“Yet another book on globalisation.” With the recent focus of the mass media on anti-globalisation protests and the success of books such as No Logo (Naomi Klein) and Captive State (George Monbiot), any attempt to plough a similar furrow must expect this sort of greeting.
But this approach assumes that the emerging movements deserve no more than the creation of a niche in the big bookstore chains; a handful of specialist books, rather than a discussion that goes beyond any one genre. A deeper look at the processes of “globalisation”, and the movements against it, reveal them to be part of the ancient struggle of people versus power, phrased in struggles of renewed urgency. To paraphrase Tolstoy - you may not be interested in globalisation, but it is very interested in you!
This book is a very good primer on some of the key issues: “free” trade, the role of the mass media, genetic engineering, climate change and Kyoto. However, as Cromwell admits, he can offer only a partial picture. While building up a map of the global process of privatisation and enclosure involves charting its deep roots, in describing the alternatives he is usually limited to suggesting increased regulation. State regulation - rejuvenated by popular protest - is seen as the only real solution. This attitude is similar to that of reformist groups such as the World Development Movement, Greenpeace or Christian Aid. These NGOs represent a stream of the “anti-globalisation movement” which sees our current crises as born out of a recent aberration, rather than deeper social relations such as patriarchy or class society.
Another strong strand within the “anti-globalisation” movement sees global solutions as based on co-operative social movements at the local level; but this strand is largely ignored in this book. Business and government are eager to split social movements by offering certain “respectable” groups a degree of legitimacy. Cromwell unconsciously plays to this agenda by sidelining important social movements in Europe, such as the social centres of Spain or the Netherlands, in favour of less contentious groups, such as Jubilee 2000 at home or the MST (Brazillian landless peasants) abroad; thus some of the most important factors in the upsurge of protest in 1997-2001 ignored.
Private Planet describes how governments are unable to deal with climate change, or to redirect wealth flows from the rich to the poor - yet there remains a desire for politicians to see the error of their ways and take action. Such action will never come willingly, but through our emerging movements we have the means to both pressurise the powers that be, and meanwhile to develop liberated forums of our own.