A book review of Jan Black's Inequity in the Global Village, exploring the state of the world today.

by Jan Knippers Black
Kumarian Press, West Hartford, Connecticut, 1999

reviewed by A. V. Avadhuta

When the Soviet Union and the rest of the Communist Bloc started to disintegrate, politicians in the West boasted that a New World Order would emerge. With communism out of the way, the free market system would produce, they said, a peaceful and prosperous world. We all know this is not what has happened, and if anyone still harbors any illusions about the state of the world today, then Jan Black’s latest book should be required reading for them.

Black takes us on a tour of the world, visiting the "trouble spots" on all continents. She gives a colorful and accurate snap-shot like description of all these places (including Albania, Cuba, Ethiopia, Amazon Basin, Burma, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, etc.). But this is not a travel documentary, rather she constantly draws attention to the plight of people of these exotic places who are now victims of what she calls Second Coming Capitalism. This current version of capitalism combines 21st century technology with 19th century social values. Black argues that all pretenses of welfare, such as was characterized by the mixed economies of the post-World War II era, have been discarded in favor of a system which shamelessly concentrates economic power in the hands of those who remain beyond the periphery of social accountability.

It is the world of economic globalization which Black is describing. A world where the richest fifth receives 82.7% of total world income and the poorest fifth receives 1.4%. A world where multi-national corporations have become more powerful than many states. A world where capital moves swiftly around the world, followed in its train by hapless refugees and migrants.

In her survey of conditions in the former Soviet Union, Black notes the irony that after the Second World War, the victorious allies punished the leaders of the losing Axis powers and rewarded the ordinary people with reconstruction programs. After the Cold War, the opposite was the case: the old leaders have been rewarded (in exchange for favorable business deals) and the ordinary people have been punished with devalued currencies and social austerity. In other places the story is similar; structural adjustment programs squeeze the poor without mercy.

This is not happy reading but hopefully it may open up the eyes of those who are still bewitched by the rhetoric of politicians who continue to sing the praises of the market system. I know that some U.S. "think-tanks" say that the world is now more "free" than it was ten years ago, but freedom means more than casting a ballot in an election. We have a long way to go before there is a healthy world order. Black doesn’t offer the solution to the current dilemma but concludes that "whatever else might be required to transform this brave new order, it is clear that one requirement will be a revolutionary new paradigm in the social sciences."
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