Globalisation - The Hedgehog & The Fox

Globalisation - The Hedgehog & The Fox

The Hedgehog and the Fox is a popular essay written by philosopher Isaiah Berlin and published in 1953.

Berlin claims, "I meant it as a kind of enjoyable intellectual game, but it was taken seriously. Every classification throws light on something".

The title is a reference attributed to theAncient GreekpoetArchilochus (680-645 BC):

A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one big thing

Isaiah Berlin

Berlin expanded this concept to divide writers and thinkers into two categories:

  • hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea
  • foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be reduced to a single idea

Berlin casts the following writers and philosophers onto the list of Hedgehogs:

  • Plato
  • Dante
  • Pascal
  • Hegel
  • Dostoyevsky
  • Nietzsche
  • Ibsen
  • Proust

Berlin's list of Foxes includes:

  • Aristotle
  • Erasmus
  • Shakespeare
  • Moliere
  • Goethe
  • Pushkin
  • Balzac
  • James Joyce

Berlin suggests that the Russian writer, LeoTolstoy, does not fit easily into either of the two groups because Tolstoy's talents are those of a Fox, but his books reveal his belief that we should be Hedgehogs.

Berlin's essay finishes with his view that Tolstoy by nature is a Fox but a Hedgehog by conviction and this "duality caused Tolstoy great pain at the end of his life." No mention of prominent female writers and philosophers such as Hypatia of Alexandria (370-415 AD) or Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) appear in Berlin's original list of Hedgehogs and Foxes. Perhaps women had already evolved into the 'duality' of being both Hedgehogs and Foxes and therefore escaped Berlin's scrutiny.

Political Economy

Political economy originated as a discipline inmoral philosophy during the 18th century. Political economicsis the study of production and trade and their relationship to law, custom and government and the distribution of national income and wealth.

Hedgehogs and the Free Market Economy

Harvard political economist, Dani Rodrik, in Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science, applies the "hedgehog" label to mainstream orthodox economists who apply only the "Liberal Paradigm" in all places and situations.

The Liberal Paradigm (Laissez-faireor free market) economic approach focuses on the idea of aneconomic systemin which transactions between private groups of people are free or almost free from any form of economic intervention.

The terminology applies to capitalist market-based economies where government actions interrupt the market forces at play through regulations, subsidies and price controls.

Economic intervention can be aimed at a variety of political or economic objectives, such as promoting economic growth, increasing employment, raising wages, raising or reducing prices, promoting income equality, managing the money supply and interest rates, increasing profits, or addressing market failures.

Foxes and the Mixed Economy

Rodrick applies the "fox" label to political economists who apply a variety of objectives and actions according to the different complexities, times, places and situations they encounter.

For instance, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, British economist, John Maynard Keynes, spearheaded a revolution in economic thinking that overturned the then-prevailing idea that free markets would automatically provide full employment.

Keynes asserted that free markets have no self-balancing mechanisms that will lead to full employment. Keynesian economists justify government intervention through public policies that aim to achieve full employment and price stability.

Capitalist market economies that feature degrees of state intervention are often referred to as a "Mixed Economy". A mixed economy is defined as aneconomic system blending elements of a free market economy with elements of a planned economy, markets withs tate interventionism, or private enterprise working with public enterprise.


Economic intervention can be aimed at a variety of political or economic objectives, such as promoting economic growth, increasing employment, raising wages, raising or reducing prices, promoting income equality, managing the money supply and interest rates, increasing profits, or addressing market failures.

Globalisation is the term used to describe the growing interdependence of the world's economies, cultures, and populations, through the spread of products, technology, information, and jobs across national borders and cultures. In economic terms, it describes an interdependence of nations around the globe fostered through free trade.

5 basic types of globalisation have been identified:


Globalisation is not a new concept. In ancient times, traders travelled vast distances to buy commodities that were rare and expensive for sale in their homelands. There is evidence the global spice trade had begun at least as early as 1500 BC.

In his macro-economics essay Globalization (sic), Jason Fernando maintains that in the world of business, economic globalisation is mostly associated with trends such as outsourcing, free trade, and international supply chains.

  • Globalization is the spread of products, technology, information, and jobs across nations.
  • Corporations in developed nations can gain a competitive edge through globalization.
  • Developing countries also benefit through globalization as they tend to be more cost-effective and therefore attract jobs.
  • The benefits of globalization have been questioned as the positive effects are not necessarily distributed equally.
  • One clear result of globalization is that an economic downturn in one country can create a domino effect through its trade partners.

Fernando argues that on one hand, globalization has created new jobs and economic growth through the cross-border flow of goods, capital, and labour. On the other hand, this growth and job creation are not distributed evenly across industries or countries.

Globalization's motives are idealistic, as well as opportunistic, but the development of a global free market has benefited large corporations based in the Western world. Its impact remains mixed for workers, cultures, and small businesses around the globe, in both developed and emerging nations.

(from Globalization by Jason Fernando, updated 17 May 2021.

Anthea Roberts, professor at the Centre for International Governance and Justice at the Australian National University,focuses her researchon 'complex and evolving global governance regimes.'

In relation to her discussions on globalisation, Roberts also references Berlin's 'Fox and Hedgehog' metaphor and the two different types of thinkers.

The hedgehog thinkers are people who see the world through one big idea and organize everything around that one big idea. Whereas foxes are people who put together their understanding of the world by bringing together many diverse facts, many diverse perspectives, and sticks together something that's more eclectic... so we contrast these two types of thinkers. And we think that these two types of thinkers are very relevant when you start to think about complex fields like economic globalization.

(From Coups and Capers.

The Hedgehog and Globalisation

Over the past 30 years, Hedgehogs appear to have hijacked the Globalisation agenda with their 'one big idea' being the economic advantages of globalisation.

By organising 'everything around that one big idea', Hedgehogs have mostly focussed on the Economic advantages that Globalisation brings through international free trade agreements to advantage exports; easier access to international finance and monetary markets (including tax avoidance); and cheaper labour markets, often to the detriment of acknowledging the Political, Cultural,Social and Ecologicalimpacts of globalisation.

Roberts refers to this Hedgehog view as the 'establishment perspective'.


The Fox and Globalisation

Roberts' research reinforced Berlin's contention that Hedgehog thinkers are not as good at a rounded sense of a complex field like economic globalisation whereas the Fox approach looks at globalisation from a multitude of perspectives.

Foxes, according to Roberts, "are people who put together their understanding of the world by bringing together many diverse facts, many diverse perspectives…something that's more eclectic."

Roberts and Nicolas Lamp co-authored the book, Six Faces of Globalization: Who Wins, Who Loses and Why It Matters. Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, selected this book as one of the '2021 must-read titles' in economics. He describes it as 'an interesting and original book' where the authors identify six narratives about economic globalisation revealing,

there is not one truth, but rather many partial truths.


Globalisation Falters

Fox thinkers and planners have always been aware of the potential negative impacts of Globalisation across the 5 types they identified.

However, for the Hedgehogs:

the pursuit of freer trade became a consensus position for economists, commentators and the vast majority of mainstream politicians, to the point where the benefits of free trade seemed to command blind adherence.

(Nikil Saval. Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world. The Guardian. 14 July 2017.)

Examples of how much the Hedgehogs took their eyes off the big picture while focussing almost solely on Economic Globalisation is revealed in the following list of negative outcomes now associated with 'globalisation'.

Political (and Legal)

Mainstream economists and politicians (Hedgehogs) who upheld the consensus about the merits of globalisation, showed little concern that there might be political consequences.

  • Politically, globalization shifted attention away from decisions by Nation States to global intergovernmental organizations like the United Nations (UN), The World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These organisations lost the trust of substantial numbers of the world's population and many Nations who suffered drastic economical downturns, social upheavals and political unrest during the Global Financial Crisisof 2007-2008.
  • Major industry and manufacturing moved from rich countries, where labour was expensive, to poor countries, where labour was cheaper. Labour in rich countries had to accept lower wages or lose their jobs. Many so-called 'rust belt' car manufacturing and agricultural industries in developed Nations closed down permanently, causing huge and long-term unemployment in those sectors.
  • With the lowering of barriers to international trade, political leaders attempted to crush Trade Unions which traditionally fought for fair wages and the protection of workers employment rights. The poorest 5% of workers in the world have seen the greatest wage stagnation under 'globalisation'.
  • Lower-skilled workers endured a major fall in the real value of their wages, which dropped by more than 20%. Workers suffered more spells of unemployment, more volatility in the hours they were expected to work and a loss of shift payments, penalty rates and other pay loadings with the 'casualisation' of work.
  • The rise of Nationalist sentiment in Britain against European centralised power saw a majority of Britishcitizens votingin 2020 for "Brexit" in order to leave the largest trading bloc in the world, the European Union.
  • The backlash against globalisation has helped fuel other political shifts. In 2016, the unexpected Presidential victory of Donald Trump, saw him vow to withdraw the USA from major international trade deals. Trump implemented protectionist measures and imposed economic sanctions and highertariffs on its European allies as well as economic rivals such as China and Russia.
  • The free movement of people between countries under'globalisation'also contributed to the economic, political and social impacts of global terrorism that has risen steadily since 2010 despite the USA's declaration of the 'War Against Terror' after the 9/11 World Trade Towers terror attack in 2000.
  • The Institute for Economics and Peace calculated that terrorism cost more than $52 billion in 2014. The 9/11 attacks were initially estimated to have cost $27.2 billion, but the inclusion of indirect and long-term expenditure on the 'War Against Terror' brings the amount closer to $3.3 trillion.
  • Despite the rise from poverty to the middle classes that economic globalisation has brought to approximately one billion Chinese, China's rise in economic strength has also helped fuelits military power and global expansionist interests in the South China Sea; the dismantling of Hong Kong's democratic rule of law; and the persecution of minority ethnic and religious groups, in addition to its claims of sovereignty over Taiwan.
  • China has also 'punished' Australia politically and economically throughtrade retaliations with the sudden blocking of Australian wine, seafood and agricultural product exports to China following Australia's siding with the USA's request for an independent inquiry into the emergence of the Covid-19 virus in Wuhan City in 2020; and the blocking of the China State-owned Huawei telecommunications equipment group from tendering for American and Australian Government contracts.


Environmental stresses are contributing to global uncertainty.

Larry Summers, former chief economist of the World Bank, former Treasury secretary and former economic adviser to President Barack Obama was an avid supporter of globalisation.

Using Hedgehog thinking, Summers once stated,

the cheapest way to dispose of toxic waste in rich countries is to dump it in poor countries, since it is financially cheaper for them to manage it.


There are huge environmental costs associated with the increased output, trade, consumption and economic growth generated by globalisation.

  • Climate Change is viewed by Anthea Roberts as part of the 'global threat narrative'. Some National Governments (including Australia) who are supposedly committed to 'globalisation' are avoiding their global and local environmental responsibilities in favour of economic self-interest.
  • While globalisation should be a platform for world consensus on targets and actions to halt global warming and climate change, Australia has resorted to 'creative accounting', vague targets and minimal real action on climate change.
  • Despite the embarrassing rhetoric by Australian representatives at the recent COP 26 conference in Glasgow, the rest of the world seemed helpless to persuade Australia to be more responsible about its contribution to cutting back its carbon emissions while there are still untapped sources of coal, oil and gas to be sold on the export market.
  • As carbon pollution pushes atmospheric greenhouse gases to the highest concentrations ever recorded with the increased output and consumption caused by globalisation, more extreme weather events and increases in natural disasters are predicted, particularly in South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific regions where around half the world's major natural disasters continue to occur.
  • A new category of refugee is being born out of the climate change crisis. In ever increasing numbers, climate change refugees (ecological refugees) will now join economic, political, religious and conflict refugees in their search for a safer, more inhabitable and healthier place in the world.


Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati wrote the following in his book, In Defense of Globalization.

Freer trade is associated with higher growth and ... higher growth is associated with reduced poverty. Hence, growth reduces poverty.

Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati

However, Richard Baldwin, President of the Centre for Economic Policy Research, in his text The Great Convergence, maintains that nearly all of the major gains from globalisation have been concentrated in six countries, mainly China, India and other smaller Asian nations such as Myanmar and Vietnam and a couple of small African nations.

  • Land-locked Nations are not able to develop export industries for the global market. Therefore, the wealth gained from globalisation is not distributed evenly between countries or even within those countries.
  • Globalisation has also assisted and driven an unprecedented movement of people propelled by both economic drivers and conflict and the social disruption this brings with it.
  • Increased people movement across international borders through international labour and migrant worker agreements has brought increased economic and social pressures, especially in jurisdictions where locals have lost their jobs, homes and/or farms and businesses.
  • The increase in globalisation facilitated by the Internet has seen cyber crime costing the global economy an estimated US$445 billion per annum.
  • Organised crime costs Australia in the order of US$36 billion annually and is recognised as an issue of national security. It also causes great harm to individuals and the broader community.
  • According to the Australian Federal Police, cyber crime is likely to become one of the most prevalent and lucrative criminal activities in Australia.
  • The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has estimated that criminals launder about 2.7 per cent of world GDP annually, let alone the social harm and health issues the flow of drugs across international borders brings with it.
  • With international border closures Australian farmers are having trouble finding workers to replace the international backpackers who have previously worked in poor conditions for very low pay rates. Australian workers are not willing to work for such low pay or under the same poor conditions as foreign backpackers and this has led to crops not being harvested and fruit withering on the trees.
  • Australia's economy has been further hit with State and international border closures causing the cessation of International Tourist visits to Australia and the consequent disruption to major portions of Australia's tourism, hospitality and travel industries.
  • At a micro-level, the Queensland tourism organisation, Destination Gold Coast (DGC), refused to acknowledge that the golden goose, China, would not be providing the large tourist numbers of previous years. Rather than adjusting to the new Covid-paradigm, DGC throughout 2020-2021 remained obsessed with preparing for international borders to re-open. The borders didn't open and in January 2022 international borders still haven't fully reopened.
  • Meanwhile, other tourism local organisations on Queensland's Sunshine Coast and in Far North Queensland re-calibrated their marketing activities by offering Intra-State travel discounts and packages to Queensland residents while preparing for State Borders to re-open. In anticipation of State borders opening, they marketed vacations to potential NSW and Victorian visitors who had been stuck in strict home-lockdowns for substantial periods of time over the past 2 years and currently still have very limited opportunities for international travel but are permitted to travel interstate.


Indigenous people across the globe are challenging the fundamental assumptions of globalisation. Many do not accept the assumption that humanity will benefit from the construction of a world culture of consumerism.

Indigenous people are acutely aware, from their own tragic experience over the past 500 years, that consumer societies grow and prosper at their expense and with the destruction of their environment.

  • The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are making multinational companies very wealthy. But this growth has been at the expense of many important and highly diverse ecosystems and the lives, livelihoods and life-styles of Indigenous people who live in these ecosystems.
  • Since the proliferation of globalisation in the 1990s, Australia's national parks, conservation and wildlife areas, old growth forests, traditional Indigenous lands, marine parks and prime agricultural land have been opened to private commercial 'developments'; multinational and foreign mining, oil and gas 'exploration' and production; and industrial scale fishing and logging activities.

For example,

  • Mass destruction of the South American Amazon rainforest and removal of indigenous villages for industrial scale logging.
  • Destruction by a multinational mining company of Aboriginal sacred caves and the oldest human paintings on Earth in Western Australia for iron ore.
  • Mass destruction of Indigenous culture and rainforests in South-East Asia for palmoil plantations.
  • Prime agricultural land and natural water resources in Australia negatively impacted by the granting of coal mining leases and gas fracking activities to foreign and multinational companies.
  • While globalisation represents an opportunity for the exchange of ideas, values and artistic expression among cultures, it also represents a trend toward the development of a single world culture and the demise of minority and Indigenous cultures, languages and sustainable ways of living.

    Social (and Health)

    The free movement of people across national borders and the access to mass travel across the globe has also exposed Nations to greater health risks of pandemics and the spread of communicable diseases.

    The cost of greater "economic integration" through globalisation is at the risk of "social disintegration".

    • There has been a proliferation of sweatshops, forced labour and child labour exploitation in the Nations that have gained the most economically from globalisation in their efforts to cater for the insatiable demand by developed Nations for cheaper commodities.
    • However, the global COVID-19 pandemic has also created a 'new climate of uncertainty' which is fuelling protectionism and deeply undermining economic globalisation byplaying into 'nationalist narratives'.
    • Since early 2020, globalisation has been under a significant threat assome governments scramble to reduce their vulnerability to the Covid virus by limiting global trade and flows of people.
    • The imposition of international border closures and strict migration measures owing to the Covid pandemic have caused major disruptions to Africa's global supply chains with adverse impacts on local employment and increases in poverty.
    • Over the past 20 years, the Australian Tertiary Education sector has become heavily financially reliant on full-feespaying International Students, predominantly from China.This sector suffered a double 'globalisation' threat with the economic and financial damage caused by Covid-19 international border closures and China's political hostility towards the current Australian Government acting as a deterrent to Chinese students applying to study in Australia.

    Globalisation Today

    The complexity and practices proposed in the original 1990s concepts of Globalisation was substantially created by Fox thinkers.

    However, once Globalisation was reluctantly adopted and accepted by the Hedgehog thinkers, under the Hedgehog's watch Globalisation became almost solely an Economic ideology, a single way of viewing the World through international business, trade and financial transactions while ignoring the Political, Social, Cultural and Ecological elements of Globalisation.

    Ironically, in recent times Hedgehogs have discovered the flaws and negative impacts of Economic Globalisation and it's 'free trade' dogma with a newly-found focus on specific issues in their own backyards.

    Even Summers, the former economic adviser to President Obama appears to have recanted his previous Hedgehog view of globalisation ("dump toxic waste in poor countries") with his recent adoption of a more Fox-like way of thinking and expressing his doubts about the success of Globalisation.

    Summers now advocates for a "responsible nationalism", arguing that politicians must recognise:

    the basic responsibility of government is to maximise the welfare of citizens, not to pursue some abstract concept of the global good.

    Back to Berlin

    Isaiah Berlin suggests that the writer Tolstoy was a Fox by nature but a Hedgehog by conviction and this "duality caused Tolstoy great pain at the end of his life". Maybe Tolstoy's success as a thinker and writer was due to this 'duality' and his capacity to see the complexities of the big picture while also examining the fine details with a single focus.

    If we are the kind of person who can only think as a Hedgehog, perhaps we should try teaming up with some Foxes to ensure the best Political, Social, Cultural, Ecological and Economic processes and outcomes for the greater benefit of our own communities, in addition to the benefits to the global community.

    Perhaps, like Tolstoy, we have the capacity to think and act like a Fox and a Hedgehog by adapting to the complexity of different situations and changed circumstance as required while also examining all these elements in detail.

    Pursuing free trade has always produced displacement and inequality - and political chaos, populism and retrenchment to go with it. Every time the social consequences of free trade are overlooked, political backlash follows. But free trade is only one of many forms that economic integration can take. History seems to suggest, however, that it might be the most destabilising one.

    (Nikil Saval. Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world. The Guardian. 14 July 2017.)

    Say Goodbye to Globalisation

    One thing is certain, Foxes and Hedgehogs both have their work cut out for them to deal adequately, ethically, equitably, responsibly and appropriately with the complex and challenging future we are facing, especially if Michael O'Sullivan (former investment banker and economist at Princeton University) is correct in his assessment of the past failures of Globalisation and our likely global future:

    Globalisation is already behind us. We should say goodbye to it and set our minds on the emerging multipolar world. This will be dominated by at least three large regions: America, the European Union and a China-centric Asia. They will increasingly take very different approaches to economic policy, liberty, warfare, technology and society. Mid-sized countries like Russia, Britain, Australia and Japan will struggle to find their place in the world, while new coalitions will emerge, such as a "Hanseatic League 2.0" of small, advanced states like those of Scandinavia and the Baltics. Institutions of the 20th century—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation—will appear increasingly defunct.

    (Michael O'Sullivan in Globalisation is dead and we need to invent a new world order. The Economist, 28 June 2019.)

    Globalisation favours the wealthy

    The flaws and inequities of Globalisation were further revealed in an incontrovertible manner with the lack of equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations around the globe once they became available.

    According to a 17 September 2020 analysis by OXFAM, wealthy nations representing just 13% of the world's population had already cornered more than half (51%) of the promised doses of leading COVID-19 candidates [vaccine producers].
    (Nancy S Jecker. Journal of Medical Ethics. Volume 47 - 5, May 2021)

    In the first half of 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) noted that 31.4 million doses had been administered in 50 African nations, which equates to a mere 2% of the population receiving a single dose. Yet in the UK alone, more than 40 million people—over 70% of the adult population—had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Globally, the average at the time was 24%. 1.9 billion doses of Covid vaccines had been administered globally by June 7, 2021; however, the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) noted:

    Inequity is decreasing, but high-income countries have administered 69 times more doses per inhabitant than low-income countries.

    WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE)

    WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières were among those to welcome the May 2021 announcement by the US Government that it backed waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. Such a waiver is subject to negotiations at the World Trade Organization. But although more than 100 countries are in support, there are powerful opponents, including the EU, Japan, and the UK. The announcement by the USA makes it far likelier that some kind of waiver will be introduced.
    (Talha Burki. The Lancet. Volume 21, Issue 7, pp922-923, July 2021.)

    O'Sullivan may be correct in his claim that, "We should say goodbye to [globalisation] and set our minds on the emerging multipolar world", where the single focus Hedgehogs do not dominate decision-making and must work cooperatively with broader thinking (and more ethical) Foxes to ensure more equitable outcomes than the journey of the global community during the continuing Covid-19 pandemic has exposed.

    In that vein, I'll be practising a little bit of Plato (Hedgehog) with a fair dose of Aristotle (Fox) during my interactions locally and in my future dealings with others in the wider world. Unlike Tolstoy, I hope this 'duality' does not cause me 'great pain' at the end of my life.

    Researched, compiled, composed, written & edited by Dr Steve Gration, January 2022
    References and Sources
    Baldwin, Richard. The Great Convergence - Information Technology and the New Globalization. Harvard University Press, USA, 2016.
    Burki, Talha.Global Covid-19 vaccine inequity. The Lancet. July 2021.
    Fernando, Jason. Globalization. updated 17 May 2021.
    Jecker Nancy S, Aaron G Wightman& Douglas S Diekema.Vaccine ethics: an ethical framework for global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Journal of Medical Ethics. Volume 47 - 5, May 2021Department of Bioethics & Humanities, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.
    O'Sullivan, Michael. The Levelling: What's Next After Globalisation. Public Affairs. Hachette Book Group,Australia, 2019. Roberts, Anthea. Coups and Capers. ABC RN Counterpoint podcast (22/11/21).
    Roberts, Anthea &Nicolas Lamp.Six Faces of Globalization: Who Wins, Who Loses and Why It Matters.Harvard University Press, USA, 2021
    Rodrik,Dani. Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science. W.W. Norton & Company, NY/London, 2015.
    Wolf, Martin.

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