Globalization vs. Nationalism – A Case for Strategic Interdependence

The Donald is now the President, and speculation has been rife about the impact of this new reality. Many people have expressed their fears and concerns, while many others have great expectations of things working in their favour. Two major themes are being pitted against each other, i.e. globalization vs. nationalism. This article will view these two themes through the lens of the Strategic Interdependence Model found in Strengths Strategies coaching (read more).

Let us first follow the recent rise of nationalism. Inquiring after the roots of nationalism we find pessimism, inequality (blue collar vs educated knowledge workers), things were better in the past, and cultural factors with older people liking their countries as they were (League of Nationalists, Economist, Nov 19th 2016). The modest slowdown in the economy could be a big part of the explanation for the apparent rise of ethnic nationalism, if combined with another factor: rising inequality, along with considerable fear about future inequality (The New York Times. OCT. 14, 2016). Ethnic nationalism creates an ego-preserving excuse for self-perceived personal failure by blaming others’ bad behaviour and conspiracies.

Nationalists “…are united in their belief that each individual country should do what’s best for their sovereignty, rather than build co-operative relations between countries. Nationalism makes international cooperation difficult and can, as history has shown, cause war” (Huffington Post 05/31/2016).

Kofi Annan is quoted as saying “arguing against globalisation is like arguing against the laws of gravity” (The Conversation. October 20, 2014). Instead of prizing universal advancement, the focus is on territorial or ethnic interests. Another factor leading to growth in nationalism is the enrichment of developing countries at the expense of the rest – countries that are now producing high-value-added components that 30 years ago, were the exclusive purview of advanced economies.

Finally, “Post-war globalization achieved two major things: Open trade made conditions more equal between countries, but at the cost of creating more inequality within countries, thanks to the flood of industrial jobs that fled to cheaper shores, seeking a lower “China price,” as it was once called. Thus, we are all finding out that internationalism often isn’t pretty” (Politico Magazine, June 27, 2016).

From this we can see nationalism taking us to independence, in the sense that, as a collective, nationalists want to take charge and serve themselves (me). The lure and promise of “taking back our country” and bringing back the “good old days” is deceptive, and people don’t realise that this deceptive honeymoon doesn’t last very long. Behaviours we find in there are criticism, self-justification, stonewalling other countries (in Trump’s case literally wanting to put up a wall), name-calling, and so on.

Nationalism also takes us to co-dependence, in the sense that once nationalists realise they can’t do it all by themselves, they reach out to other countries, from a mindset of our country against the rest of the world. The exceptions, of course, are those countries who validate us as a country and are willing to also “put our country first” (there was rich evidence of this in Trump’s inaugural speech). A prime example of toxic behaviour here is xenophobia and prejudice towards people from other countries. Here is clearly a case of, as a collective, we serve other countries so that they can serve us (me).

Nationalism also takes us to dependence, in the sense that, for instance, we need natural resources from other countries, and we are dependent on them to provide that. Nationalists cannot just go there and take what they want, and they learn hard lessons about this. This is a place they don’t like to be and don’t want to be. That’s why we find behaviour such as threats of sanctions (also in co-dependence) and so on. Clearly a case of you serve us (me).

This brief look at how nationalism takes countries into the toxic triangle explains a lot why there are so many wars going on, and distrust amongst leaders.

How does the world get out of this triangle? President Obama said: “the future of humanity, the future of the world is going to be defined by what we have in common, [not] those things that separate us and ultimately lead us into conflict” (Business Insider Nov. 15, 2016). This is a good description of interdependence, and what the entire world can do is to find out:

  • What each country can bring to the world,
  • What they need from other countries and their own people to contribute,
  • What their weaknesses are as a country,
  • How to leverage strengths to mitigate those,
  • How to build complementary alliances/coalitions with other countries, and
  • How to become role models of transparency.

Above all, judgement needs to go, and we need sincere and authentic leaders to provide momentum to this process. “What’s in it for (us) me” needs to change to “what’s in it for all of us”.

Imagine what a world without wars and fighting would look like, where the whole world works together to serve the greater good! Strengths Strategies have the means to get the world closer to this, and to further understand what’s required. If you want to know more, download a complimentary chapter of Unlocking Strengths—the Key to Accelerating Performance, Energy, and Relationships at:


Tinus Van Der Merwe
Strengths Strategy Coach and Business Development Partner, People Acuity



Teri Johnson. Together, We Thrive. April 15, 2016.

What’s Behind a Rise in Ethnic Nationalism? Maybe the Economy. The New York Times. OCT. 14, 2016

As anti-globalisation politics fail, nationalism sweeps the world. The Conversation. October 20, 2014.

Why the New Nationalists Are Taking Over. Politico Magazine. June 27, 2016

Business Insider Nov. 15, 2016.



Quiet Quitting

Liezel Pheiffer Blignaut was interviewed by Kwena Moabela on life radio Power 98.7 on the trending topic of ‘Quiet Quitting’.

Read More »

Webinars & Events

Follow us on Social Media & Subscribe to our Newsletter 

to be informed of any Public Events, Webinars, Workshops and Programs


Fill out the form below, and we will be in touch shortly.