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Book Review: How to Rule the World

The Coming Battle over the Global Economy

Book by Mark Engler.  Nation Books, 2008.  
Mark Engler is the keynote speaker of our April '09 retreat.  

Review by Barry Stoner

Think talk about "neoliberalism" and "structural adjustment" is boring and impossible to understand?  Wondering what happened to the anti-globalization movement since the Seattle protests?  Curious about the foreign policy choices confronting the U.S. in the post-Bush world?  If your answer to any of these questions is yes, this fine book can help.

Author Mark Engler is an analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus and a long-time activist on globalization issues.  He is also a former speechwriter to Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and a journalist, and it shows.  This book is the clearest and most interesting analysis of the present economic order I have seen. It does not assume that readers bring special knowledge of international affairs or economic theory, and informed laypersons can easily understand it.  Yet, the analysis is sophisticated enough that even the well-informed will look at these issues in fresh ways.

The book is divided into three parts.  Part I argues that the Bush Administration shifted from Clinton's corporate model of globalization to an imperial model of globalization, with organizers not always sensitive to the conflicts between the two models and the opportunities these conflicts create.  Part II details the way the neoliberal policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund--the "Washington Consensus"--have failed to produce growth, and now have fallen into disrepute around the world.  Part III argues for a new approach that Engler calls “democratic globalization.”  This approach incorporates the ideas of the worldwide anti-globalization movement, and listens to the needs and ideas of the Global South.  This last section reviews the numerous victories the anti-globalization movement has enjoyed in the last ten years.  Especially interesting is a chapter on Latin America which demonstrates the extent to which countries in this region are charting their own economic course, with impressive gains in poverty reduction and other quality of life indicators.       

This is a hopeful book, with good news for activists who aren't always accustomed to good news.  It was published just before the 2008 elections, so the implications of Barack Obama's historic election and the present economic meltdown are not discussed.  But these developments only fracture the existing order further, it would seem, and in so doing, reinforce Engler's contention that an unparalleled moment of opportunity is upon us.