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Towards a World Community or a Class Project?

Bharat Ramaswami

Edited by Frans J. Schuurman
Vistaar Publications, New Delhi, 2001, Rs. 275.00

By James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer
Madhyam Books, New Delhi, 2001, pp. 183, Rs. 200.00


The idea of a world community has been visible for many decades in the form of United Nations and its affiliated organizations. International agreements such as on trade, environment, disarmament and biodiversity have bolstered the notion of global governance.  While these treaties themselves are usually contentious, there are fewer disagreements on the need for forums for global cooperation even when countries complain about the unequal distribution of bargaining power.       If globalization were limited to participation in world affairs through country governments, it would at worst provoke a yawn.  But there are other things happening as well – trade, internet, cell phones, satellite television, movies, terrorism and McDonalds.  Arguably, these take us also in the direction of a world community – which for many people is not just less welcome but also worthy of spirited resistance.  These “globalizing” activities, for want of a better term, are largely because of private actions and motivated by private interests.  Governments can control or promote these activities.  The focus of international treaties in recent years has been to define the extent to which governments can regulate trade, copyright, investments and (foreign) media.        The book edited by Frans Schuurman is a collection of essays that were originally presented at a workshop at the University of Nijmegen (Netherlands) on the significance of globalization for the field of development studies.  Unlike the subject of study, the collection of authors in this volume is very non-global.  Of the 13 authors, nine are academics based in Netherlands, two are drawn from Britain and there is a solitary representative each from Germany and the US.        In the introductory essay, Schuurman poses the challenges of globalization for development studies.  According to the author, the dominant paradigms are endangered because globalization (a) unravels the supposed homogeneity of the Third World, (b) questions the unconditional belief in the concept of progress and (c) undermines the nation state as an analytical frame of reference.  In another essay, Schuurman attempts a synthetic review of the way in which theorists in the development studies tradition have defined globalization and evaluated its encounter with the nation-state.  For students in the field, the two essays by Schuurman would probably be the most useful chapters of the book.      Essays in the first part of the book continue the theme of globalization and development studies.  Although Schuurman sets the stage, the other essays in the first part do not systematically follow through the issues ...

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