Political Economy and English as a ‘Global’ Language


  • Thomas Ricento University of Calgary


globalization, neoliberalism, language policy, English as a Lingua Franca, social justice


The under- (or non-) specification of terms such as globalization and neoliberalism in the sub-field of Language Policy leads to disputes and contrary positions on important issues where there might otherwise be greater agreement, or at least a basis for identifying common ground. This, in turn, could lead to a greater possibility of consilience, a term coined by biologist E.O. Wilson (1998), in which “principles from different disciplines…form a comprehensive theory” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). This article argues that Language Policy scholars’ lack of sophistication in political economy impacts their ability to critically address the effects of neoliberalism on language policies and practices in many parts of the world today, including in high-income countries. Furthermore, a greater understanding of how globalization interacts with national economies—and how those interactions may influence both the trajectory and fate of languages—might serve as a starting point for new research directions in the field of language policy and planning.

Author Biography

Thomas Ricento, University of Calgary

Ricento is Professor and Chair, English as an Additional Language, University of Calgary. Publications include An introduction to Language Policy: Theory and Method (2005); Ideology, politics and language policies: Focus on English (2000), and Language and Politics in the United States and Canada: Myths and Realities (1998). He is founding co-editor of the Journal of Language, Identity, and Education (Routledge).