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It is a commonplace of left and right that global markets are rendering national economies ungovernable. Unconstrained markets are said to increase wealth while polarising its distribution and destroying political authority. But how global has the market become? Paul Hirst examines the evidence for globalisation and finds that the theory does not always match reality

By Paul Hirst   February 1996

The belief that national economies and cultures are dissolving before the great flows of trade, finance and information, leaving in their wake an increasingly homogenised, global market society, has become part of the common sense of educated people. It is now widely believed that nations, companies and individuals no longer have any choice but to adapt to intensifying global competitive pressures. All that states can do, if they are not to disadvantage their citizens, is to help make their territory attractive to internationally mobile capital.

For the past decade, belief in globalisation has been spreading among academics, media commentators and…

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