The brown revolution: on the rise of "megacities", primarily in developing countries, as their economies move to a more urban basis.
In the long run, that is good news. If countries now industrialising follow the pattern of those that have already done so, their city-dwellers will be both more prosperous and healthier. Man is a gregarious species, and the words "urbane" and "civilised" both derive from the advantages of living in large settlements.
History also shows, though, that the transition can be uncomfortable. The slums of Manchester were, in their time, just as awful as those of Nairobi today. But people moved there for exactly the same reason: however nasty conditions seemed, the opportunities of urban life outstripped those of the countryside. The question is how best to handle the change.
What is at issue here, I suggest, is a confusion over what I characterise as expansive and `imploding' phases of world capitalist development. My argument is that the expansive phase of world capitalism is over. The expansive phase of capitalism was characterised by the extension of the fundamentals of economic activity, namely trade and productive investment ever further into more and more areas of the globe; that phase has now been succeeded by a phase of deepening, but not widening capitalist integration.
[via wood s lot, in a round about way]
Death of a Movement: is the anti-globalization movement turning into an anti-war or anti-American movement? William Hawkins thinks so after observing the recent protests in Washington. [via Metafilter]
The Peril of Too Much Power: on the danger of America being such a dominant power in the world, a situation that has led to some calling the U.S. a "hyperpower", a term apparently coined by French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine.
Contrary to what many Europeans think, the problem with American power is not that it is American. The problem is simply the power. It would be dangerous even for an archangel to wield so much power. The writers of the American Constitution wisely determined that no single locus of power, however benign, should predominate; for even the best could be led into temptation. Every power should therefore be checked by at least one other. That also applies in world politics.
My first point will be on the concept of American "hyperpower." Hyperpower, as you know, is a French word translated into English. The author of that word is Hubert Védrine, the current French Foreign Minister. I think he did not at all mean to be anti-American when he formulated this concept. What does it mean? It means that the concept of superpower is no longer relevant to describe the United States, because the United States is not only the only superpower, but the only power ever to have the capacity to act worldwide, either on the economic scene or on the military scene. Of course, you could use other words. You could speak, for instance, of mega-power or giga-power. But the fact is that we need a new word because it's an entirely new situation. And this extraordinary achievement is due--at least in the recent past--to the admirable way the United States adjusted to the new technological revolution and its productivity achievements. It is also due to the very flexibility of its society. It looks as if the very fabric of the American society had been designed to fit with globalization, contrary to nations which are much more monolithic like Japan, for instance, which suffer a lot from adjusting to the new world. The European countries stand somewhere in between Japan and the United States.
The New Face of Capitalism: Slow Growth, Excess Capital, and a Mountain of Debt
For a long time now, the U.S. economy and the economies of the advanced capitalist world as a whole have been experiencing a slowdown in economic growth relative to the quarter-century following the Second World War. It is true that there have been cyclical upswings and long expansions that have been touted as full-fledged "economic booms" in this period, but the slowdown in the rate of growth of the economy has continued over the decades. Grasping this fact is crucial if one is to understand the continual economic restructuring over the last three decades, the rapidly worsening conditions in much of the underdeveloped world to which the crisis has been exported, and the larger significance of the present cyclical downturn of world capitalism.
"I guess I thought the IMF was like the Red Cross"
This surprisingly naive beginning was the starting point for Stephanie Black's myth-shattering analysis of globalisation, the film Life and Debt. Set in Jamaica, the film documents how the schizophrenic nature of the island, both an earthly paradise and a crippled nation, is aggravated by the economic trinity of World Bank, IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank.
AS been much discussion recently of the documentary film Life and Debt. Set in Jamaica and based loosely on Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place , this excellent film is a critique of globalisation. Given the upsurge in the anti-globalisation movement since the Asian Crisis, there is a rapidly growing demand for literature which delves into the 'other side' of globalisation. Thus, Life and Debt's appearance is timely.
Some reviewers have criticised the film as poor documentary, since it shows just one side of the story and makes a caricature of what is a complex issue. The criticisms are apt. Still, I also think they do not detract from the movie's merits. As I said at the Jamaican launch of Life and Debt, I think the film is best viewed not as documentary but as polemic. It sets forth a counter-position to the currently orthodox one on globalisation.
"When you come to Jamaica as a tourist, this is what you will see..."
Most developing countries end up as casualties when one examines the travesties inflicted upon them by huge corporations and ruthless organizations such as the IMF, IADB, and WTO. However, Jamaica is a country that has an international voice and is routinely visited by tourists, making it the perfect paradigm to show the disparity between the "haves and have-nots." Stephanie Black's incredible documentary, "Life and Debt," initially is seen through the eyes of a tourist in Jamaica (with an effective voiceover excerpted from a Jamaica Kincaid novel), to show audiences that Western perceptions about the Land of Wood and Water differ from its harsh realities.
How odd, I thought, to leave the United Kingdom while a storm blows across the English Channel about 'asylum-seekers' trying to break in; and then, after travelling to the other end of the world, to find the same storm blowing over Australia's waters. But it is not really odd at all. Both crises are the product of the same global phenomenon: a prodigious effort by people in poor countries to seek a better life for themselves and their children. Modern communications have brought home to them as never before that the grass is greener across the way.
The Truth about Globalization: an economist defends globalization.
To keep my economist union card, I am required every morning when I arise to place my hand on the leather-bound family heirloom copy of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and swear a mighty oath of allegiance to globalization. I hereby do asseverate my solemn belief that globalization, taken as a whole, is a positive economic force and well worth defending. I also believe that the economic and social effects of globalization are exaggerated by both its detractors and supporters.
In media coverage of anti-globalization protests, "globalization" often becomes a catch-all term for capitalism and injustice. (Indeed, for some protestors, referring to capitalism and injustice would be redundant.) But economic globalization in fact describes a specific phenomenon: the growth in flows of trade and financial capital across national borders. The trend has consequences in many areas, including sovereignty, prosperity, jobs, wages, and social legislation. Globalization is too important to be consigned to buzzword status.
[via Arts & Letters Daily]
Globalization Proves Disappointing: a report from the U.N. International Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey earlier this week.
Rather than an unstoppable force for development, globalization now seems more like an economic temptress, promising riches but often not delivering, in the view of many of the leaders at the United Nations conference in this Mexican city, an industrial center.
Ever since Adam and Eve left the garden, people have been expanding the geographic realm of their economic, political, social and cultural contacts. In this sense of extending connections to other peoples around the world, globalization is nothing new. Also, as a process of change that can embody both great opportunities for wealth and progress and great trauma and suffering, globalization at the beginning of the 21st century is following a well established historical path. Yet the current period of change in the international system does have its own distinctive features, not the least important of which is the particular sort of political conflict it is generating.
Can the World Social Forum have a meaningful impact without adopting a more formal structure? The counter-summit's organizers insist it can.
Grajew says he conceived of the forum as a positive alternative to protesting at the closed doors of the WEF, normally held in the Swiss resort town of Davos. But would reorganizing the forum into a body -- a democratic body, of course -- that votes and drafts sweeping statements be a more effective means to challenge the WTO and the WEF? Some of the thousands who gathered in Brazil think so.
From Protest to Politics: a long review of this year's World Social Forum.
There was general agreement that the time had come to reposition the movement in affirmative terms--moving from a stance of exposing and protesting to proposing alternatives and solutions. "We are labeled as anti, anti, anti," said Public Citizen's Lori Wallach. "We need to change that perception. It's they who are anti. We are a movement for democracy. For equity. For the environment. For health. They are for a failed status quo." She joked, "You can see I've got who we are down to about fifty words. Now we've got to get it down to bumper-sticker size."
There was also recognition that after the bloody confrontations in Genoa, and certainly after the World Trade Center attacks, the movement could no longer afford any ambiguity about its stance on violence. "Too often we get dragged into a swamp debating what is euphemistically called 'diversity of tactics,'" said one European environmentalist. "Now we need to speak up and say clearly that violence, as a political tactic, just doesn't work either in the United States or in Europe."
Going Global -- The Anti-Globalization Movement Changes Its Tune: more on the maturing of the anti-globalization movement.
Anti-globalists, stung by charges that they are too simplistic, idealistic or just plain behind the times, are beginning to develop an alternative global vision, asking what they stand for, not just what they're against.
The anti-globalization movement isn't really the anti-globalization movement any more. Some of its leading activists are beginning to describe their cause in terms that don't imply dismantling the whole network of linkages that now encircle the world in order to somehow return society to a local or regional scale. And some academics are now attempting to stake out a position on the left that promotes a different model of globalization.
For the past few years, the global justice movement has been like the child at the back of the crowd as the parade of history wheels by. As the pundits applaud and the marketeers cheer, we stand and shout that the Empire has no clothes, that its cloaks of finery are woven from financial fictions and economic voodoo.
Yet despite the present system's transparent contradictions and unsustainability, we also tend to imagine that its power is total, and to underestimate our own power to change it. The UN Development Program describes the current gaps between the world's richest and poorest as "grotesque" and "historically unprecedented," and the challenge of this new Empire seems overwhelming. But resistance is inequality's corollary.
[via wood s lot]
In just a few years, this movement has instituted a real debate about values, economics and power. Through our numbers on the streets, through the work of key dissident thinkers and through the actions of vast grassroots movements in the Global South we have gone from being ignored, or sneered at, to being grudgingly respected.
Already, less than three years after the "Battle of Seattle", we are at the stage where the president of the World Bank can be turned away from our Social Forum (oh, the joy!); at the point where the French government sends twice as many ministers to Porto Alegre (six) as to New York (three).
For more than two decades, the inhumane, neocolonial practices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund provoked angry protests in Third World countries, but few in the Western world took notice. Now, the anti-globalization movement is alive and well in the United States and is expected to have a thing or two to say when world business leaders, heads of state and leading economists meet this weekend in New York City. What follows is a six-point manifesto of what many of the demonstrators want. The list is based on the writings and statements of anti-globalists and contains the demands sought by the Mobilization for Global Justice, a coalition that promised to have 100,000 demonstrators outside the IMF meeting in Washington, D.C., last fall; the meeting was canceled in the aftermath of September 11.
Shall We Leave It to the Experts?: on the impact and meaning of globalization for India.
What is globalization? Who is it for? What is it going to do to a country like India, in which social inequality has been institutionalized in the caste system for centuries? A country in which 700 million people live in rural areas. In which 80 percent of the landholdings are small farms. In which 300 million people are illiterate. Is the corporatization and globalization of agriculture, water supply, electricity and essential commodities going to pull India out of the stagnant morass of poverty, illiteracy and religious bigotry? Is the dismantling and auctioning off of elaborate public sector infrastructure, developed with public money over the past fifty years, really the way forward? Is globalization going to close the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged, between the upper castes and the lower castes, between the educated and the illiterate? Or is it going to give those who already have a centuries-old head start a friendly helping hand?
[via also not found in nature]
Is a new world possible? Activists who fight corporate globalization certainly believe so. Those struggling to oppose corporate globalization are more than simply critics of the current system. Though global opposition to the negative effects of the world's current economic and political systems continues to grow, every time those protesting corporate globalization appear en masse to call attention to a global financial body like the International Monetary Fund or World Trade Organization, their critics accuse them of offering little more than condemnation. "We know what you're against," critics say, "BUT WHAT ARE YOU FOR?" The truth is, activists struggling to oppose corporate globalization offer many models of alternative ways to envision a new society. From developing viable economic alternatives to global capitalism to creating more effective ideas for educating children, from envisioning non-hierarchical means of organizing society to conceiving ways to enable more equality in interpersonal relationships, those who hope to create a better world offer infinite visions for a way to do just that.
Police officials said Monday that they expect demonstrations at this
week's World Economic Forum will be mostly peaceful, but they plan to strictly enforce a century-old law barring groups of demonstrators from wearing masks.
Chief of Patrol Joseph Esposito said the law applies to groups of three or more. "Three or more with masks and they're marching, they're under arrest," he said.
Textiles and Terrorism: on how U.S. trade policy to protect our textile industry helps keep poor countries poor and contributes to instability.
Fair Wear's campaign, called "Support Breasts, Not Dictators", to force Triumph International to shut down it's bra making operations in Burma has gained some ground, with the Norwegian women's ski team pulling out of a sponsorship deal with the company.