International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations


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2. Economic globalisation and neo-liberalism

It is believed that the dramatic intensification of transfrontier flows of goods, capital, work, people, ideas and information has given rise to convergences, similarities and hybrids between the different national cultures, whether they are architectural styles, fashion, eating habits or cultural consumption. Nevertheless most of the authors maintain that, although important, these processes are far from leading to a global culture.

Culture is, by definition, a social process constructed on the intersection between the universal and the particular. Similarly, Appadurai states that the cultural is the arena of differences, contrasts and comparisons We may even state that that culture is, in its simplest definition, the struggle against uniformity. The powerful and involved processes of the diffusion and imposition of culture, imperialistically defined as universal, have been confronted throughout the world system by multiple and ingenious processes of cultural resistance, identification and indigenisation.

However, the topic of global culture does have the merit of showing that the political struggle surrounding cultural homogeneity and uniformity has transcended the territorial configuration in which it was located from the 19th century until very recently, that is, the nation state.

In this respect, the nation states have traditionally played a very ambiguous role. Whilst externally they have been the heralds of cultural diversity and the authenticity of national culture, internally they have promoted homogeneity and uniformity, crushing the rich variety of local cultures existing in within national territories through the power of politics, law, the education system or the media and, more often than not, through all of them together.

Essays in North-South Relations

This role has been carried out with very varied intensity and efficiency in the core, peripheral and semi-peripheral states, and may now be changing as part of the ongoing transformations to the regulatory capacities of nation states. Under the conditions of the world capitalist economy and the modern inter-state system, there seems only to be space for partial global cultures. They are partial, whether in terms of the aspects of social life which they cover or in terms of the regions of the world they cover. Seen from outside Europe, particularly by regions and people intensively colonised by the Europeans, this family of cultures is the quintessential version of Western imperialism, in the name of which so much tradition and cultural identity has been destroyed.

Given the hierarchical nature of the world system, it becomes crucial to identify the groups, classes, interests and states which define partial cultures as global cultures, and which, in this way, control the agenda of political domination under the guise of cultural globalisation. If it is true that the intensification of cross-border contacts and interdependence has opened up new opportunities for the exercise of tolerance, ecumenism, solidarity and cosmopolitanism, it is no less true that, at the same time, new forms and manifestations of intolerance, chauvinism, racism and xenophobia and, in the last instance, imperialism have also arisen.

Partial global cultures can, in this way, have very different characters, scope and political profiles. In the current circumstances it is only possible to visualise pluralist or plural global cultures. Within the cultural domain, the neo-liberal consensus is very selective. Cultural phenomena are only of interest in so far as they transform themselves into merchandise which can then follow the trail of economic globalisation.

The Global North/South Divide

Thus the consensus relates, above all, to technical and legal support for the production and circulation of the products of the culture industries such as, for example, communications and information technology and the rights of intellectual property. References made in previous sections to the dominant facets of what is usually termed globalisation, in addition to omitting an underlying theory of globalisation, may well give the false impression that globalisation is a linear phenomenon, both monolithic and unequivocal.

This idea of globalisation, although false, is prevalent nowadays, and tends to be all the more so for the globalisation which flows from scientific discourse into political discourse and thence into everyday language. Apparently transparent and without complexity, the idea of globalisation masks more than it reveals of what is happening in the world. And what it masks or hides is, when viewed from a different perspective, so important that the transparency and simplicity of the idea of globalisation, far from being innocent, must be considered as an ideological and political device endowed with specific intentionalities.

Two of these intentionalities should be stressed. The first is what is known as the determinist fallacy.


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It consists of inculcating the idea that globalisation is a spontaneous, automatic, unavoidable and irreversible process which intensifies and advances according to an inner logic and dynamism strong enough to impose themselves on any external interferences. The most circumspect of academics, as well as the ambassadors of globalisation embrace this fallacy. From amongst the former, I would point out Manuel Castells, for whom globalisation is the unavoidable result of the revolution in information technology. The fallacy consists in transforming the causes of globalisation into its effects.


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  • Globalisation results, in fact, from a set of political decisions which are identifiable in time and authorship. The Washington Consensus is a political decision of the core states, as are the decisions of the states which adopted it with a greater or lesser degree of autonomy and selectivity. We cannot forget that, to a great extent, and above all on an economic and political level, hegemonic globalisation is a product of the decisions of national states. The deregulation of the economy, for example, has been an eminently political act. The proof of this lies in the diverse responses of the national states to the political pressures currently emerging out of the Washington Consensus.

    Equally political in nature are the reflections on the new forms of state which are emerging as a result of globalisation, on the new political distribution of national, international and global practices, and on the new form of public policies relating to the rising complexity of social, environmental and redistribution issues.

    The second political intentionality of the non-political nature of globalisation is the fallacy of the disappearance of the South. The situation began to change in the sixties taking into account theories of dependency or dependent development and was radically transformed from the eighties onwards. Today, whether on a financial level, or on the level of production or even of consumption, the world has become integrated into a global economy in which, faced with multiple interdependencies, it no longer makes sense to distinguish between North and South and, furthermore, between the core, periphery and semi-periphery of the world system.

    The more triumphant the concept of globalisation is, the less visible the South, or the hierarchies of the world system, become. The idea is that globalisation has a uniform impact on all the regions of the world and on all sectors of activity and that its architects, the multinational companies, are infinitely innovative and have the ability to organise well enough to transform the new global economy into an unprecedented opportunity.

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    Even the authors who recognise that globalisation is highly selective, produces imbalances and has a variable geometry, tend to think that it has destructured the hierarchies of the previous world economy. According to him, the latest international division of labour has not occurred amongst countries but amongst economic agents and distinct positions in the global economy which compete globally, using the technological infrastructure of the information economy and the organizational structure of networks and flows In this sense it also no longer makes sense to distinguish between the core, periphery and semi-periphery in the world system.

    The new economy is a global economy, as distinct from the world economy. Whilst the latter is based on the accumulation of capital, obtained throughout the world, the global economy is able to function as a unit in real time and on a planetary scale Without wishing to diminish the importance of the transformations taking place, I do however think that Castells takes the image of globalisation as an all-powerful bulldozer, against which there can be no possible resistance, at least in economic terms, too far.


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    And equally, he takes the idea of the segmentation of the processes of inclusion-exclusion which are taking place too far. In the first place, it is Castells himself who recognises that the processes of exclusion can extend to an entire continent Africa and entirely dominate the processes of inclusion in a subcontinent Latin America Secondly, even admitting that the global economy no longer needs geo-political areas in which to reproduce itself, the truth is that the external debt continues to be accounted for in terms of individual countries and it is through this and through the financialisation of the economic system that the poor countries of the world have become transformed, from the eighties onwards, into net contributors to the wealth of the rich countries.

    In third place, contrary to what may be understood from the framework drawn up by Castells, the convergence of countries in the global economy is as significant as their divergence and this is particularly obvious in the core countries Drache, Since salary and social security policies continue to be defined on a national level, liberalisation measures taken since the eighties have not significantly reduced the differences in labour costs in the different countries.

    It is true that the liberalization of markets has destructured the processes of inclusion and exclusion in different countries and regions.

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    However, the most important thing is to analyse the ratio between inclusion and exclusion in each country. It is this ratio which determines whether the country belongs to the North or the South and to the core, periphery or semi-periphery of the world system. The countries in which integration into the world economy is processed primarily as exclusion are the countries of the South and the periphery of the world system.

    These transformations deserve detailed attention, but there can be no doubt that only the ideological swings which have occurred in the scientific community in the North as well as in the South can explain how the iniquities and imbalances in the world system, despite having increased, have lost their analytical centrality. Globalisation is seen from the point of view of the core countries, taking into account their experiences.

    This is particularly the case of the authors who focus on economic globalisation. Both the determinist fallacy and the fallacy of the disappearance of the South have come to lose credibility as globalisation transforms itself into a social and political area of conflict. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that in recent years various discourses on globalisation have emerged.

    Robertson , for example, distinguishes between four main globalisation discourses. Regional discourse , such as, for example, the Asian discourse, the Western European discourse or the Latin American discourse have a civilisational tone, in which globalisation confronts regional particularities.

    Within the same region, there may be different sub-discourses. Yet, as Robertson remarks, the anti-globalisation of the French can easily be converted into a French globalisation project. The disciplinary discourse relates to the way in which globalisation is seen by the different social sciences.

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    The most salient feature of this discourse is the emphasis given to economic globalisation. Ideological discourse can intersect with either of these and relates to a political evaluation of the processes of globalisation.

    The anti-globalisation discourse opposes pro-globalisation discourse and within both it is possible to distinguish left and right wing positions. Finally there is feminist discourse which, having started off as an anti-globalisation discourse — favouring the local and attributing male concerns to the global — is nowadays also a discourse of globalisation and is distinguished by the emphasis it places on the community aspects of globalisation.

    The plurality of discourses on globalisation show that it is imperative to produce a critical theoretical reflection on globalisation and to do so in such a way as to capture the complexity of the phenomena it involves and the disparate interests it confronts.

    1. Introduction

    The theoretical proposal which I present here arises from three apparent contradictions which, in my understanding, confer on the historical period in which we are living its specifically transitional nature. The first contradiction is between globalisation and localisation. The present time reveals itself to us as dominated by a dialectic, at the heart of which the processes of globalisation occur parallel to the processes of localisation. In fact, as interdependence and global interactions intensify, social relations in general seem to be increasingly more dispossessed, opening up the way towards new rights of choice , which cross borders that until recently were policed by tradition, nationalism, language or ideology and frequently by a combination of all these factors.

    Yet, on the other hand, in apparent contradiction to this trend, new regional, national and local identities are emerging, constructed around the new preeminence of the rights to roots. Such local factors, though they refer to real or imaginary territories as much as to ways of life and social relationships, are based on face-to-face relationships, on closeness and on interaction. Territorial localisms are, for example, those favoured by people who, after centuries of genocide and cultural oppression, have finally reclaimed the right to self-determination within their ancestral territories, with some measure of success.

    Translocalised localisms, in turn, are promoted by translocalised social groups, such as the Arab immigrants in Paris or London, the Turkish immigrants in Germany or the Latin American immigrants in the USA. For these groups territory is the idea of territory, as a way of life, in terms of closeness, immediacy, belonging, sharing and reciprocity. Moreover, this repossession, which usually occurs on an inter-state level, can also occur on a supra-state level.

    International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations
    International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations
    International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations
    International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations
    International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations
    International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations
    International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations
    International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations International Economic Disorder: Essays in North—South Relations

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