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Strategy for Another World: Walden Bello's De-Globalization

by Mohssen Massarrat Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 3:53 AM

Walden Bello's de-=globalization hyas a power that can burst open the system. Redis-tributing work through radical reduction of working hours and exchanging part of paid work for more freedom anhd quality of life are two powerful steps to regaining human autonomy.


Re-Globalization – Notes on a New Book of Globalization Critic Walden Bello

By Mohssen Massarrat

[This book review of Walden Bello’s Globalization, 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

There are three essential possibilities for shaping the future of our world. The present dominant option is neoliberal globalization. We are witnesses of a completely depressing development. This development is marked by longer working hours, expansion of a low-wage economy, the rowing division between poor and rich, increasing uncertainty and fears of the future particularly in the younger generation and new conflicts and wars over distribution between the cultures. The few selective advantages of neoliberal globalization in some transformation societies of Asia and Eastern Europe are more or less from a North-South positional shift and are results of a global zero-sum game. Neoliberal globalization is not an innovative but a backward-oriented strategy. It lives off the substance of the productive assets of humans and nature and favors redistribution from bottom to top. Neoliberalism intensifies the global environmental crises and also blocks the future of common generations.

The worldwide global justice or anti-globalization movement is the natural reaction to neoliberal globalization, instability and chaos. This movement battles for “another world” as an alternative to the present world order. Up to now there have only been vague ideas aiming at two different perspectives.

One focuses on a just world economic order without global poverty and mass unemployment with more just income distribution and fair trade. This world economic order should be attained through introduction of social-= and environmental standards, reforms of the WTO and the IMF and a strengthened UN. This involves a revival of the social-democratic and green programmatic from the nineties for a Keynesian eco-social model on a world scale. Given the current neoliberal offensive, this completely system-immanent project appears utopian and almost revolutionary. If this perspective has a prospect for success, a new thrust of worldwide capital accumulation unknown up to now would be necessary. We should have no illusions about this. Norms of capitalist growth and profit maximization would dominate all social areas. Given the primacy of capitalist norms over free will, the subordination of people and their natural needs like security, fairness, solidarity and justice under abstract laws of capital would remain untouched like the undemocratic decision-making structures.

The other more radical perspective goes a step beyond the global Keynesian model of an eco-social market economy. Following Karl Kolany, it aims at embedding capitalism in society and at the priority of human values and needs over the laws of capital undermining democracy. Walden Bello is an authentic representative of this school. Coming from the Philippines, he is the most well-known globalization critic of the South. Bello is an intellectual and activist. His strategic reflections result from theory and practice. His fascinating model is called de-globalization, a model actually known for a long time from regionalization and sustainability research that Bello actualizes and politicizes in his essays.

Unlike the Latin American dependence theory of the seventies, he seeks subordination of “strategic economic decisions under the democratic will, control of the private sector by civil society and an interweaving of cooperatives, private enterprises and state firms that excludes multinational conglomerates, reduces export dependencies and strengthens domestic markets, not withdrawal from the international economy.” Bello also does not plead for the abolition of the WTO and other Bretton Wooids institutions but for the redefinition of their tasks – away from control by multinational corporations to more observation- and research functions with the goal of expanding the possibilities of regional and sectoral organizations like UNCTAD and ILO and strengthening the plural world.

“De-globalization as a strategy for another world” is just as utopian and realistic as global Keynesianism. Shortening the roundabout way to a global sustainability via a global eco-social market economy with all its negative side effects over decades through de-globalization is conceivable. Bello is also optimistic and points to beginnings that must be developed further. He concentrates on effective concrete political steps to reducing inequalities of power and centralist structures and strengthening equal opportunities and autonomy and urges alliances against the neoliberal strategy of the never satiated rich sharks. The strength of Bello’s concept of de-globalization lies in combining connection to the present and a future oriented in people. Unlike pseudo-radical demands to abolish capitalism, de-globalization has a power that can burst open the system.

Bello’s de-globalization is a strategy of the South to resist the threat from the North that is also relevant for the North. However faithful to his theory-praxis ethos, Bello does not speak of this. In fact it is up to the globalization critics of the North to reflect about concrete steps. Here the subordination of capitalism under society – in contrast to the South – must start from the foundations of the system. Redistributing work through radical reduction of working hours – in view of the increasing mass unemployment – in the North and exchanging part of paid work for more freedom and quality of life are two of the most powerful steps to regaining human autonomy and successive repression of the primacy of apparent rationality of economic norms to a kind of de-globalization from below.

Walden Bello’s book in the German language comes at the right time and revives an overdue social debate.

Walden Bello – Globalization, 2004

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