The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of The World by John Ralston Saul Penguin, New Delhi 2005
The idea that economics and trade will blur -- and ultimately efface -- national boundaries is there with us. But we also live in an increasingly fractious world. The supercilious prophecy of Milton Friedman and his Chicago school -- also Fredrik Hayek and the Austrian school -- that economics will become the religion of the world remains unfulfilled. In 2002, ex-chief economist at the World Bank -- and the 2001 Nobel economics prizewinner -- Joseph E Stiglitz analysed this failure in Globalization and its Discontents . The book was a stinging indictment of the policies of the International Monetary Fund (imf), World Trade Organization and World Bank by an economist who had a ringside view of the framing of the Washington Consensus on free markets. Stiglitz saw the hand of imf in East Asia's financial crises, Russia's failed conversion to a market economy, failed development in sub-Saharan Africa and financial meltdown in Latin America. Loans came with conditions that subverted democracy, hampered local economic growth, and enriched multinational corporations.
The failure of the global market place -- if ever there was any -- is also the concern of this book under review. Its author John Ralston Saul is, however, no economist. He is a historian and a philosopher, and his training is palpable in every chapter of Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World. This book will find no takers in India's Silicon Valley or in its outsourcing industry -- that is if anyone there cares to read it. But that would be to their loss. Bangalore would do well to take note of Saul's critic of technological determinism. Conflating technology with Modernism is as flawed as it gets. But unfortunately, the Goblessian pronouncements of the 'messiahs of information age' have many takers today.
"Technological progress" is also a crutch for multinational corporations. And, slavish pursuit of technology lays grounds for domination of these corporations. It does not -- and in fact hasn't -- foster freedom as the Chicago School or the Austrian School of Economics would have us believe. It hasn't flattened the world, as the other Friedman, Thomas, would have us believe.
So, it's quite obvious that many of the holes Sauls makes in the globalisation rhetoric, were actually made long ago. And they continue to be made. We need them. The globalisation rhetoric -- in the sense of unregulated free markets -- continues to be made with religious conviction, notwithstanding Saul's evidences to the country. Nowhere is this more evident than in India, where any attempt to regulate -- or even criticise -- multinationals is seen as detrimental to economic growth.
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