As an economist, I confess to harbouring a deep suspicion of books that try to tackle subjects as profound and wide ranging as globalisation in a single volume. Is it really possible to do justice to such a complex subject even in a book comprising 500 pages of solid print? This is all the more true when a book aims to provide an authentically multidisciplinary approach to globalisation, a task spanning at least four separate disciplines. Although my concerns were not wholly relieved by a reading of Global Transformations , I was pleasantly and genuinely surprised by the depth and intensity of analysis and argument contained in the book despite its wide-ranging subject matter.
One must agree that there exists an urgent need for social scientists of all persuasions to define what is meant by the term globalisation, which has lately fallen into widespread misuse. Think of anything you dislike and blame it on globalisation seems to be the popular cry of the moment. As the authors acknowledge, the term is "in danger of becoming the cliche of our times, the big idea which encompasses everything from global financial markets to the internet but which delivers little substantive insight into the contemporary human condition".
I am not sure that their book gets us nearer to an answer. However, it does show us the great breadth and complexity of the phenomenon. Whereas economists focus on the growth of trade and the increase in international capital flows, political scientists see globalisation as a process that leads to the undermining of the nation state and the emergence of new forms of global governance. For sociologists, globalisation means the rise of a global culture and the domination of the media by global companies, while international relations analysts focus on the emergence of new forms of global conflict and of institutions that both promote and contain global rivalries. Furthermore, the book shows how vastly different are the conclusions of different analysts about the consequences of globalisation - indeed, whether or not, over the past 50 years, the world has become more or less globalised!
The reader who is able to go through the book in its entirety will certainly come away better informed about the changes that have led to popular fascination with globalisation. It contains a vast amount of factual and statistical material on global trends in economics, sociology, politics and international relations. Each aspect is considered in a balanced and erudite manner, with consideration given to both causes and effects. Students of international affairs who long for books that go beyond the minutiae of globalisation and look at the big picture should consider this book compulsory reading.
Nigel Grimwade is head of economics, South Bank University.
Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture. First Edition
Author - David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton
ISBN - 0 7456 1498 1 and 1499 X
Publisher - Polity
Price - £60.00 and £16.99
Pages - 515