The World - A Beginner's Guide
by Goran Therborn - Polity Press, £14.99
Tuesday 22 February 2011
by John Moore
Gloabilsation is more than markets and capital flows, though these are its primary meaning.
It signifies satellite TV and the global reach of the internet as well as mass travel and increasing migration.
In this beginner's guide, sociology professor Goran Therborn believes it all amounts to
"a mass awareness of a common humanity."
As historical background to this new planetary consciousness he compresses a vast and fascinating range of historical and current world data into a detailed but intelligible account of the changes in planetary human society.
It starts with European colonialism from the 16th to the 20th century and continues to today's shift in the centre of gravity with the rise of China and India.
Therborn does not dwell on the internal dynamics of capitalism.
His aim is to interpret the world in various ways, not to change it and his characterisation of the first world war as "imperial powers falling out among themselves" is bland.
But he underlines the right-wing meaning of globalisation since the '90s after the fall of the Soviet Union and China's adoption of capitalism.
It became a term for neo-iberalism or global capitalist competition, driven by trading in vast sums of fictitious money on currency betting and derivatives.
The upshot was financial crisis, with still unforeseeable social consequences.
Therborn sees peril in the decades to come as the US seeks to direct its military supremacy against an ecomomically more powerful China.
He has no vision of radical social change in European society, but does not rule it out.
He would probably agree that mass awareness of the need for it could save world peace.