Sunday, July 19, 2009

Globalization (2009)

Book Review from the July 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marxian Economics and Globalization. By Binay Sarkar and Adam Buick, Avenel Press, Calcutta, 2009.

Is globalization just another word for capitalism? The short answer is yes. A longer answer is provided in this invaluable book written by two socialists. Using Marxian economics as their explanatory framework, there are chapters on ‘Capitalism as a world system’, ‘What is political economy?’, ‘The basic categories of Marxian economics’, ‘The marginal revolution in economics against the labour theory of value’, ‘The cyclical nature of capitalist production’, ‘The era of permanent inflation’, ‘The Bolsheviks and the abolition of money’, ‘Anti-globalization or anti-capitalism?’, ‘Why we need global change’. The book is dedicated to “The Working Class of the World”.

Today we live in a world completely dominated by capitalist production, where wealth is produced for sale on a market with a view to profit. Writing in the middle of the nineteenth century, Marx's analysis of capitalism had identified it as an inherently globalizing system. As the Communist Manifesto put it, “the cheap price of commodities ... compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production”. The authors look at the globalization of capitalism since his day, as manifested in the ever-widening world division of labour, world wars and rivalry for sources of raw materials, markets and investment outlets, the rise of the multinational corporation and the emergence of global financial markets. They discuss the opposition to these developments and argue that anti-imperialism and anti-globalization are not the same as anti-capitalism, as this has to be a movement aimed at a world socialist society where the resources of the globe have become the common heritage of its entire people.

There are a few quibbles. State capitalism is said to be the “most regressive, dehumanizing and degenerating” form of capitalism (page 55). But this is arguably a judgement on which socialists do not need to take sides; we are opposed to capitalism whatever form it takes. We are told that under state capitalism, “capital remains private property of the state functionaries collectively” (page 56). But this could suggest that state functionaries had a legal claim on capital, which was generally not the case, though they did exercise possession as a class through their control of political power. It is claimed that John Stuart Mill was an “opponent of Karl Marx” (page 90). But though Marx was well acquainted with the writings of Mill, there is no evidence that Mill knew of Marx's existence. But these are quibbles. Hopefully a future edition will have an index, so enabling the reader to easily track down the many fascinating ideas and quotes to be found in this important book.