Where, and how, one distinguishes between continuity and change goes to the heart of methodological differences in the social sciences, and in intellectual endeavors more broadly. In the case of globalization, there are those who stress the underlying continuity, while others claim there has been a profound disjuncture in the historical development of capitalism as a mode of production. Political implications always follow from theorization of the social world. But even when there is agreement on the dimensions of a situation there may still be profound differences over what is to be done, and where individual and organizational efforts are best directed. In the case of the overlapping conversations concerning globalization, the topic of the book under review here, this is all certainly true
What can we say about the assertion that there is a New Economy? That depends on what we mean by this term. It is nonsense to claim, and few do any more, that the business cycle has been eliminated or that the contradictions of capitalism have been resolved. In 2000 we witnessed a massacre of technology and Internet stocks ending what many considered the country’s biggest financial mania of the past hundred years. The NASDAQ lost over half of its value, a paper loss of 3.33 trillion dollars, the equivalent of a third of the houses in the United States sliding into the ocean, as one Wall Street wag tells us. While only a few months ago, all we heard about was the magic of the market and that crises are the result of bad government policies, whether crony capitalism or simply failure to make information available to markets in a full and timely fashion, and that the new information technology now makes markets even more efficient; all of this talk is now shown to be the usual exaggeration we find in the up stage of most long expansions. As in the past it disappears as the economy weakens. Indeed as inventories pile up the nature of capitalism becomes clear to even the financial press and the politicians
The “Seattle Shock”-as Business Week called it in an editorial that warned of a popular backlash against “our very economic system”-reflects heartfelt indignation by the financial press at the intrusion of mass democracy into an elite discourse. In the New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman raged at anti-World Trade Organization (WTO) protesters, whom he presents as “flat-earth advocates” duped by knaves like Pat Buchanan. Friedman, perhaps the most obtuse of the big-time columnists, complains that “What’s crazy is that the protesters want the W.T.O. to become precisely what they accuse it of already being-a global government
On November 30,1999, when the World Trade Organization (WTO) opened its third round of ministerial meetings, the three thousand official delegates, two thousand journalists, and other registered observers were greatly outnumbered by the tens of thousands of protesters who came from all over the world to denounce the organization. Estimates of protester numbers ranged to forty thousand, according to the Seattle Times, which told its readers that the demonstrations were larger than those of 1970, when twenty to thirty thousand people (ten thousand according to the Seattle Times) shut down Interstate 5 to protest the Vietnam War. The parallel is appropriate. The still-growing movement in opposition to efforts of institutions such as the WTO to take over the management of the international economy may well be larger than any popular protest movement of the last twenty years or more.
I have agreed to talk on the question “Are New Trade Wars Looming?” The answer is yes, but I must also tell you that I think this is the wrong question. What we are really interested in is why trade wars occur and where the economic philosophy we call protectionism comes from. A major cause of the worldwide war and depression that crippled much of the first half of the twentieth century was imperialism and the rivalry of nations for trade, commodities, raw materials, and labor—this produced protectionism. I want to suggest the special importance of finance capital in this process, both earlier in the twentieth century and now. Rather than worrying about trade wars, we should concentrate on the power of capital’s control over our political economy, especially the role of international financiers
Organized labor has always privileged collective struggle at the point of production, judging it to be capital’s most vulnerable point. Denying employers the labor power needed for the production of surplus value strikes at the reproduction and expansion of capital, the accumulation process which is the core of the system
I will address some aspects of globalization in our time and what they mean for working people. I will start with some general definitions and suggest that the most significant features of what is called globalization have always been part of capitalist development, even if the forms are different in different periods (including our own). I will then discuss the arrogance of capital as it tries to remake our world in its preferred image. In this regard, I will contrast U.S. initiatives in the area of labor standards with worker demands for labor rights. I will then consider the institutions of an internationalized capitalist regime, which seeks to impose itself using vehicles such as the International Monetary Fund and the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment. Finally, I will talk about resistance
In the June 1997 issue of MR, I wrote an essay, “Globalization is an Issue, the Power of Capital is the Issue.” Richard Du Boff and Edward Herman, two economists whose work I respect and whose books I have used in my classes, now polemicize against “Tabb’s unwillingness to acknowledge that globalization…has anything to do with the victories of capital over labor….” I wrote no such thing, as readers can verify for themselves by going back to that June issue. Such a view (which I do not hold) is indeed unreasonable and wrongheaded. They in fact attribute a number views to me which I do not hold. They propose “alternatives” and I agree with a number of these
There is a great deal of difference however between the strong version of the globalization thesis which requires a new view of the international economy as one that “subsumes and subordinates national-level processes,” and a more nuanced view which gives a major role to national-level policies and actors, and the central position not to inexorable economic forces but to politics. In the second perspective, current changes are considered in a longer historical perspective and are seen as distinct but not unprecedented, and as not necessarily involving either the emergence of, or movement toward, a type of economic system which is basically different from what we have known.…It is important to see that the first version of the globalization thesis is based on a myth, has profound political implications which are defeatist, and is not based on a sound analysis of what is a more complex and contestable set of processes.
In November 1999, when more than forty thousand demonstrators in Seattle effectively shut down a World Trade Organization (WTO) conference, we saw what may well have been this country’s largest popular protest of the last twenty years or more. In April 2000, thousands converged on Washington D.C. to express opposition to the IMF and the World Bank, and more recently, massive demonstrations in Geneva, Melbourne and Prague succeeded in bringing international attention to the issues surrounding globalization. Against the backdrop of these historic events, William K. Tabb issues a comprehensive examination of the world capitalist system at the start of the twenty-first century. He confronts the prevailing view of globalization as the steamroller against which even the most powerful nations are helpless and explains the role of the state in creating the conditions necessary for capital’s dominance.
Classic study of the fiscal crisis that gripped New York City — and much of urban America — in the 1970s.