Agyeman, Opoku. Power, Powerlessness and Globalization: Contemporary Politics in the Global South.
The pervasiveness of globalization among contemporary societies in the world is indisputable. It is, therefore, worthwhile that Opoku Agyeman's Power, Powerlessness and Globalization aids our understanding of the nuances and nature of this phenomenon. The author employs the dialectical correlation between power and powerlessness to expatiate on the complexities of the globalization phenomenon. Agyeman argues that in the aftermath of the Cold War transnational or multinational companies have gone amok opening up markets and spreading their influence and operations around the world. He agrees with other scholars that international financial institutions and trade organizations have occasioned a power shift of stunning proportions that obliterated any semblance of real economic and political sovereignty inherent in national, state, local governments, and communities at the expense of democracy, fairness, and the natural world. Tracing this hegemonic ascendancy to fifteenth century European global exploration, Agyeman recounts a litany of consequent atrocities in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The monumental inequalities created as a result of this system go against the grain of a free, just global social order and the supposed incremental reforms in the structure of capitalism. According to Agyeman, the stark facts of the inevitable consequences of the dialectics of power and powerlessness reify moralistic pleas on behalf of the still less fortunate parts of the world.
The issue of Western duplicity underlying the general claim that globalization should be seen as an inevitable natural development proffering a positive-sum international economic transactions with mutually rewarding exchanges for all countries is presented. The realities of the capitalist world economy, as well as the operations of global economic institutions of governance, smacks of hypocrisy and double standards. Quoting authoritative sources, Agyeman asserts that Western countries have pushed poor countries to eliminate trade barriers while officiating a rigid barrier regime for the benefit of their economies; a kind of protectionism that among other things accounts for their wealth and power. The United States and European Union maintain domestic farm subsidies worth more than $300 billion annually, while IMF structural adjustment program prescriptions insist on virtual elimination of social services spending and food subsidies in the underdeveloped world.
One of the book's many strong points is the emphatic assertion that violence and exploitation may not so much be imperialism's worst afflictions as is the consequential humiliation. To Agyeman international politics has shifted from conquer or be conquered to humiliate or be humiliated; a dynamic with a Victorian underpinning that sees victims as less than human. Suggesting a remedy, he opines that dignity or using his own word "dignification" is the most crucial ingredient in the complex of motivations that propel erstwhile weakling nations, nation states, and regional communities to shake off their affliction of powerlessness and vindicate the human honor of their peoples. Recovery and empowerment in the Americas, Africa, and Asia requires the pursuit of "dignitalist" political and economic values that emphasize robust and sustained productivity, appreciable rise in living standards and dignity of all members of their respective societies. Agyeman reiterates that it is a country's or region's powerfully developed as well as empowering developing capabilities, not its historic and continuing victimization or habitual dependency on charitable aid or other altruistic interventions from the international community that will determine the degree of success in escaping the scourge of powerlessness.
Expatiating on these views in the various chapters, Agyeman argues that some kind of bifurcated empowerment took place in Asia's major economies through tutelary capitalism, on one hand, and on the other, a powerful intent to preserve sovereignty and independent will. In Latin America an unleashing of some degree of counter force or insurgence against the ideology and praxis emanating from the Washington consensus bestowed the region with some remarkable degree of power to decide on the pursuit of what was considered germane for its development. Africa's powerful antique preeminence and primacy suffered dissipation after conquest, slavery, and colonialism at the hands of Europeans.
The post-independence African response amounts to an outright sycophantic submission to IME, World Bank, and WTO prescriptions that has occasioned to a deepening relegation to powerlessness and prostration of the continent. Agyeman asserts that successive breakdown of global talks that mark the failure to address centuries of unfairness in the global trading system demonstrates the unyielding opposition of the powerful heartland of capitalism in allowing the global market to which they avow so much fealty regarding its functionality for the poor underdeveloped nations. Even when ultra-Western disagreements result in conflicts of significant proportions it is still the powerless and economically weak underdeveloped countries in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia that bear the brunt of repercussions.
The book is cast in the overwhelming presumption that readers know the meaning of globalization. It would have been beneficial if Agyeman had upheld the phenomenon as a manifesting process with manifold pathways hinged on interaction among societies. Even though the term was coined in the twentieth century, the process started with the connectedness and convergence of early human societies. The Western factor to this process emerged in the fifteenth century with European explorations that eventually brought assurance of power to dominate and direct the unfolding phenomenon. The view that the apparent success of the Asian cases was not so much due to the finesse of capitalism as it was through the facility of strong regimes that run roughshod over weak labor or union organizations would have undoubtedly fit well into the theme of power and powerlessness. The foregoing comments notwithstanding, Power, Powerlessness, and Globalization, with its insightful arguments, discussions and examples from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, still stands as remarkable in the research, publication, and teaching of the Globalization processes and pathways.
Armstrong State University
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|Publication:||Journal of Third World Studies|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2015|
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