Books Review


By David Held edited by Anthody Barnett, David Held and Casper Henderson, Polity and Open Democracy, ISBN: 07-45635-25-3 Reviewed by: Mirza Asmer Beg

Presenting a critique of globalization, David Held argues that the post war multilateral order is threatened by the Washington Economic Consensus and the Washington Security Agenda. We have not been able to achieve the development goals of the international community. Moreover, the international trade negotiations and the management of global warming are not progressing satisfactorily. Poor countries have been disadvantaged by the liberalization of capital which has contributed to the erosion of governing capacities of developing countries. He suggests, that for a country to benefit from sustained development, its priority should be internal economic integration.

Held further argues that to eliminate terrorism it is essential to remove those real injustices which terrorists may use, however opportunistically, to further their support and legitimize their methods. Concluding his arguments, he emphasizes upon the need to replace the Washington Consensus with a global social democratic one and to replace the Washington Security Agenda with a human security one.
Martin Wolf makes a case for optimism in contrast to the gloomy scenario of Held. He finds fault not only with the diagnosis of Held but also with his recommendations. He, however, is convinced that things are moving in a positive direction.

Roger Scruton argues that Held is obsessed with the social democratic vision, which actually is not worth it. He criticizes Held for not explaining as to how the UN can be reformed or replaced and how rule of law can be introduced in non-democratic States. He says that the absence of rule of law in many countries is not because of the US but despite its best efforts.

In his essay, Grahame Thompson argues that there are two structural limitations to a truly global economic system. The first is the absence of a single international labour market and second, the inherent uncertainty of international financial system which leads to the proliferation of risks. He calls for a balanced development process.

David Mepham agrees with the analysis of Held but finds some gaps in it. He stresses upon national governance as being more important than global governance. He also points towards a transnational legal and governance framework. Meghnad Desai argues that social democracy is outdated and it perpetuates inequality. He calls for the erosion of state sovereignty and strengthening of human rights independent of territorial states.

Maria Livanos Cattani maintains that a more just world can be created by practical experiment, diverse initiatives and patient attention to detail. In another essay, Patrick says that the critique of Held is a bit soft. He argues that globalization leads to accumulation by dispossession (p. 85) when the system seeks to mitigate and displace crisis tendencies. He calls upon progressive movements to remark globalization from below through delocalizing capital and intensifying international solidarity.

Benjamin Barber argues that political change should be situated in the realities of global interdependence. He says that solutions should be practical and we should recognize the obstacles, which are as various as they are intractable.

John Elkington calls for ‘corrective destruction’ (p. 107) to lead us to new forms of global governance. He says that the UN and the global compact have potential. They, however, need consistent and sustained pressures to realize it.

Takashi argues that the operational strategy and underlying structures make the task of establishing a global covenant difficult. He also looks at the guiding principles for realizing such a convenient. Looking at globalization from a different perspective, Serra argues that the Washington consensus and security doctrine both lack popular legitimacy and because of this the US disturbs international order, instead of reinforcing it. He suggests three ways for the US to regain international legitimacy.

Anne-Marie Slaughter and Thomas N. Hale criticize Held for the abundance of vision but shortage of action plan in his essay. They argue that we need not treat cosmopolitanism and nationalism as mutually exclusive. Rather we need to bring them together by promoting transnational networks and global governance mechanisms.The UN Security General, Kofi Annan explains how the UN is trying to work in this new world, to meet the challenges of the future. He argues that the UN is the best hope for the future of humanity.

Towards the end of this book, David Held responds to his critics and tries to clarify his position. He ends with a note of optimism by referring to the Barcelona Development Agenda, which is a formulation of hope for the poor countries. Mary Kaldor’s essay which talks about a new human security doctrine for Europe, also appears to be quite convincing.

In sum, this is a good book which looks dispassionately at globalization from different angles. It enriches our understanding about this universal phenomenon and its consequences.

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