11 October, 2006

and what did I learn this week in spy school?

not much... I missed the Development class, in which the lecturer talked a bit more about the magic of academia, ending apparently in a ta-daa moment where everything suddenly fell into place and became relevant to studying Development's theory and practice.

In the International Political Economy class the lecturer talked a bit about the development of the world economy, not really saying anything you would not already know. More interesting, but also more annoying, were the questions from some of my classmates. These cast the world trading system as Bad, and the lecturer as a representative thereof, so there was a lot of "but what about...?" style questions, which maybe missed the point that we were there to learn the history of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and not engage in a debate about whether trade was classic or dud. The interesting bit was maybe in looking at how for all that arguments broadly in favour of free trade between countries have essentially won the battle where it matters, they have not really won hearts and minds, particularly of graduate students who may well find themselves making decisions in the future. So perhaps if all that Kuhnian paradigm shift stuff has anything going for it we could be going back to the 1930s at some point over the next ten years or so.


Andrew Sherman said...

I am reading Why Globalization Works by Martin Wolf. I like it. His attitude is that is works (hmm, hence the title) and you can either be for or against it, but that most of the arguments against it are by people who don't understand it. What is it that anti-globalization people want to do instead?

Paul said...

Re: Globalisation:
The real argument is about different types of globalisation.

"most of the arguments against it are by people who don't understand it"

This is rubbish, but a very common tactic to undermine people who don't agree with the effects of the current form of globalisation.

Anti-globalisation is a kind of misnomer. A more accurate term would be alter-globalisation, because 'anti-globalisation' people are not so much against the process of globalisation itself, but against the current form of globalisation - i.e, the reduction of restraints on the operation of the market, and the free movement of capital.

"What is it that anti-globalization people want to do instead?"

One of the impressions that advocates of the current form of globalisation like to create is that there is no alternative. But this is patently untrue, as is made obvious by the following quote from academic Paul Hirst:

"...the poor of the world need economic development and a market economy that can afford public goods and the taxes to pay for them. If we are serious, we are arguing about varieties of market capitalism and their forms of governance. The ‘alternatives’ are not different forms of society, as socialism claimed to be, but less unequal and unfair versions of the same society.

"Those who seek alternatives cannot be the gravediggers of capitalism, but its humanisers and reformers".

(This is taken from this debate on globalisation)

Hirst is outlining what is just about the least radical alternative to the current form of globalisation. There are those who would go further than Hirst in the search for alternatives, but the above quote shows that even to the most virulent naysayers of an alternative order, the current form of globalisation is not inevitable.

ian said...

Part of the thing with this Globalisation malarkey is that it is a very nebulous concept, meaning that being against Globalisation (or against the current form of Globalisation) throws together people with very different ideas, some of them not very well through. The antiglob struggle has also attracted people on the revolutionary left (or provided a rallying cry to them), meaning that the answer to Andrew's question is that these people want to do what they always do - sell newspapers and get people to come to meetings.

I agree with Paul, though, that you lock down debate if you start saying that the only choices are the current system or chaos, or the current system and some utopian system.

Andrew Sherman said...

I don’t want to lock down the debate, and I don’t want to undermine people who don't agree with the effects of the current form of globalization/globalisation. I certainly don’t know as much about it as you Spy School Students. I like the Paul Hirst quote that Paul wrote. It seems to me that the anti- globalization people include both people against market capitalism (perhaps including the revolutionary left) and those who wish to reform it (alter-globalisation), and it is a very broad church.

OK, now I read more of the debate, and the participants are far more articulate than me:

The anti-globalisation protesters are made up of politically diverse groups – anti-capitalists, protectionists, anarchists, environmentalists, alternative life-stylers, travellers, animal welfare activists, anti-fascists (fascists) and so on.
They are generally clearer about what they’re against than what they are for, although what they are really against – globalisation, capitalism, neo-liberalism – is not always very clear either.
But even if their views are sometimes poorly articulated, and projected occasionally via dubious and unacceptable means such as violence, should we regard them just as a law and order problem, as Tony Blair once put it? Such a view would be quite mistaken.
The protesters’ unease about the dominance of the market economy, the freedom to accumulate almost boundless wealth, the priority given to consumption, brands and promised quick fixes (buy this car and the best sex of your life – real or virtual – will follow!)… this points to an intersection with the concerns of many in the developed and developing world, from those in the diverse anti-globalisation movements to the churches.
What this unease says, at least as I interpret it, is that unchecked economic power, exploding asymmetries of life chances, weak democratic governments, the self-interest of politicians, and the threatened takeover of the public domain by the priorities of big corporations – all violate our most elementary sense of social justice and democracy. And indeed they do.

Paul said...

There is certainly diversity with in the anti- (or alter-) globalisation movement(s).

You could see this as a strength rather than a weakness. Although it means that they cannot speak with one voice, this diversity means a diversity of tactics and a diversity of solutions. The problems of globalisation are local, so it is appropriate that there are diverse solutions.

But it should not be overlooked that the pro-globalisation folks are also a broad church, with internal arguments and factions. But this is not so public because of their dominant position.

Neither side of the debate is monolithnic.