Globalization and Its Enemies
The enemies of globalization—whether they denounce the exploitation of poor countries by rich ones or the imposition of Western values on traditional cultures—see the new world economy as forcing a system on people who do not want it. But the truth of the matter, writes Daniel Cohen in this provocative account, may be the reverse. Globalization, thanks to the speed of twenty-first-century communications, shows people a world of material prosperity that they do want—a vivid world of promises that have yet to be fulfilled. For the most impoverished developing nations, globalization remains only an elusive image, a fleeting mirage. Never before, Cohen says, have the means of communication—the media—created such a global consciousness, and never have economic forces lagged so far behind expectations.
Today's globalization, Cohen argues, is the third act in a history that began with the Spanish Conquistadors in the sixteenth century and continued with Great Britain's nineteenth-century empire of free trade. In the nineteenth century, as in the twenty-first, a revolution in transportation and communication did not promote widespread wealth but favored polarization. India, a part of the British empire, was just as poor in 1913 as it was in 1820. Will today's information economy do better in disseminating wealth than the telegraph did two centuries ago? Presumably yes, if one gauges the outcome from China's perspective; surely not, if Africa's experience is a guide. At any rate, poor countries require much effort and investment to become players in the global game. The view that technologies and world trade bring wealth by themselves is no more true today than it was two centuries ago.
We should not, Cohen writes, consider globalization as an accomplished fact. It is because of what has yet to happen—the unfulfilled promises of prosperity—that globalization has so many enemies in the contemporary world. For the poorest countries of the world, the problem is not so much that they are exploited by globalization as that they are forgotten and excluded.
About the Author
Daniel Cohen is Professor of Economics at the École Normale Supérieure and the Université de Paris-I. A member of the Council of Economic Analysis of the French Prime Minister, he is the author of The Wealth of the World and the Poverty of Nations, Our Modern Times: The Nature of Capitalism in the Information Age, Globalization and Its Enemies, and Three Lectures on Post-Industrial Society, all published by the MIT Press.
"Globalization and Its Enemies is one of the most original and incisive inquiries into the subject that I have seen. No one who reads and understands it can come away believing that the current phase of this complex and uneven process is leading to the peaceful universal market of business utopians, or accept the simple narrative of anti-capitalist movements in which underdevelopment is a consequence of the wealth of advanced countries. There is more wisdom in Cohen's short book than in dozens of weightier tomes...", John Gray, New York Review of Books
"Daniel Cohen's breathtaking tour of globalization across the centuries is supremely entertaining and provocative. He punctures cherished myths and offers cool common sense and wisdom in the midst of hysterical debates. A must read!"
—William Easterly, Professor of Economics, New York University, and author of The Elusive Quest for Growth and The White Man's Burden
Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2006