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Individual Choices and Global Politics

Amit Prakash

By Paul Ginsborg
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2006, pp. viii 214, Rs. 295.00


The volume under review is an analysis of everyday local politics with a view to inventing new forms of democracy to foster participative citizenship. Taking off from the experience of a local civic protest movement in Florence in 2002 – what the author calls Florentine Laboratory for Democracy, the volume seeks to analyse fundamental issues about individual choices and global politics. The volume argues that there is a “need to ‘reappropriate’ … the sorts of life we live and the contexts in which we live them …” by offering “strong critique of the prevailing models of modernity in developed countries” (p. 7), which is being exported to the rest of the world. All democratic countries grapple with similar issues, located as they are in the “concentric rings of connection” between “material culture of everyday life, larger communities and worldwide patterns of consumption and production”. Given the fact that these connections are driven by concerns of economic profits and national power rather than “impulses of equity and solidarity” (p. 5), differential benefits flow to various sections of the populations located in the global North and the global South.   The author asserts that the “trend of contemporary history seems … to point towards a steady … assertion of global individualism” (p. 51). While the same individualism can be seen in autonomy, rights and freedoms and opportunities, it can also be seen to create a sense of alienation from society and communities. The choices that the positive interpretation of this individualism offers is circumscribed by constrains of modernity such as time, risk, consumer capitalism, advertising, etc. Offering an idealistic alternative to such constraints, the author argues that the world needs to needs to “constitute the acceptable terms of consumption in a gravely threatened world” (p. 89). Underlining this trajectory of argument, the author analyses the principal dichotomies in the contemporary world to argue that the processes of globalisation are founded on such disparities, which in turn are products of historical processes of colonialism and imperialism. The volume offers a vocal critique of a series of prevalent binary dichotomies in the contemporary world. Examining the global patterns of wealth distribution and widening gap of inequality, the author stresses that these are not casual but structural – rooted as they are in the global division of labour. Referring to the dichotomy of powerlessness, the author underlines that poverty and powerlessness is closely related but is not identical to it (p. 18). Elucidating this in terms of Nussbaum’...

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