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Date: Mon, 12 Jul 2004 15:16:32 -0400
Subject: [indonesian-studies] The Wealth of Notions: A Publisher Considers the Literature of Globalization

The Wealth of Notions: A Publisher Considers the Literature of Globalization

By Peter J. Dougherty, Chronicle of Higher Education, 16 July 2004

Recently the literature on globalization has ballooned to the point that it is altering the general contours of scholarly book lists. Globalization's topics and subtopics seem to be multiplying exponentially: international trade and finance, information technology, environmental science and politics, the recrudescence of empire, worldwide inequality and the international division of labor, the economic sociology of the transnational corporation, ethnographies of émigré subcultures, cultural critiques of international capitalism, and on and on.

The topic is so large, pervasive, and unruly that it can be daunting to scholarly publishers. But we can also consider this singular intellectual moment a gift, both despite and because of its accompanying ideological ferment. That passion stems from the recognition that flimsy arguments can have disastrous worldly consequences, but also that sound and innovative ideas can yield untold benefits, as a glance back at the keystones of the literature will show. The study of globalization is a spur for editors to reach across disciplines and across national boundaries. And while the demise of the book in favor of other, more evanescent forms of communication in framing the great debates of the day has long been predicted, the boom in globalization literature suggests that scenario has been greatly exaggerated.

Glance at recent book catalogs, and you can start constructing categories within globalization studies, then filling in the dozens of hot recent titles. But while that's eye-popping proof of a publishing phenomenon, it doesn't help much in framing, as publishers, our broad hopes and goals for these books.

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.

The economic literature of globalization is a growth industry, an example of the very process it purports to study. Some notable recent books by economists include Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and its Discontents (W.W. Norton, 2002), Jagdish Bhagwati's In Defense of Globalization (Oxford University Press, 2004), Raghuram G. Rajan and Luigi Zingales's Saving Capitalism From the Capitalists (Crown Business, 2003), Douglas A. Irwin's Free Trade Under Fire (Princeton University Press, 2002), Diane Coyle's Paradoxes of Prosperity (Thomson Texere, 2001), William Easterly's The Elusive Quest for Growth (MIT Press, 2001), Robert Shiller's The New Financial Order (Princeton University Press, 2003), Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom (Knopf, 1999), and Martin Wolf's Why Globalization Works (Yale University Press, 2004). Those popular titles are flanked by a steady parade of scholarly texts on the subject.

Economists are able to conduct their lively, sometimes even angry, arguments about the international economy and its effects because they share a language—the same language that united their predecessors at that 1959 conference, if now a lot more technical—that of modern economic principles.

If Smith penned the bible of globalization in the late 18th century, effectively bringing the field of economics into being, Samuelson provided economists with their diagnostic manual in the mid-20th. His text, drawing deeply on monetary ideas advanced in the 1930s by John Maynard Keynes, adduced the basics of the neoclassical synthesis: how an industrialized economy behaves when it is in good working order, and what government can and should do to correct its course when the economy is faltering. As we listen to Beltway banter about countercyclical policy measures such as deficit spending or tax cuts proposed to revive an economy in recession, we are hearing the echoes of the neoclassical synthesis as expounded by Samuelson.

When the 1970 Nobel Laureate set forth the ideas in that synthesis, he equipped economic thinkers and policy makers around the world not only with cues for managing, and hence for better integrating, their economies, but a language with which to talk about globalization. Samuelson's Keynesian-inspired economic tenets didn't pit markets and government against each other, but showed them acting in tandem. That push-me-pull-you symbiosis contrasted with the grim political choice, widely perceived until the late 1980s, between stark laissez-faire liberalism and state socialism, thereby reframing the globalization discourse in more pragmatic terms.

Today's sometimes unruly debates tend to focus on spurring development, and that is a tribute to the vision of past expositors of globalization. But a funny thing happened on the way to the World Bank: Globalization raised more questions than it answered. In response, mainstream economists began to import insights from other disciplines—geography, political science, sociology—for clues to the conundrums of the changing international economy.

While cold-war economists were busy outfitting the literature of globalization with one set of ideas, for instance, their counterparts in information technology were concocting the cable and satellite glue of transnational structures. An extremely influential 1949 book, Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver's The Mathematical Theory of Communication, argued that all communication can be conceived as digital. An engineer, Shannon was the first thinker to define communication in terms of sources, source encoders, channels, and channel and source decoders.

But if information transmittal helps make globalization possible, information's application, knowledge, is the pig iron and plastic of the modern economy. And a 1962 book, The Production and Distribution of Knowledge in the United States, by Fritz Machlup, foreshadowed the coming of the knowledge economy. Machlup, an economist, documented in impressive empirical detail the growing share of the economy occupied by commerce in ideas. He foresaw what the journalist Diane Coyle nearly a half-century later would call, in the title of her book, The Weightless World (MIT Press, 1998), a mixed Samuelsonian economy based ever more on bits of knowledge shot and scrambled through Shannon's channels and decoders. The proprietary strictures of those channels are explored in recent best sellers like Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture (Penguin Press, 2004), Hal R. Varian and Carl Shapiro's Information Rules (Harvard Business School Press, 1998), and John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid's The Social Life of Information (Harvard Business School Press, 2000).

Enlightened by the economic principles of Samuelson and the knowledge technologies of Shannon and Machlup, we in the industrialized world today reach effortlessly across national borders to engage each other in business, politics, and research. But what structures does all that interaction take? How do leaders arrange the cross-national alliances that serve their mutual interests? How do policy makers establish the terms by which nations trade and invest? How do governments build cooperative arrangements designed to reduce arms and bioweapons; or protect the air, water, and wildlife; or work to eradicate infectious diseases?

We do it strategically, through the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the Kyoto Protocols, etc., each participant acting on the anticipated reactions of prospective partners and competitors. As with modern economics and information technology, the vernacular of strategy emerged from yet another great book of the 1940s, The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern. Published in 1944, it began the literature of “game theory,” the study of strategy and strategic planning.

Game theory has informed security studies, political science, management, and law. It has spurred its share of scholarly books, changed its own spots, notably through the work of John Nash and others, and has begun to absorb lessons from the behavioral sciences. The economist Thomas Schelling, in his 1960 book, The Strategy of Conflict (Harvard University Press), showed how strategic analysis could be used to help tame arms proliferation. Schelling-style strategic thinking is now being used to attack perils such as pollution and global warming. The Harvard management theorist Michael Porter, in his 1980 book, Competitive Strategy (Free Press), explained how firms compete not only with rivals, but strategically with their suppliers, governments, and employees. In a later book, The Competitive Advantage of Nations (Free Press, 1990), Porter discussed ways in which countries could enhance their industrial positions through an improved understanding of their strategic environments.

It is hard not to be impressed by the broad and deep impact that the ideas of economists and other scholars have had on the integration of industrialized nations into an advanced “knowledge economy.” But critics declare that the fruits of globalization aren't reaching the developing economies of the world quickly or potently enough. Scholarly publishers may wish to focus on how the spread of prosperity and freedom can be accelerated. And a good place to start might be the literature of social institutions that evolved, from the 1950s onward, parallel to that of the economic neoclassical synthesis.

How should developing societies attract their share of globalization's bounty? In a celebrated book published in 2000, The Mystery of Capital (Basic Books), the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto argues the institutional view. He claims that capitalism has worked in the West but hardly anywhere else because people in the West alone can lay easy legal claim to what they own—they can hold property rights. Legal claims to property enable people to exchange goods and services, to build wealth, and to use that wealth as collateral for credit.

In the West, property rights, freedom, and enforceability of contract and security are so well established that we tend to take them for granted, he argues. But such institutions are virtually nonexistent in much of the developing world. That state of affairs prevents poor people in those countries from gaining access to international financial markets for the purpose of saving, investment, and the building of capital.

But de Soto was not the first thinker to identify the importance of property rights for economic development. The author most widely acknowledged for that insight is the economic historian Douglass North, who shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in economics. North summarized a powerful stream of his work on formal institutions such as property rights in his 1981 book, Structure and Change in Economic History (Norton). In it, North showed how the establishment and enforcement of property rights in European history helped lead to the tremendous economic growth of the West. North's work has led to a parade of books in an integrative subfield of social science known as the new institutional economics, now heavily concentrated on explaining the puzzles of development.

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.

The literature on women and globalization is relatively sparse, but has gained a great deal of ground in the last generation—Martha C. Nussbaum's Women and Human Development (Cambridge University Press, 2000) stands out—from the combined scholarship of feminists and policy experts advocating democracy as a stimulant for emerging economies. The prophet of this scholarship was Ester Boserup, a Danish-born economist and agronomist who wrote Woman's Role in Economic Development (St. Martin's Press, 1970). There, Boserup surveyed the condition of women on farms, and in towns and cities, throughout the developing world. She foresaw the benefits in developing countries of limiting family size and thus improving social conditions, and of introducing modern domestic equipment that would free women to engage in greater political and economic participation.

Globalization in the developing world also means industrialization, and industrialization now, as always, means urbanization, so the study of cities is a particularly lively scholarly nexus. The subject cuts across numerous fields and includes notable works by the likes of the Spanish social theorist Manuel Castells, author of The Rise of the Network Society (Blackwell Publishing, 1996), the Berkeley sociologist Peter Evans, editor of the 2002 book Livable Cities (University of California Press), and other contemporary scholars such as Richard Florida, Edward Glaeser, David Harvey, Saskia Sassen, Edward W. Soja, and Michael Storper.

This literature's historical roots can be traced back as far as Le Corbusier in the 1920s, but contemporary urban scholarship rests heavily on two more-recent classics, Lewis Mumford's The City in History (Harcourt, Brace & World), and Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Random House), both books published in 1961.

Mumford's, as his title suggests, is a grand-scale historical exploration of cities and their function as civilizing institutions, and a call for their return to human proportions. Jacobs's is both a defense of the city in the face of challenges such as freeways and ham-handed urban renewal, and an exegesis of the art and logic of how people live together in cities and how different and sometimes hostile social forces can be harmonized through urban life. The literature inspired by these books now mingles with the evolving scholarship on civil society, the all-important dimension of social life that resides between the state and the market.

My view of the literature of globalization is circumscribed by my experience and predilections as an economics editor. Other editors would find different paths, some radically so, and I would urge them to do so. But any such exercise, I think, will suggest a few lessons for scholarly publishers.

Just as globalization induces openness, it invites scholarly book editors to look beyond the boundaries of our specific fields for promising new work. We should consider political economy, associated with Karl Polanyi's 1944 classic, The Great Transformation (Farrar & Rinehart, Inc.), and expressed in contemporary polemics such as Naomi Klein's No Logo (Picador, 2000); works on world history in the tradition of Fernand Braudel and Immanuel Wallerstein; the vast and varied cultural philosophies in the tradition of Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space (English translation, Blackwell, 1991), and Edward Said's Orientalism (Pantheon Books, 1978); and the communications criticism that has evolved from works like Marshall McLuhan's co-written The Medium Is the Massage (Random House, 1967). The history of ideas suggests that great books are apt to appear at serendipitous disciplinary crossroads. As globalization redraws the disciplinary map, it beckons scholarly editors to be alert to such confluences.

Second, some 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.

Third, the 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. While the execution is an art, the basic mission of scholarly publishers, with regard to this literature, is clear: Seek out the most promising “strategic research sites” (to borrow a phrase from the late Robert K. Merton) as sources of new books.

In social science these junctures might include the political economy of cross-national citizenship, the comparative international politics of the social safety net, the economics of technological innovation, and the social uses of financial engineering. My fellow editors in anthropology or architecture or cultural studies would surely imagine different possibilities, and that's all to the good. The situation may invite some unusual cooperation between editors, and with our publishing partners in foundations, in research centers, and in presses around the world—globalization debates demand imaginative publishing initiatives and alliances.

Last, I'm convinced that the literature of globalization, especially as it grows more atomized and technical, has to be framed in a moral context that delineates the greater good. Scholarly publishers should keep that end in view when we choose, edit, and publish our books and build our lists, regardless of their disciplinary or ideological perspective. If, as some critics contend, society is retreating from globalization because of terrorism and new political frictions, we'd better hope that a moral framework survives that period of stagnation. For as John Maynard Keynes put it in 1926, “the fiercest contests and the most deeply felt divisions of opinion are likely to be waged in the coming years not round technical questions … but round those which, for want of better words, may be called psychological, or, perhaps, moral.”