Updated: September 29, 2009 15:01 IST

Case for equitable world order

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The authors bring out the economic inequalities and plead for global democracy.

A critique of much that is wrong in the world — even conceding it is “a world in which power is much more balanced and shared than in the past” — the book pleads for a new equitable world order with a truly democratic representation of communities.

Briefly analysing the world’s current economic framework, its recent history, and its expected evolution, the authors divide the period into two phases: “the golden age” of capitalism, when world’s per capita GDP grew at an unprecedented three per cent per annum (1950-73), and the “neo-liberal period” (1973-98), during which the growth rate more than halved; the figure fell to 1.33 per cent.

Emphasising the indispensability of a system of governance based on global democracy “for the legitimate provision of public goods” (peace, security, environment, etc.), they speak of “a global monster” nurtured by the affluent West in terms of widening income disparities, an artificial excess of industrial jobs and an ever-growing “illegal” migration to the West. Western Europe received around 30 million immigrants during the period 1950-2007. They describe how migration of labour has not been a part of the process of globalisation right through the second half of the 20th century.

To argue, as the book does, that the widening economic and technological gaps as well as cultural and religious peculiarities of Muslim-Arab communities are responsible for the genesis of terrorism worldwide appears over-simplistic. The authors contend that terrorism is also fuelled by “the long trajectory of the Palestine-Israel conflict,” and the U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia. Political exclusion perceived by many Arab communities, and abject poverty in some parts of the Muslim world such as Gaza, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, are cited as other causes. The book clearly overlooks many potent factors that nurture bigotry and fundamentalism and eventually lead the young men on to the path of terrorism.

In the fourth chapter, they affirm sustainability of democracy at the national level depending ceteris paribus on the evolution of the personal income distribution and on maintaining middle classes. They hold that free market systems with only a limited presence of the public sector will increasingly engender unfair concentration of income and wealth by way of monopolies, property grabbing, and so on, leading to the deterioration of the middle classes and undermining democracy. Allied with this assertion is their unambiguous disapproval of privatisation of loss-making public firms and services.

World economy

The second chapter features the evolution of world economy during the 20th century as well as the shift of economic gravity towards Asia, mainly due to China and India, whose entry into “the international division of labour” triggered a colossal change in global trade. Analysing the mutual interactions between capitalism and democracy, the authors argue that global capitalism will need global democracy for survival and democracy will need “mild forms of capitalism” for sustainability. The current capitalism-democracy combination is considered not tenable, inter alia, because capitalism lacks requisite democratic infrastructure to oversee global economic activity. It is held that the absence of global democracy renders efficient provision of global public goods impossible.

The fifth chapter embarks upon a theoretical explanation of externalities in the context of “sustainable development.” The ongoing environmental damage mostly affecting world’s poor, a large number of them in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa; how a mere 16 per cent of the total population consume around 50 per cent of energy consumed worldwide; how climate change causes various other problems to human settlements, apart from the ones related to carbon dioxide emission — these and a whole range of other issues are discussed.

The authors are in favour of a new body, ‘World Environment Organisation’, being set up on the lines of the WTO to formulate and enforce a policy on these matters at the global level.

The task of building democracy will be complete, the authors maintain, only when the world as a whole becomes democratic. What obtains now is an “aristocracy of western countries,” wherein a group of nations with a mere one-sixth of world population is “dictating to the other 5/6th of the population,” and this is wholly untenable.

The authors pitch for a new democratic United Nations as the “core institution” with its other agencies, such as the Security Council, the IMF and the ILO also being reorganised into truly representative bodies. But these suggestions are likely to remain caged in wishful domain.

There is little chance of a mindset rooted in the axiom “all are equal, but some are more equal than others” changing easily.

GLOBAL DEMOCRACY FOR SUSTAINING GLOBAL CAPITALISM: By Jose Miguel Andreu & Rita Dulci Rahman, Published by Academic Foundation, 4772-73/23, Bharat Ram Road (23, Ansari Road) Darya Ganj, New Delhi - 110002. Rs. 995.

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