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©2009 Oxford University Press; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
This truly is a dazzling brief introduction to a subject that could not be covered even by a very long book. As Steger points out, the fact of globalization is the predominant issue of our time. Far too man, as he points out, tend to treat the subject in monolithic or simplistic fashion, focusing on merely one aspect of globalization, and assuming that that aspect defines all of globalization. Anyone familiar with Thomas Friedman's THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE (who is frequently described as a "hyper globalizer") will recognize one such very narrow approach. Despite his brief space, Steger wants to do justice to the complexity of the subject. For the past decade, most writers on globalization have focused on economic globalization, but Steger emphasizes that the process has political, economic, religious, cultural, environmental, and ideological conditions.
Many people who tackle the question of globalization seem to want to know, "Is this a good or bad thing?" Steger is anxious to emphasize that this does not admit of an easy answer. Clearly, the massive increase of economic inequality--which occurs both on international and national levels, e.g., wealth has more and more been concentrated in the industrial countries of the northern hemisphere, and within those countries, more and more in the hands of a small economic corporate and investing elite--is not a good thing, but that is not the only aspect of globalization. Steger seems to suggest that there are both significant advantages and some lamentable dangers in globalization.
The one aspect of globalization concerning which Steger is clearly and rightfully concerned is the promotion of globalization in the ideological terms of the Neoliberal project of promoting free markets over all other concerns. The term "Neoliberal" might throw some people, since the leading Neoliberal of recent decades would include Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and most members of the George W. Bush administration (though also many
The book is well written and well read and fulfills its mission of giving an introduction to the multifaceted reality of globalization. The author is a university professor who analyzes globalization from the vantage point of understanding a developing and increasingly complex academic subject.
Although I largely agree with the author's point of view on many issues, I was disappointed that he seemed unaware how ideological his own presentation was and how he marches in step with a kind of academic-left orthodoxy that has long been in vogue in his professional context. He has definite bogeys, especially "neoliberalism" (which is usually more a term of abuse than of analysis), the idea of markets, and almost any manifestation of American politics or popular culture -- with some notable exceptions: Ralph Nader and a number of American scholars. It is striking how his descriptions of some points of view are loaded with words of scorn and condescension, while views of which he approves are described in words that glow with justice and human flourishing. All the while, seeming to give a balanced and straightforward presentation of unfolding facts.
In spite of these weaknesses, however, the book knowledgeably covers a wide range and gives a very helpful overview of the subject.
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