Globalisation, Social Capital, and Inequality: Contested Concepts, Contested Experiences.

Author:van Staveren, Irene
Position:Book Review
 
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Globalisation, Social Capital, and Inequality: Contested Concepts, Contested Experiences, by Wilfred Dolfsma and Charlie Dannreuther. Northampton, Mass.: Edward Elgar. 2003. ISBN 1840645148, $85.00. 189 pages.

This volume contains a fine selection of papers from the EAEPE (European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy) annual conference held in Prague in November 1999. The book courageously engages with not just one but two highly contested concepts: globalization and social capital. An underlying debate in both discourses is concerned with issues of distributional justice and poverty-indeed matters of inequality as the title of the volume to be discussed here adds. The title suggests a very ambitious project, connecting the three concepts of globalization, social capital, and inequality. The risk of such a project is overambition with disappointing consequences for coverage of topics and analytical depth. But let us first look at the contributions and come back to the book's ambitions later.

The book starts with a political-historical overview of globalization, comparing today's processes with those of international trade in the late nineteenth century, by Lord Desai. The next chapter is the introduction by the editors to the book. Dolfsma and Dannreuther provide a useful, up-to-date review of relevant literature on the two key notions, globalization and social capital. Drawing on the literature on globalization, the authors suggest that "[t]he neo-liberal discourse of globalization, for example, sees a world made up of rational, instrumental and unbounded individuals, projects the world as a singular production system, and lauds the concept of efficiency in the allocation of functional division of labour. This view prioritizes certain structures, processes and beliefs over others" (p. 19). The various contributions to the volume highlight which structures, processes, or beliefs tend to dominate the debate and to what extent this is justified by the experiences of globalization across the world. On social capital, the editors show a similar sensitivity to conceptual and empirical diversity and complexities in their discussion of the literature. The challenge in this chapter is how to connect globalization and social capital. The editors admit that it would be problematic to assert a bold theoretical relationship between the two. The guidance on the relatedness between globalization and social capital hence comes from the chapters...

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