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Economic Integration, Cultural Standardization and the Politics of Social Insurance


  • Samuel Bowles


  • Ugo Pagano



We explore cultural aspects of globalization and provide a model to illuminate some possible effects of globalization on the politics of redistribution within nations. The argument of the paper is as follows. Globalization is an extension of nationalism (not its antithesis) with regard to some aspects of culture and economic structure: it promotes cultural standardization and economic integration across national boundaries. But unlike nationalism, globalization does this without providing either the international cultural solidarity or governmental institutions capable of supporting egalitarian redistribution and insurance on a global scale, while weakening the nationbased institutions for the same. In this respect a globalized world may recreate the social structure of the archetypal agrarian empire: a dominant English-speaking class of cosmopolitans presiding over a heterogeneous and provincial underclass with little solidarity across the language groups and weak nationally-based instruments of social insurance and egalitarian redistribution. The politics of social insurance may thus increasingly pit the cosmopolitans against the provincials (not capital against labor, or even the high earners against the low earners, as many of the cosmopolitans are far from rich.) The result need not be institutional convergence to a world of uniformly minimalist welfare states, however, for the process of specialization induced by greater integration may support distinct institutional arrangements appropriate to each economy’s divergent product mixes. Countries specializing in goods characterized by volatile demand or requiring high levels of specific skills may be induced by globalization to strengthen their systems of social protection.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Bowles & Ugo Pagano, 2003. "Economic Integration, Cultural Standardization and the Politics of Social Insurance," Department of Economics University of Siena 408, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:408

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    Cited by:

    1. Michele Di Maio & Marco Valente, 2006. "Uncertainty, Optimal Specialization and Growth," LEM Papers Series 2006/05, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    2. Michele Di Maio & Marco Valente, 2013. "Uncertainty, Specialization and Government Intervention," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(2), pages 215-243, May.
    3. Ugo Pagano, 2013. "Love, war and cultures: an institutional approach to human evolution," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 41-66, April.
    4. Ugo Pagano, 2003. "Cultural Diversity, European Integration and the Welfare State," Department of Economics University of Siena 414, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    5. Di Maio, Michele, 2008. "Uncertainty, trade integration and the optimal level of protection in a Ricardian model with a continuum of goods," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 315-329, December.
    6. Michele Di Maio, 2006. "Uncertainty, Gains from Specialization and the Welfare State," Working Papers 36-2006, Macerata University, Department of Finance and Economic Sciences, revised Oct 2008.

    More about this item


    globalization; economic integration; standardization; specialization; transaction specific assets; welfare state; social insurance; cultural integration;

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • F0 - International Economics - - General

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