Troubled border crossings

Globalisation in Question. Second Edition
February 25, 2000

In this second edition of their book, Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson expand their earlier critique of the globalisation thesis in its application to postwar economic activity.

They question its claims on empirical and ideological grounds. Their evidence indicates that the economy is inter-national rather than global. First, because economic flows across national borders are the result of treaties among nation-states.

Second, because the internationalisation of economic life is limited to economic exchanges among primarily national (rather than multinational) companies located in three blocs: the industrially advanced countries of Western Europe (European Union); the United States and Japan, the so-called "Triad countries".

Ideologically, Hirst and Thompson associate the concept and the phenomenon of globalisation with classical liberal economics: the belief that a free, unregulated world market is the best allocative mechanism for consumers. This they find "erroneous" and "pernicious", for example, in regard to the Asian economic crisis. They argue for a regulation of economic flows across national borders through a complex system of international governance by nation-states and international organisations. In this way, social democracy, the political system they favour, will be maintained in the nation state, the agent and guardian of welfare policies.

This is a rather cumbersome and difficult book. Its concentration on transformations in the economic life of industrial countries is probably an advantage over other, more holistic but less detailed studies of globalisation. However, this analytical focus is distorted by repetition, political zeal and lack of systematicity, which limit the book''s pedagogical usefulness.

Athena S. Leoussi is lecturer in the faculty of letters and social sciences, University of Reading.

Globalisation in Question. Second Edition

Author - Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson
ISBN - 0 7456 2163 5
Publisher - Polity
Price - £49.50
Pages - 318

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