THE COLLAPSE OF GLOBALISM AND THE REINVENTION OF THE WORLD by John Ralston Saul (Penguin), 224 pages, $36 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
I'm not sure who the intended audience is for John Ralston Saul's latest book. Conservatives will cringe at his suggestions that globalization has led to the demise of social programs in several nations, skewing social values toward greed and self-interest at the expense of ethics and the public good. Leftists will be frustrated by Saul's unwillingness to fully denounce capitalism in an era when its iniquities have never been more pronounced.
Nevertheless, Saul offers a dissident voice in the face of an unstable world ruled by short-sighted leaders. He reins in his contempt for globalization and free trade and offers a rallying cry for individual citizens to become more active in shaping the future of their societies.
Saul's principal thesis is that globalization has failed to attain its initial goal of providing greater prosperity for individuals and nations. Instead, the type of growth associated with globalization has largely involved an imbalanced distribution of wealth that benefits the elite to the detriment of the lower classes.
A detailed chronology of globalization's steady decline over the last decade ranges from seemingly isolated incidents like the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 to more widespread cataclysmic events like the debilitating recession in Southeast Asia in the late 1990s, debt and currency crises in South America and the 9/11 attacks and aftermath.
Saul prophesies the imminent collapse of globalization but also laments the vacuum of economic thought and theory outside of the West. This is contributing to a shifting global dynamic that has provoked intensified nationalism in many regions and an erosion of faith in the long-standing ideals of democracy.
The book is loaded with abstract ideas, but the clarity and originality of Saul's writing makes it accessible to an audience beyond the clique of academic economists and historians.