Globalization's Other Side: the Negative Impacts on Poverty and the Environment

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Critiquing Jagdish Bhagwati's Interpretation of the Social Impact of Economic Globalization

Date Submitted: November 19, 2004

There have been countless numbers of books and papers written on the controversial topic that is globalization, and it seems every author or activist has their own arguments against or in support of the liberalization of trade and the social impact of economic globalization. However, in regards to the novel In Defense of Globalization, there is no doubt on which side its author Jagdish Bhagwati stands on the issue. Being one of the leading authorities on globalization and a professor at Columbia University, Bhagwati not only argues his case in support for globalization, but also instinctively leaps to its defense, hence the title. It is worth noting that this book addresses the issue of economic globalization and not globalization as a whole. The main thesis and reoccurring central idea in this book argues: Although globalization, in respect to the liberalization of trade and global economic integration inherently contains flaws, overall it is beneficial.

Throughout the book, Bhagwati systematically addresses each claim and argument, separated by chapters, raised by the many critics of globalization. The first relevant issue brought forth is the sudden upsurge and rise in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in which Bhagwati claims, "globalization today owe their salience, shape and content" to this trend. In response to the portion of NGOs that are anti-globalization, he defends globalization by attacking the critics and attempting to undermine their credibility by singling out the weak organizations and picking at their flaws.

Bhagwati argues many more issues in his book regarding the social impact of economic globalization as he tackles each chapter one after another including: the reduction of poverty and the abuse of child labor, the promotion of women's rights, the enrichment of culture, and even deals with the false accusations regarding exploitation of workers and the environment. In this last claim regarding exploitation of workers, Bhagwati introduces a new perspective in which he reveals that the workers in most cases are being paid more than domestic jobs.

Bhagwati claims that the multinational corporations are not creating inequality globally by lowering wages and labor standards through foreign direct investments. He notes that the isolated examples of social harm done by globalization are exceptions and globalization, as a whole should not be blamed, ultimately making these arguments flawed and not representing of the whole. Moreover, Bhagwati argues that foreign competition forces the wage gender gap to close resulting in higher wages, higher education, and ultimately benefiting women and women's rights.

Bhagwati firmly believes that the liberalization of trade and opening up of world markets would create growth, and growth would reduce poverty. He justifies his claim with evidence surrounding the advances of China and India and ignoring the rest of the developing countries, which makes the supporting data misleading. Bhagwati then alleges that if poverty decreases, parents with more money must then send their children to school and thus reduce child labor. Lastly, Bhagwati argues that the environment is at no risk from globalization, but ultimately only providing unrealistic theories on the reduction of pollution in relation to capital incomes. After addressing the claims made against globalization by critics, Bhagwati utilizes the final chapters in his book to offer various suggestions and policy implications that may help globalization and the perhaps unite the NGOs in a common goal. However, this last chapter is wholly unrealistic and speculative in its approach.[i]

After carefully reviewing In Defense of Globalization, it is clear that in some instances, Jagdish Bhagwati fails to offer both sides of the argument, often times making his claims less creditable....
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