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Jagdish N. Bhagwati – “In Defense of Globalization: It Has a Human Face”

In this essay Bhagwati considers how globalization can be used to advance the social agenda that it is so often accused of corrupting/harming.  The “social agenda” includes such things as a reduction of poverty and child labour, strong environmental standards, the proper exercise of national sovereignty, defense of local cultures, and the preservation and extension of women’s rights and welfare for the poor and impoverished.

After beginning the lecture by recounting two stories about the relationship between India and Italy, B. begins his discussion of globalization.  B. claims that the challenge to globalization usually comes from ‘protectionists’ interested in protecting specific special producer interests; however, he also notes that most economistist ‘generations’ since Smith have also had dissenters.  Yet, these two groups aren’t really who B. wants to talk to in this specific case; rather, he hopes to address the increasingly “massive” numbers of anti-globalizers worldwide.  B. divides these dissenters into two groups: the stake-wielders (militant protesters who refuse to negotiate with world trade theorists) and stake-asserters (individuals who want to reshape the system in concert with the globalizers).

According to B., economic globalization – or the “increasing integration of nation-states into the international economy via trade, direct foreign investment by chiefly multinational firms, short-term capital flows, cross border flows of humanity and diffusion and sale of technology” – is essential to appropriate governance of globalization toward the advancement of a social agenda.  B. claims the following are the result of how economic globalization has benefited the social agenda:

  1. A. Child Labor – According to B., increased economic prosperity will reduce child labor because parents will stop forcing children to work and will send them to school with the excess capital they have accrued due to higher wages resulting from economic globalization.
  2. B. Poverty in the Poor Countries – The argument here is that 1) globalization increases income; and 2) income expansion reduces poverty.  B. uses India and China to make his point.
  3. C. Women’s Equality – Supposedly B. argues that because it doesn’t make economic sense to pay a man more than an equally qualified woman that women’s equality will even out.  Further, when TNCs send men – and their families – out from overly patriarchal societies like Japan to the U.S. they pick up the gender norms of other places and import them back to Japan.

Going forward, B. has three suggestions: 1) develop agencies and institutions that deal with the downsides of globalization (here B. argues for the legitimacy of the World Bank!); 2) Don’t undertake shock therapy in the ways that Sachs and Friedman advocate in developing economic systems; and 3) find supplementary policies to accelerate the pace at which social agendas are advanced.

Bhagwati seems to suffer from a fundemental here: 1) though he argues for the interconnectedness of culture and economy, he attempts throughout to disassociate the interrelationships between culture, society, and economy.  This allows him to make an argument like the examples above without considering how the numerous other “flows” (Appadurai) affect economics – and hence social agendas.

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