The Worst of the Global Beast

The Worst of the Global Beast

The dark side of Globalization. Edited by Jorge Heine & Ramesh Thakur. A Book review by Chinmaya R. Gharekhan published by The Hindu on July 23, 2012

The world is divided into two camps: pro and anti-globalisation. The anti group is usually heard of at the time of ministerial or summit level meetings of WTO, or when the Bretton Woods institutions hold their annual meetings, or other similar occasions. These protest meetings express the rage and frustrations of the millions of people at the exclusionary nature of globalisation, which has brought immense dividends to the corporate houses and a few individuals, but has left the vast majority no better off than they were, or, even worse off than they were earlier. The disparity in incomes between the rich and the poor has widened among and within nations. This negative aspect of globalisation no doubt was a factor in igniting the recent Arab revolutions.

However, there are other, more sinister negative consequences of globalisation which are not discussed adequately or seriously enough in the public domain, such as trafficking in drugs, human trafficking involving mainly women and children, money laundering to facilitate transnational crime as well as terrorism and illegal sale of arms. It is this ‘Dark Side of Globalization’ that the volume under review seeks to address, and it does so most effectively and comprehensively.

The co-editors of this slim volume, Jorge Heine and Ramesh Thakur, frequent contributors to The Hindu, have rendered great service by bringing together eminent scholars and columnists from all the continents who have presented compact and readable contributions relating to the impact of the dark forces of globalisation around the world. They explore the extent of the malaise in Africa, Latin America, West Asia and South and South East Asia, as well the limitations of state authority in dealing with the menace.

‘Uncivil’ society

William Coleman, in his essay ‘Globalization, Imperialism and Violence’ opines that America, as an empire, has used its power, especially military power, to speed up globalisation which has produced ‘networked’ society, global business and cultural networks which, in turn, have produced new forms of violence and networks of ‘uncivil’ society as a way to combat these forces of globalisation. Since many aspects of globalisation threaten the traditional ways of life especially in vulnerable developing societies, groups among them organise themselves into networks of ‘uncivil’ society as the only defence against these globalising forces. The main culprit, according to Coleman, is America with its 737 bases outside its territory and its ‘militarism’ as opposed to ‘military’.

The African continent is one of the worst victims of the dark side of globalisation, according to another essay. The very same forces which facilitate international trade and its exponential growth have provided a platform for transnational criminal activities. Criminal networks have taken advantage of Africa’s weak governing institutions to ply their trade. It is estimated that between 1970 and 2007, illicit financial flows from Africa amounted to $854 billion; if all illicit flows were taken into account, it would reach a staggering figure of $1.8 trillion. The income from illicit trade has been used to finance wars and money-laundering. Human trafficking is an intractable problem in many African countries, especially in West and Central Africa. Organised criminal syndicates smuggle nearly 700,000 women and children across international borders every year. Africa is also awash with illegal light weapons, legacy of years of civil wars and political strife.

There are illuminating articles about globalisation and insurgencies in South Asia (S.D. Muni), Maoist movement in India (A.K. Mehra), terrorism in Kashmir (Rekha Chowdhary) as well as an insightful piece by M.J. Akbar on security challenges in a unipolar world, in which he deals with the American intervention in Iraq, the Islamic revolution in Iran and American response to it and the consequent rise in Iranian influence in the region. Muni establishes that the LTTE made the best possible use of technology to sustain its violent operations for so long. Nassra Hassan, whom I knew when we were both stationed in Gaza serving different organisations of the United Nations, has contributed a fascinating study of the psychology of jihadists. Modern jihad, she avers, lends itself to the best and worst in globalisation, using its tools and techniques to great advantage. For a group, which swears by the Sharia, the jihadis, she observes, do not regard the use of drugs and narcotics, forbidden under Quran, as sin since they serve the cause of Allah.

A common refrain, to be found in nearly all contributions, and shared by the editors, is that the dark forces of globalisation cannot be tackled singly by any state however powerful; the only way in which these uncivil society groups can be fought is by strengthening civil society institutions, working in tandem with governments and regional institutions.

The editors have done a great job, in their introduction, in summarizing the 14 chapters contributed by experts in their respective regions, including Latin America. Their concluding chapter deals almost exclusively with South Asia, and mostly with India. The Indian subcontinent, they observe, is one of the places where the sunny and dark sides of globalisation clash with particular force. 26/11 has been extensively analysed. They point out, with good logic, that the main reason for the slow response of Indian security was technology. “Ironically, one could speak of ‘digital divide’ between this group of young men of peasant stock… and the metropolitan police and armed forces of one of the world’s emerging powers, known for its information technology and telecom prowess.” They point out that almost every incident of international terrorism since 9/11 has had some significant link with Pakistan. India would do well to heed the reminder by the editors that political violence in Kashmir shot up in 1989 precisely when many jihadis came to the valley after the defeat and withdrawal of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

THE DARK SIDE OF GLOBALIZATION: Edited by Jorge Heine, Ramesh Thakur; Pub. by United Nations University Press, 2 United Nations Plaza, Room DC2-1462-70, New York, NY 10017. $ 35.

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