From Publishers Weekly
Globalization is not some faceless bogeyman bent on destroying democracy and controlling the world, argues Legrain. That misunderstanding, he says, arises from the bad rap it gets from opponents of its current manifestation, like Naomi Klein, or even from proponents like Thomas Friedman, who characterizes globalization as inevitable. In fact, says Legrain, who is "chief economist of Britain in Europe" and a former trade correspondent with the Economist, globalization is "a political choice," and generally a beneficial one. Focusing his analysis on the historical benefits of international trade, Legrain readily criticizes what he sees as globalization's primary flaws. International patent law and financial markets each receive a scathing rebuke for the (sometimes lethal) harm they wreak on the developing world. Nevertheless, "No country has escaped poverty without trading with the rest of the world," and Legrain spends much of the book refuting depictions of globalism as a "race to the bottom," loading the book with examples of globalization's positive effects on global labor and environmental standards and its role as a lubricant for democracy. He is less persuasive and less rigorous when downplaying America's predominance in the global culture, and he too often deals with popular culture and European examples, such as fashion or opera, paying little or no attention to smaller, local cultures in developing countries. Likewise, his glib assertion that the most dominant mass media companies are a global hodgepodge, rather than rigorously calibrated and competitive organizations centered on profit, is unlikely to assuage the fears of their many opponents. Legrain's attempts at reconciling opposing arguments might not render the "truth," but they paradoxically mirror adjustments that have recently been made by activists, who have moved from "antiglobalization" actions to demands for "global justice."
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This book offers what might be called the sweetness-and-light view of globalization, written by a former correspondent for The Economist
. The author has no time for the protestors who congregate at every summit meeting of the World Trade Organization, stating that they have misrepresented the idea and practice of globalization. Those who clamor that globalization is a stealthy euphemism for global Americanization, along with corporate domination, come in for the bulk of Legrain's wrath. Rather, he argues that globalization has created a polemical paradox--while the world community fears Americanization of their cultures, Americans are suspicious that a global perspective will result in the loss of jobs, freedom, and their way of life. Arguing that the "Kathy Gifford" syndrome actually results in a win-win situation (Americans get cheaper shoes, say, while poor workers in poor countries get jobs that improve their lot), he perhaps misses the point that although workers make those shoes for 25 cents an hour, Americans still have to pay $100 for them. Nevertheless, a well-argued book that should serve as balance to current negative accounts. Allen WeaklandCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved