Author : Ashok Antony D'souza
Pages : XX+276
BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE
INTERPRETATION AND DISCUSSION
Background and Rationale
Since the dawn of independence India has come a long way and has achieved much, especially in the fields of nuclear and Information Tech- nology (Chakravarty, 2008). Alongside these achievements we have also been witnessing growing authoritarian and repressive nature of the state. The developmental model pursued by the country has been large- ly in favor of the elites. The weaker sections of the society have grown more vulnerable. It could also be argued that the country was never so divided in economic, social, communal, and political fronts as it is today (Teltumbde, 2003).
This mixture of successes and concerns makes sense only when we see it in its global totality. The processes of globalization, primarily led by the United States of America, actively embraced by India since 1991 in the form of New Economic Policy, have contributed in large measure to the anti-democratic and anti-people attitudes, policies and programs. India, as a fast developing country striving to attain its rightful place in this unipolar world order, has been greatly influenced by the neoliberal ideology and the foreign policy of the US (Bhambhri, 1996).
It is not to say that all or most of our problems are caused by fac- tors external to our country and that we had no freedom whatsoever to effectively face them. However, it has to be recognized here that the traditional, domestic powers of domination have found a new lease of life due to the opportunities provided to them by the forces of neoliberal globalization (Aloysius, 1998).
It is also to be accepted at the very outset that the processes of global- ization have thrown up certain opportunities along with the challenges we have mentioned. There is a general sense of euphoria in the country based on certain predictions of India dominating the economic sphere of the world by 2020 (Bidwai, 2006). However, we need to realize that unless we address the multitude of challenges faced by the country the prospects for such a growth would be greatly thwarted. We need to also understand that even if we attain the projected growth targets without attending to these challenges India would remain less of a just and ‘de- veloped’ country due to the exclusivist and lope-sided features of this achievement.
Addressing the numerous challenges faced by the country and real- izing the opportunities available for a more inclusive and sustainable development requires the partnership of enlightened and committed social activists (Kothari, 2006). India had no dearth of such activists who even before Independence strove hard to uphold the worthy val- ues of social justice and equality. Along with fighting external bondage and imperialism they also denounced the internal tendencies and prac- tices of injustice and dominance (Aloysius, 1998). We require a strong band of such activists today than ever before to work for the cause of the victimized sections of our society and to strengthen the country in its struggle towards inclusive development.
It has to be noted here that even a social activist in some way is a product of the times (John, 1982). Hence, while studying social action as a response to the present challenges we should also be sensitive to the social, political, economic and ideological factors that form and influ- ence the ethos and praxis of an activist. The waves of globalization and imperialism would have influenced the ideology and practice of social action at least to a certain extent. While reflecting on the nature and extent of this influence it is also imperative that we take a critical look at the kind of analyses and strategies used by social activists and evaluate their relative worth and effectiveness.
As suggested in the title, this study hopes to understand the implica- tions of globalization and US imperialism to social action in India based on Noam Chomsky’s discourse on them. The major purpose of this introductory chapter is to present a background and rationale to the study in general, based on which the later chapters will try to take up certain specific aspects for analyses and discussion. First, the definitions and historical evolution of some important concepts forming the core of our study have been discussed. Next, an attempt has been made to present the overall impact of some of these phenomena. Then, a brief profile of Noam Chomsky and his ideas has been given so that their relevance to social action and professional social work is rightly understood. Finally, the chapter is concluded with the presentation of the research questions for which an attempt is made to find suitable answers through this study.
Contours of Globalization
At the very outset it needs to be accepted that the rhetoric of globaliza- tion often suppresses more than it expresses (Dasgupta & Kiely, 2006). It is partly because in the unending debates that are raging about glo- balization, it is often found that people take extreme views. One side supports it to the extent that it is ready to uncritically swallow it as a remedy to all ills. The other side is equally ardent to reject it, considering it the sole perpetuator of all evil. Between these extreme views there are very few balanced analyses trying to understand the multidimensional processes of globalization.
Different disciplines such as Sociology, Economics, History, Political Science, etc. employ different criteria for elaborating and defining the concept of globalization. Anthony Giddens’ The Consequences of Mo- dernity (1990) is one of the most important sociological works that at- tempts to construct a theory of globalization. He defines globalization as “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events oc- curring many miles away and vice versa” (p. 64).
David Henderson (1999), an economist, views globalization as a model of fully internationally integrated markets meeting the two conditions of i) the free movement of goods, services, labor and capital, resulting in a single market of inputs and outputs, and ii) full national treatment for foreign investors as well as nationals working oversees, so that economically speaking there are no foreigners. For Desai and Said (2004) globalization is the growing reciprocal interdependence and in- tegration of various economies around the globe.
David Held and his coauthors (1999) define it as “the widening, deepening and speeding up of world-wide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life, from the cultural to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual” (p. 2). For Richard O’Brian (1992), glo- balization essentially refers to a mixture of international, multinational, offshore and global activities and involves a general progression from the domestic to the global. Malcolm Waters (1995) finds globalization as a social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people become increasing- ly aware that they are receding. For him globalization merely implies greater connectedness and de-territorialisation. Scholte (1997) too un- derstands globalization as a process of de-territorialisation and global relations as supra-territorial.
For some others globalization essentially means an intensification of multinational, international and transnational linkages in all spheres of human activity, including trade and commerce, governance and non- government lobbying as a consequence of new communication technol- ogy of the contemporary period (Galligan et al, 2001). The International Federation of Social Workers (2002) has described globalization as ‘the process by which all people and communities around the world come to experience an increasingly common economic, social and cultural environment’ (p. 3).
The problem with the definitions presented so far is that while point- ing rightly to the expansion of social and economic relations, they do not say much about the form and character of such relations. The capi- talist and neoliberal character of globalization is therefore ignored. It is often either underestimated or supported.
There are some other writers who have inaugurated and justified neo-liberalism and have been profoundly critical of the welfare state. The writings of Robert Nozick (1974), Milton Friedman (1962), and Friedrich Von Hayek (1988) fall within this category. While these writ- ings are helpful to understand the major ‘justifications’ for neo-liberal globalization, they do not do not take into consideration deeper forces shaping the form of the present phase of globalization.
Certain other versions of globalization describe it as a ‘techno- economic, naturalistic, and inevitable force’, which affects the political powers, policy autonomy and public policy role of the state. According to them, governments have been brought under the influence of global capital so much that its institutional allies have no choice but to pursue social and economic policies compatible to the claims of globalization and the requirements of international business classes (Yeates, 2001). This line of argument, however, fails to pay attention to the dynamics of advanced capitalism and the democratic spaces available to citizens and governments to shape alternative forms of globalization. It needs to be remembered here that it is the negative manifestations of the capitalist, neoliberal-globalization that movements for global justice resist and not globalization per se (Dasgupta & Kiely, 2006).
Globalization is often linked to capitalism and imperialism as it is of- ten argued that it has close affinity with imperialism. Immanuel Waller- stein (2003), Samir Amin (1991), David Harvey (2005), Ronald H. Chil- cote (1981), and James Petras and Henry Velmeyer (2001) invoke such a stance in their own distinctive ways. Sklair (2002) believes that global- ization exports “culture-ideology-consumerism”.
Thus, it could be observed that many processes of globalization are closely linked to the economic and political interests of the advanced industrial world. This ideological dimension is described as ‘globalism’. According to DaSilva (2001) ‘globalism is apparently about the world-
wide sweep of information technology, finance capital markets, trading of consumer goods and services and, of course, the militarisation of the globe for the safe conduct of those under the monopolar hegemony of the U S A. This order is heralded as the harbinger for world peace, just as the Romans once offered peace - on their own terms (pax romana)’.
Anand Telumbde (2003) provides a very comprehensive and analyti- cal definition of the present-day globalization. It reads:
Globalization is a euphemism for the imperialist strategy of the capitalism in crisis. It is implemented through the programmes of the IMF and World Bank, viz. Mi- croeconomic Stabilization and Structural Adjustment Programmes in the countries that needed assistance of these institutions to get over their financial crises which were invariably the results of the exploitative strategies of their imperialist patrons. In the unipolar world hegemonised by the USA, globalization has become a ruling creed, a veritable religion of the elites (p. 17).
While agreeing with the definition of Telumbde it is also important to take note of Amartya Sen’s (2002) warning against the dangers of equating globalization with Western imperialism. He opines that ‘to see globalization as merely Western imperialism of ideas and beliefs (as the rhetoric often suggests) would be a serious and costly error’. Sen links issues related to globalization to imperialism. However, he believes that it would be wrong ‘to see globalization primarily as a feature of imperi- alism. It is much bigger- much greater- than that’.
Also, according to Keller (1997) either equating capitalism and de- mocracy, or simply opposing them, are problematical as sometimes glo- balizing forces promote democracy and sometimes inhibit it as in the domain of the Internet and the expansion of new realms of technologi- cally – mediated communication information and politics.
From the discussion so far, it can be concluded that there are “mul- tiple globalization processes”. Globalization has business, economic, political, socio-cultural, legal, ideological and civil society dimensions among others. This in itself signifies something of a paradigm shift from the type of thinking that dominated the first phase of the globalization debate (Dasgupta & Kiely, 2006).
In this connection, it seems appropriate to understand the distinc- tiveness of the present day processes of globalization from those of the past by placing the entire discourse in its historical context.
Historical Progress of Globalization
Often the discourse on globalization has revolved around the question as to whether it is old or new. The writings of several scholars such as Mathias Finger (1997), Roland Robertson (1992), and Robert Gilpin (2003) trace its roots to historically much earlier phase. However, these scholars primarily look at globalization from a paradigm evolved to ex- plain other developments such as modernity. However, it needs to be emphasized that globalization can never be wholly reduced to perspec- tives evolved to explain other developments as it has its own distinctive reasons and features.
Anthony Giddens (1990), David Harvey (1989), Gilpin (2003), Hoo- gevelt (1997), and Paul Hirst and Thomson Grahame (1996) consider globalization as a process distinctive, given its supra-territoriality, ‘dis- tanciation’ and compression of space and time. They see globalization as a distinct phenomenon which is quite recent and that it cannot be reduced to the earlier phases. However, they discuss only the general features and tend to ignore the differential processes of globalization which are caught in the specific histories of discrete societies.
Dasgupta and Kiely (2006) argue that the processes that are usually meant when we speak of globalization are not in fact new at all. They have existed for some 500 years. According to them, we can most fruit- fully look at the present situation in two other time frames, one going from 1945 to today, and the other going from circa 1450 to today. The period 1450 to today, marks the life cycle of the capitalist world economy, which has had its period of genesis, its period of normal development, and has now entered into its period of terminal crisis. The period from
1945 to today is of a typical Kondratieff cycle of the capitalist world- economy, which divides into two parts: an A-phase or upward swing or economic expansion that went from 1945 to 1967/1973, and a B-phase or downward swing or economic contraction that has been going from 1967/1973 till today and probably will continue for several more years. Its period of normal development has entered into its period of terminal crisis which coincides with the high point of United States hegemony in the world system (Wallerstein, 2003).
Since the Second World War there has been a deliberate selection of a more market-oriented approach by many countries and increased internationalization of economic activities. This tendency increased sig- nificantly in the early 1980s as industrialized countries such as the US and the UK shifted towards greater market coordination of economic activities. Previously socialist countries, bringing their transition to cap- italism, followed this trend in the early 1990s. During this period there also has been a widespread adoption of export-oriented development strategy and trade liberalization as a favored path to development all over the world either by choice or under compulsion by the Internation- al Financial Institutions like the World Bank and the IMF (Pedersen, 2000). Thus, we can see that the present day globalization is primarily supported by neo-liberal forces spearheaded by the US and its allies.
In one major respect the pattern of globalization is very different from what the world has ever seen before. This is the mobility of finance capital whose flows have acquired giant proportions. Speculative capital today crosses the borders of the world on a scale completely unimagi- nable earlier. This has lead to greed for quick profits despite its high volatility (Bidwai, 2006b).
Corporations have become so powerful that just 200 top companies of the world control nearly one-third of the entire globe’s economic ac- tivity. Their combined turnover is greater than the entire GDP of the world, barring just 10 countries. Some of these corporations like IBM or Shell are bigger than any of the 100 small countries of the world, roughly one half of the world (Steger, 2002). All these giant corporations play the money game, the finance capital game, in which their speculative operations are more important than just the production and distribu- tion of industrial goods. So, what we see now is this particular form of globalization, which wants to dismantle all barriers to the entry and exit of capital and countries like India are forced to make investment con- vertible on the capital account. However, many economic crises in the recent past have shown that only those economies survive and flourish which actually resist capital account convertibility.
Another very important difference is that we have today powerful multilateral bodies like the financial institutions, the World Bank, IMF, and increasingly, WTO, which impose an agenda upon country after country. So, almost 140 countries – about two-third of the world’s total number of countries – have been through some form of so-called Struc- tural Adjustment. They were forced to adopt free market policies, a part of what has been called Washington Consensus. In reality, it is not the governments of these countries, but the international financial institu- tions which make their policies and vital economic decisions. Only two of them are based in Washington, namely the World Bank and the IMF. But they coordinate their activities and policies very closely with the US government. Hence, the ensemble of their policy regime is called the ‘Washington Consensus’. This is the formula that country after country has followed, generally speaking, at the cost of causing great harm to the most vulnerable people in their societies (Caroline & Peter, 1997).
The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 directed international attention to the need to control greenhouse gases. The slogan, “Fifty years is enough,” etched by the anti-globalization campaigners in 1994 and the anti-globalization campaigns against landmines, Nike shoes, Nestle, Enron, etc. served to articulate the movement’s program. The 1999 “Battle in Seattle” against the WTO was the first major victory for the movement. Since these events, the movement has sought to lay the foundation of a global civil society that can derail globalization. So the neo-globalization initiators changed the track and developed a variety of nomological paradigms like “civil society,” “good governance,” uncor- rupted privatization, government’s transparency, etc. (Steger, 2002).
The protesters of anti-globalization movement seek to have a break from capitalist control and dominance and oppose privatization and disinvestment policies of the capitalist government, reject foreign debt and call for unilateral liquidation. The resistant movements stand with the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine that are being crushed un- der the jack-boots of US-led capitalist or Zionist aggression (Muralid- haran, 2003).
The present economic recession caused by the unregulated finance capital, a clear manifestation of the manifold limitations of neoliberal globalization, has further intensified the crisis of advanced capitalism. Hence, scholars like Bello (2007) have argued that neoliberal globaliza- tion has already reached its high-water mark and is receding.
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