This article questions what the concept of ‘globalisation’ really amounts to. In doing so it highlights problems for the ascendancy of globalisation in contemporary public debate. Globalisation has become a catch-all; the phrase is now used to try and explain all manner of phenomena from everyday life to international politics. But the article suggests that this may be little more than a combination of rhetoric and wishful thinking. It asserts that the contemporary world is being driven by older and familiar pressures, such as state power and nationalism. As a result, the idea of ‘globalisation’ needs to be treated with some scepticism.