Tuesday, July 13, 2004

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)

The state of the globalization literature

Peter Dougherty, the senior economics editor for Princeton University Press, tries to summarize and categorize the globalization literature in an interesting Chronicle of Higher Education essay (subscription may be required).* As this is a topic with which your trusty blogger has more than a passing interest, I checked it out. Some of the good parts:

I once read that at an international conference of economists in 1959, the only thing the attendees had in common was that they had all read a single book, Paul Samuelson's 1948 landmark text, Economics (McGraw-Hill). What intrigued me was that even as recently as the cusp of the 1960s, modern economics, a language now so familiar to the ear of participants in the globalization debate, was so novel. Without that working language, and other such scholarly vernaculars, today's globalization discourse would be hard to imagine.

The story reminds us that globalization, much as it is the result of big business, power politics, and protean innovations, also remains the product of ideas -- ideas that have helped shape the industrialized world and that harbor hopeful implications for the developing world. Those benchmark ideas, which can be traced through scholarly books in the economics and social-science tradition in which I work, set the mark we should aspire to in our current lists.

Samuelson, of course, worked in a grand tradition too, one that could be traced some two centuries back to Adam Smith's An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations. One of Samuelson's grand antecedents and still the masterwork of globalization literature, Smith's then-revolutionary 1776 tome made the case for the demolition of international trade barriers as a means of enhancing nations' prosperity. But what we tend to miss in the glare of the word wealth is that Smith's objective in pressing that argument was not commercial, but moral. He wanted to improve the world not for monarchs and merchants, whom he held in deep suspicion, but for the majority of people. That end remains close to the hearts of today's globalization critics and supporters alike, contentious and opposed as their rhetoric may be....

If you were a social scientist advising the leadership of a developing nation and you wanted to help that country grow, you would probably have the following two items high on your agenda: Increase citizens' employability, and align your country's resources with its population, so that more people could eat, live free of disease, become educated, and emerge from poverty. One means of accomplishing both objectives is as straightforward as it is profound: Educate women.

From a purely self-interested perspective, this is the part I found most gratifying:

[S]ome may dismiss my riff on the study of globalization as too narrowly focused on technical scholarship to come under the normal definition of "literature." After all, works by analytical economists, electrical engineers, theoretical mathematicians, and empirical agronomists seldom penetrate the pages of The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, or other literary publications in which the high polemics of globalization are usually discussed. Yet rapidly accelerating technical ideas are driving the engine of globalization relentlessly forward, for good or bad. Those ideas come not only from economics, but from all walks of investigation: epidemiology, operations research, earth science, and so on. Scholarly publishers have a vital role to play in helping to contextualize the exploding technical literature for general readers, and for helping our scientifically inclined authors to frame their books in the larger social-scientific and humanistic discourse....

[T]he globalization literature suggests that books still matter. Even the most mathematically hidebound economist cannot rely on articles, but must write books to engage the larger conversation of globalization. The result is a more substantive broad discussion, and a more thoughtful, open-minded, yet grounded technical one. It is in books that we find the most realistic hope for a successful resolution to many of the problems associated with globalization.

*[Possible conflict of interest alert: I have an advance contract for my globalization book with Princeton University Press. However, I've never met or interacted with Dougherty.]

posted by Dan on 07.13.04 at 06:22 PM


a publisher promoting the salience of books? (Translation: Books are important; buy more books) That's novel. Dan, the publishers have been saying this for the past fifty years. I'd bet a lot that the real driving contributions have not be made in books, but in patents and other arcane publications. Should we write books to contextualize XML for the broader public?

Good luck with your volume, but I'm guessing you write the blog and the book for different reasons.

posted by: Mike W on 07.13.04 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

“[Possible conflict of interest alert: I have an advance contract for my globalization book with Princeton University Press. However, I've never met or interacted with Dougherty.]”

Does Daniel Drezner wish to earn millions of dollars off the book? If so, I can recommend a title which will accomplish this goal:

“George W. Bush is the Anti-Christ and Responsible for World Poverty: the Secret Neo-Con Memos Proving the Evil of His Administration”

Hey, it worked for Richard Clarke and Michael Moore. Why not Professor Drezner?

posted by: David Thomson on 07.13.04 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Sorry, David. I've already copyrighted that title.

posted by: praktike on 07.13.04 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?