Globalization can be simply defined as a process by which certain societal cultures and economies integrate together mainly through trade, communication technology and by any of the various modes of transport. However, globalization is not always sweet music to the ears of many people as it brings along disparities of unimaginable magnitude. The result is that one country, region or town prospers whereas the other simply disappears. For example constructing a road to open up a mountainous city may serve to widen the gap of inequality among its occupants. Whereas we are doing away with the isolation that has partly contributed to the city's poverty, some of its residents will take advantage of the road to export their excess produce while others will fall into more debts.
This form of civilization brings out more questions than answers; by building the road do we in a way fuel forces that will increase inequality?, will the occupants of the city regret why it was opened up? Another example of civilization which has brought controversies is the introduction of conventional methods of treating some of the diseases responsible for a bigger percentage of child deaths like malaria and measles. These methods are thought to have led to a population explosion and some people became other's servants with the result that some grew richer while others continued to languish in poverty. The question here is, can we let child mortality to take toll of us because we fear unsettling the forces of nature controlling the population?
The enemies of globalization depict two rival camps; one of which is against the adoption of western cultures and therefore is said to be fighting a war of civilizations. The other camp fights against capitalism which is characterized by the capitalists exploiting the workers and is by so doing fighting against the division of the world into global classes. Despite the two pursuing different ideas, they concur with the notion that globalization is forcing into people new policies which they are not ready to accept. However, the truth is that people are actually for the idea of civilization.
Globalization is way ahead of the expectations of the people but the problem is that these revelations leave them yearning for more. "Globalization shows people a world that subverts their expectations; the drama lies in the fact that this revelation is incapable of satisfying them" (5). For example, when we watch videos of people dying because of poverty, we at most times forget that such people see television as a channel towards attaining material prosperity. Cohen refuses to be drawn to the conclusion that the forces behind civilization can simply be categorized into good and evil as many of the current writers would want us to believe.
The truth of the matter is that, the poor countries envy what their rich counterparts have been able to accumulate but are not ready to embrace the changes that accompany globalization. "They are not protected against the perverse effects of industrial society and of urbanization or against the lifestyle they entail" (4). Contrary to these poor countries, the developed nations are capable of protecting their citizens against such negative effects.
The nations of the world, each by its own means struggles to cover up the ever widening gap that is inherent between the world expectations and what the reality has to offer. As a matter of fact this should not in any way shield us from taking careful consideration into the adverse effects of globalization but the mistake is when we fail to carefully analyze events that occur to a majority of the population. The truth is that it is what has never happened that is of major concern to the proponents and opponents of globalization not what has already occurred.
The Spaniards conquered the world because they were more developed and had far much better weapons than any of their enemies. Daniel Cohen notes that, "Pizarro and his men had swords, steel armor, muskets and horses, while Atahualpa's troops had only cudgels, clubs, axes and catapults made of stone, bronze and wood. They had no firearms" (9-10). Contrary to his opponents, Pizarro, though illiterate made good use of written communication and studied well his opponents before he went to war with them. Atahualpa and his troops were poorly informed about their enemies and even never took time to study the invasion of Panama, a few kilometers away, a few years ago. Pizarro knew very well that the Incas Empire was purely a centralized form of political organization and that by capturing and killing their leader he will have disorganized their central command and therefore it would be much easier to conquer them. "By capturing and killing Atahualpa, Pizarro destroyed the Inca's chain of command" (11).
In addition, the Incas were not civilized enough and did not have at their disposal animals to counter the horses which were used by their opponents. Pizarro and his forces also employed the use of infectious agents prior to their war which caused illnesses to the Incas population incapacitating them. "On the eve of the battle against Pizarro, a smallpox epidemic decimated the Incas. Smallpox, measles, influenza and typhus alone eliminated 95 percent of the indigenous pre-Columbian population" (10).
From the Spaniard conquests, it is evident that there is a sharp contrast between the levels of technological advancements of these groups. The European nations were organized into large states which were industrially advantaged and had technological advancements which enabled them mould metals and use them as weapons to fight their enemies. On the contrary, the Incas mainly composed of small states which were manned by not so much powerful chiefs and used stone implements as their weaponry and therefore were greatly disadvantaged and stood no chance of defeating their opponents.
The big questions from this are why wealth and global power is distributed in the way it is today but not through another more equitable way? Why did the western countries colonize the Africans and not through? The development of the north and south axes was fuelled by the direction in which civilization, more important agricultural development, took. For the Americans and Africans, agriculture which included domestication of animals, horses included, globalization began from the north and preceded southwards hence the name north-south axis.
Globalization is inseparable from human history and it is only through the intermingling of various civilizations of different cultural groups that certain diversity can be achieved. Regions with dense populations tend to come up with many inventions than the sparsely populated ones. Cohen further argues that current globalization is progressing at a remarkable rate such that the poor nations cannot fail to acknowledge the fact that the western countries are more prosperous than they are. "The central issue regarding globalization is not that it develops too quickly or that its effects are too brutal. On the relatively short time scale of capitalism, what is striking is its poor capacity to diffuse technical progress rather than its propensity to impose progress everywhere" (Cohen 22).
Cohen in his book recognizes the 20th century globalization as the third phase of the civilization process, the first having been the Spanish conquerors while the second involved industrialization and trade by the British. In his quest to answer why rich countries are rich while poor ones remain poor, Cohen argues that it is not that the rich nations go overboard and exploit the laborers from the poor nations but that the super powers do not need much from their less fortunate countries and therefore have left them to their own fate.
In chapter two, Cohen compares the different shapes taken by trade in the 19th and 20th centuries and wonders why in the 19th century globalizations brought forward sharp differences with reference to the economic capabilities of the different European civilization. Cohen does not, in one of the most significant undoing of his work, give a detailed coverage on the roles played by the institutions of the rule of law and economic freedoms and their impacts in realization of the benefits of globalization. Cohen touches on them lightly and completely disregards them when examining why India was not making any progress in the 19th century. In the first five years of that century, India was under the management of East India Company, a Private Management Company, and thus, "among the economists who attribute the third world's problems to bad 'governance', this is a formidable real test of the effects of private administration on the wealth of a country" (p. 29).
Cohen fails to acknowledge the fact that poor governance by the East India Company was responsible for the demise of the Indian textile industry. He however mentions that some of the strategies employed by the management company were deleterious like for example, it never allowed free trade to take place. "In the first half of the nineteenth century, the East India Company prohibited Indian textile firms from competing with English textile manufactures in British territory"(p. 30). This proved to be a disadvantage to them later in the century when their markets became flooded with English textile materials. "With the consolidation of England's industrial advantage and the free-trade practices that prevailed in the second half of the century, English textiles flowed into India and destroyed the local artisan class. Thus India lost ground in this industrial sector..." (p. 30).
In his quest to explain the idea that globalization is not exploitative, Cohen uses the example of India under the British rule. He actually borrows a leaf from the words of Albert Memmi that, "to give meaning to his existence, the colonist must diminish the colonized by reminding him of his inferiority in every detail of his life" (p. 43). The author argues that the British strained much not to passively exploit their Indian workers and by a matter of fact, the workers were at the forefront championing against their exploitation when they refused to be overworked until their wages were upped. Based on this, Cohen made a sound judgment that 'unequal exchange' actually did not mean exploitation but, "the refusal of .... [Poor workers] to be treated differently than ... [rich workers], the affirmation that they are part of the same humanity" (p. 44).
Cohen cites evidence that the colonialists did not accumulate their wealth because of exploiting the raw materials imported from the colonized countries. This is because the developed countries prior to their invasion of the poor ones produced raw materials for their industrial advancements. He is keen to disagree with the notion that globalization was responsible for the surge in exploitation and in page 41 points out that capital and human labor were solely responsible for the demise in the development of India. He says that, according to a farm caretaker in India that, "they could work more but they refuse to do it. Unless they are paid more" (p. 41) and even he puts into light a strike organized in 1928 protesting against a rise in the pace of work.
The opponents of globalization wonder how come the England workers earned more than their Indian counterparts, a question which Cohen does not tire to answer. "Their tolerance of a faster work pace was more accountable for this difference. Indian workers were not passively exploited; they refused to be exploited. Neither did they reject capitalism. They waited for higher wages" (p. 42). From Cohen's discussion, it is evident that he is trying to put across an idea that India and many other places are underdeveloped because many of the business in such places has never appeared to them that they can enhance their profitability by paying some sort of efficiency wage.
In his description of the modern globalization in chapter 3, Cohen makes rather unfounded ascertain that economies of scale and not differences brought about by nature are responsible for the development of international trade which contradicts with the argument advanced by Ricardo. Although the author's discussion can be described as a shallow argument, his conclusion that "a country cannot hope to prosper solely on the basis of the international division of labor" (p. 76) is rather an informed and sound one.
In the fourth chapter, clash of civilizations, Cohen vehemently argues against some of the explanations advanced by recent scholars to explain inequality. The major point in the clash of civilizations is that battle lines will be drawn with reference to cultural affiliations rather than economical and/or ideological disparities. Culture can be used to approximate the extent of economic wealth which goes well with Max Weber's argument about a possible connection between the culture of the Protestants and capitalism.
The author however does not concur with this argument and notes that, "to observe that the Muslim population is poorer than the global average... is not sufficient to conclude that we have found a casual relationship between the first and the second term" (p. 87). However, he points that anti-capitalistic cultural organizations such as Catholicism have evolved with time whereas current scholars like Max strongly believe that some of the policies of such cultures are unacceptable as they derail the process of capitalistic development.
After going against the notion that cultural disparities are to blame for the underdeveloped economies of the world, Cohen goes ahead to explain why an open trading forum is crucial if any meaningful economic development is to be realized. He says that the Islamic and Chinese communities are not at par in development with their western counterparts because of their rather mal-informed decision to close their economies. He further asserts that, "continental China simply wants to be like Taiwan" (p. 96). However, he seems to be against an open society which translates to an open economy since according to him an open economy, "offers less incentives for nepotism or corruption than does a closed society" (p. 110).
In chapter five, the author discusses the model employed by the Japanese in their quest for economic development, "industrialization under the aegis of different development banks was carried out at once by different subsidies, such as government tax breaks and subsidized loans... the firms receiving government aid were always part of a measurable objective, most often in matters of exports. If an enterprise failed to meet its targets, it was immediately stripped of its credit" (p. 103). Cohen overlooks the challenges Japan faced in industrial planning as well as the many failures the ministry of trade had in the process of liberalizing its market. Moreover, he does not even dare mention that during Japan's economic boom they had one of the most envied free market economies in the world.
Towards the end of the book, Cohen tries to offer some options on how to improve globalization. He foresees some problems lurking somewhere waiting to strike. "The first is that there remain great worldwide public goods that are not still covered by an agency worth of the name" (p. 158) and that, "the second problem is that, even when an existing agency is responsible for a certain public good... such as the world health organization and the internal labor organization, the agency has little authority" (p. 159). Cohen offers to solve such a problem by forming collaborating with the United Nations to form an arm by the name council of economic security which, "could be called upon each time a conflict of standards interferes between agencies dependent on the United Nations system. The council, made up of sages with globally recognized moral authority, would be charged with resolving the problem" (p. 160). How such an organization will be able to habituate disputes is not well understand together with the problems it may come alongside in its quest to avail understanding in member nations.
Cohen indeed notes that, "Global capitalism is not simply capitalism. This is the whole problem" (p. 164). In an attempt to explain this, Cohen takes the example of the effects brought by the realization of intellectual property rights. He notes that such rights have brought enormous profits to the pharmaceutical companies whereas the citizens of the poor countries are dying because of HIV/AIDS when we have medicines which can save their lives. In this example, Cohen has offered a good explanation why globalization has not lived up to the expectations of the many poor countries. This has dealt a great blow to the poor countries that were clinging on the hope that the much proposed world without borders has not materialized rendering them completely disillusioned. This according to Cohen is a very sensitive issue with regard to the north-south relations which unless otherwise will remain very tense. It is his opinion that we embrace the policies of non-capitalism in the world which would in the long run have detrimental effects in the dissemination of globalization's beneficial policies.
His book misses out on the most important aspects of strong market foundations; the principle of economic freedom, rule of law and above all individual property rights all of which form the basis of a strong economic foundation. Instead of focusing on the absence of these basics which hamper prosperity of a globalized economy, Cohen is out championing for the creation of new institutions of governance which would further complicate the market systems.
The author begins his story with a rather high note when he says that the enemies of globalization have greatly misunderstood the term globalization but however promises to explain the reason behind their thinking. Although Cohen's book finds fault in most of the explanations advanced to explain the economic disparities witnessed all over the world, he fails in his own capacity to provide a concrete argument and even does not precisely identify the actual enemies of globalization. He ought to have made clear references to the actual enemies and explained in what dimension they have misunderstood the term globalization. It is not until towards the end of the book that he comes back to the main theme with a brief description of how globalization has evolved with time.
Despite the few shortcomings evident in the whole book, the whole book is worth reading and quite fascinating. It makes a contribution worth noting on the literature of globalization in its discussion on the possible origin of globalization and the much prevalent disparities of the world economies. Cohen in his work does not concur with the simple arguments for or against globalization and can be described as quite convincing when through his entire work says that the poor countries for sure do desire the advantages that accrue globalization but are not ready to face the disadvantages that come with globalization. The adoption of the policies of civilization has created two rival camps, one for winners and another for losers and in some parts of the world the losers have regrouped to form anti-electoral campaigns for the candidates who are against globalization.