What are the policies that allow for increased corporate investment? How are these policies made and who influences them? Who benefits, who loses? And most importantly, how are movements in India fighting back the impacts and agents of economic reform? This issue area looks at the process of economic globalization, and offers the big picture which is impacting people in India and around the world.

We offer below an excerpt written by Joshua Karliner, on globalization.

What is Globalization? A generation ago, when astronauts first beamed pictures of the Earth back home, the image of a life-sustaining planet floating in infinite space helped inspire social movements to work to save the world from environmental destruction. Today, the stunning portrait of the Earth has also become the icon for a millennial version of manifest destiny known as economic globalization.

We are told that this corporate encirclement of the planet will bring with it greater prosperity, peace and ecological balance. Certainly, it is difficult to resist embracing such an enticing vision, especially when there is no clear alternative on the horizon. In many respects traditional nation-states, including both the high-tech industrial democracies and the multitude of Third World governments, have grown weaker and less relevant. And the community of nations is plagued by growing nationalism and ethnic division leading to xenophobia, fundamentalism, fascist tendencies and war. This leaves the corporate capitalists and the leaders of the industrialized countries to present their neoliberal brand of globalization as inevitable and themselves as healers of the world's ills.

In the absence of a coherent alternative, the transnational corporations carry on inexorably. Increasingly flagless and stateless, they weave global webs of production, commerce, culture and finance virtually unopposed. They expand, invest and grow, concentrating ever more wealth in a limited number of hands. They work in coalition to influence local, national and international institutions and laws. And together with the governments of their home countries in Europe, North America and Japan, as well as international institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and increasingly, the United Nations, they are molding an international system in which they can trade and invest even more freely--a world where they are less and less accountable to the cultures, communities and nation-states in which they operate. Underpinning this effort is not the historical inevitability of an evolving, enlightened civilization, but rather the unavoidable reality of the overriding corporate purpose: the maximization of profits.

The "globalization" we are witnessing today is in fact an acceleration of historical political and economic trends, hastened by the advent of increasingly sophisticated and rapid communications and transportation technologies, the decline of the nation-state (especially in the South), the absence or ineffectiveness of democratic systems of global governance, and the rise of neoliberal economic ideology. Its primary beneficiaries are both the transnational corporations, as well as the privileged consumer classes in the North and to a growing degree, in the industrializing nations of the South.

Excerpted from Joshua Karliner's The Corporate Planet: Ecology and Politics in the Age of Globalization (Sierra Club Books, 1997)

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