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Global Rebalancing: Crisis and the East–South Turn


  • Jan Nederveen Pieterse

    1. Mellichamp Professor of Global Studies and Sociology at University of California Santa Barbara, 2115 Social Sciences Building, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-7065, USA (URL His recent books include Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010, 2nd edn), Development Theory: Deconstructions/Reconstructions (Sage, 2010, 2nd edn), Is there hope for Uncle Sam? Beyond the American bubble (Zed, 2008), Ethnicities and Global Multiculture: Pants for an Octopus (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), Globalization or Empire? (Routledge, 2004).
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Earlier versions of this paper have been presented at the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Maastricht University, the Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, Pusan National University, Shanghai University and Xiamen University in the period May–July 2010. I am indebted to responses, to Andrew Lee and Jeb Sprague for references and to the comments of referees of Development and Change.


This article argues that the rise of emerging societies is a major turn in globalization and holds significant emancipatory potential. North–South relations have been dominant for 200 years and now an East–South turn is taking shape. The 2008 economic crisis is part of a global rebalancing process. Ongoing developments can be read in two ways: towards recalibrating the old order, or towards the emergence of new logics, which can be simplified as a tale of two scripts. One is global plutocracy with Anglo-American capitalism and financial markets in the West back in the lead and emerging markets joining the club. An instrument for achieving this is the hegemonic ideology of ‘global rebalancing’. On the other end of the continuum is the script of emancipatory multipolarity, considering that countries representing the majority of the world population have joined the global head table. This essay discusses global rebalancing, global plutocracy and emancipatory multipolarity, before taking on the conceptual question of capitalism or capitalisms. Ultimately, the author concludes that developments are layered and that elements of both scripts are combining.