Dynamics of globalisation
Santosh Kr. Singh

Globalization, Governance Reforms and Development in India
Ed. Kameshwar Chaudhary. Sage, New Delhi. Pages 552. Rs 1,100

Globalisation is the buzzword of the 21st century. The amount of literature, studies and writings that has been produced in the preceding decade and a half from almost all possible corridors of knowledge on this theme is simply phenomenal. It primarily arrived as an economic process of social change attempting to merge the national economies with the larger international economic concerns and constraints. In India, the year 1991 is considered a watershed in this context. Opening up of the economy unleashed a new economic regime where market and private players were recognised as significant players.

Incidentally, along with this departure in economic policies, a simultaneous revolution was taking place in the world of mass media and communications. Newer, more importantly, less expensive technological advancements in the form of the Internet, web-world and cyber-cafes transformed the world in to what Marshal Mcluhan paraphrased as ‘global village’. It was believed that the national boundaries and geographies would cease to be the barriers of communication.

Expectedly, there have been larger socio-cultural and political implications of this mega process. The results, however, after nearly two decades of engagement with globalisation come as a grossly shocking mismatch with the initial euphoria created around it as a panacea for all the ills. The academia is divided on its efficacy. Those in favour talk about its inevitability and economic opportunities that it has created. They believe it has made local global and most importantly argue that it has worked for countries like India and to validate their claims, they talk about consistently buoyant and healthy growth rate as witnessed over the last decade and more.

While the advocates talk about growth and production, the critics talk about its distribution, its skewdness and asymmetry.

Many like Aijaz Ahamd, for instance, consider globalisation as a vehicle launched by the developed Western countries, led by the US, to promote their economic interests at the cost of the developing economies and societies. For these scholars, globalisation is nothing but a new form of Western domination and imperialism.

These concerns and the anxieties spill over on to the cultural front as well, as reflected in phrases like to Mcdonaldisation, Disneyfication, and Wallmartisation, etc., echoing anti-American sentiments against its hegemony. In this setting, the issue of governance reforms also therefore becomes critical as it is being seen as a tool or a ploy used by the hegemonic West and its various multilateral financial institutions and agencies to create channels within the domestic national economies and societies to carry forward its economic agenda, thereby seeking lesser interference by the local democratic state apparatus and free play for the market and private players.

This volume, containing 20 chapters that are contributed by some of the top academicians in the country from various fields, is a comprehensive take on these very critical issues.

Chaudhary’s introductory chapter presents the theoretic-conceptual paradigms of the process of globalisation followed by a very cogent and intellectually rigorous discussion on some of the conceptual debates surrounding the theme of globalisation. What is most commendable, however, about this volume is its focus on states of India as it takes a detour of not just the dynamics and dangers of globalisation in states such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala where it seems to have worked, but also of Bihar which has been largely untouched by the process, providing the whole spectrum of the phenomenon.

Chaudhary’s contribution on Gujarat highlights the promises and pitfalls involved in collaboration with the multilateral agencies such as ADB and how, despite showing better overall growth than the national average, the state could not be a model for sustainable growth as it showed skewedness in both inter-sectoral and inter-regional terms. The subsequent chapters attempt to grasp the multi-sectoral implications of globalisation on society through an examination of some of the key areas of concern like caste, media, diaspora and decline in agriculture in Punjab, etc. The common thread which runs through the volume is the assertion that the government and the state have a key role to play if globalisation has to be made workable.

In short, to understand the dynamics of the transition of globalisation from a ‘global village’ to ‘global pillage’, as Anthony Giddens sarcastically remarked pointing to serious unevenness in growth and distribution, this book is a must. Most importantly, unlike many others in the edited genre of publications these days, it is engaging, focused and highly researched.