A critique of the globalisation concept, this collection of papers — presented at a seminar held by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study at the Goa University in 2006 — reflects a morbid obsession of the authors with cataloguing what they see as its malevolent consequences.
As Yogesh Atal succinctly puts it, the conceptual confusion arises from the persisting tendency of viewing the paradigm of development as globalisation, the much-used term signifying different things to different people. Right from the introductory chapter, the refrain is one of indicting globalisation, which in the post-1991 Indian context comprised “a trinity of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, popularly known as LPG.”
The fault-lines indicated by the authors make a litany of woes: the neoliberal economic policies widening the gap between the rich and the poor; the free enterprise imperialist ideology promoting market-oriented capitalistic and privatised economy; and the transformative project of global capitalism turning into a hegemonically negotiated process of economic and cultural flows across borders.
Globalisation not only makes inroads into our economic and political life but invades our social and cultural spheres as well, breeding a culture of consumerism, and ultimately leading to a trivialisation and distortion of local cultures.
Surinder Kumar and Sohan Sharma, in particular, seem to revel in railing at institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO, which are termed the “repositories of neoliberal, free enterprise imperialist ideology.” No doubt, in the current global context, the iniquitous asymmetry of the Bretton Woods institutions is well acknowledged. But the authors here identify them as “the roots of financial enslavement.” Witness also the statement: “As a loan condition, the World Bank group requires the recipient governments to reduce wages, suppress working class rights and demands.” Sherry Sabbarwal argues that globalisation, besides bringing inequality, mass poverty and desolation, has violated the workers' fundamental right to work.
Murzban Jal endorses the view that the World Bank and the IMF function “as the policemen of the American State which the Indian State readily succumbs to...” In a similar vein, T.R. Sharma says the United States, “the global hegemon,” operates through the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, TRIPS and patenting laws.
Yogesh Atal infuses a sense of moderation into the debate by presenting an erudite appraisal of the globalisation process across the world, a process that was not faulted by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz; according to him, only the way it has been “managed” is faulty. Describing globalisation as “a major turning point in development”, he cites Marshall McLuhan's view of the concept. To McLuhan, it is a process of making the world a ‘global village', emphasising the inevitability of interdependence, and the need to tackle various problems — such as environmental pollution, population explosion, violence and crime — and deficits in social development in a way that requires each society to think globally, yet act locally.
To take a balanced view, as Atal points out, the evolving transport and communication technologies have knit the continents together and any attempt to resist or impede the process would be detrimental to public interest. The western paradigm of development has created disenchantment since it engendered serious disparities and falsified many tenets of modernisation. What seems to endure worldwide, no less in Asian cultures including India, is a kind of heterogeneity — modernity juxtaposed with tradition — and “sandwich culture”, a phenomenon that is still evolving. If anything, whatever diffusion is happening has in fact been enriching the cultures.
Countries are becoming heterogeneous in their cultures and plural in their social structures. Like the bamboo, cultures bend, but do not break, when winds of change blow fast and strong. It needs to be realised that globalisation is a process, not an ideological dogma imposed by some agency. As the editor of this volume, Mehta argues in the introductory chapter, we should not shy away from the globalisation process but, as a part of the knowledge society, prepare ourselves to derive maximum advantage from it, even while upholding our values.