Does Globalisation Impose and Exclude or Liberate and Make Accountable?

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First things first. Being a budding anthropologist, one feels impelled to critically evaluate the impact of globalisation on the world, without passing value judgments. In today’s complex world, it would be either intellectually dishonest or naïve to hail globalisation as ‘liberating or accountable’ or write off as ‘imposing or exclusive’. Therefore, rather than making sweeping generalisations, one shall study general definitions and debate on globalisation and critically analyse socio-economic data available with respect to developing nations, with special focus on and examples from India. The remainder of the essay shall attempt to theorise on how countries can make globalisation work in their favour or if they wish to chart their own growth trajectories, then what pathways exist for them.

Globalisation has come to mean different things to different people. In simple economic terms it may refer to free movement of capital and labour across global borders. On the other hand, Guttal (2007) provides a broader definition which entails exchange of ideas, spread of technological knowledge, homogenization of cultures and blurring of geo-political borders.

Escobar (2004) links globalisation to the 17th century ideals of modernity rooted in European Reformation, Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Basing the sociological, cultural, political and philosophical dimensions of modernity in 17th century Europe, he questions the impulse of theorists to make this order the only possible reality, or a ‘global’ truth.

Similarly, Sachs (2010, pp. 113-114) in his brilliant essay ‘One World’ posits how globalisation can be viewed parallel to the wave of the European ideals of Enlightenment that necessitated the unity of mankind and attainment of common goals of reason and progress. Thus, for them, there could be no heterogeneous pathways or cultures, only universal ideals envisaged by the European ideals. If peace and progress had to be enjoyed by mankind, then cultural heterogeneity would have to be crushed and the backward ‘other’ would have to be brought under the folds of civilisation.

Tracing its recent history, Guttal (2007) explains how the current wave of globalisation was not a natural outcome of historical processes, but a strategically designed policy to bring socio-politico-economic aspects of world nations under market capitalism.

One of the strongest supports for globalisation came from Griffin (2003). While conceding the wayward ways of the US and its opportunistic policies, Griffin pinned the blame for lack of ideal form of globalisation on –

Lack of strong international democratic institutions that help to maintain checks on misuse of power Lack of movement of labour across borders
Inability of national governments to fulfil the demand for social goods like peace, security and healthcare Intellectual property rights that often hinder the transfer of knowledge and technology to developing nations

While the tone of Griffin’s paper seems wishful and earnest, one cannot help but notice some of the most ridiculous suggestions to make globalisation work.

One of the biggest issues to nit-pick in his article is his suggestion to levy progressive taxation on GNP of wealthy nations and distribute it to developing nations. For a proponent of open markets, liberalisation and private capital, one wonders how Griffin could suggest a ‘welfare state’ solution to the problems of global poverty. Indeed one finds support against this argument in Storm and Rao (2004).

Moreover, if the US has always acted on its selfish interests, one wonders why the situation shall be any different with the creation of more democratic organisations, since, the most power would still rest with the US. Similar arguments are made by Frank (2004), Boyce (2004) and Fine (2004) in scathing rejoinders to the absurd claims made by Griffin in his hopeful piece on globalisation.

In recent years, globalisation has also come...
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