July 21, 2008

A Few Arguments Contra Globalization....just a reminder.

Tocqueville emphasized more than a century and a half ago that strong local institutions and a strong civil society are needed in democratic societies not just for charity, good-will, and a general embodied sense of belonging but also for the claiming of a political context. So while the “free-market” rhetoric of recent years claims to “open borders” to a whole array of “guest workers” who come and labor for an indefinite period, it also facilitates the upward flow of capital, and, more importantly, backhandedly renders political arenas increasingly deleterious. Economic globalization surely makes some of the wealthy wealthier; it also ostensibly provides low wage earners-usually immigrants-more work opportunities. Yet it also makes workers, whether guest or host, politically powerless by severing them from the kinds of activities and associations that enable them to exercise power as citizens. Laissex faire leaves them adrift in the currents and whims of “free-trade.” Conjures the Joads traveling Route 66 to and fro does it not?

"Deregulation" policies also enable corporations to close shop and move abroad to get cheaper labor, and take advantage of less stringent labor laws and safety standards. That venture capital would not only dismantle manufacturing industries in the US but come to rely on the regressive-even feudal-practices of sweat-shop labor and authoritarian regimes is a dark truism. Dissolving state boundaries, even from a Hobbesian point of view, also puts obvious stress on the ability of state institutions to protect, manage, and serve the population - even today, especially today. One of the dark ironies of globalization has actually been the intensification of state power to pursue matters of national security. But don’t let the “smaller government” rhetoric underlining free-market ideology mislead you. Governance, (if that is what you can call it,) is waged not through the public realm but through managerial mechanisms of and bullying tactics by powerful corporations that are largely divorced from public accountability and the public interest.

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