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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .


Predatory Globalisation: A Critique
Richard Falk

Oxford: Polity Press, 1999
224pp. Index. Pb.: 14.99; ISBN 0-7456-0936-8.



The author of this book presents a vivid analysis of the effects of economic globalisation (aptly termed 'predatory globalisation') and argues that one of the major effects of this ongoing process has been that of eroding the social contract forged between state and society with particular reference to the question of welfare provision. A new alignment of forces has crystallised in the form of market, technological, and ideological developments while the state system has gradually lost control of policy. The central problem outlined is that 'there is little, or no, normative agency associated with this emerging world order' (p.36) to offset the drive of business and finance to subordinate social policy to the criteria of profitability and capital efficiency.

The suggested solution is that of establishing a regulatory framework for global market forces that is people-centred rather than capital-driven. Such a solution is located in the process of resistance to predatory globalisation and the social construction of this process, also identified as 'rooted utopianism' or 'global realism', can be understood through the distinction made by the author between 'globalisation-from-above' and 'globalisation-from-below'. The former process involves the conjuncture of largely non-accountable power and influence exerted by global financial capital while the latter process involves attempts at the local and transnational level to create mitigating options through the democratisation of global institutions, increased accountability and the establishment of procedures for wider participation in governance.

According to the author ideology has played a relevant role in allowing for the negative effects of globalisation to go unchallenged as it is stated that 'globalization from above would have different, and generally more positive, normative impacts if the prevailing ideological climate were conditioned by social democracy rather than by neo-liberalism' (p.130). An alternative unifying ideology capable of mobilising and unifying the disparate forces that constitute global society and to provide political energy associated with the process of globalization-from-below is provided through the notion of 'normative democracy'. The elements that constitute normative democracy are: citizens' representation; rule of law; human rights; meaningful participation in political life; accountability of government; public goods agenda; transparency; and ethos of non-violence.

A critical and refreshing view of the process of globalisation is adopted here and the analysis presented if far from utopian. If it is true that capitalism has now spread to the ninety per cent of the world population (it is pointed out that only twenty years earlier such conditions were those of only twenty per cent of the world population) the conditions of 'global apartheid' whereby a small percentage of the world's population uses most of the earth's processed energy and mineral resources have remained unchanged and unchallenged. The rising power of transnational capital and the advent of new politics have been previous topics of discussion in political science texts but what is new in this book is the focus on the process of 'globalisation-from-below' and the refreshing and outspoken approach critical of established theoretical approaches that deny any possibility of challenging the status quo. The book sometimes lacks a definite structure but the picture can only be sketchy as the analysis centres on the processes and forces emerging to redefine the question of sustainable economic development. This is a very well written and refreshing text focusing on a realistic analysis of the most pressing issues and the focus on normative aspects of international relations theory away from a world of pretence realism is very much welcome.


Marina Arlati



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