Globalization and capitalism.

Author:Westra, Richard
Position:Book review

This is an extended review article of the following books:

On Capitalism, edited by Victor Nee and Richard Swedberg. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 2007. Paperback: ISBN 978-0-8047-5665-5, $24.95. 368 pages.

Inequality, Growth, and Poverty in and Era of Liberalization and Globalization, edited by Giovanni Andrea Cornia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2005. Paperback: ISBN 978-0-19-928410-8, $55.00. 460 pages.

The New Golden Age: The Coming Revolution against Political Corruption and Economic Chaos, by Ravi Batra. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007. Hardback: ISBN 13: 978-1-40397579-5. $27.95. 256 pages.

Debate over globalization divides into three broad camps: "hyper-globalizers" on both Right and Left sides of the political spectrum view it as the telos of capitalist commodification, world wide market integration, and economic convergence; globalization "skeptics" see instead a world of increasing economic asymmetries, marginalization, and very visible political hands beneath its economic outcomes; and "transformationalists" view globalization as open-ended shifting geo-spatial contours of political and economic life. Placing the books under review here in the above context, Nee and Swedberg's On Capitalism (hereafter OC), dealing with the fundamental nature of capitalism for the study of globalization, falls into the first camp. Cornia's collection, Inequality, Growth and Poverty (hereafter IGP), assessing the implications of global poverty and inequality for capitalist development, lends support to the skeptical thesis. Batra, The New Golden Age (hereafter NGA), examining globalization in the United States context en route to predicting political transformations necessary for a progressive human future, may be pegged as both skeptic and transformationalist.

OC is a collection of papers drawn from a conference celebrating the 100th anniversary of Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. The key animating point of OC is that the field of globalization studies "needs to be better connected to the core insights of ... economic sociology," particularly as these relate to the institutional foundations of capitalist dynamism (pp. 6-7). Weber's approach to sociology is heavily influenced by the marginalist revolution in economics. Marginalism, as is well known, roots its theorizing of capitalism in the notion of a rational, benefit maximizing individual acting within the context of perfect markets. For Weber, sociology studies individual action in cultural contexts. In capitalist society sociology, according to Weber, should focus on the way individual action is bounded by the "formal rationality" of the market. To make the case for what it views as the dynamism of capitalism OC draws upon the work of Karl Polanyi on historical varieties of economic organization. What...

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