Is There Any Chance of Rethinking Globalization?

Globalization has gained such momentum since its inception that it has left many wondering whether, like Thatcher’s championing of free-market capitalism, there is no alternative and our globalized reality is irreversible. This piece attempts to profile a group of neo-Marxist writers’ approaches to globalization and the fresh and interesting alternatives they pose in the face of this thundering force. This alternative view has become especially pertinent in light of the 2008 financial crisis and the repercussions we continue to face today. We have seen the very promoters of global capital turn inwards and promote national industries in an attempt to rescue their economies so what are the implications for regions such as Africa? Has the time come to rethink globalization altogether?
The early 1980s saw the birth of a global phenomenon that signified a new age of global interconnectedness. Globalization was the product of the end of the Cold War and the triumph of Western, specifically American, hegemony. Liberal Democratic political ideologies, technological innovations and neoliberal economic policies transcended borders and became the medium of inter-state relations. According to Cox, globalization was not a conscious decision of political leadership but rather the result of structural changes in capitalism. When it comes to politics versus economic change, the domestic responsibilities of states seem to have become subordinate to the exigencies of the global economy. Global finance has achieved a virtually unregulated and electronically connected 24-hour-a-day-network whereby global production is able to make use of the territorial divisions of the international economy to minimize costs and maximize profits. This change in the economic sphere has had profound political implications; globalization is quick to associate democracy with the free market although this has very little historical justification and, as previously mentioned, the political realm has appeared to take a subordinate role to the global economy. Although the impetus of globalization has been equated with the spread of neo-liberal economic policies, some authors have identified an interesting link between globalization and the alternatives that it itself creates.
In the era of globalization, the structure of world politics has undergone significant change. The old Westphalian concept of a system of sovereign states is no longer adequate as sovereignty becomes and ever looser concept. Sovereignty is now closely linked to cultural identity and has much less control over the economy, although it can even be debated that cultural identity is also fashioned in the same centers of influence. The world can be divided into micro and macro-regions. It is these macro-regions (Europe, Asia and North America) that are definable primarily in economic terms but also have important political and cultural implications. These macro-regions are at the heart of global capital which makes them leading actors on the global stage and therefore centers of great political and cultural influence. It is also possible, however, to go beyond the three macro-regions that Cox outlines and look at the global sphere as being dominated by one set of powers: international financial institutions; Cammack explains how the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have secured for themselves a central role in the governance of global capitalism.
The countries that suffered the most from the 2008 global financial crisis were the most ardent pioneers of globalization and the result, ironically, was that they turned inwards, prioritizing national industries and erecting economic barriers. It would be interesting here to look at the possible implications of these changes on regions such as Africa that are not necessarily at the forefront of globalization but, by the very nature of globalization, participants in its political and economic activities. Although it has been argued that the epicenters of globalization were the worst hit, the whole world was inevitably affected and Africa could therefore potentially benefit from looking at the potential alternatives as herewith outlined.
The relevance of these arguments to this article is that their unique perspectives on globalization open the door to alternatives to the domination of the global economy by capital and the puppeteers behind it. At the beginning of this article I posed the question: is there any chance of rethinking globalization train? Rather than reaching a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ conclusion to such a question, it might be more valuable to examine how the concept of interconnectedness could be harnessed and used in different ways. Cox’s neo-Marxist and Cammack’s ‘new materialist’ evoke the spirit of Karl Marx himself and his notion of community and shared benefits. Both approaches equate global governance with global capitalism and, using core concepts of Marxist political economy such as primitive accumulation, capitalist accumulation and hegemony, critique global capitalism and look to the alternatives that it itself creates.
Cox explains how the new emerging world order has a multi-level structure, keeping in mind micro and macro-regionalism, and social forces are at the base of this structure which means that there is indeed room for intervention and transformation. Cox therefore suggests the need for a Gramscian war that also penetrates every level of the multi-layered structure and introduces a new discourse of global socialism. According to Cox, the emerging new structure is inherently unstable because there is tension between its two leading principles: interdependence and territory. This instability is both the reason change is needed and also the means by which change is possible. Change needs to be effected by building a coherent coalition of opposition at local and national level. Cox gives the example of labor movements because they have shown to be good at organizing groups based on ideological values. According to Ernest Mandel, an orthodox Marxist, a form of socialist planning lies in the logic of capitalism itself and through the “objective socialization of labor” planning actually reigns supreme in the modern factory and extends into the firm. This seems to echo Marx’s theory that communism emerges from the womb of capitalism itself. Constructing an alternative world order would need to involve a change in consumerism to “maximize the emancipatory and participatory opportunities for people”. Just as global capitalism permeates all levels of society, its counter-movement would need to do the same at the same micro and macro levels that were discussed earlier.
In conclusion, the question should not be whether it is possible to stop globalization but rather how certain features of globalization could be channeled into redirecting global capitalism to another form of global governance that is centered on allowing more people to participate and benefit. This article has introduced one school of alternatives that use elements of Marxist theory to illustrate how change is possible. It must be said that, although these ideas are compelling, they are rooted in theory and, as even the authors explicitly state, any such change would take a long time and enormous effort. The aim of this article is to highlight the fact that such alternatives do exist in the face of a sometimes overwhelming phenomenon, but sustains that globalization is irreversible and should be reformed rather than eradicated.

Written By: Emma George

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Envisioning New Partnerships For Africa’s Future: Making Global Governance Work in a Post-2015 World

Who sets the post-2015 development agenda? To what extent does Africa’s future depend on China? What role does global governance play in encouraging development outcomes?

These are some of the questions a report written by young professionals from China, Germany and the US, seeks to examine. While not including any real African voice in the writing, it offers 3 different interesting scenarios to the future of Africa and the role played by global governance.

Read this report here.

Intra-Africa trade: Going beyond political commitments

Among Africa’s policy wonks, under-performing trade across the continent is a favoured subject. To unravel the puzzle, they reel off facts and figures at conferences and workshops, pinpoint trade hurdles to overcome and point to the vast opportunities that lie ahead if only African countries could integrate their economies. It’s an interesting debate but with little to show for it until now.

http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/august-2014/intra-africa-trade-going-beyond-political-commitments

Africa’s perception of ICC incorrect: Song

Johannesburg – The perception the International Criminal Court (ICC) only targets African countries is inaccurate, the court’s president said on Monday.

“If you really are familiar with all these factual situations and developments, I would like to submit that this particular criticism is not entirely accurate or based on factual situations,” Justice Sang-Hyun Song told reporters in Johannesburg after meeting Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

 

http://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/africa-s-perception-of-icc-incorrect-song-1.1747801#.VBAe8_mSzxE

Good Governance Begins at Home

Is claiming to be a leader in international development whilst presiding over structures that facilitate the loss of billions from Africa not a form of corruption itself?

The purpose of the report is to examine all the different reasons for Africa’s poverty. It is essentially to expose the dishonest narrative which falsely suggests that the rest of the world is generously aiding Africa, whilst ignoring its own role in Africa’s poverty. 

http://thinkafricapress.com/development/good-governance-starts-home-corruption-tax-havens?utm_content=bufferf62ec&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

In Mozambique—and In Africa—Rising Requires Resilience http://wp.me/pzYO9-25K via @wordpressdotcom

Doris RossBy Doris Ross

Three months ago African leaders and policymakers assembled in Mozambique under an “Africa Rising” banner to assess the continent’s strong economic performance. But while the outlook for the continent remains strong, individual countries have faced problems and the uncertain global outlook continues to pose risks. Against this backdrop, what are the policies that Africa should pursue to sustain the positive momentum for the continent?

In reality, Africa Rising has never been about unbridled optimism; it has been a tale of strong growth tempered by serious challenges. And rising in economic terms is as much about sustaining expansion as about the dimensions of growth itself. The extended process of African development also requires increased resilience to shocks, and it is this resilience that may be tested by economic problems in some African nations.

Strong growth—and increased resilience—were the focus of the Africa Rising conference organized in May by the IMF and the government of Mozambique in Maputo. The nearly 1,000 officials, corporate executives, civil society representatives, and journalists who gathered for the two-day event discussed the difficult issues that must be addressed if Africa is to maintain its upward trajectory of the past two decades.

Parallel issues

These issues have parallels across sub-Saharan Africa as each country pursues its own path to development. It is by examining individual countries in detail that we gain a clearer understanding of what has been achieved and what remains to be accomplished. For this reason, the IMF African Department compiled a book on Mozambique called Mozambique Rising: Building a New Tomorrow, which is available in English, French and, most recently, Portuguese.

The book examines Mozambique’s macroeconomic accomplishments, from its emergence from civil war in 1992 to its current efforts to build on discoveries of massive reserves of coal and natural gas. But it also describes the myriad of challenges that must be addressed if the country and its people are to achieve their potential.

Mozambique’s immediate priorities are to share the benefits of two decades of strong growth more broadly, and to shepherd the economy through the transformation from a traditional agricultural base to one centered on mining, agro-business and processing, and services.

As the book makes clear, reaching these objectives will require continued institutional and capacity building in public administration to further improve the foundations and structures of economic policymaking and governance, and adapt them to a fast-changing world. It will also require further efforts to create an environment conducive to private sector development since this will need to be the primary source of future employment. It also calls for the government to work with small and large enterprises to make Mozambique more business friendly and competitive.

Natural resources

As with several other emerging African nations, Mozambique’s future is inextricably tied to the development of natural resources and foreign-financed megaprojects that are capital intensive and export oriented. There is no doubt that these projects will make a significant contribution to growth, but so far they have generated only limited employment opportunities and government revenues. To fully benefit from this strategy Mozambique will require a more dynamic business climate and changes to its tax regime.

Resource development also requires substantial changes to the formulation of fiscal policy. Mozambique’s resource revenues, while modest to date, are likely to become sizable in a few years, thus affording a unique opportunity to close infrastructure gaps, invest in priority sectors such as health and education, support more inclusive growth, as the economy radically transforms. However, capacity constraints seem high, and the pace at which resource wealth is anticipated and used should be gradual.

To reap the full returns on scaled-up public investment, reforms would also need to enhance the efficiency of investment through strengthened investment planning and coordination; project assessment, selection, and monitoring; better governance; and provision of complementary infrastructure.

Social protection

There are many other challenges, not the least of which is inclusive growth. While poverty in Mozambique has fallen significantly, a 2009 household survey showed that overall poverty rates had stagnated since 2003 at around half the population. Policies to ameliorate this have focused on improving agricultural productivity; creating jobs through improvements in the business environment and training; developing more focused and better designed social protection programs; and preserving macroeconomic stability.

However, work remains to be done to refine policy priorities, derive policy actions and sequencing, and measure results. Also, policy coordination to ensure accountability has been lacking in areas that cut across ministerial jurisdictions, and there are significant data gaps that weaken analytical capacity and thus the basis for policy decisions.

All of these issues raise questions about how fast and how high Mozambique can rise, but at the same time they point the way to the policy path that could transform the country to realize its tremendous potential.

In Mozambique—and In Africa—Rising Requires Resilience http://wp.me/pzYO9-25K via @wordpressdotcom

Doris RossBy Doris Ross

Three months ago African leaders and policymakers assembled in Mozambique under an “Africa Rising” banner to assess the continent’s strong economic performance. But while the outlook for the continent remains strong, individual countries have faced problems and the uncertain global outlook continues to pose risks. Against this backdrop, what are the policies that Africa should pursue to sustain the positive momentum for the continent?

In reality, Africa Rising has never been about unbridled optimism; it has been a tale of strong growth tempered by serious challenges. And rising in economic terms is as much about sustaining expansion as about the dimensions of growth itself. The extended process of African development also requires increased resilience to shocks, and it is this resilience that may be tested by economic problems in some African nations.

Strong growth—and increased resilience—were the focus of the Africa Rising conference organized in May by the IMF and the government of Mozambique in Maputo. The nearly 1,000 officials, corporate executives, civil society representatives, and journalists who gathered for the two-day event discussed the difficult issues that must be addressed if Africa is to maintain its upward trajectory of the past two decades.

Parallel issues

These issues have parallels across sub-Saharan Africa as each country pursues its own path to development. It is by examining individual countries in detail that we gain a clearer understanding of what has been achieved and what remains to be accomplished. For this reason, the IMF African Department compiled a book on Mozambique called Mozambique Rising: Building a New Tomorrow, which is available in English, French and, most recently, Portuguese.

The book examines Mozambique’s macroeconomic accomplishments, from its emergence from civil war in 1992 to its current efforts to build on discoveries of massive reserves of coal and natural gas. But it also describes the myriad of challenges that must be addressed if the country and its people are to achieve their potential.

Mozambique’s immediate priorities are to share the benefits of two decades of strong growth more broadly, and to shepherd the economy through the transformation from a traditional agricultural base to one centered on mining, agro-business and processing, and services.

As the book makes clear, reaching these objectives will require continued institutional and capacity building in public administration to further improve the foundations and structures of economic policymaking and governance, and adapt them to a fast-changing world. It will also require further efforts to create an environment conducive to private sector development since this will need to be the primary source of future employment. It also calls for the government to work with small and large enterprises to make Mozambique more business friendly and competitive.

Natural resources

As with several other emerging African nations, Mozambique’s future is inextricably tied to the development of natural resources and foreign-financed megaprojects that are capital intensive and export oriented. There is no doubt that these projects will make a significant contribution to growth, but so far they have generated only limited employment opportunities and government revenues. To fully benefit from this strategy Mozambique will require a more dynamic business climate and changes to its tax regime.

Resource development also requires substantial changes to the formulation of fiscal policy. Mozambique’s resource revenues, while modest to date, are likely to become sizable in a few years, thus affording a unique opportunity to close infrastructure gaps, invest in priority sectors such as health and education, support more inclusive growth, as the economy radically transforms. However, capacity constraints seem high, and the pace at which resource wealth is anticipated and used should be gradual.

To reap the full returns on scaled-up public investment, reforms would also need to enhance the efficiency of investment through strengthened investment planning and coordination; project assessment, selection, and monitoring; better governance; and provision of complementary infrastructure.

Social protection

There are many other challenges, not the least of which is inclusive growth. While poverty in Mozambique has fallen significantly, a 2009 household survey showed that overall poverty rates had stagnated since 2003 at around half the population. Policies to ameliorate this have focused on improving agricultural productivity; creating jobs through improvements in the business environment and training; developing more focused and better designed social protection programs; and preserving macroeconomic stability.

However, work remains to be done to refine policy priorities, derive policy actions and sequencing, and measure results. Also, policy coordination to ensure accountability has been lacking in areas that cut across ministerial jurisdictions, and there are significant data gaps that weaken analytical capacity and thus the basis for policy decisions.

All of these issues raise questions about how fast and how high Mozambique can rise, but at the same time they point the way to the policy path that could transform the country to realize its tremendous potential.