JeffGlobalization and Its Enemies

by Jeff Staples, STC Director at Large

Daniel Cohen. 2006. Translated by Jessica B. Baker. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [ISBN 978-0-262-03350-3. 192 pages. $27.95 USD.]

Globalization has generally been presented as a product of a modern world with “no borders” and a “think global” mentality. In daily life, at least in the USA, we hear about globalization, outsourcing, and work being sent abroad. Daniel Cohen relates that globalization has existed since the Spanish conquistadors and has seen various “rebirths.”

In approaching Cohen’s text, I was enthralled with Cohen’s insight that “one civilization destroys the other, not because it is more ‘advanced,’ but because it is immune to its own diseases, protected against the perverse effects of its system” (4). He goes on to provide an example of his theory by recounting how the French built a road to free a small mountain village from its isolation and provided DDT to combat malaria and typhoid fever in the area. However, these “helpful” measures destroyed the traditional society by reducing deaths, thus increasing the population, who then required more food and thus needed more livestock, which then destroyed the soil, and so on.

For Cohen, the primary problem with globalization today is that “globalization does not keep its promises” (166). Basically, today’s advancements in communication technologies makes globalization a vehicle that exposes such benefits as wealth and high standards of living to all people, including those who do not share these benefits. However, the economic forces are not present that assist these individuals in poor countries to make the images that they see become a reality. Thus, globalization just makes these people more aware of what they don’t have, without supplying the resources to obtain something better.

Cohen delivers a book that should have substantial appeal to individuals interested in economic influences on historical events. Throughout the text, he weaves his thoughts on globalization (and what he perceives as “enemies”) by focusing on economic and financial strategies that influence a country’s historical development and its global standing.

Cohen, an academic, at times digresses to a myriad of “academic speak”, but overall has delivered a clearly written text. However, the text is not written in a straightforward or clear manner to specifically identify “globalization and its enemies.” Instead, he provides a wealth of information, which he provides as proof of his assertions about the disastrous history of globalization, but which requires the reader “to read between the lines” to make a literal connection.

Had Cohen delivered his text in a more straightforward analysis focused toward industry, perhaps the reader could have then used the information in his or her known working environment. Alas, the reader must work with what Cohen has chosen as his delivery of choice.

For the technical communicator, Cohen’s book offers the perspective that globalization is nothing new and he provides examples of its impact on society through various periods. Although it’s a challenge to foster a literal link with the information he presents, the communicator can reason that today’s globalization is just a new chapter and one that will eventually lead into another chapter in the history of globalization and with it, a new perspective.

The text includes a “Notes and sources” section and an index, which is fairly extensive for a short book.

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