"Globalization" is here. Signified by an increasingly close economic interconnection that has led to profound political and social change around the world, the process seems irreversible. In this book, however, Harold James provides a sobering historical perspective, exploring the circumstances in which the globally integrated world of an earlier era broke down under the pressure of unexpected events.
James examines one of the great historical nightmares of the twentieth century: the collapse of globalism in the Great Depression. Analyzing this collapse in terms of three main components of global economics--capital flows, trade, and international migration--James argues that it was not simply a consequence of the strains of World War I but resulted from the interplay of resentments against all these elements of mobility, as well as from the policies and institutions designed to assuage the threats of globalism. Could it happen again? There are significant parallels today: highly integrated systems are inherently vulnerable to collapse, and world financial markets are vulnerable and unstable. While James does not foresee another Great Depression, his book provides a cautionary tale in which institutions meant to save the world from the consequences of globalization--think WTO and IMF, in our own time--ended by destroying both prosperity and peace.
One gets the impression that recent well-publicized World Trade Organization protests spurred Princeton historian James to write this cautionary book showing how protectionist actions and responses to the changing world trade of the 1920s and 1930s both led to and exacerbated the worldwide Depression of the 1930s. Furthermore, by analyzing the trade, immigration, and monetary policies of Germany, France, Great Britain, and other major countries, he makes a strong case that globalization breeds its own nationalist responses that, if not counteracted, can lead away from free markets and dangerously toward political dictatorship. Reading this book together with the first half of William L. Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich will give real insight into the economic (and sometimes political) reasons for the emergence of fascism and the slide into World War II. He writes with some economic jargon but no math. There are some tables, 27 pages of footnotes, and many citations in the text to other scholars who both support James's view and hold other opinions. While aimed at policymakers and professionals, this book will be understandable to undergraduate economics majors. Highly recommended for academic and economic libraries as well as public libraries with an active history or economic readership. Patrick J. Brunet, Western Wisconsin Technical Coll., La Crosse Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Harvard University Press
October 14, 2002
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