The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have been the two global institutions most associated with pushing neoliberal policies onto developing countries since the 1980s, but a recent (2016) article posted to the IMF’s Financial Development newsletter points out that neoliberal policies have caused problems in several countries, suggesting that neoliberalism hasn’t been universally successful.
In this post I summarise the article, which should be a useful criticism of neoliberalism for students studying the Global Development option as part of A-level sociology.
The article starts off by defining neoliberalism as having two main aspects: increasing competition and an increased role of the state and then reminds us that policies designed to achieve these two things have been introduced in many countries since the 1980s:
Criticisms of Neoliberal policies
The report notes three problems:
There is a ‘broad group’ of countries where increased growth doesn’t seem to have brought about any other improvements!
Neoliberal policies increase inequality and the costs of this are prominent
Opening up developing countries to capital flows (liberalising!) seems to have had mixed benefits, depending on how liberalisation has taken place.
Where more investment is tangible, such as money being spent on infrastructure and people skills, there are broader benefits.
However, when it’s just speculative capital coming in (hot ‘debt’ money) this just seems to lead to pump but then a financial crises, and then no more growth.
Austerity policies don’t necessarily work
The report notes that governments with good track records of debt are better off maintaining a welfare state during periods of financial crisis – cutting welfare has adverse affects on spending, which harms a countries economic prospects – it’s better for states in some cases to ‘suck up the debt’.
The combination of huge capital inflows and austerity = more inequality
The report notes that the two together create a vicious loop which creates more inequality which in turn harms longer term growth of a country.
The report doesn’t dismiss liberalisation, but does note that some degree of state regulation could work in many countries – as was the case in Chile – often hailed as a great victory for neoliberalisation, but in fact that State did play something of a regulatory role!
In this TED talk, Dr Johannes Meier argues that Neoliberalism has become and orthodoxy, but now it has reached its expiration date…
This material should be of interest as a balanced critique of neoliberalism, which should be especially relevant to students studying the Global Development option for A-level sociology.
The current economic orthodoxy is one neoliberalism, the belief in free markets and unregulated trade, but this orthodoxy is reaching its expiration date.
Keynesianism used to be the dominant orthodoxy, but it started to switch in the late 1940s with Hayek’s neoliberal ideas, and by the 1980s neoliberalism was the norm, such that most people today have grown up with it.
However, today (2019 is the date of the talk) there are more and more signs that this orthodoxy is under threat – as neoliberalism is no longer productive, and Meier asks the question ‘what should business leaders do about this’?
What are the core philosophical beliefs of neoliberalism?
Homo-economics – individual people are economically rational and they strive to maximise their own utility
The right to compete is the backbone of liberty
The success of a nation is the sum of utlitiels, measured in GDP
The role of govenrment is to make sure that free-markets are protected, but not over regulated
Neoliberalism has been successful over the last 50 years
We have seen huge increases in GDP growth rates, increasing incomes, more employment, billions of people being lifted out of extreme policies and millions of millionnaires created.
Neoliberal ideas have extended beyond markets to labour, education and health policies for example – all of these areas are influenced by market based thinking (especially education, if you’re studying A-level sociology!)
Neoliberal ideas are also entrenched in the world of business and most governments in Western countries.
Three Criticisms of Neoliberalism
Meier draws on the tale of Hans Christian Anderson to suggest there are three flaws to neoliberalism that advocates of it dare not mention, but are obvious to a child!
Neoliberalism is an ‘Emperor with No Clothes’
The Rising Tide isn’t leading to Economic Justice
According to neoliberalism, freeing markets leads to enormous wealth creation and rising wealth overall will lift all boats – so that everyone gets richer, with more and more people being lifted out of poverty.
However, income inequality has also increased such that the top 8% of income earners now earn more than half of all income.
Wealth is worse – 1% own more than half of the world’s weath.
Where consumption is concerned – the richest billion consume 75%, and the poorest billion only consume 1% of our resources.
We thus have wealth and income divides which lead to economic and political tensions. Those who feel left behind no longer trust the narratives of the elites who have established neoliberal policies (and been the main beneficiaries of those policies).
Those who have not benefited from neoliberalism – the ones with no wealth, low incomes, no education or health care, are criticising neoliberalism with increasing vigour.
The tragedy of our commons and our Horizons
We are facing an existential crisis of tipping points where the climate is concerned.
It clearly isn’t true that if the developing nations embrace neoliberalism that they are going to develop as effectively as developing nations – because the planet cannot cope with the levels of resource extraction and consumption that would require to incorporate 8 billion people!
Human relationships are about more than transactional efficiency
Neoliberalism tends to turn relationships into transactions – and the imperative is then to make those relations more efficient.
We see this in the spread of automoation and AI – replacing humans with more efficient machines.
However, human relations are about more than efficiency. And if people think they have found the equation for friendship on Facebook or love on Tinder, thy are missing the essence of humanity.
More and more people are demanding that work be meaningful and that there is space for humanity, rather than it just being all about efficiency.
How do we survive beyond neoliberalism?
Meier proposes three basic rules business leaders should follow if they wish to survive the transition to beyond neoliberalism, which basically involved focusing on the ‘basics of good business’.
Listen to diverse voices
This may sound obvious but business leaders tend to exist in a bubble. This involves thinking beyond traditional metrics such as revenue growth as these don’t provide purpose or deeper meanings.
We need new narratives of belonging beyond homo economics
Reduce the fragility of the system
We have the warning signs – such as climate change. We need to focus on making businesses resilient and genuinly sustainable.
Here he seems to be criticising the fossil fuel industry and suggests a move to renewables is what we need.
Neoliberalism is too focused on the individual.
The system has emphasised individuals getting to a kind of certain wealth or income level, then they are safe to have a nice job and life, leaving too many behind in poverty
Personal individual development is seen as the opposite of community – the idea that we progress our careers at the expense of our families is toxic. Humans thrive better in community and solidarity.
Ee need to take a much broader view of public goods – he suggests we need much more state and business co-operation in providing public goods
Part of the difficulty with moving beyond neoliberalism is that we don’t know what will take over – there will probably be many different alternatives – hence why general principles for surviving change are required.
It will take courage to let go of our existing business models, but it is futile to cling to the old ones.
This 2019 Live Stream from Al Jazeera is a good resource for students studying the Global Development option in A-level sociology.
They asked the question: how does colonialism shape the world we live in today, and fielded responses from the audience who took part via #BecauseColonialism
Below I summarise part 1 of what is a week long series of discussions around the topic!
By the beginning of the 19th century most regions of the world had been colonised by European powers – with colonialism being an exploitative and extractive process, with some colonising powers introducing slavery and practicing genocide.
Some of the more obvious legacies of colonialism on the colonised regions include language and cultural and religious traditions which were inherited during the colonial period,
Negative consequences include and ethnic divisions which remain to this day, but some argue that governance physical infrastructures benefitted some colonised regions.
The participants in this stream include:
Priyamvada Gopal author of Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent
Miguel de Barros, president of the association of history teachers in Portugal.
Akin Adesokan, associate professor of Literature, Indiana University.
The starting point for the livestream is a tweet by someone pointing out how they think colonialism currently affects their life – pointing out how they still proudly use English names, how Wikipedia entries tend to have the European conquest date as the starting point, and that most people can’t name 20 things about their Tribe.
Priya states that she wouldn’t be an English lecturer if it were not for colonialism – because the English colonisers (following Lord Macorly’s 1835 Minute) wanted to use education to create a class of Indians who were ‘English in every way but blood or colour’ to act as interpreters for the English rulers to the Indian masses. Her ancestors were part of that class.
Miguel was born in Angola when it was still a Portuguese colony, returning to Portugal in 1975.
He explains how he never questioned anything – the fact that it was only white people living in nice houses in cities and black people as servants and living in their tribes outside of cities – that was just normal to him.
They now take a couple of comments from the livestream audience which picks up on how colonialism still exists in the ‘economic realm’ – with most capital being invested in Europe and only small amounts being invested in ex colonies.
One of the legacies of this is many talented people from poorer countries seek job opportunities abroad because of the lack of them at home.
Akin says although he grew up in Nigeria, an ex-British colony, he doesn’t feel as if he had a classic colonial experience, because Nigeria was independent by the time he was born.
However he thinks that what he calls ‘American cultural imperialism’ is far more significant today – despite being politically independent during his Youth, Nigeria was flooded with American cultural values, and he suggests this is the reason why so many Nigerians aspire to wanting to leave the country (when in reality there’s nothing wrong with traditional Nigerian values, my addition.)
Capitalism is very much tied up with the colonial project and you cannot understand colonialism without understand capitalism – and so in this sense colonialism is not in the past, as we all have to live with a capitalist system today!
Although the mantle of the imperial project has shifted over the years – from Europe to America, but now also to Brazil, India and China who are increasingly becoming involved in land appropriation and resource extraction.
Were there any Positives of Colonialism?
This question is posed 12 minutes in and this video clip from Monty Python’s Life of Brian is used to illustrate one argument:
‘What have the Romans ever given us in return’?
Miguel points out that comparing Roman colonisation with European is unfair because the later was more rapid and brutal and extractive – they simply had more means available to them!
Calls this the ‘India Railways argument – quoting Walter Rodney, the Guyana’n anti-colonialist who reminded use that the colonisers didn’t built railways so Indians could visit their friends, they built them so they could extract resources – they invariably led to the ports!
Miguel also argues that in many Latin American countries, we still need decolonlisation from within – as countries such as Brazil have clear dividing lines between those descended from Europeans and those who were not, with the government of Brazil, for example, tending to side with the former today.
Colonialism and Modernity
One argument raised is that while Colonialism was violent and extractive, it also brought with it modernity – which was a liberalising force – and so while the colonisers might not have been in Africa and India for the benefit of the people – some of the positive, liberal values of modernity filtered down to the people over the decades, which was a positive process, and maybe made de-colonisation inevitable in the end?!?
What would have happened without Colonialism?
We don’t know, ultimately, as there are so few examples of uncolonised regions.
In Africa, Ethiopia was for a very long time the only area to remain uncolonised but eventually even that fell prey to Mussolini.
The idea that mass blood shed and extraction is worth it for a couple of airports and railways is a bit silly!
Colonialism and Corruption
The colonial powers depended on corrupt, self-serving indigenous elites to run the countries for them, and when the European powers eventually pulled out it was those corrupt elites who took over the reigns of power – and colonialism didn’t just come to an end, the European powers maintained huge stakes in the ex colonies and we had neo-colonialism for a long time.
How do you teach colonial history in a country which used to have colonies?
The show wraps up with an interesting point by Miguel who says there is resistance among older Portuguese people to teaching the darker side of colonialism, because they were taught a more positive narrative, but things are changing!
Relevance to A-level sociology
The main use for the above resource is to provide students with an evaluation of Dependency Theory – all three authors seem to be agreeing that there is still a lingering legacy of colonialism, and it’s primarily the colonising powers which have benefited.
Moreover, they seem to agree that aspects of colonialism are still with us today!
The Afar Tribe of Ethiopia continue to live the traditional lifestyles, according to their traditional values, despite the challenges brought about with Modernisation over the last half a century.
The Afar Tribe can be used as a case study in global development to illustrate some of the limitations of Modernisation Theory, along with many other themes in the Global Development module.
There are approximately 1.8 million Afar who are still leading Nomadic lifestyles, mainly in central Ethiopia, though some also live in neighbouring countries (many traditional cultures spread across nation state borders).
The Afar rely on their animals to survive in the harsh dessert climate – camels and goats are the two main animals which afar herd and use for transportation and milk.
Afar villages are generally organised into one extended family, which effectively forms a clan, and it is thus unit which forms the basis of Afar culture and property ownership.
The Afar have a traditional gendered division of labour, in which women do much of the physical household chores, and collect wood and water – the later can take several hours a day in times of drouth. Men seem to spend most of their time looking after the livestock and ‘defending’ the territory.
There are many environmental and political challenges which the Afar face: in recent years, drought has been a severe problem, and in 2019 a plague of locusts came across from Yemen which made matters worse – both food and water are scarce.
Political tensions are also an issue – The Issa people are encroaching on their territory in south, which is an ongoing, centuries old conflict, more recently fuelled by guns from the West, and thousands of Afar have been displaced as a result – nearly 50 000 in 2019.
The Ethopian government turn a blind eye to this as many of the Issa are from neighbouring Djbouti, which is land locked Ethopia’s access route to the sea.
Other challenges include land being given over to Industrial agriculture which encroaches on the Afar’s grazing territories, which are already scarce given the extreme environmental traditions.
The need to adjust to industrialisation/ Urbanisation?
It seems that modernisation and environmental pressures are not making it easy for the Afar to live their traditional lifestyles, so they might not have any choice but to adapt.
The Afar Pastoralist Development Association is already working to drill wells in some afar regions (for which you need heavy industrial machinery) and has suggested that some Afar need to move to Urban areas and find jobs in order to take pressure off the land and support those who remain living traditional lifestyles
Relevance to A-level Sociology
This material can be used to evaluate Modernisation Theory (link above) – it shows how modernisation really does put pressure on traditional cultures to adapt. However, the Afar traditional culture has persisted despite modernisation.
This is a useful reminder that modernisation might not be a bad thing where the gendered division of labour is concerned, it’s pretty stark in Afar culture!
it shows how the governments (Nation States) aren’t that useful to the Afar!
There are some useful examples of NGOs working with the Afar to help them maintain their traditional ways of life – innovative uses of technology.
This is a great example of how industrialisation, war and conflict (in neighbouring Somalia) and environmental decline are putting pressure on a traditional culture.
The Afar Tribe: Find Out More
This post was mainly written using material from The Traditional Cultures Project – which is a most excellent resource fo finding up to date information on many traditional cultures around the globe.
The Island of Anuta is one of the remotest places on Earth – part of the Soloman Islands, it is a 5-6 day sail from the Capital, with its nearest inhabited neighbouring island being over 50 KM away.
Boats may visit the island as infrequently as three times a year, so the islanders cannot rely on them for resources, they have to make use of what is available to them on the island and in the ocean surrounding.
Anuta is a very small island, with an area of only 0.4 square Kilometres, but with a population of around 300 it has one of the highest population densities on planet earth, similar to that of Bangladesh.
This island community should be of interest to any student studying the global development option for A-level sociology, as this case study illustrates many of the key themes of this module.
In terms of ‘economic development the inhabitants of Anuta are very undeveloped, they are money poor, but they seem to have a very high quality of life, almost idyllic.
At the very least this case study will make you question the advantages of western models of development, and the idea that advanced industrial economies are necessarily the most progressive.
Research studies on Anuta
The anthropologist Richard Feinberg has spent some time researching life on Anuta – he spent a year there in the early 1970s and returned more recently to make the film below, which is available on YouTube:
Bruce Parry also visited Anuta for several weeks as part of his Tribe documentary series, and if you can get hold of that from the BBC, it’s well worth a watch, although at time of writing this is more than a decade old already!
A summary of the video
The documentary starts on board the boat with the film makers and anthropologist talking through expectations.
When the boat first arrives at the island, one of the islanders comes aboard who Richard Feinberg knew from his previous visit (about a decade earlier) and they hug for about five minutes (quite unusual in itself by Western standards.
We first see the welcoming scene in which about three dozen people come out to meet – greeting by touching foreheads, quite a slow affair (again by Western standards)
We learn that population is becoming an issue – it has doubled in ten years, since the year 2000. People were even then starting to worry about their privacy, not so much the resources.
We now see the formal greetings with the chiefs – there is a hierarchical structure – based on ascribed status – if you can’t trace your lineage back to chief, you are not going to be a chief!
Anuta: emphasises compassion and equality
A core value in Anutan society is that of Aropa – which emphasises compassion for others and collaborative working and sharing.
One very tangible way this value manifests itself is through the equal sharing of finite resources – food for example is shared equally among all the islands inhabitants
There is a strong support structure on Anuta, the idea of someone being alone and unsupported is almost unheard of, something which is all too common in the west.
The entire crew of the ship is invited onto the island for a welcome feast – they get a full on welcome ceremony with dancing etc.
When you ask Anutans why they do something – there are two stock answers –
Because it’s tradition
Because it makes us happy
It’s worth nothing how different this is to the Western idea of doing something for the money, which often makes us miserable (Weber’s Instrumental logic!)
All of the islanders come out for the feast, and all 300 great the ship’s crew with a nose kiss, which ‘breaks down the individual personal bubble’.
Lots of the ship’s crew comment on how the way of being greeted was very emotional, with a total breaking down of barriers, and a real sense of unity being created between everyone.
Some historical context
They now go and visit with the Chief and he reflects on the past – he talks of previous famines, one in which people were forced to eat dirt to survive – he quips that since the arrival of the Christian Church there has been no famine as bad – so ‘our new God protects us better than the old gods.’
Feinberg also notes that the Christian teaching of ‘love thy neighbour’ fits in well with the Anuta value of Aropa – in that sense they were Christians before the Church got there!
Population and Environment
The Anutans seem to live a very sustainable life, recognising that everything the need comes from nature.
Despite their growing population they are not worried, at least that’s what the chief says.
The Anutans are self-sufficient for the most part – Fishing is the main activity, but they also hunt seabirds and grow food on the Island, the staple crop being Manioc
They are not entirely cut off in that they do use industrial technology to hunt and farm – steel fishing spears for example.
Some of the islanders also attend school off-island, and there is a monetary fund to pay for that, but not much detail is provided on this aspect of island life!
Interestingly, they have zoned out regions of the sea around the island which have extensive coral reefs, and they manage them sustainably, with bans on fishing in some of them for periods, to be harvested when the fish are bigger – kind of a natural sustainable management system!
Canoes are treated as part of the family – trees on Anuta are scares, so when one is felled to make a canoe, it is a big deal.
We get to see one canoe which is over 100 years old and still used for fishing.
They are so important that if a canoe is damaged, a funeral is held, as if it were a dead relative.
There is an extensive leaving ceremony – in which they have a final tour of the island, and there is a group lamentation in which everyone weeps (a lot) as the guests leave.
We’re reminded that the Anutans, while very aware of the wider world, have made a choice to maintain their traditional culture as much as they can.
Anuta: Relevance to A-Level sociology
This case study can be used as a criticism of Modernisation Theory and Western Ideals of development more generally. Clearly the Anutans have a very traditional way of life, as expressed in their value of Aropa.
Aropa is quite like the collectivism mentioned in Rostow’s modernisation theory, but it is difficult to argue that this is ‘holding their culture’ back in anyway.
Of course there are challenges this community faces going forwards, and of course they benefit from modernisation in some ways (fish hooks) but it’s difficult to see how their becoming a fully fledged part of the modern capitalist industrial economy would benefit these islanders.
in this post I consider some recent examples which seem to suggest that globalisation is going into reverse.
I also evaluate each of these pieces of evidence.
Personally, I’m not convinced that there is any strong evidence of a reversal in globalisation!
At first sight, Brexit might seem to be evidence of anti-global attitudes, especially if you are of the opinion that Brexit was mainly people wanting more control over immigration into Britain – all the time Britain was in the EU, it had no control over its immigration policy.
This ties into a theory of Globalisation advanced in the 1990s by Adrian Wood – the idea that globalisation would benefit unskilled workers in less developed countries at the expense of unskilled workers in more developed countries – and it was primarily the less educated in Britain who voted for Brexit, suggesting this could be something of a backlash against globalisation.
However, it was mainly older people who voted for Brexit, the younger generations were more likely to vote against it and younger generations tend to have a more cosmopolitan worldview, and the Brexit vote only went through – nearly as many people voted against it as voted for it.
The Increasing Number of Boarder Walls
There are currently now 70 walls border walls between countries, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 there were only 15! (Source).
One of the best known examples is the wall between the United States and Mexico, which was one of Donald Trump’s main 2016 election pledges, and is still being built!
The total build cost of this particular wall is around $15 billion. (Source BBC)
The erection of giant border walls certainly seems to be some strong evidence of globalisation in reverse, as Nation States seek to prevent the free movement of people, and presumably they need the support of their populations (or at least around half of them) to be able to put these constructions in place.
HOWEVER, while walls will certainly deter some people, they do not stop everyone from crossing them – in fact it could be giving more power to organised gangs of people smugglers – the more difficult it is to cross a wall, the more likely people are to turn to ‘experts’ to help them get across, having to pay them $thousands of dollars for the privilege, and no refund if they’re not successful.
And where drugs are concerned, there’s even less evidence that walls are effective there – Mexican Drugs cartels just use very long tunnels these days for example!
Coronavirus – will result in countries seeking to localise supply chains
This BBC article summarises the views of a number of different professors of globalisation who seem to agree that Globalisation may have peaked in 2019 and that Covid-19 accelerate a trend towards less globalisation.
One the main points is that while Gloabalisation has brought many benefits (such as rapid economic growth) it has also brought increased risks, and the pandemic has highlighted this – it showed us how dependent we are on global supply chains for example and how quickly stocks of goods can run out when supply chains are disrupted.
It is thus possible that 2021 will see an acceleration of the trend towards the trend of manufacturing taking place closer to home rather than being spread out across huge global supply chains – as companies seek more security from disruption.
The problem with this is that it is ‘future thinking’ – we don’t know if this will actually be the case!
Five main themes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:
People – many of the goals focus on lifting people out poverty and hunger and providing a decent education for all
Planet – there is a lot more focus on protecting the environment compared to the original MDGs – for example with the ‘life under water’ goal.
Prosperity – there is a focus on improving lives through enterprise and innovation, linking into partnership below
Peace – the agenda recognises that there can be no effective development without peace.
Partnership – there is much more focus on the agenda for sustainable development being a partnership between developed and less developed countries than with the original MDGs.
NB – The most important goals?
Note how goals 7 and 8 from the MDGs are now a lot more prominent in the updated SusDev goals…
Tracking progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals
You can click on any of the goals on site linked above to find out about progress towards achieving them.
This link will take you to the progress towards goal 1, for example. The latest 2020 update doesn’t look promising. It notes that:
Even before the Pandemic, the rate of reducing the percentage of people in extreme poverty had slowed (it was around 14% in 2010, 8% in 2015 and just down to 7% in 2019.
With the Pandemic, another 50 million people will be pushed back into poverty, pushing that figure back up to 8%.
The Sustainable Development Goals: Peak Bureaucracy but little Progress?
One possible criticisms of the Sustainable Development Goals might be that there seems to be A LOT of organisations involved with being ‘partners’ for development, but not so much actual progress being made! Lots of talk, LOTS of words, LOTS of info and pretty colour coded targets, but not so much actual progress…?!?
About this post
This post was written primarily for A-level sociology students studying the Global Development Option in year two.
Global trade has increased significantly since the 1990s and global value chains today account for more than 50% of global trade.
Those countries which have high levels of participation with Global Value Chains have generally developed more quickly than those countries which have limited or no participation with global value chains.
Vietnam would be a good example of a country that has increased its export links to GVCs over the last 30 years and has seen a corresponding rapid economic development.
What is a Global Value Chain?
The report defines a global value chain (GVC) as ‘the series of stages in the production of a product or service for sale to consumers. Each stage adds value, and at least two stages are in different countries.’
The bicycle is used as an example of a product with an extensive global value chain, with many countries being involved in the many stages of its production.
Global Value Chains and Development
Those countries which have moved from simply exporting agricultural goods to manufacturing parts for products such as bicycles have seen higher levels of economic growth since the 1990s:
What I find most interesting is this map here:
We see that those countries which are more involved with global manufacturing – China and India for example have seen the highest rates of economic growth
The negative consequences?
The report also has chapters on increasing inequalities which have emerged as a result of development through increasing manufacturing – GVC firms tend to be highly concentrated in only a few regions in every country, and women are less likely to be employed in managerial positions.
And there may also be some negative environmental consequences for countries more involved in global value chains.
The report suggests that recent technological innovations which bring manufacturing closer to the end-consumers of GVC products (3D printers) may mean that manufacturing for GVCs is no longer a viable path to development for poorer countries.
The limitations of this report
You have to question how objective this report is – it is from the World Bank, an organisation dedicated to increasing World Trade.
The report also doesn’t seem to acknowledge the problem of what happens to those countries which are ‘left behind’ or ‘left out’ of global value chains.
That map above kind of reminds me of an updated version of Wallersteins’ ‘three zones’ in his World Systems Theory – and in that theory, one country can only move up into a higher zone at the expense of another moving down – there always has to be one country (or regions within countries) at the bottom, or maybe even left out altogether, which seems to be the case here.
It might be that integrating into GVCs is a great way to develop for SOME people in some regions of some countries, but not necessarily even for the majority of people the world over.
It might even be the case that the expansion of GVS are the cause of more inequality and thus, despite increasing economic growth (which are very limited indicators of development) we actually have equal amounts of losers (or more) than we do winners from the expansion of GVCs.
Relevance of this report for Global Development within A-level sociology
This seems to be a good case for global optimism – those countries which get more involved in global trade
The map of countries seems to be a modified version of Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory‘s ‘Zones of Production’, although interpreted here in an entirely positive light!
A recent report by Oxfam highlights the problem of the increasing concentration of land ownership into the hands of corporate global agribusinesses.
Historically land ownership in the colonial period was very unequal, it became more equal in the post-colonial era due to various land-reform programmes, but since the 1980s land ownership has become more unequal again, primarily driven by global agribusiness buying up huge tracts of land for mass-scale farming oriented to the global export market.
70% of all land globally is now controlled by just 1% of the population.
While this has meant cheaper food for consumers in the West, it has also had negative consequences for hundreds of millions of people in the developing world who have to live with the consequences:
There is less common land for indigenous peoples – be they pastoralists in Africa or forest hunter gatherers in Latin America. This puts traditional ways of life under threat
Intensive farming employs fewer people so this leads to local unemployment and urbanisation as people migrate to find work which doesn’t exist in cities.
It degrades the local environment.
The report notes different ‘levels of solution’ – from demanding more corporate responsibility and governments enforcing minimum working standards for agribusiness to the more drastic measurements of land reform – actually giving land back to ordinary people to farm on a small scale basis.
Relevance of this to A-level sociology
IMO this is one of the most important global development reports there is – it reminds us of the bigger picture in globalisation more generally – the world is becoming more interconnected and more and more people want a greater variety of cheap food.
Global agribusinesses have emerged to meet this demand and established themselves in several developing countries, buying up or leasing huge tracts of lands to mass produce the meat, grains, and fruit n veg we consumers want.
We get cheap food but at the cost of increasing land inequality, poverty, unemployment, forced migration to cities, the decline or indigenous cultures and depletion of the environment.
It’s a stark reminder of how the most basic need for food for some can lead to negative gloablisastion.
It’s also a good example of how neoliberal forms of globalisation don’t work effectively – leave food production to global market forces and look at the mess!
Maybe what we need for sustainable food production is more local food systems, and LESS globalisation?
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