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The Great Disruption

The Great Disruption

Zaki Ladi

ISBN: 978-0-745-63663-4 September 2007 Polity 272 Pages


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The dynamic that currently underlies global social change is the product of forces that are not of a single type or origin. As a consequence, that change is experienced as a process that uproots individuals but gives no guidance for the future, that destroys but does not reconstruct, that prescribes action but provides no reassurance. The radical uncertainty it engenders is an understandable source of anxiety: the rich countries are increasingly worried about competition from low-wage economies, while the wretched of the earth suspect their precarious existences will come under even greater pressure. Within each nation, the constantly growing gap between winners and losers exacerbates these fears. The Great Disruption is at its height.

This book is an examination and interpretation of the enormous complex of social changes which, for want of a better word, we term globalization.

Introduction. The “Imaginary” of a New World


1 Sovereignty is No Longer One and Indivisible

From Government to Governance

2 The Redistribution of Sovereignty

Redistribution Towards the Market - Hayek Against Bodin - Redistribution Towards Civil Society - Civil Society and State Sovereignty - Why are Law and Politics not One and the Same?

3 Towards The Era of Operational Sovereignty?


4 Governance Against Sovereignism

Why Does Europe Prefer Standards and Norms? - Governance against Sovereignism: Proof by the Economy - Euro-American To-ings and Fro-ings - The Spectacular Inversion of Attitudes to Risk in Europe and America - Between Europe and America: a “Conflict of Experience”- The WTO and the Challenge of Collective Preferences - The Kyoto Litmus Test - The Conflict Around International Criminal Justice - Why has America Gone Back to Carl Schmitt? - Why is Europe Kantian?

5 The Self-Regulating Market

Why are there Fewer Public Goods? - The Market is Not External to Society - The Market Comes Off its National Hinges - The Ideological Construction of Globalization - Lex Globalica - The Dynamics of Self-Regulation

6 Is the State the “Useful Idiot” of the Global Village?

The Hobbesian State - The Market State - The Politicization of World Trade

The State as Guarantor of the Openness of Markets - The State as Guarantor of Collective Preferences - The Cannibalization of the Welfare State? - Does Globalization Create a Demand for More State Intervention?

7 The New Property Question

The Return of Enclosures - The Tragedy of the Anti-Commons


8 Is Alterglobalism a Trade Unionism?

The Founding Moves of Alterglobalism - The Mobilizing Myth of the Tobin Tax -

Why Alterglobalism is not a Trade Unionism - The Three Tendencies within French Alterglobalism - The Left and Alterglobalism

9 Why Does Globalization Generate Anxiety?

Age, Qualifications, Exposure and Socialization: the Quadrilateral of Representations - Populism or the Rejection of Complexity - Why Peoples are not Spontaneously pro-Free Trade - The Abiding Influence of Mercantilism

10 The Cohort of Losers

Why does Globalization Downgrade Unskilled Workers Even More? - The Global Social Ladder Kicked Away

Conclusion. There is no Globalization Without Difficulty… Or Without History


"An ambitious, theory driven, historically grounded engagement with the politics and political economy of globalization."

Sociological Review

"The main strength of The Great Disruption is that it shows how the outsourcing of authority to the expert and to international bodies leads to today’s peculiarly risk-averse and regulation-obsessed policymaking."

Frank Furedi, sp!ked review of books

"A wide-ranging erudite exploration of contemporary social change that presents a compelling case for refashioning governance of an emergent more global world. Zaki Laïdi asks key questions and offers innovative answers: about rethinking sovereignty, reconfiguring the state, providing public goods and interrogating alterglobalism."

Jan Aart Scholte, University of Warwick

"This original and challenging text is based on solid research and scholarship. The author offers challenging redefinitions of key concepts and every section contains a wealth of insights, new arguments and interesting linkages. A key part of the overall argument is Laïdi's contrast between the approaches of the European Union and the United States to globalization and its governance and the problems and contradictions of each approach. The analysis is always nuanced, sensitive to institutional differences, aware of hierarchies of power and different positions in global divisions of labour, and committed to the search for alternatives to the current structures of globalization and their consequences."

Bob Jessop, Lancaster University

  • This is a chilling discussion on the problems of globalization.
  • In this rich and ambitious text Laidi proves himself to be one of the foremost critics on globalization.
  • Laidi reveals the disconcerting and even frightening aspects of the world in which we live.
  • Zaki Laidi is fast becoming one of the most famous French global and social commentators.