The Enigma of Globalization: A Journey to a New Stage of Capitalism.

Author:Guerrero, Federico
Position:Book Review

by Robert Went. London and New York: Routledge. 2002. Cloth, ISBN: 0415296781, $90.00. 216 pages.

In this new book on a key topic of our time, Robert Went theorizes globalization as a new stage of capitalism, presenting a compelling case in favor of this hypothesis.

Let me start with some of the key ideas that Went advances in his study.

First, globalization, the author argues, is not wholly technologically determined. Instead, it represents, at least in part, a series of political decisions restructuring the role of government, the relations between labor and capital, and the creation of new international organizations with far-reaching authority.

Second, Went puts globalization into its historical perspective and makes clear what the substantial differences between the current process and the process the world economy experimented with in the period before War World I are.

Third, as strong as the underlying social, political, and economic forces behind globalization may be, the author argues, globalization is not an irreversible process.

Fourth, globalization has not so far reduced inequality of income and wealth across countries.

According to how events have been unfolding in recent times, even most mainstream economists would indeed agree with the previous ideas without major qualifications.

Before a move is made to discuss more controversial issues in detail, a quick overview of the study may be useful.

The study is organized in six different chapters.

Chapter 1 presents a brief overview of economists' views of globalization, sketches the partial consensus reached so far, and poses some of the important questions pending answers.

Chapter 2 is one of the high points of the study. It presents an illuminating discussion of the (classical) theoretical underpinnings for the case in favor of free trade, as well as of the important critiques that have been raised of the (classical) theory of international trade. This single chapter makes the whole book worth reading.

Chapter 3 starts by reviewing some prominent economists' ideas on the combined role of free trade and free capital mobility--including the views of the founding fathers of the Bretton Woods financial institutions--and then moves to discuss classical theories of imperialism. This is another high point in the study.

Chapters 4 and 5 are the ones containing the analytical methodologies to be used in the concluding and most important chapter (chapter 6), where capitalism is finally...

To continue reading