Institute of Development Studies, IDS

Beyond BRICS and rising powers: New political landscapes in the old south

Press Release   •   Nov 29, 2011 08:43 GMT

How has governance in the smaller poorer countries of the world, often referred collectively to as the 'old south', been affected by globalisation? This was the central question that IDS Professorial Fellow Mick Moore addressed in his recent Sussex Development Lecture.

Mick began the lecture by posing two questions:

  • Will states be the dominant form of authority in the future?
  • Will all states look increasingly the same or increasingly different?

The message from current literature is that states are becoming increasingly similar. However Mick was keen to challenge this assumption and began by setting out six key ideas on the impact of globalisation on states:

  1. Globalisation is creating a world culture in which states are perceived as the normal form of government.
  2. Financial markets are becoming more influential than states.
  3. Globalisation is creating more interdependence between states. This in turn means states are more prone to instability and insecurity as a result of global shocks such as the financial crisis.
  4. New political spaces are being created as a result of increased interaction between professional and official groups such as civil servants and international NGOs.
  5. States are driven to become increasingly economically competitive in their bid to acquire more capital.
  6. The global economic playing field has become more level with a shift in economic power to countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS)

Many believe that states are becoming more alike in an attempt to compete more effectively for finite resources. However Mick argued that most of the literature referred to OECD countries and did not take account of poorer developing countries. He proposed that in trying to compete for resources, these countries were attempting to differentiate themselves in terms of how they acquired revenue. 

Mick also proposed that states in the 'old south' had been characterised by a number of things that had taken place in the world after 1970 including:

  • the expansion of liberal and secretive finance
  • the growth of the international drugs trade
  • the increasing dependence of aid of the poorest countries.

These developments, Mick suggested, had been exploited by political elites in developing countries for their own benefit. By allowing the trade in drugs and diamonds to continue and reaping the rewards of increased revenues from mining revenues and property development, political elites have boosted their own personal wealth and bolstered their own political power.

However this has been at the expense of good governance and the wellbeing of their citizens. Political elites in the 'old south' have been incentivised to increasingly pursue their own interests rather than become good state builders. This has led to increased divergence in the development of states in the 'old south' as they all seek to acquire different elite political revenues. It has also resulted in them developing in very different ways to the OECD and BRICS countries.