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BEYOND OR UTOPIA OF GLOBAL CRITICAL THEORY

March 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Global FragmentsEduardo Mendieta, 2008. Global Fragments. Globalizations, Latinamericanisms, and Critical Theory. Albany: SUNY Press, 226 pp. ISBN: 978-0791472583 (paperback; a hardcover edition was published in 2007).

Eduardo Mendieta’s Global Fragments is guided by the Theodor W. Adorno-inspired assumption that “there can be no total perspective on the global world” (3). Why not? I would like to ask. In fact, there have been many attempts to marshal such a perspective on the globalizing world. Kenichi Ohmae’s books from the pre-Seattle days of global theorizing are a case in point. A renowned Japanese business strategist and former McKinsey director, MIT-educated Ohmae allowed only one process — globalization — and cited onlyone writer — himself. Such certainty may be rare, but it is not impossible. Karl Marx employed an encompassing perspective of global history, and even Adorno had one, although it was rendered in the most skeptical epistemological terms.

It would be safer to say that one cannot hold a total perspective on the global world that is both comprehensive and true. For that reason, Mendieta rightly argues that all “theories of globalization are at best epistemological fragments.”(Ibid.) This is not a novel point, however. Friedrich Nietzsche suggested already that any perspective is a slanted snapshot of the world, an ideology that begs for corrective attacks. Hence, we know what to expect from the Potemkin village of a totalized perspective: half-truths and false claims to grasp the entire social world with objectivity.

So far so good. Now I am wondering why the subtitle of Mendieta’sbook — Latinamericanisms, Globalizations, and Critical Theory — shifts from the plural to the singular. Does Mendieta envision a global critical theory in the singular? Alternatively, does he reach for a critical theory that would unify the philosophical and social insights of Global Fragments? Is he counterbalancing his postmodern embrace of the fragment with a universal theory? Not at all. The tension between the potential singularity of a global critical theory and the actual plurality of the theoretical fragments in Mendieta’s book remains unresolved.

Like Adorno’s Negative Dialectics (1966/1973), Mendieta’s work is divided into three parts: “epistemological fragments” (Globalizations), “geohistorical-political fragments” (Latinamericanisms), and “biotheoretical fragments” (Critical Theory). In Mendieta’s purview, globalizations are plural. Implying the existence of various Latinamericanisms, as well as Africanisms, Asianisms, and Europeanisms, the author presents Jürgen Habermas (1929-), Enrique Dussel (1934-), and Cornel West (1953-) as “pivotal centers of thought in a new constellation of critical thought for the twentyfirst century in the age of globalization and global fragments” (7).

Global Fragments should have been subtitled Latinamericanisms, Globalizations, and Critical Theories. Mendieta’s impressive Latin American, European, and African-American troika of Dussel, Habermas, and West is a progressive constellation of critical theorists. Yet these “titans of thought” (5) remain Mendieta-selected “centers of thought” amid potential others in the universe of ideas. Their works are discussed in Global Fragments, but not synthesized into a global critical theory. What has prevented the author from using the plural (critical theories)? Mendieta readily admits that his book “is made up of fragments” (3), but he does not explain why the section about the “three public intellectuals who have influenced, guided, and inspired my thought” (5) is titled “Critical Theory” in the singular and not critical theories in the plural.

6 In the waning 1970s, when I was absorbing the postmodern critique of all things universal and singular, I thought that pluralizing critical theory would be the way to go. The early Frankfurt School of the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, its later incarnation in the Dialectic of Enlightenment and Habermas’ version taken together showed more political and theoretical differences than unity. At that time, I was working with two researchers mentioned in Mendieta’s book, Klaus Eder and Rainer Döbert, at a Max-Planck-Institute in Starnberg (also cumbersomely known as the MPI for the Study of the Life Conditions of the Scientific-Technical Life World) that was founded by the late Carl-Friedrich von Weizsäcker, who co-directed it with Jürgen Habermas. (For the benefit of Mendieta’s “bioshistorical” (4), the actual lives lived, a small correction: we were not Habermas’ “colleagues” (157), but staff that had been hired and could be fired.)

Mendieta’s reception of Dussel and West combines the German Jewish heritage of the Frankfurt School with other critical theories and non-Eurocentric traditions. Moving effectively to an array of critical theories, Mendieta creates a combination of theoretical interventions that includes “the underside of globalization and modernity” (Dussel; 6), “the enlightenment to come and the power of discursive-communicative reason” (Habermas; ibid.), and “a political pragmatism that gives primacy to the empowerment of society’s downtrodden” (West; 7). Noting the partial nature of global understanding, uneven human existence, and yearning for social justice, the author forcefully argues that globalization must be thought “fragmentarily and by way of fragments” (17). The fragment is the centerpiece of Mendieta’s eclectic philosophy — “we will trade in fragments” (18). Contrary to the subtitle of Global Fragments, Mendieta does not, cannot, and will not envision a global critical theory in the singular.

In the reminder of this review, I will outline three arguments with a broad brush. First, that humanity has eternally been fragmented; second, that humanity is moving toward defragmentation; and third, that critical thinking in the global age must strive for a singular global critical theory.

We have always been fragmented

No grand narrative of global history can avoid the transition from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens on the one hand, and the walking of hunters and gatherers into all habitable environments of the planet, i.e., the globalization of modern humans on the other. Paleoanthropologists are still debating these milestones of our development, with most backing the African origin of modern humans, but some advocating a multiregional alternative. However, even if it is found to be true that we were once a singular community, born to an African mother, it would be hard to deny that the human species has diversified and pluralized itself in myriad non-biological ways ever since. Hence the conclusion: humanity has long been fragmented on largely isolated continents and islands and by layers upon layers of social and cultural plurality.

Mendieta would probably grant that fragmentation is not new, but assert that globalization has increased fragmentation to a significant degree. “Under globalization,” he notes, “the world has become more fragmented as economic inequality shears continents and societies from each other” (2). This result dominates the negative column on Mendieta’s ledger. On the positive side, he credits globalization with “the cosmopolitan dimension of its political, ethical, and moral values.” (Ibid.) Cosmopolitanism appears in the positive column as the light that has allowed feminism, ecological movements, and religious tolerance to develop. I have doubts about the growth of religious tolerance and wish Mendieta’s balance sheet would provide supporting data. Given that the author does not quantify his assertions, one has to weigh them without the help of a comparative scale. To what extent have religious tolerance or intolerance increased with globalization? Have they grown symmetrically or asymmetrically, more in some regions than others, equally or unequally among economic groups? The scholarly question of how to turn qualitative impressions into evidence remains wide open.

Mendieta may be right about a strong correlation between globalization and fragmentation, but, using the same uncorroborated style, I say that I believe otherwise. Qualitative assessments of this kind have heuristic value. Still, we have to do the numbers to prove or disprove our general beliefs and perceptions. However, let me continue with my opposite hunch. Global consciousness has exploded in the last fifty years. People are currently grasping the uneven (fragmented) material, social, cultural, and political conditions on this planet in real time. Information about the global human condition has become ubiquitous. Yet the proliferating availability of information about such fragmentation does not prove that we have become more fragmented. The actual situation is presumably not as new as the information about it or our awareness of it. I think that humanity has been highly fragmented since the Neolithic Revolution. The recent information revolution has only removed the veil that was covering our ignorance.

Nevertheless, Mendieta is certainly right to approach megaurbanization and such things with alarm about their potential to multiply human misery and inequality on a global scale. Mike Davis has driven that concern home in Planet of Slums (2006) and I have explored that theme in “The Uneven Globality of Children” (2005). Yet the novelty is not that globalization spawns fragmentation (even if it does), but rather that it boosts technologies that outwit national border controls and other limitations with relentless rivers of information and communication about virtually anything, including the fragmented human condition. An unintended consequence of this subversive distribution of intelligence may very well be the global “defragmentation” of hitherto isolated (fragmented) local consciousnesses.

Humanity is turning toward defragmentation

The global fragmentation of human rights, environmental quality of life, and other vital affairs has put global defragmentation on the historical agenda. Maintaining the planet and attaining a healthy world society requires ecological and socioeconomic defragmentation. Humanity is learning that global health is linked to defragmentation. Of course, humanity wields no simple analogue to the defragger that tries to keep the hard drive of a computer healthy, but humanity’s toolbox is not empty. UN regimes, treaties, and protocols, like the Kyoto Protocol from 1997 (currently signed and ratified by 183 states out of 192 UN member states), are the equivalent defragmentation tools with which humanity is trying to avoid disaster and redirect the course of history.

Humans used to be a minority, scattered among the interdependent commonwealths of plants and animals. This changed dramatically after the Industrial Revolution. In the last two hundred years, the planet has fallen prey to human hands. Now all flora and fauna live precariously in the planetary empire ruled by humankind. The wellbeing of the planet’s non-human life forms has become humanity’s problem. Humans must manage the earth’s welfare and their own simultaneously. This notion has become common knowledge. Thus, humanity is beginning to realize its responsibility for the global whole. However, humanity is not a superorganism with open eyes and global consciousness, ready to overcome all obstacles. We — individuals, societies, social movements, corporations, organizations, countries, and regions — are still pulling in countless different directions, but we are also pulling together. Global fragmentation and defragmentation are now battling each other for better or worse.

International organizations, such as the UN (active since 1945), have taken sustained action against human and biospheric injury in conjunction with progressive state agencies and globally-oriented civic organizations like Amnesty International (1961), World Wildlife Fund (1961), Greenpeace (1971), and Doctors without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières, 1971). Fighting for decades against the local and global ills of ruinous or negligent human power, these actors have managed to expand governmental as well as nongovernmental organizations and the networks of civil society from the local to the supranational. Combating a rising multitude of local/global risks, they have imbued humanity with accountability. Forcing communities, countries, and corporations to face a huge systemic problem like global climate change, they have made headway from fragmentation to defragmentation.

It would be naïve to think that the turn toward defragmentation will not create its own problems. New and ugly challenges are to be expected. For instance, defragmentation could lead to cultural homogenization. The globalization debates that have tried to tackle this issue since Benjamin Barber’s “Jihad vs. McWorld” (1992) have been inconclusive. Let me ask, therefore, what would it take to settle a globalization headache like homogenization versus diversification? Shall we strive for a global critical theory in the singular?

We must strive for a singular global critical theory

Mendieta’s salient points of diversity, plurality, hope, and critique require that all humans can speak their mind freely; yet controversial issues will never be settled conclusively if all voices are equal. Falling back on theories in the plural will settle nothing; yet never settling anything is allowing everything, including abominations. Abominations, however, require a conclusive settlement, which is not likely if all flowers of opinion bloom. A global critical theory that brings closure to knotty problems is therefore as necessary as it is improbable. This is our discursive conundrum.

To convince an ardent fragmentarist like Mendieta, a global critical theory would have to incorporate the core elements of Adorno’s philosophy. First, it would have to respect the particular (das Besondere) and not crush it with the universal. Second, it would have to listen to the non-categorizable (das Unbegriffliche) and not overwhelm it with the categorized. Third, it would have to honor the non-identical (das Nicht-identische) and not only the identical. Fourth, it would have to appreciate the negative (das Negative) and not only embrace the positive. Finally, it would have to apply these sublime requirements to the entire global spectrum of social, cultural, political, and environmental worldviews.

The task of forging a theory for the all-encompassing problems of the twenty-first century cannot be accomplished individually. The old masters of comprehensive theoretical integration — world spirit (Weltgeist) philosophers like Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and world historians like Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee — have been deconstructed as dead white European males, spurious unifiers of a deeply fragmented world. Albert Camus’ Sisyphus, who bravely returns to the foot of the mountain to roll his rock back up again, captures the absurd heroism of the lone global thinker who knows that a singular global critical theory is impossible to reach single- handedly.

A global critical theory has to develop as a collective social science. The fragmentation of the socionatural world is shrinking and its defragmentation growing. But humanity is also advancing its technical capability to destroy itself and all higher life on this planet. Given this potential calamity of the whole, a plethora of critical theories becomes counterproductive and fragmentary thinking (thinking by way of fragments) turns into negligent thinking. Having learned from the humanities that critical thinking cannot be valueneutral, a global critical theory must combine symptomatic local/global analysis with compassionate systemic corrections, leave disciplinary confines behind, and develop effective research strategies similar to those of the natural sciences. Mendieta’s reflections on “transdisciplinarity” (106) point in this direction. Let us hope that the haunting specter of our ultimate negation will focus the global mind.

GLOBALIZATION: PRO OR PHOBIA?

March 23, 2013 Leave a comment

cofee & Wall street JournalJustin Rosenberg, “Globalization Theory: A Post Mortem,” International Politics, vol.42, 2005, pp.2-74.

Anthony Elliott and Charles Lemert, The New Individualism: The Emotional Costs of Globalization, Routledge, London and New York, 2006. ISBN: 0-415-35152-9, 232 pp.

Steven Flusty, De-Coca-Colonization: Making the Globe from the Inside Out, Routledge, New York and London, 2004. ISBN: 0-415-94538-0, vii+235 pp.

In January 1848, 160 years ago, Karl Marx added the finishing touches to a remarkable document, The Communist Manifesto. Umberto Eco has recently commended the admirable literary style and poetic qualities of this, probably the most influential political pamphlet ever written. But more than this, we should note again its author’s amazing prescience – prescient in terms of anticipating the main points of contemporary analyses of globalization, though not in terms of foretelling globalizing trends themselves, since they were clearly evident – to Karl Marx at least – by the time he wrote. All four of the authors whose work is to be reviewed here acknowledge some degree of theoretical indebtedness to Marx, so it is worth reminding ourselves briefly of Marx’s main points regarding globalization.

In The Communist Manifesto Marx analyzed succinctly the globalizing tendencies inherent within capitalism: “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.”[1] He described how this process of globalization produced a leveling and loss of distinct local cultures, superseding the claims of parochialism, regionalism and nationalism: “The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country” (83). He observed how established national industries were being destroyed and new industries created, which used not indigenous raw materials but materials imported from remote regions of the globe; while the products themselves were consumed all over the world. New wants were being generated, which could be satisfied only by the products of distant countries. This globalizing movement affected not only the production of goods, but intellectual production as well, so that, for example, “from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature” (84).

Marx also identified many of the social and psychological concomitants of globalization. For instance, he noticed the high value placed upon constant change in the name of innovation; and he was sensitive to the accompanying, ever-present human anxiety:

Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air… (83).

Among the many social changes that capitalism brought with it, Marx noted, for instance, the trend for expanding urban centers to dominate rural areas; the accelerating concentration of ownership of productiveresources in a few hands; and the increasing employment of women since, under the imperatives of the market, “Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity” (88).

Marx emphasized that under the sway of capitalism social relations tended to degenerate into brutal competition and callous exploitation. Social relationships come to be based solely on the cash nexus, leaving “no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest” or “egotistical calculation” (82). The ramifications of these changes extend through the whole spectrum of social life. Previously honored professions and occupations, whether those of doctors, lawyers, priests, poets or scientists, are no longer respected but, disciplined by market forces, are reduced to the position of wage laborers of capitalism. Even within the private domain, the intimate relationships of the family are disenchanted of sentiment and affection and reduced to financial contingencies.

Marx also wrote of the inevitability of these globalizing trends, the impossibility of resistance to or avoidance of the global expansion of capitalism, effected by means such as threats of competition and the inducements of cheap prices: “It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image” (84).

Thus the first section of The Communist Manifesto provides a brief, highly evocative summary of Marx’s analysis of the reasons for and consequences of capitalist globalization. One question we could ask when looking at recent work on globalization is: what, if anything, have current analyses added to the understanding of globalization we can derive from Marx? In fact, as will soon become clear, many of the significant themes in recent work on globalization were foreshadowed by Marx in The Communist Manifesto and more recent studies to a large extent merely repeat and elaborate upon his seminal ideas.

Rosenberg

In “Globalization Theory: A Post Mortem” (2005) Justin Rosenberg pronounces both globalization theory and in many ways the phenomenon of globalization itself to be corpses, fit only for autopsy. This is a very long journal article (72 pages), equivalent to a short book, and for that reason included in this review of recent works on globalization. The article is divided into three parts, moving from the more abstract to the more concrete. In these three parts, Rosenberg develops three main lines of argument:

  • a critique of the concept of globalization as it was used in the foundations of Globalization Theory;
  • the construction of a methodological bridge between social theory and empirical history in order to tap the useful possibilities of an historical sociology; and finally
  • a conjunctural analysis of the 1990s to show how a temporary combination of historical factors made globalization the ruling Zeitgeist of the age.

Some of these ideas were previously raised by Rosenberg in The Follies of Globalization Theory (2000). This previous publication was a very short book, equivalent to a very long journal article which, as the title suggests, focused on critique of some of the most prominent exponents of globalization theory, in particular Jan Aart Scholte, Rob Walker and Anthony Giddens.

(8) In the first section of the article, Rosenberg argues that Globalization Theory always suffered from serious and fundamental flaws, which were indeed inherent to the undertaking. Many of the ideas that Rosenberg canvasses in this first section were developed at greater length in The Follies of Globalization Theory, though, it must be said, with less clarity. In the literature which developed around the concept, the manifestations of globalization were taken to include the transnational integration of the world to form a single social space and the rise of new forms of deterritorialized social relations. Furthermore, Globalization theorists contended that the term “globalization” identified the causality involved in these fundamental transformations of social existence. Rosenberg argues, however, that the term “globalization” is fundamentally descriptive and empirical – thus an explanandum rather than an explanation. This error, according to Rosenberg, was “the founding inversion of explanans and explanandum which launched the giddy trajectory of Globalization Theory” (66).

The more ambitious Globalization theorists then attempted to use the concept of globalization as the basis for a wholesale reorientation of social theory grounded in the spatio-temporal dimension of life. But this placed a greater explanatory weight on the phenomenon of space-time compression than it could bear. As a result, these theorists were forced into cumulative qualifications and equivocations, which finally amounted to retraction, of their theoretical edifices: “the epochal predictions of Globalization Theory could suddenly dissolve in a sea of qualifications” (18). The results, in Rosenberg’s view, were theoretical follies, analogous to architectural follies, where the structure necessarily remains incomplete. “This phenomenon of the folly recurred so regularly in these writings that, in the absence of other explanations, it seems reasonable to conclude that it reflected a systematic flaw in the entire enterprise of Globalization Theory” (14). Thus, as Rosenberg argues persuasively, from the very beginning Globalization Theory lacked every sign of intellectual vitality: D.O.A. On the question of causality, Rosenberg concludes that the dramatic spatio-temporal phenomena of the 1990s were the result of processes of social change – and not vice versa.

Looking more specifically at the relations between globalization and state sovereignty, Rosenberg draws attention to historical difficulties with accepting the myth of the Westphalian System: the inter-state system of territorially-defined sovereign states supposedly inaugurated in Europe in 1648 at the conclusion of the Thirty Years’ War. Drawing on Marx, Rosenberg argues that under capitalism the separation of politics and economics, the domains of the state and of civil society, means that there is no necessary contradiction between state sovereignty and proliferating transnational economic linkages.

This is a shrewd argument about the relation between state sovereignty and international economic connections. But in this section of his thesis Rosenberg is in danger of slipping into intellectual folly himself. Although the putative separation of politics and economics is an essential part of capitalist ideology, as Marx pointed out, politics and economics cannot be separated, as Marx also pointed out. Nor is the state separate from civil society. As a recent wave of the feminist movement taught, even the personal is political. And there is no international political equality. Just as workers do not share equal power with their employers, so poorer nations cannot exert the same power as rich ones. The sovereignty of poorer, weaker nations is placed in jeopardy by economic pressures whether they originate from multinational corporations or the governments of dominant states (or both).

In the second part of his argument, Rosenberg explores the relation between social theories and historical explanation, demonstrating the possibility of an historical sociology as a mediating link between the two. This second section of the argument contains Rosenberg’s admirably clear reflections on bridging the gap between theory and the empirical data of history. He also explores how such an historical sociology might relate to the field of international relations through use of the theory of uneven and combined development, à la Leon Trotsky. Trotsky’s concept of uneven and combined development enables an historical sociology which incorporates international dynamics as integral to the historical process of social development.

In the final section of the argument, Rosenberg shows that globalization became the Zeitgeist of the 1990s, the spirit of the age, as a result of a conjunction of circumstances, including most importantly the end of the Cold War and the rise of neo-liberal politics and neo-classical economics, combined with the latest communication technologies. According to Rosenberg, the Soviet collapse in the East between 1989 and 1991 and the deregulation drive in the West produced a socio-political vacuum, the rapid filling in of which created a sense of irresistible momentum, which turned out to be merely temporary. But if globalization was merely a passing Zeitgeist, what does this say for the role of its theorizers? “Globalization Theorists were led to do the opposite of what social theorists are supposed to do. Instead of acting as interpreters to the spirit of the age, they became its ideological amplifiers” (6-7). Instead of globalization, Rosenberg advocates a theoretical return to classical social theory, which in his view is solidly grounded in the work of Karl Marx.

The idea that globalization is already past its use-by date is a theme that has been developed by other writers as well, notably John Ralston Saul in The Collapse of Globalism: And the Reinvention of the World (2005). Perhaps this should be seen as an illustration of the accelerating rate of ideational turnover in the twenty-first century: “All that is solid…” But this would not be fair to Rosenberg and others, who never believed it for a minute. Saul’s periodization differs from Rosenberg’s; he dates the era of globalization from the early 1970s through to 1995. Saul contends that despite some successes, globalization failed to deliver on its core promise of promoting world-wide economic growth, leaving in its wake the chaotic interregnum we now inhabit, characterized by a lack of clear direction for the future. To end the post-global confusion, Saul advocates positive nationalism, a revival of the humanist notion of belonging to a community, with government to provide leadership, not management, in the service of the public good.

Rosenberg’s is a dense and brilliant argument, and summary cannot do justice to its richness. Nevertheless, a few points of criticism can be raised. The claim by Rosenberg and Saul that the age of globalization is over seems prima facie to be contradicted by the continuing flow of books and articles with “globalization” in their titles (this one included). If globalization is merely yesterday’s Zeitgeist, as Rosenberg contends, why the sustained academic fascination?

What is lacking in Rosenberg’s otherwise detailed exposition of the historical conjuncture of the 1990s is consideration of the role played by globalization as an ideology. Outstanding here was the use of globalization by governments and corporate interests as a threat to discipline and tool to demoralize workers and labor movements in Western countries; and its use as a threat to constrain and control non-Western governments. Trotsky wrote of “the whip of external necessity” and that whip could be heard cracking all over the world during the 1990s, wielded by neo-liberal politicians, neo-classical economists and managers of international organizations alike. What was global about the 1990s was the world-wide dissemination of this dismal discipline, dubbed by Saul “crucifixion economics,” and its (no doubt reluctant) acceptance by many left-leaning politicians, left-leaning voters, social-democratic parties, trade union movements and individual workers. It is arguable that globalization was especially useful and effective as an ideology because the term did not appear on the surface to have political origins or commitments – it could give the appearance of political neutrality, but at the same time imply “non-political” forms of coercion and irresistibility. The ideological separation of politics and economics under capitalism, to which Marx called attention, comes into play here.

Another deficiency of Rosenberg’s article is that it focuses specifically on the perpetrators of the high theory of globalization. He does not examine the far larger body of literature dealing with “theories of globalization” rather than Globalization Theory. Nor does he address the large literature on globalization which treats the subject discursively and/or from particular points of view. Rosenberg’s approach is rigorously analytical and focused on questions of causation. His work concentrates only on the small range of texts which attempted to elevate globalization into an overarching social theory and to argue that globalization by the 1990s was playing a causal role in social development. This is both the strength and a weakness of Rosenberg’s analysis.

But what is to be done about globalization? Other than recommending a return to Marxian methods of dissecting it, Rosenberg has no answer to offer. But this is no doubt a deficiency of Marxian analysis generally, rather than specific to Rosenberg. Before the coming of class revolution, it is not clear that Marx could envisage any strategies available to resist capitalist globalization that are not doomed to failure.

 

Elliott & Lemert

The New IndividualismA recent book, first published in 2005, which works from the premise that globalization is still very much alive, is Anthony Elliott and Charles Lemert’s The New Individualism: The Emotional Costs of Globalization. Not only is globalization still alive, but according to Elliott and Lemert it is set to intensify in its effects, which on the whole they see as negative and damaging for people’s well-being. Under the broad sign of globalization, the authors include, for instance, “the speed of travel, the ease of communication, the multicultural politics of the world, the new transnational economic markets” The study concentrates mainly, though not exclusively, on the impact of globalization in the United States and Britain.

The focus of this study is to trace the sociological and psychological impacts of globalization. The book therefore ranges between the level of overarching social theory and generalizing social analysis, and the level of the individual’s experience of recent social developments. Whereas the orientation of much mainstream psychology has been towards individual issues and responsibility, in effect often blaming the victim, Elliott and Lemert’s mix of sociology and psychology studies the ramifications of wide social movements for the psychological experiences of individuals. The authors adopt an anecdotal approach, reporting in depth several case studies based on reality, but altered to protect the subjects’ anonymity and also to heighten the impact of the stories. In most cases the lives of these individuals have in some way been damaged by the cluster of social changes which the authors include under the umbrella of globalization. This study thus has some elements of methodological individualism – the method or approach within the social sciences which explains social phenomena in terms of the interaction of innumerable decisions and actions of individuals – but it straddles the divide between social theoretic analysis and individual reportage, and hence between the abstract and the concrete.

When it comes to sociological analysis, the authors identify three major socio-structural changes in the Western world that have impacted upon individuals’ lives and personalities. These are: commodification; the new culture politics of the political Right; and privatization. It is worth probing this section of the analysis in some detail because of the insights it can give us about where the authors are coming from in terms of their social and political commitments. Under commodification, Elliott and Lemert acknowledge the contributions of Marx, Lukacs and Habermas and write of the advent of monopolies and multinationals on the one hand, and the promotion of individualist consumerist values on the other. They portray the penetration of market logic into the fabric of social relations as profoundly damaging. As they see it, consumerism undermines the ability of individuals to be aware of their own needs and desires, and more importantly damages our capacity to make meaningful emotional connections with each other. In the end even the consummation of consumerist objectives – returning home with a haul of stuff from the mall – can simply turn to dust, leaving only a sense of vacuity and despair.

Elliott and Lemert also discuss the implications, for individuals and for individualism, of the political shift towards a new conservatism and a reactionary intellectual milieu. In their view the politics of the radical Right in Western societies, initiated by Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in Britain, has destroyed human communities and social cohesiveness on an unprecedented scale. Transnational capitalism has promoted individualism with all the ideological means at its disposal and achieved a rapid remoulding of private and public values.

The third socio-structural feature addressed by the authors is privatization, a process associated with a worldwide transformation of the barriers between public and private spaces. “The intimate connection, forged over many years in the collective psyche, between the domain of government and the public good is today rendered a fantasy of a bygone era, as the world is remade according to capital mobility and the selling off of governmental assets to the private sector” (39). Massive privatization and deregulation have led to social exclusion for many, who are denied access to basic social provisions such as medical care and education, or even water supply. The sometimes deadly effects of the failure to provide basic facilities are masked by the rhetoric of individual freedoms. Elliott and Lemert argue that the infiltration of neo-liberal economic doctrines into the tissue of our social practices has spread the values of the market into personal and intimate life, producing calculating, isolating and deadening forms of life. “What we are suggesting is that people today increasingly suffer from an emotionally pathologizing version of neoliberalism” (41).

Most important, perhaps, is to address what Elliott and Lemert identify as the most effective strategy available for individuals to respond to and cope with the oppressive forces of globalization impinging deleteriously on their beings. They present their prescriptions in the last chapter of the book, entitled “Surviving the new individualism: Living aggressively in deadly worlds.” The conclusions they reach are surprising, and at first more than a little disconcerting. One is reminded of the shock that Jean-Paul Sartre felt when he first read in The Wretched of the Earth

Franz Fanon’s exhortations to violence on the part of the black man in order to overcome the extremely demoralizing internal psychological effects of continuous denigration within the imperialist ideologies of the white colonizers. As in so much of Elliott and Lemert’s book, the argument is presented by means of anecdotal histories of individuals. The authors present two contrasting potted biographies of two leading academics: the famous sociologist, C. Wright Mills; and the not-so-famous, but reportedly formidable, Phyllis Meadow. As Elliott and Lemert tell it, during his life C. Wright Mills was increasingly troubled, worn down and finally, it is suggested, died as a result of the stress of public opposition to his work. Phyllis Meadow, on the other hand, worked as Mills’ research assistant in the 1940s, became a prominent psychoanalyst and continued to flourish during a long life until she died of cancer in 2004 at the age of 80; among her many achievements was to found the Institute for the Study of Violence in Boston. What conclusions do the authors draw?

Elliott and Lemert underline the ubiquity of violence in the globalizing world: “Deadly worlds are violent worlds. They may not lead immediately to the death of the body, but when violence is pervasive, either in the neighborhood or across the world, that violence is experienced and has its effects” (177-8). They see the answers to the problems of globalization as emerging in the realm of psychology.

According to Elliott and Lemert, “Phyllis’s aggression was rooted in her willingness to know the worlds for what they so messily are – impossible and aggressive and violent” (191); and more generally, “We will never come to terms as individuals with the new global realities if we begin with any sort of innocence about just how deadly these new worlds are” (192). In a line of argument reminiscent of Nietzsche, the only answer seems to be to get in touch with the aggressive animal instincts, which these authors regard as inherent in human nature. In the end, Elliott and Lemert see the New Individualism as the necessary hard and aggressive work of recognizing, comprehending and surviving the deadly social worlds being engendered by globalization.

The problem is that, unfortunately, Elliott and Lemert provide little or no guidance about what “living aggressively” would entail in practice. The concept remains vague and hedged about with qualifications about aggression needing to be “balanced against the love of others and the constructive desire to join them working to build a better world;” or having to be mixed with the “drive to form creative relations with others.” Does this qualify as another intellectual folly, with such prevarications amounting to retraction? Unlike Marx, who exhorted the international working class to unite and lose their chains, or Fanon, who advocated united resistance by colonized peoples against European imperialism, Elliott and Lemert’s advice to live aggressively is in danger of descending in practice to the level of occasional individualist dummy-spits.

The book is written in a relaxed, rather folksy tone, with what seems at times a lackadaisical, self-indulgent dilatoriness: one wonders if this is a sign of a New Individualism within academia. Perhaps another sign of that trend, the text has been inadequately proof-read and typos and grammatical mistakes proliferate; provoking some answering aggression on the part of the reader.

Whether or not “living aggressively” is the answer to the very real psychological pains of globalization, this book has the merit of opening up a significant field of research: the psychological effects on individuals and societies of the social, economic and cultural changes summed up by the term globalization – in particular escalating levels of anxiety associated with constant threats of global competition and the concurrent dismantling of welfare safety nets. This book will certainly not be the last word on the subject, far from it, but this is an area of research of the most pressing importance.

 

Flusty

De-Coca-ColonizationFar more upbeat in tone is Steven Flusty’s De-Coca-Colonization: Making the Globe from the Inside Out, a very hopeful book about the possibilities for popular resistance to globalization. Or, more correctly, it is a reinterpretation of the nature of globalization to show that it is produced, rather than needing to be resisted, by people at the local level. At the same time it also throws into dispute the accepted distinction between the global and the local. As is already becoming clear, this book puts into question so many of the taken-for-granted assumptions of the scholarly discourse surrounding globalization that it becomes difficult to characterize its argument using the accepted terminology.

(30) It is no doubt partly for this reason, and also because of the author’s self-confessed penchant for terminological inventiveness, that neologisms stud his prose. In the course of her perusal, the reader becomes familiar with “flexism,” the “metapolis,” “globalities” and “de-coca-colonization” itself, to name but a few; as well as such neo-phraseology as the “new world bipolar disorder,” and “prickly space.” Though a little disturbing at first, such neologisms quickly register as both novel and lively, apt as well as challenging.

This short book packs a powerful emotional impact. Its tone of buoyant optimism is infectious, so the effect is uplifting and energizing. This is not to say that the book is naïve or Pollyannaish. The author writes about the darker side of the globalizing world, the prevalence of gated communities in the United States and elsewhere, of the increasing official surveillance of everyday life, about September 11 in New York and terrorism. But the emphasis remains on the creative potential for people to shape and reshape globalities for themselves.

Essentially, Flusty’s argument is that globalization is created by the activities of myriad individuals, acting either as individuals or within groups. Thus agency and the power of creation reside in the hands of individuals, and individuals can make and remake globalization according to their own desires. This study thus shares some elements of methodological individualism with Elliott and Lemert’s work in The New Individualism, but the use made of individual experiences is very different. By focusing on the individual and the local, Flusty counters the dominant conceptualization of global processes as by nature, big, inevitable, irresistible, overwhelming and imposed from above. What Flusty is arguing for might be characterized simply as “globalization from below” instead of “globalization from above.” This aligns his work in some ways with that of Richard Falk, as in Predatory Globalization: A Critique (1999), with its stress on the need to build transnational civil society as a foundation for democratic global governance.

Flusty’s argument raises some interesting methodological issues. The theoretical basis of his approach to globalization could be described as methodological individualism, where social phenomena are explained in terms of the interaction of countless decisions and actions of individuals. This approach can be contrasted with methodological collectivism, which instead explains developments in society in terms of the behavior of collectivities such as classes, ethnic groups, or genders. The interesting thing about the dominant discourse on globalization is that it has been closely connected with the concepts of economic rationalism, neo-classical economics and the ideology of the free market – all of which are theoretically grounded in methodological individualism. What Flusty has managed to do is to turn methodological individualism against that dominant globalizing discourse. Flusty engenders a sense of individual empowerment by placing decision-making about the future course of globalization into the hands of individuals all over the globe. This “detournement” (a Flustyism), or reworking of individualism against the oppressive forces of “plutocratic corporatism” (another Flustyism) is one of the reasons why this book is so intellectually stimulating as well as emotionally satisfying.

Flusty’s relationship with various systemic analyses of globalization, such as Marxist approaches or neo-Marxist dependency theories, is therefore difficult; and this is something he grapples with continually, but inconclusively, throughout the book. He characterizes his own approach as “discursive materialism.” This could easily be criticized as fence-sitting, but Flusty believes it “elegantly bridges the material/discourse divide” (p.12). It might be replied that there is nothing as inelegant as attempting to straddle a fence. The theoretical problems of the relationships or conflicts between individual freedom, discourse, and materialism are not so easily disposed of. The theoretical importance of these issues should not be minimized, but neither should the difficulty of resolving them. They have tangled up more famous thinkers than Flusty: Jean-Paul Sartre and Edward Said spring to mind. Flusty finally relies on Marx’s well-known dictum that individuals make their own history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing. Flusty also gestures toward Michel Foucault’s notion of micropolitics, seeing power not so much as external and sovereign but as immanent in and emerging through day-today thoughts and actions. Thus the dark forces of globalized plutocraticcorporatism do exert undeniable power, but Flusty emphasizes repeatedly that even these forces themselves are the result of countless individual daily actions, and their dominance is neither inevitable nor permanent:

There are multiple versions of the world at play on the global field, and there are inarguably winners that claim the lion’s share of the spoils…All remain engaged in continuous, polyvalent, and dislocated struggles for control over symbolic and literal terrains, all work to be concretized as globalities with the power to influence (or refuse) the order of the world…It remains instead a persistently viscous planet, an arena where all manner of institutions and other hybrid social collectivities advance incommensurable globalities, plutocratic and otherwise, of their own devising (131).

Strictly speaking, Flusty does not put forward globalization from below as an alternative to globalization from above, but as a counterpart.

According to Flusty, the social work of constructing globalization “is done by the stuff of everyday life – its persons, spaces, artifacts, and, most important, the practices that constitute their relationships” (4). Such quotidian minutiae become the stuff of his analysis. To underline global interconnectedness, he tells stories about items of everyday life (or at least his everyday life): a barong shirt from the Philippines, ordering a suit from Damascus, and the intriguing Meiji Yogurt Scotch candies, redolent of the Silk Road. “At its broadest my claim is that globalization is only because it is woven through the planet’s social fabric from the ground up (or, much more correctly, from particular grounds outward) by everyday life’s hyperextension – the increasing spatial reach of emplaced social relations” (4). To highlight the possibilities of resistance, he describes in depth, for example, international opposition to Nike as a corporation, and provides a fascinating account of the Zapatista uprising in Mexico from 1994 as a movement against neo-liberalism and globalization.

(36) No doubt Flusty’s method and line of argument, his eclectic and rather haphazard approach to theoretical underpinnings, will give little satisfaction to committed theory builders who wish to explain the phenomenon of globalization as a whole. For as Rosenberg comments in the course of the methodological reflections in his article, while noting the limited success of attempts to create a dialogue between the fields of International History and International Theory, “contrasted idioms talk intelligently but unproductively past each other.”

Nevertheless, of the three books reviewed, it is Flusty’s that gives the reader most hope for the future. His inspiring anecdotes of multicultural mixing, his cheerful upending of the methodological individualism of economic rationalism, provide a vitally needed tonic against the psychological pains of life within what are often deadly and deadening globalizing worlds.

GLOBALIZATION AND DEMOCRAZY

March 23, 2013 Leave a comment

The Globalization ParadoxA Review of Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy, New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. 346pp. ISBN: 978-0-393-07161-0.

Dani Rodrik’s The Globalization Paradox is a practical book. It describes things as they are and not as proponents of globalization would like them to be. It defends national sovereignty and democracy against the threats posed by advocates of free trade. And it rehabilitates government as a necessary element in a market economy.

 Economic globalization is both a fact – world markets, heightened trade, and vast increases in capital flows – and an ideology. Rodrik has no dispute with economic globalization as a real process, which fosters trade between nations and which sometimes reduces transaction costs. But he is dead set against the idea, which he calls hyperglobalization, that national and local constraints are irrelevant impediments to the beneficent operation of free trade. As many historical and recent crises have shown, unregulated global markets are unstable, prone to bubbles and collapse. Rather than irrelevant, national regulatory institutions and practices protect and support globalization. Markets depend on states and cannot work without them. National markets are “embedded” in states where democratic participation, safety nets, and anti-trust legislation controls business. In nations, the demos provides a constituency for the economy, whereas the sole constituency for global markets are the elites who profit from it.

Rodrik establishes what he describes as a trilemma. There is a contradiction between “the national scope of governments and the global nature of markets.” Hyperglobalization works to eradicate national regulatory authority and allow capital markets to operate without restraint. Hyperglobalization refuses the limits that democratic governance requires in the form of social legislation and the consent of the governed. Accordingly, it is impossible to imagine a deeply integrated global market in which national states and democracy could flourish; or, the converse, a world in which national sovereignty and democracy prospered and global markets were not weak. At some points in his book, Rodrik argues that a choice is necessary: if you want national sovereignty and democracy, give up any hope of deeply integrated global markets; if you want integrated global markets, state sovereignty and democracy must diminish. He believes, of course, that some balance between national states and global markets is achievable and he suggests that a contemporary form of the Bretton Woods agreement would do the trick.

Rodrik develops his argument thoroughly. The book is divided into four sections: the first is devoted to the history of economic globalization in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and to a discussion of the international management of trade under the Bretton Woods regime, the GATT agreements and, currently, the WTO (World Trade Organization). The second section deals with the foibles of finance in a global market and the third with how economic globalization affects poor or underdeveloped nations. The fourth section considers and rejects the idea of global governance of world markets and envisions a revised form of capitalism, which Rodrik describes as Capitalism 3.0., or a new and saner form of economic globalization.

Globalized trade may involve numerous “transaction costs,” meaning things without which trade could not take place, such as laws guaranteeing that the trade is legitimate or a trusted medium of exchange (money). Trade is often supported by trust, which results from extensive cooperation between buyer and seller; or by values that buyer and seller share, such as the belief that it would be wrong to sell each other damaged goods. The most common form of support for trade is government, which is why highly developed economies have more government than less developed economies.

Though proponents of economic globalization often deny the necessity of government, markets, especially global markets, are inextricably connected to them.

In the immediate postwar era, trade agreements such as Bretton Woods and GATT recognized the need to balance the exigencies of global free trade against what governments required to accommodate their citizenry. These were agreements that espoused a moderate form of globalization in which trade was subservient to domestic policy objectives — growth, equity and the welfare state.

Even though the United States was a hegemonic power, it supported an economic globalization regime that was multilateral and that operated through international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). American power was certainly essential to these institutions, but they worked fairly and independently of American authority. They created a system of rules and rule enforcement as well as an institutional infrastructure for the postwar international economy.

GATT was highly successful; it created what Rodrik describes as “a golden era of globalization” (71), in which the volume of world trade grew at an average annual rate of seven percent from 1948-1990, much greater than ever before or since. It was successful because it was limited. Its goal was to create the maximum amount of trade compatible with the free operation of national policymaking and practice. By contrast, the World Trade Organization (WTO) initiated an era of hyperglobalization, in which domestic priorities were subordinate to global trade and finance. The integration of world markets for goods and capital became an imperative, requiring that all nations pursue market fundamentalist strategies such as low corporate taxes, stringent fiscal policy, deregulation, and diminution of union power.

Hyperglobalization guarantees that the price of some products will decrease, because they can now be imported from countries where labor is cheap. But for the same reason, hyperglobalization puts Americans out of work; what they manufactured is now made elsewhere. The redistributive consequences of the global free market affect workers disproportionately. They lose their jobs and experience enormous dislocation. Policies to mitigate the negative effects of hyperglobalization are scarce or ineffective: tariffs are self-defeating and safety nets or social programs to offset redistributive inequity are inadequate.

The financial crises of recent years are stellar examples of misplaced faith in economic globalization. Floating exchange rates, introduced in 1971, created instability in capital markets. Bankers and economists believed that this problem could be solved through financial deregulation or the relaxation of capital controls. Instead of being pegged to the dollar, currency values would be determined by the market, on the assumption that the market would improve the global allocation of resources. But what occurred was precisely the reverse of expectations. Capital mobility resulted in crisis, no less than 124 banking failures, 208 currency collapses, and 63 sovereign debt crises between 1970 and 2008. The cause was the gap between the vast reach of capital and the minimal scope of its governance.

Economic globalization and uneven development go together. In the global market comparative advantage always favors manufacturing nations – those who trade products with “added value” – as against nations who sell agricultural commodities or raw materials. But nations are not necessarily “stuck” where history or nature situates them. Japan, Southeast Asia, and China show that poor societies can rearrange the playing field through the creation of institutions that promote economic development and allow “competitiveness.” By various means, governments can intervene to enhance performance and control markets to their own advantage. Some unleash the vitality of private enterprise through a favorable “business climate” (Southeast Asia); others use market regulations of different sorts to protect the domestic economy while encouraging export trade (China).

Rodrik does not look to resolve the inequities of economic globalization through more globalization; he is no fan of global governance. He thinks it impractical and harmful. Though he favors the European Union (EU), he discusses at length the problems that exist even in a regional organization in which member nations have much in common – history, environment, relative economic equality, etc. He believes that global governance would serve only to spread risk, that the differences between nations make global standards unrealistic and unenforceable, and that human beings would shun global governance because of their attachment to national identity. He sets forth seven principles for a sane form of economic globalization (Capitalism 3.0), all of which follow from his first principle, that “markets must be deeply embedded in [national] systems of governance” (237).

The Globalization Paradox affirms an international trade regime that is less concerned with free global markets and more concerned with opening up room for nations to defend their own public space, to insure that open global markets do not destroy basic rights, social justice, and policies promoting growth. Rodrik uses existing provisions of the WTO to propound the view that nations be able to invoke “safeguards” – i.e., opt out – not merely to raise tariffs when imports threaten the domestic economy, but also to protect labor and environmental standards. With respect to international finance Rodrik allows for a minimal set of international guidelines to control capital flows, but his principal emphasis is on national regulation. Whenever capital is exported to another country, it must follow the same rules as domestic capital: similar levels of capital reserves; similar disclosure requirements and trading regulations.

Rodrik is especially interesting on an oft neglected topic: labor market flows. There can be too much and too little economic globalization: labor markets fall into the second category. Rich nations limit labor flows, in spite of the fact that citizens of poor nations seek to emigrate to improve their incomes and life chances. Labor flow restrictions confirm global uneven development. One way to equalize incomes would be for the rich nations to accept qualified labor flows via open immigration policies that would allow migrants to fill jobs in rich countries for a period of five years. Policy violations would result in large fines for the migrants and for their home country.

The Globalization Paradox is not directed against economic globalization as such, but rather against the ideology of globalization, the market fundamentalist notion that economic globalization benefits everyone, that free trade is a definitive good, that economic globalization is an inevitability that renders the world “flat.” Rodrik correctly observes that markets cannot function without the support of states and that global capitalism, in its quest for free reign, corrodes the sovereign institutions that are necessary for its survival. The setting is new – twenty-first century economic globalization – but the story is old. Capitalism’s corrosive character has always been the source of its instability. To some extent the contradiction that Rodrik defines, between national democracy and deep economic globalization, is a built-in feature of capitalist systems. Sometimes states manage to control markets; at other times markets control states. But there is nothing “natural” about either outcome.

One big omission in Rodrik’s analysis is the role of politics in advocating the ideology of economic globalization. Political will either promotes or contradicts market fundamentalism. It is always politicians who allow capitalist markets free reign or who endeavor to tame them. The deleterious effects of global capitalism over the last thirty years have little to do with the inherent nature of global capitalism and a great deal to do with neoliberal politicians like Reagan, Thatcher, Clinton, Blair and the two Bushes who sought to deregulate markets, ushering in thereby a global regime which, via industrialization, has exacerbated climate change and produced uneven development, poverty and inequality. Without a discussion of what might be called the politics of economic globalization, the analysis found in The Globalization Paradox lacks substance. In disregarding politics, Rodrik renders his policy suggestions irrelevant or utopian, because in the current political environment they are implausible.

A second problem with the book is it terminology. Hyperglobalization is an exaggeration that reveals Rodrik in one or another unsatisfactory guise. Either he means to overstate our present condition and make economic globalization more threatening than it is or he actually accepts the definition of economic globalization set forth by such propagandists as Thomas Friedman. Writers like Friedman talk a good game, but their view of the world is not only programmatically wrong but also inaccurate. The world is far away from being “hyperglobalized.” Rodrik takes the neoliberal ideology that Friedman espouses too seriously and overstates the threat posed by economic globalization to nation states. As his own discussion of the European Union demonstrates, both state power and national identity are strong, far more resistant to either the fact or ideology of economic globalization than he allows.

Democracy, however, is threatened, and not by economic globalization but by corruption. And again, the problem is political. In an era of extreme uneven development, the elites of the world – both in business and in politics – have made common cause against democracy. Their interests and the interests of ordinary folk are antithetical. They profit from uneven development, poverty and inequality and to protect their interests they collude against the citizenry and its needs. The market fundamentalism that Rodrik deplores is an ideology that justifies the power and status of these elites. Corporations may operate globally, but they practice politics in the nation state, aiming to free themselves and their firms from the rules and regulations of state governance. To speak of economic globalization or “hyperglobalization” as a challenge to democracy is too abstract. The challenge lies within, in the state itself.

Dani Rodrik doesn’t limit his argument to modern textbook economics. He excavates from the dusty shelves of economics libraries some forgotten books and tracts that are singularly relevant for today. Henry Martyn’s Consideration Upon the East-India Trade, written in 1701, anticipates many of the arguments that economists who favored free trade would marshal much later. In 1961, James E. Mead wrote The Economics and Social Structure of Mauritius, and proposed the same kind of diagnostic tools and policy approach that Rodrik and his coauthors would later develop and sell out to the World Bank. This approach, called the “Growth Diagnostics framework”, now serves as reference in international policy debates and is quoted approvingly by senior officials from emerging countries who are now the darlings of international gatherings. Development economics has come full circle: as Rodrik notes, “that industrial policy, in whatever guise, is once again considered acceptable, and indeed necessary, speaks volumes about how far we have retreated from the trade fundamentalism of the 1990s.”

Rodrik also have his weak points. He is candid about his limitations as a forecaster. He didn’t see the Asian crisis coming in 1997, and he got it wrong again in 2007 when he missed the subprime crisis that was brewing in the U.S. More to the point, he picked up the wrong fight in the late 1990s, arguing against free trade when the real menace was coming from the excesses of financial globalization. One gets the feeling he still gives too much importance to the trade agenda as defined by the WTO in comparison to the new trade rules and conditions negotiated away from public scrutiny in the bilateral or regional trade agreements that now span the world in a complex web of policy arrangements. Rodrik is on less familiar ground when the discusses international finance, and his plea for an international transaction tax could have been more substantiated.

In making the case for their pet theory, economists often miss the broader picture. Not so with Dani Rodrik. His list of principles and recommendations that close the book offer an all-encompassing agenda for a better and safer globalization. It is altogether fitting that the quote which best sums up his policy stance was offered by a Chinese student, who recommended to keep the windows open, but without forgetting the mosquito screens. This utterance could have been offered by a future statesman and, considering the wide audience that Dani Rodrik’s essay deserves, it could as well be picked up by one.