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STATES OF DISARRAY-THE SOCIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBALISATION.UNRISDreport on the World Summit for Social Development, Geneva, March,1995

 
By Vinayak Rao
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- the preparatory phase of the World Summit for Social Development witnessed the launch of several research projects relevant to and in support of issues like poverty, unemployment and social integration, to be discussed at the summit. The book under review is one of these.

This book which is well-researched and documented is derived from several papers commissioned by the Geneva-based United Nations Research Institute for Social Development ( unrisd) and other un bodies. The work was carried out with support and cooperation from the United Nations Development Programme and some governments like those of The Netherlands and Norway, which had funded it. The chapters of the book are logically arranged into three segments: the description of the political, economic and technological changes taking place across the globe during the past two decades, their implications on social problems and their impact on various institutions.

The main argument of the book is that global transformation, characterised by the spread of liberal democracy, dominance of market forces, integration of global economy, transformation of the production system and labour markets, spread of technological change, media revolution and consumerism, does not appear to be a 'natural' phenomena but is a process propelled by the influence of the economic and political agenda of industrialised countries.

The benefits accruing to and responses of the developing countries to the changes has been a mixed one. While some have taken advantage of the new market opportunities, others have clung to traditional alternatives. The undue pressure exerted by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the developing world to implement structural adjustment programmes including privatisation and cutbacks in welfare services has resulted in distortions. These distortions manifest themselves in the form of aggravating poverty, rising unemployment, inequality and crime, violent conflicts culminating in the weakening of social solidarity and migration (both within and outside the country), among others.

On the social front, state institutions in the developing world have been forced to redefine their roles and responsibilities while private institutions, communities, the family and individuals have faced severe strain in coping with new market forces. Their response has been a blend of the defensive and the offensive, the illegal and the violent.

A new basis for international solidarity in the form of evolving global citizenship is being proposed in order to create a concerted worldwide social response to offset the adverse effects of globalisation. And this is to be supplemented by global institutional reforms including restructuring and strengthening of existing un organisations, setting up new institutions to pro-mote deve lopment, making inter national financial institutions more accountable, generating new sources of global finance, and monetary stability. At another level, the industrialised countries should reorient their own societies and economies rather than pressurising developing countries to adapt to the formers' needs.

The book has effectively countered the common thesis that economics can solve social problems. The attempt made by politicians to transfer the responsibility for all ills on social institutions and the breakdown in family relations, has been well-criticised. The contention on the contrary is that changes at the personal and familial levels are a response to, rather than a cause for, socio-economic problems.

The book identifies three types of policy responses to environmental degradation: conservation (to keep areas free from human contact); primary environmental care (enabling local people to manage their own environment in a sustainable fashion) and environmental economics (integrating environmental concerns into economic decision-making).

The analysis is not free of defects. A clear demarcation of the causes and effects of globalisation is lacking. Also, the book does not provide concrete indications as to what kind of reforms should be undertaken by the developing countries and how they should go about it. Even if a particular blueprint is provided for development, the question remains as to whether the developing countries can ever succeed in their efforts, for historically speaking, the vast resources of the colonies were at the disposal of the West at the time industrialisation was being ushered in. Consequently, no such scope exists for developing countries toward capital accumulation. As against this, the phenomenon of neo-colonialism is a reality too. Another important aspect that has been overlooked is the issue of technology transfer to developing countries.

But the book certainly makes interesting reading and is recommended for researchers and policymakers on the look out for the findings of several reports on the socio-economic effects of globalisation in one place.

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