[ SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 136 / Feb. 15 .2007 ]
A key economic word in today's world is GLOBALIZATION. It is also interesting that this expression holds many different meanings. Globalization received a totally different assessment at the last World Social Forum (Nairobi) attended by Fr. Ando and at the World Economic Forum that followed, in Davos (Switzerland) with the representation of politicians and elite business. When the Jesuit Japanese province conducted a survey on social issues in 2004, many answered that "globalization" was the most difficult of all priority issues to understand. What is globalization? Is it producing a better world or a worst one?
The book reviewed here does not directly answer these questions. Instead, tracing a T-shirt from an American cotton farm in Texas, the reader is invited to travel to a Chinese textile mill and, from there, to an open market of old clothes in Tanzania. This alive example shows how global trade moves.
One finds there much more than numbers or economic theories. At a cotton farm in Texas, father and son continue to produce cotton for three generations and, at present, co-own a manufacturing factory of cotton. A Chinese lady that left her village to work in a textile mill of Shanghai receiving very low wages has become economically independent for the first time in her life. Industrial textile lobbyists argue with politicians about the ways to guard local producers from cheap Chinese products. An old cloth family trading company doing business, in New York, for three generations buys old clothes from the Salvation Army and other charity groups and exports them all over the world to Japan, Afghanistan, Tanzania, etc. Youth from a rural area opens an old clothes shop in the center of the capital of Tanzania looking for a business success.
It can not be affirmed that globalization is good or bad for everybody. But what is really true is that globalization is a reality that everybody must outlive.
The author of the book points out clearly one characteristic, when talking about the nature of globalization. Globalization, at least, in the case of international trade of T shirts, is the collision with pressures of political power that wants to avoid market competition, more than a free market competition without rules. The author offers examples of the cotton industry in several countries and, examining the changes that bring out the decline of the industry, explains that protectionism demands radical technological methods to survive. The result, needless to say, is market competition.
The method followed in this book to select one product, as the main theme, in order to search for the mechanisms of production and trade reminded me of the books of Tsurumi Yoshiyuki "Banana to Nihonjin" (Bananas and the Japanese: Iwanami, 1982) and Murai Yoshinori "Ebi to Nihonjin" (Shrimps and the Japanese: Iwanami, 1988) These 2 books had a sharp insight into the future. But in spite of that, international politics and the world trade system are so complicated today that the realities of globalization cannot easily be grasped, thus this book fills a very important vacuum. The author teaches international economics at the Business School of Georgetown University and the fact that the book is widely used in many American universities as well as in many High Schools, as a text book, offers a prove of its powerful literary style. I recommend it for reading to adults and to children.
(Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
=====     Copyright ®1997-2007 Jesuit Social Center All Rights Reserved     =====