THE terms globalisation and free market economy and capitalism assail us day in and day out. Most people understand only the broad aspect of these words. The essential logic of this system of economy and how it affects the individual is more often than not lost on the common man.
Pranab Kanti Basu has looked at these from the platform of an ordinary, working class individual in his book ‘Globalisation: An Anti-Text.’ This book is the outcome of his series of articles in a bimonthly Bengali publication Ekhon Sanhathi which roughly translates into ‘unity now.’
The author calls globalisation a synthetic hegemony. Hegemony, he says is the process through which the ruling order attains the consent of the ruled. It has been described as synthetic because the structure masks the ruling order and so makes it acceptable.
Basu categorises writings on economic issues from a left perspective into three compartments: “there are the erudite or elite pieces, full of impenetrable jargon, meant for the initiated; the pieces meant for plebeian readers where the writer gives tantalising glimpses of one’s own knowledge of the theoretical issues involved but does not explicate the issues for the ‘ignorant’ reader; and then there are the pieces commissioned by the Party, whichever it may be.” His writings seeks to step away from these and yet introduce the topic to the reader in a simple way. Basu is presently on the faculty of the Department of Economics and Politics, Vishva-Bharti, where he teaches Marxian Economy.
Roundly condemning the so-called development based on globalisation, Basu says “We argue that globalization involves fundamentally the process of annulment of community right and even individual bourgeois legal rights (where they conflict with the drive by global capital to extract rent, as in the case of land acquisition in the different states of India.)” One of the strategies used to sustain this hegemony is to deify the free market as the most efficient system for the solution of economic problems of a society. “It has become almost a religious imperative that textbooks of economics must begin by ‘proving’ to the student that free market is the best thing that could have happened to humanity.”
The author forcefully attacks the basic concepts and working of the structure of the globalised economy. Not only does the book explain jargons and terms used in the modern economic writing, but also explains the consequences of these on the ground. The US, the country at the steering wheel of globalization comes for strong attack.
Right at the outset, the author discloses his ideological-political affiliations. He is left of the left. In the sense that he is disappointed with the modern Marxists, whom he sees as increasingly leaning towards capitalism. This ideological burden is visible throughout the book. If Basu had chosen to only write economics, without mixing it with his personal ideological choice, the book would have probably read better. As such it is a highly informative and analytical book, offering a perspective that is refreshingly different from the monotonous line pursued by most. He explains the hidden agenda of the IMF-World Bank as the handmaiden of the developed West.
Communism has failed world over. But that does not mean that capitalism is the alternative. The problem with the Marxian academics is that they cannot think of a third Indian alternative. For instance, there is a third way, as propounded by RSS ideologue Dattopant Thengadi, a truly Indian way that believes in the welfare of all. This approach looks at the world as a family not a market. But the two extreme viewpoints, supported by the vocal and acknowledged ‘intellectuals’ on both sides have consistently resisted the third way. Probably it is time to have a fresher look at it. The tragedy with globalization is that it is elitist, and it divides humanity into two compartments, and world is a market to be exploited by a few corporate with the support of the state.
The alternative way suggested by Basu is the restructuring of the local communities that will “bridge the gap between the unavoidably different economic functions that have to be performed in a surplus-producing economy.” He continues, “Just as we should not disown history, so also we cannot reject the present. Modern development creates refugees of development by constructing industry or housing resorts for the rich on agricultural land; by the loss of occupation of the fishermen caused by the discharge of the chemical effluents into water bodies…We cannot turn back the wheels of this inhuman progress by rejecting the present.” He suggests mobilizing public opinion to strengthen the struggles of the marginalized people and to pressurize the governments into spending on social welfare. An ideal to begin with. But cannot be sustained unless the tenor of the discourse on development changes.
(AAkae Books, 28, Pkt IV, mayor Vihar Phase I, Delhi – 91)