Part I—1). McNally’s thesis is that globalization has consistently served the interests of international capitalists, at the expense of essentially everybody else. According to McNally’s account, the rhetoric of free trade is a duplicitous, hypocritical charade, a façade that serves to mask the real interests of international capital (28-37). Neoliberal capitalists, McNally charges, have consistently sold governments on the doctrine of free trade and free markets, labeling everything that stands in their way “protectionism” (30-33). Rather than economic liberty, neoliberal policies have brought great riches for a few at the expense of the many—at least, according to McNally.
In all fairness, McNally makes some good points: the subsidization of agribusiness in first-world economies is ludicrous, and, coupled with unequal free-trade policies with developing nations, is ruinous to the agricultural sectors of those nations (36). McNally even charges that the globalizers have promoted, not so much trade as tariff reduction: quotas, subsidies, and other measures, McNally avers, are on the rise, and all of these serve to facilitate the interests of wealthy globalizers, not the vast majority of the world’s people (31-33).
How, then, to respond to McNally? The answer, I believe, is that McNally is fundamentally correct in diagnosing the problem: corporatism, or state protection and patronage of corporations. Crony capitalism, in other words, is what is wrong: the failure of self-proclaimed capitalists and neoliberals to consistently follow their own principles. Given that human hypocrisy and guile for the sake of self-interest is hardly a new phenomenon, the prevalence of corporatism should surprise exactly no one, and it scarcely constitutes a challenge to the principles of economic freedom.
Accordingly, I shall respond to McNally by invoking the arguments of two Friedmans. Firstly, Thomas Friedman’s now-famous Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, and its successor, the Dell Theory, make the case that global networks of production and distribution, which are run by the multi-national corporate behemoths so maligned and detested by the anti-globalization crowd, give nations incentives to avoid conventional armed conflict (419-423). Though this does not mean that these same corporate behemoths are not responsible for their own set of abuses, the seminal point here is the good that they do: thanks to multi-national corporations, a wide array of goods and services are increasingly available in an increasingly interconnected world.
The second Friedman is Milton Friedman, the prophet of free market economics, and therefore a figure much detested by the anti-globalization crowd. In his great book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman makes the case for the doctrine of economic freedom that has become the watchword of international capital—a watchword much betrayed, as McNally reveals. Friedman brilliantly observes that if one does not have the freedom to buy or sell a certain commodity, or at least not without the strictures of a quota, this is a lack of economic freedom, and therefore of political freedom as well (9). And as Friedman explains in his book, the economic freedoms of capitalism are foundational to the political freedoms of democracy: though not a sufficient condition for democracy, free enterprise does appear to be a necessary one (13).
4). There comes a point, in the discussion of globalization, when one starts to wonder whether there is not some archetypal text (other than the writings of Marx and Engels) from which every socialist- and so-called ‘progressive’-leaning critique of globalization derives. I respond to McGrew here, but only because the piece by Shiva was so naïvely idealistic as to be nauseating. McGrew proffers the standard account of the European Oppression Machines of colonialism and imperialism, a story the telling of which seems to have been handed down in mythic form since the new social sciences of the 1970s: it is a tale of enslavement, despoliation, dispossession, and genocide, and it is a story that leftist academia will happily tell one as many times as one wishes (16-19).
McGrew is indeed correct that globalization has always involved violence. So has it ever been: the great empires of Achaemenid Persia, Alexander the Great, Rome, the Islamic caliphate of the Rashidun and the Umayyads, and the Mongol Empire, all of these and more produced examples of globalizations. Without exception, every single one used violence to bring about a new imperial peace. While it is not my intent to defend such violence, I still believe it is essential to note the degree to which all of these empires depended on co-opting power structures and human capital from the peoples they conquered, often in ways that provided strong incentives for collaboration. In his most recent book Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain, John Darwin explains the complex process by which the East India Company transformed itself into the conqueror of India, a process that necessarily entailed the support of regional power-brokers, and of course, the Indian manpower for its great army. To be sure, the Company used violence to conquer India, but they depended on Indians to do it. This is the sort of complex and nuanced view that is missed with knee-jerk, politically correct denunciations of imperialism. Like most human social behavior, imperialism is complex.
Indeed, cooperation and positive-sum games, where both parties benefit, are essential for understanding successful empires, and, to some degree by extension, the triumph of globalization today. As the great scholar Steven Pinker explains, there are very real benefits to living in a more civilized society, under a well-ordered state formation: state formations, with the law and order and economic incentives for cooperation that they provide, have produced precipitous reductions in the homicide rates of societies, with Europe alone achieving a staggering thirtyfold reduction in homicide rates from the end of the Middle Ages to modern times (56-60, 682-683). Though a certain strain of particularly disingenuous anthropologists have spent plenty of time lionizing the ‘Noble Savage’, spinning the tales of suspiciously non-violent and harmonious First Nations and other indigenous groups that are so beloved in certain circles favoring politically correct opinions, other, far more honest, anthropologists have documented stupefying rates of homicide amongst these peoples (46-56).
McGrew’s jeremiad against imperial violence notwithstanding, the fact of the matter is that the other side of the coin is the imperial peace (Pax Persica, Pax Romana, Pax Britannica). In modern, civilized nation-states, the situation is still better, because of the opportunities for economic, social, and political freedom, opportunities which would have been inconceivable under Persian Shahanshahs and Roman Caesars. Today, drawing again on Pinker and Thomas Friedman, globalized civilization is experiencing a kind of Pax Mundi or Pax Capitalismi: an imperial peace created by capital, and one that offers more positive-sum interactions to more people than any empire in history.
6). In one of the most enlightened and even-handed works that I have read in this course, Sen engages with the processes of globalization in an analysis with plenty of nuance and balance. Sen positively proves that globalization is not recent, is hardly confined to or somehow ineluctably marked by the West, and is not a curse (2-4). The spread of ideas, goods and people between disparate and hitherto-isolated societies has been going on for a long time, has scarcely been the prerogative of the West to impose until very recently in history, and includes very many benefits for very broad cross-sections of many different societies: new economic, social, and political freedoms, and a wider array of goods and services.
Sen could in no sense be accused of shying away from the abuses and misery associated with the darker side of globalization, either: the article discusses the involvement of major powers in the arms trade, and notes the legitimacy of the arguments for greater equality often made by the anti-globalization crowd (4-6). However, Sen highlights the historic aspects of globalization, and the opportunities and rewards that it offers, to make a couple of very important points that must be borne in mind in any discussion of globalization. Firstly, again, globalization has not simply sprung out of the European colonial empires so detested by the anti-globalization crowd: it is a much older story, one that involved the Silk Road and the Caesars, Buddhist missionaries and the T’ang Dynasty and many others, all long before Columbus and Cortes (2-4). Again, globalization cannot be seen as simply something that ‘the West’ has imposed on ‘the rest’: it is a vastly more complicated, diverse, and fascinating story.
Secondly, Sen’s point is that globalization works, because it draws on the power of market economies, which, unlike socialist ‘alternatives’, also work. All too often, anti-globalization protesters naively rail against capitalism, when in fact what is needed is to make capitalism work more equitably for a broader cross-section of the world’s population (6). The rewards and opportunities of globalization provide a much more positive perspective, one that is sorely needed to take center stage in debates on the subject: though globalization has entailed a number of incontestable human rights abuses, like so much in human behavior it is also so much more complex and nuanced than the partisan ideologues tend to portray it. Of seminal importance, globalization also offers a tremendous breadth of opportunities to so many people, opportunities that would have been inconceivable the merest historical eye-blink ago. For these reasons, globalization is worth fighting for: in order to secure greater equality of opportunity for more people to enjoy economic, social, and political freedom.
Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom. 1962. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Print.
Friedman, Thomas. The world is flat: A brief history of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Farrar, Stratus and Giroux, 2005. Print.
Pinker, Steven. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.
McGrew, Anthony. “Organized Violence in the Making (and Remaking) of Globalization”. Globalization Theory. 2nd ed. Ed. Anthony McGrew and David Held. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2007. 15-40. Print.
McNally, David. Another World is Possible. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2002. Print.
Sen, Amartya. “How to Judge Globalism”. The American Prospect (Winter 2002): 2-6. ProQuest. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.