Thursday, January 04, 2007

Globalization Dies

Walden Bellow weighs in with many words, including these:
...Fourth, there has been too much dissonance between the promise of globalization and free trade and the actual results of neoliberal policies, which have been more poverty, inequality, and stagnation. One of the very few places where poverty diminished over the last 15 years is China. But interventionist state policies that managed market forces, not neoliberal prescriptions, were responsible for lifting 120 million Chinese out of poverty. Moreover, the advocates of eliminating capital controls have had to face the actual collapse of the economies that took this policy to heart. The globalization of finance proceeded much faster than the globalization of production. But it proved to be the cutting edge not of prosperity but of chaos. The Asian financial crisis and the collapse of the economy of Argentina, which had been among the most doctrinaire practitioners of capital account liberalization, were two decisive moments in reality’s revolt against theory.

Another factor unraveling the globalist project is its obsession with economic growth. Indeed, unending growth is the centerpiece of globalization, the mainspring of its legitimacy. While a recent World Bank report continues to extol rapid growth as the key to expanding the global middle class, global warming, peak oil, and other environmental events are making it clear to people that the rates and patterns of growth that come with globalization are a surefire prescription for ecological Armageddon.

The final factor, not to be underestimated, has been popular resistance to globalization. The battles of Seattle in 1999, Prague in 2000, and Genoa in 2001; the massive global anti-war march on February 15, 2003, when the anti-globalization movement morphed into the global anti-war movement; the collapse of the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun in 2003 and its near collapse in Hong Kong in 2005; the French and Dutch peoples’ rejection of the neoliberal, pro-globalization European Constitution in 2005 -- these were all critical junctures in a decade-long global struggle that has rolled back the neoliberal project. But these high-profile events were merely the tip of the iceberg, the summation of thousands of anti-neoliberal, anti-globalization struggles in thousands of communities throughout the world involving millions of peasants, workers, students, indigenous people, and many sectors of the middle class...

From today’s vantage point, globalization appears to have been not a new, higher phase in the development of capitalism but a response to the underlying structural crisis of this system of production. Fifteen years since it was trumpeted as the wave of the future, globalization seems to have been less a “brave new phase” of the capitalist adventure than a desperate effort by global capital to escape the stagnation and disequilibria overtaking the global economy in the 1970s and 1980s. The collapse of the centralized socialist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe deflected people’s attention from this reality in the early 1990s.

Many in progressive circles still think that the task at hand is to “humanize” globalization. Globalization, however, is a spent force. Today’s multiplying economic and political conflicts resemble, if anything, the period following the end of what historians refer to as the first era of globalization, which extended from 1815 to the eruption of World War I in 1914. The urgent task is not to steer corporate-driven globalization in a “social democratic” direction but to manage its retreat so that it does not bring about the same chaos and runaway conflicts that marked its demise in that earlier era.


Update: Interesting more on China here.

3 comments:

ChinaLawBlog said...

It was the lifting of government restrictions that lifted 120 million Chinese out of poverty, not the government. Private enterprise is booming in China while state enterprise is shrinking.

Matt said...

Well, okay. That is certainly one chant line.

And far be it from me to go looking to debate a couple of lawyers on a topic I know even less about, but surely China's unique "success" has something to do with state responsibility for citizen welfare (as opposed to the complete abdignation of social responsibility, imprisoning debt and environmental suicide in countries taking their "free" trade pills straight up).

I find much of Walden's description and historical analogy compelling, though I'm not sure I share his conclusions.

matt said...

ps. let's pretend that was either a deliberate neologism, or that I said "abdication," if you don't mind.