In times of global angst, we tend to organize ourselves into rival camps and casually hurl political epithets at each other as a matter of practice and principle. A couple of similarly angst-ridden generations ago, identifying yourself as a communist or capitalist could provide you with a medal or land you in jail, depending on where you were in the world and the company you kept. Now, it is self-proclaimed globalists and nationalists who are pitted against each other in a battle to passionately defend or radically reconstruct the global order.
At the risk of oversimplifying, the so-called globalists celebrate deeper connectivity around the world. In global trade, complex supply chains
have stretched from continent to continent, moving parts, ideas and technologies multiple times across borders to produce a single good. All of this raises the wealth of the developing world in the process. Globalists see the rapid pace of urbanization as both a threat and an opportunity. If roughly half of the world is currently urbanized, and two-thirds of the world's population is expected to live in cities by 2050, cities — and the politicians who govern them — will be expected to provide water, power, food, transportation infrastructure, affordable housing and jobs to the arriving masses. Or else, political upheaval will ensue. That looming stress on local and planet-wide resources drives technological progress
— from vertical farming to modular construction to battery innovation — to find solutions, enhancing along the way the clout of more innovative corporations that can agilely fill voids left by the state.
Nationalism is a dirty word for most globalists. The mention of it conjures disturbing images of parades filled with high-kneed marches and stiff salutes, a blinding embrace of propaganda and the threat of losing a generation to war. Globalists subscribe to the postwar liberal order that argues for collective security arrangements, such as NATO, and ambitious political unions, like the European Union, to tame nationalist fervor. Moreover, many globalists, particularly in the West, regard the United States as a superpower, or least a first among equals. Indeed, it is a nation equipped with the resources and foundational values to play a leading role in governing the globe among other like-minded nations. That responsibility traces back to the Bretton Woods system set up in the postwar order, where the United States guaranteed secure access to markets through its overwhelming control of the seas and used that as a basis to construct a globe-spanning network of allies.
The current iteration of this globalist message tends to resonate with a more youthful demographic that embraces technology and seeks international exposure as a way of life. Advocates bristle at talk of nostalgia for 'simpler' times, regarding such rhetoric as a gross distortion of history. The globalists are more willing to project their minds decades into the future in an attempt to tackle problems that will impact future generations. We associate leaders such as Former U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Emmanuel Macron, former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — and even powerful princelings further east like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — with a camp of contemporary globalist leaders. While there is a youthful face to this club, the globalist-nationalist divide is not simply a function of age or generational divide. Those who know and fear their history, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have risked their own political careers to defend a globalist agenda in an age of resurgent nationalism.