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A Marxist Critique of Globalization


Surinder S. Jodhka

THE RETREAT TO UNFREEDOM: ESSAYS ON THE EMERGING WORLD ORDER
By Prabhat Patnaik
Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2003, pp. iv 302, Rs. 525.00

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 2 February 2004

The book brings together nineteen essays written and published by the author over the last five years or so. Though the papers are divided into four different sections, they share a common thrust. They offer a critical analysis of the contemporary economic trends and the consequences that the process of ‘globalization’ is likely to have for India’s economy and society. Apart from examining various dimensions of the “current conjunctures”, these essays also show the author’s deep sense of commitment to Marxist theory and to the politics emanating from such a theoretical position.       As the title of the book indicates, Professor Patnaik does not belong to that genre of economists who see globalization as an “opportunity” that has opened up new possibilities for countries of the Third World, and has the potential of eventually transforming them into modern and efficient economies. While he concedes the point that the decade of 1990s marked the beginning of a new phase in the history of Indian economy, its impact for the people of India and most other Third World countries has been largely negative.       Using categories from Marxist theory, Prabhat Patnaik makes a distinction between ‘proletariat internationalism’ and ‘bourgeois internationalism’. While the former leads to a genuine progress of human societies, the latter, viz. the current phase of bourgeois globalization is largely regressive, particularly for countries of the Third World. Though it presents capitalism as a potentially progressive system, in actual practice it is a new form of imperialism, strengthened and thickened by the growing dominance of finance capital, and ‘a retreat to unfreedom’. Its claim of promoting development and harmony is completely deceptive. On the contrary it enhances dangers of economic disasters and is leading to intense social conflicts.      Globalization is likely to accentuate social conflict because it weakens the nation state and the spirit of anti-colonial nationalism that had brought together diverse categories of people in countries like India with a positive goal of development and democracy. The decline of such a nationalist idea encourages various ethnic groups and communities to assert their cultural autonomy, eventually causing serious conflicts and violence. In some cases such processes of ethnic assertions are directly encouraged and supported by global powers. The impoverishment of large masses of common people that the new economic policy produces also breeds discontent and social conflict.       The nature of emerging integration of the Third World economies with the global ...


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