May 28 2009

Globalization and Its Discontents

by at 10:09 am under Uncategorized

Stiglitz’s criticism of the IMF seems focused on how developed nation’s values, motivations, and desired outcomes are imposed on the plights of developing countries in efforts to realize a mythical “developed” status.  He accuses the IMF being arbitrary in the way it applies its loan requirements, ignorant of the plight of the impoverished that live beyond the bounds of the region’s primate city, and worst of all, beholden to the interests of the developed world rather than acting as an advocate for the well-being of the world’s poor.  It’s a bleak look at the institutional apparatus that provides the developed world’s most salient efforts at managing a global economic environment.  He focuses his recommendations on: definition, determination and direction.

Stiglitz identifies problems at the very beginning of the development process, particularly in the way that problems are defined and modeled.  For example, he writes about how current development issues in South America were treated similarly to the development issues confronting the Soviet states following the dissolution of the USSR.  Instead, he’d prefer to see problems defined locally, according to culturally pertinent desires and local experience.  He’d also like to see more self-determination and self-direction in the way issues are resolved that would account for unpredictable regional and global issues as well as the needs of the country in question.

To me, it seems like more than an indictment of the IMF or of problems with the globe’s governing institutions, Stiglitz is criticizing the way that the developed countries project their own values and goals on the economic well-being of the developing world.  The social networks and decision making processes endemic to the governing institutions are crowded with the interests of the developed: the pharmaceuticals, the banks, the agricultural networks.  The very institutions are simply a method of conveying and imposing the values and proscriptions of the developed world into the lives of the impoverished.

Economic measurements might describe a great deal about the health of a developing country’s market, and might assist in identifying the most appropriate actions to rectify current and future problems.  Those very measurements are, however, tools used to hide the embedded values and motivations the developed world uses to justify is own philanthropy.

Questions for the future: what about the Gates Foundation, and how does their model of research and implementation differ from the IMF, World bank, or WTO’s?  Can we describe the relationships between the players that make up the 19th St.’s power base as part of and influencing a social network?  If so, can we describe the developing nations as part of and influencing a social network, or are they completely disenfranchised of agency within this current paradigm?

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