism, anti-colonialism, liberal and democratic rule competed with each other. But the fall of communism and the end of the colonial empires meant that this competition disappeared and the winner, liberal democracy, lost its energy. The West, in fact, suffered two blows. The first, of a positive nature, was the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a time of euphoria and a single narrative, that of the liberal democratic regime, which had no alternative. This system seemed to work in parts of the world that benefited from openness. The second, which was negative, was the financial crisis of 2008. There were many overlapping forces here, forces such as the crisis, growing inequality, technological change, climate change. The economy needed to recover and return to growth, but it had to do so without damaging the planet. We are caught between these two narratives and those who benefit from the disaster are the retaliatory club of those who advocate forgetting about others. They are those who want the benefits of sharing, without paying any price for it. They are those who prefer an extractive and predatory model of interdependence. This vision has a growing appeal in many sectors of society. There has always been a tension between the extractive model and the competitive model. We are now trying to broaden the narrative, but it is very difficult to understand. It is a debate between rival visions that goes back to 1848, the debate between Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill. Both thinkers discovered that, with the industrial revolution, something new was emerging, which broadened the horizons of opportunity. Mill saw many opportunities opening up that compensated for the reduction of connections between people. Marx saw the opposite. The current narrative left out three important effects of integration. First, interdependence produces a paradox in that understanding of strangers is not so unlimited: the more we need the stranger, the less we understand him. Secondly, the needs of foreigners are thought to be met at our expense, which makes us more intransigent. This produces contradictory structural effects, since the broadening of horizons does not produce prosperity and well-being for everyone, but leads to the emergence of hierarchies and inequalities. Finally, the citizen of a country and the foreigner do not shake hands, but there are incentives for leaders to seek benefits at the expense of those who cannot express themselves, i.e. foreigners, who become unwelcome. Reconciling interdependence with democracy is therefore complex. This is something we need to understand if we are to understand, for example, the conditions of Trump's popularity or Brexit. The history of the world is one of these two rival visions. We can reconcile them, but the question is how we are going to organise the world to do well.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.