Analysis Tool Bar +
Globalization Studies in India
In the post-Cold War period the literature on globalization has continually expanded. The diversity of meanings attached to the terms "global" and "globalization" coexist with various attempts to identify the specificity of the phenomenon. Some of these theories emanating from the Global North are indeed ripe for deconstruction. A host of scholars in the Global South view them as the "latest neo-colonialism." The North-South divide clearly emerges when the question of global change in the post-Cold War period is posed. This obviously calls for a rethink on the issues related to globalization.
The literature on globalization, as elsewhere, has expanded and matured in India in the meantime. I pointed out at our previous meeting, held in September 2007, that the bulk of this literature is dominated by economic writings. Some of the leading economists of the country have made significant contributions to the discourse on globalization. Most of these writings are of left-liberal theoretical persuasions. In very broad terms, their argument is built around the contention that globalization is a tool in the hands of imperial North to expand its sources of control — economic, political, and military — to subordinate peoples of the South. The current globalization is thus seen as recolonization of the subject peoples.
Quite a few of these studies are specific to India or South Asia. The spectrum of issues which figure in their writings are: growing structural and other inequality, unemployment, the sharp decline of agriculture leading to an acute and widespread socio-economic discontent in rural India, the rural-urban divide, lowering of old welfare safety nets, and economic/human insecurity which has a lively potential to create social and political upheavals. Exclusion is thus projected as a vibrant problem, as well as a political and economic challenge in nation-building.
The leading scholars who have provided new insights into the above issues in India are either academic economists or economic journalists. The issues have been discussed and researched in the context of "economic reforms and liberalization" underway since the early 1990s. Economic liberalization is projected to be closely tied to globalization, the new world order, and the geopolitical penetration of Asia by the United States. Some of the most notable of these scholars are Amit Bahaduri, Deepak Nayyar, Utsa Patnaik, Amiya Kumar Bagchi, and the senior journalist P. Sainath (The Hindu). They invariably go beyond the economy of globalization. (Some of their works are listed at the end of this paper.) Once again the themes which they highlight include the association of neo-liberal globalization with widespread exclusion, marginalization, deprivation, social polarization, unequal power relations, and curtailment of the autonomy of the nation state. The list of identified problems — old and new — is illustrative, rather than exhaustive. The consensus is that many of these wide-ranging problems are intensifying. Sainath goes to the extent of claiming that "rural India is in shambles… and the most severe agrarian crisis rages on." Amiya Bagchi interprets the situation as "rich men's globalization," which is racing towards catastrophe.
This is, however, not the only discourse on globalization. There are other economists who clearly ally with the sensibilities of the changed global order, which has experienced a progressive international economic integration. They argue that the emerging world order is characterized by a process of increasing economic openness, growing interdependence, and deepening economic integration among countries in the world economy. According to their way of thinking, economic space now extends much beyond political space. This implies the restructuring of economic policy orientation so that India becomes integrated with the rest of the developed world. Economic reforms were launched in India in 1991, and have supposedly pushed the rate of growth of the Indian economy to 8 percent and above. This looks to be sustainable in the future. Prof. Man Mohan Singh (now India's Prime Minister) falls into this category of economists.
While the economic literature on globalization and its impact on India/South Asia is commendable, it nevertheless has quite a few limitations. It leaves out several new lines of inquiry. The contemporary matrix of globalization embodies a huge social change. Obviously, any adequate account or construction of globalization has to be multi-dimensional.
The academic and research inputs from other social science disciplines are indeed meager. Occasionally, one encounters a brilliant paper on one or another aspect of globalization, but these are individual and rare inputs. There is hardly any well organized institutional framework devoted to the systematic study of globalization within the university system. This is partly the result of the fallacy that globalization research lies in the domain of economics, and it should remain as such. However, even the economists have been unable to form a specific centre of research, specializing in the area. Notwithstanding these limitations, I cannot but cite some valuable individual contributions which are part of the growing literature on globalization in India. The most outstanding work on globalization is that of Rajani Kothari, a political scientist and the former Director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. He is a noted leader in the discourse of globalization. He strongly questions the Western biases in the treatment of political order, modernity, development, and globalization. This is a central theme in his overall theorization. He writes:
The new nexus of finance, trade and technology is likely to both directly and indirectly affect the coming generation of leaders and peoples in all regions as they seek out new futures in the next millennium. These leaders are likely to face not just a drastically altered structure of relations between states, but also considerably change the nature of capitalist order in which they will be willy-nilly asked to find a place for themselves. To what extent they will be able to draw upon the new cultural and ethnic assertions of identity awaking around them as they face such a future remains to be seen. The purveyors of power in the new capitalist order… are drawing strategies to integrate the whole world into their model of the world…
He goes on to argue that Third World elites have adopted a highly distorted version of the notion of the Western liberal democratic vision since it permits them to find a convenient place in the global network of elite dominance while pushing out the economic domain of their own masses. It is precisely this political accommodation that lies behind the growing legitimacy of the Western globalization model.
More recently two stimulating studies have appeared in the press, which make significant contribution to the analysis of globalization. One is Arundhati Roy's recent work, The Shape of the Beast (2008). Over a decade ago Roy emerged as a known literary figure when her fictional work The God of Small Things (1997) won the Man Booker Prize. In recent years she has emerged as an influential political activist/writer. The beast to which she refers is not just a powerful animal but rather a creature begotten by power itself. In her analysis, unfettered power unleashed by phenomena like globalization infects political, corporate, and religious entities, separating them from any ability to identify with the powerless. She offers Iraq and Argentina as examples of her theoretical perspective. She writes:
Once you understand the process of corporate globalization you have to see that what happened in Argentina; the devastation of Argentina by IMF is part of the same machine that is destroying Iraq. Both are efforts to break open and to control markets. And so Argentina is brought down by the checkbook, and Iraq is destroyed by the Cruise missiles. If the checkbook won't work Cruise missiles will…
While exposing the causes behind the emergence of the beast and the dire consequences of its many headed actions, Roy seeks to explore the range of response, available to those who fight the beast. She concludes: "It helps to outline the shape of the beast in order to bring it down."
The other powerful and recently published, thought-provoking work is that of Vijay Prasad — namely, The Darker Nations: A Biography of the Short-lived Third World (2007). In his account, Prasad argues that the Third World is not a place but a project, vibrant and significant. He explains the way in which the Third World moved to the centre stage of international politics by the beginning of the 1960s, challenged the forces of domination and by the end of the century was pushed out, or to use Prasad's term "assassinated" by neo-liberal globalization and its powerful instruments. The Third World project and its ideologies and institutions had enabled the powerless to hold a dialogue with the powerful. The dialogue was terminated unilaterally by the powerful. In Prasad's argument the Third World is a supra-geographic denotation of a social condition marked by social, political, and cultural oppression that renders people powerless and expendable.
Comparing these two, Roy's work embodies a flexible way of thinking about and exploring a wide range of ideas without fitting them into a grand thesis. Prasad's work on the other hand is based on prodigious research into the history, politics, and economics of the rise of Third Word as well as neo-liberal globalization.
Lastly, some practitioners of international politics and relations are stepping out of the general perceptions of the realist analytical framework which seems inadequate to explain several issues of global politics in a transnationally interconnected world. Barkawi and Waltz regard the realist theories of international politics largely and primarily focused on great powers, and since the Great Powers were overwhelmingly located in the West, these studies are essentially Eurocentric: "It would be ridiculous to construct a theory of international politics based on Malaysia and Costa Rica…" However, once we move away from a "fixation on the politics and policies" of so-called Great Powers to the "ebb and flow of the social relations through which great powers — their societies, economics, cultures — are constituted, reproduced, and transformed, the imperial and non European world move generally on the equivalent importance." There are at least two Indian analysts who share this approach. Ninan Koshy's The War on Terror: Reordering the World (2003), and Rajan Harshe's Interpreting Globalisation: Perspectives in International Relations (2004) are useful contributions. Koshy is the former Director of Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, World Council of Churches, Geneva and currently based in Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala. He writes regularly on national and international politics, disarmament, and human rights. Harshe is the former Professor of International Politics, Hyderabad University, and now the Vice-Chancellor of Allahabad University.
Keywords used by these scholars are implicit in their analysis, perceptions, and arguments. Some of those which figure prominently are: "latest neo-colonialism" or "recolonialization of the subordinated people of the South," "global apartheid," "global capitalism," "unequal power relations," "rich men's globalization," "exclusion," "identity," "dual attack on democratic nation building," and lastly, "shape of the beast."
It is almost impossible to reduce the number of "compelling reads" to just five. However, the works of economists like Deepak Nayyar, Amit Bahaduri, P. Sainath, or political scientists like Rajni Kothari, C. P. Bhambri, and Vijay Prashad merit special attention.
Key Scholars, Thinkers, Writers
Amiya K. Bagchi is a Professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Change, Calcutta.
Amit Bahaduri was formerly a Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and is currently engaged in research at the Centre for Social Studies, New Delhi.
C. P. Bhambri is a Distinguished Professor at JNU, New Delhi.
Rajen Harshe is a Professor of International Politics, and currently Vice-Chancellor of Allhabad University.
Ninan Koshy is an analyst of international politics and human rights.
Rajni Kothari is the former Director of the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi. He is currently Emeritus Professor at the Centre.
Deepak Nayyar is a Professor of Economics at JNU, New Delhi. He also served as Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University, Delhi, and Economic Advisor to Union Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
Utsa Patnaik is a Professor of Economics at JNU, New Delhi.
Vijay Prashad is a noted historian of international politics.
Arundhati Roy is a noted writer and political activist.
P. Sainath is Senior Editor, Economic Affairs, The Hindu (a leading daily newspaper), New Delhi.
Bagchi, Amiya K. 2004. Rich men's globalization: How do women and the poor fare? . In Globalization, ed. Malini Bhattacharya, New Delhi: Tulika Books.
Bahaduri, Amit. 2000. Nationalism and economic policy in the era of globalization. Working Paper No. 188. Helsinki: UN University World Institute for Development Economic Research.
Bhambri, C.P. 2005. Globalization: India — nation, state and democracy. New Delhi: Shipra Publications.
Harshe, Rajen. 2004. Interpreting globalisation: Perspectives in international relations. New Delhi: Rawat.
Koshy, Ninan. 2003. The war on terror: Reordering the world. New Delhi: LeftWord Books.
Kothari, Rajni. 1995. Globalization and revival of tradition: Dual attack on model of democratic nation building. Special article. Economic and Political Weekly (25 March):
Kothari, Rajni. 1997. Globalisation: A world adrift. Alternatives 22 (2): 227-67.
Nayyar, Deepak. 1995. Globalization: The past in our present. Indian Economic Journal 43 (3): 1-18.
Nayyar, Deepak and Court, Julius. 2002. Governing globalisation: Issues and institutions. Policy Brief No. 5. Helsinki: UN University World Institute for Development Economic Research.
Patnaik, Utsa. 2003. Global capitalism, deflation and economic crises in developing countries. Journal of Agrarian Change 3 (1&2): 33-66.
Patnaik, Utsa. 2004. The new colonialism: Impact of economic reforms and food security in India. In Globalization, ed. Malini Bhattacharya, New Delhi: Tulika Books.
Prashad, Vijay. 2007. The darker nations: A biography of the short-lived Third World. New Delhi: LeftWord Books.
Roy, Arundhati. 2008. The shape of the beast. Penguin/Viking: New Delhi.