Sunday, October 22, 2006

Book Review: Naomi Klein, "Fences and Windows" (New York: Picador, 2002)

Naomi Klein was born in Montreal in 1970. She is an award-winning journalist and the author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, an international bestseller. She writes “an internationally syndicated column” for the Globe and Mail in Canada, and the Guardian in the U.K. She has been covering the anticorporate activist movement for the past six years (quote from the back of the book).

What it’s all about
This book is a collection of Klein’s articles, speeches, and reports from the beginning of what has been called the “anti-globalization” movement by the media, from the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, to the events that unfolded after 9/11. But through her reporting, she shows how this movement rather than advocating against globalization is pushing for globalization i.e. the ideology vs. the reality:

the task now is to measure the euphoric promises of globalization—that it would bring general prosperity, greater development, and more democracy—against the reality of these policies. We need to prove that globalization—this version of globalization—has been built on the back of local human and ecological welfare (243-4).
Thus the main point of this book is to show how globalization instead of eliminating the barriers between people, cultures, nations, economies, and so on has been erecting barriers—“fences”—leading to oppression, poverty, and all kinds of ills on global fronts. However, at the same time, through the movement of social activists around the world, “windows” are being opened through which these evils are confronted and ultimately democracy is allowed to shine forth as originally promised by globalization.

The book is broken down into five major sections. The first section deals with how the protest of the WTO in Seattle turned into this worldwide activist movement in which people awakened to the ugly reality of globalization. Section two shows that in exchange for a world of “free-trade” democracy has been co-opted by big business, creating even larger disparities between the rich and the poor. Section three explains that even the right to protest such injustices has been criminalized as control and power over individual actions increases. Section four explains how terrorism has hindered democracy—ironically centralizing power in efforts to spread democracy. And section five presents the ways in which groups of people around the world are trying to envision and actually practice a world in which globalization as a people-empowering, power-decentralizing, democracy-spreading movement is alive and well.

This book was very enlightening because I must admit that I had forgotten much about this issue of globalization and what it does to people around the globe. But beyond all of this, it made me think about what we seemingly consider “good,” or “right,” might not always be so for everyone. Even how we define such a thing as “globalization” and what it will look like has very much to do with structures of power that exist in the world: It is the powerful who define how it should look like, and we are left to take it as they give it to us. And this is how we can allow these corporations and governments to oppress us, all under guises such as “democracy,” “free trade,” or “progress.” It is scary how subtle evil can be… But is the church guilty of doing some of the same things, oppressing people spiritually, physically, emotionally in subtle ways?


At 6:38 AM, Blogger Warren said...

Nice summary. Now I don't have to read it.

Globalization is pretty evil, but somehow God works through it. Just like somehow the Church is pretty screwed up, but God still uses Her, too.


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