What is Globalistaion? With Pretty Pictures

I thought this post might be of use as a starting point for anyone who wants an intro to the topic of Globalisation – I recommend reading the New Internationalist No Nonsense Guide to Globalisation for further info.

The term is used in many different ways but at the most basic level, globalisation is about the increasing connectedness between societies across the globe.

Time-Space Distanciation

It’s useful to think of there being two key features of the ‘lived experience’ of globalisation – Firstly Time- Space Distanciation, in which our relationships are increasingly  between ‘absent’ others, locationally distant from any given situation of face-to-face interaction, so that our social relations are disembedded from local contexts of interaction and rearranged across indefinite spans of time and space.

 

 

Time-Space Compression

Secondly, there is Time-Space Compression which is where the world appears to have shrunk because technology allows us to get information from across the globe more quickly and also to travel to remote places with greater speed and ease. Cochrane, Pain and Steven (2000) argue that globalisation involves the emergence of a global and economic and cultural system which is incorporating the people of the world into one society.

 

 

 

While there are many different ways of looking at globalisation – its useful as a starting point to think of there as being three dimensions of Globalisation

1. Economic Globalisation – Key features here include

  • The rapid increase in world trade
  • The spread of Transnational Corporations,
  • The increasingly international division of labour
  • The increasing importance of international economic institutions such as the World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund.

2. Cultural Globalisation – Key features include

  • The spread of similar goods and services (everything from Mcdonalds to Tourism) across the world leading to increasingly similar patterns of consumption
  • Modern communications technology has led to instananeeous global news and information;
  • Centuries of migration have led to diverse cultures and ‘diasporas’ (people who permanently live away from their country of origin but still maintain links with that country) and,
  • Some commentators even point to the emergence of a global culture where more people across the world share similar values and ideals

3. The Declining power of the Nation State -Key evidence here includes

  • The rise in power of Corporations.
  • The existence of the United Nations and International human rights limiting state power.
  • International Social Movements (like the Green Movement)
  • Increasingly international problems such as the Environmental crisis, and the threat of nuclear destruction all mean that the power of any one national government to control global events is declining.  

 There are, of course, also those who suggest that the Nation State is not in significant decline!

One of the USA's Aircraft Carriers - a signifier of the Nation State in Decline?

 

Theories of Globalisation

There are a number of different views of the nature of Globalisation – Most text books divide them up as follows –

Hyper globalists or ‘Global Optimists’ Believe that globalisation is a fact and that Nation States and local cultures are being eroded and they see this as good thing.

These see globalisation as the worldwide extension of Capitalism, or the free market. They believe this will lead to economic growth, the eradication of poverty and the spread of democracy. A new world order is being promoted that will ensure peace and prosperity. They point to the examples of China and India which are now being brought into this new world system and to the emergence of global political institutions such as the United Nations as evidence for this positive view of globalisation.

Pessimist Globalists – This is basically the Marxist view of Globalisation as these believe that this is a negative process involving Western, mainly American Imperialism.

Pessimists see globalisation as a process in which Western institutions and ideas are imposed on the rest of the world. Transnational Corporations are the backbone of this new global order and these are the institutions that benefit from especially economic globalisation.

Transformationalists – See globalisation as a complex process involving a number of different exchanges between global institutions and local cultures, resulting in some parts of the world being truly part of a global system, others left outside and everything in between.

Finally ‘traditionalists’ believe that the extent of globalisation has been radically exaggerated and believe that Nation States and local communities still have the power to resist it.

Students should keep an eye out for evidence of events that suggest support for or refutations of these different theories of the nature of economic and cultural globalisation and the decline of the Nation State.

Top ten infographics for teaching international development

Firslty, like many others, I have to say ”Hats of off to Hans’ and of course everyone else who works on the ‘gapminder project’  - With his truly amazing moving data visualisations combined with his enthusiasm – front man Hans Rosling works wonders with stats and maybe makes you think being 60 odd ain’t that bad after all…?!

 

Secondly, Worldmapper which produces the wonderful maps below – which shrink or expand countries according to whatever variable is being examined – The actual original maps are now a bit dated, but this related views of the world’ site – has a much borader scope and much more up to date information! On ‘views of the world’.

 

 

Thirdly, and in at number three because they give us an immediate impression of global inequalities – I still think these colour coded maps are very useful – especially if you project up the map for income, and then HDI/ infant mortality – you can really see the high degree of correlation! The Map below shows HDI – from darkest to lightest blue – Very high to low, 2011 data

 

Fourthly, these United Nations Human Development Index data trees are cool – which have different colours for the three different elements of data shown in the HDI – Gross National Income per capita, Education levels and Life expectancy.

 

Fifthly – there is this more in depth data from the UN site - I like this because you can track compare how different elements of the HDI relate to eachother and how they change over time – for numerous countries.

Sixth , and going back to ‘simple earth modelling’ there are these wonderful pictures of ‘the world as a hundred people’

 

Seventh – there is this miniature earth video - part of the miniature earth project – related to the above obviously – This is the 2010 version – not as nice as the original, as this one’s to whale music…. but the most up to date version!

 

Eighth – there is some great material on this site – Information is Beautiful - not least the ‘International number ones’ infographic – because every country is best at something! (Click on the link above, the pic below doesn’t do it justice!)

 

Ninth, and only ninth because it’s not really a data visualistaion – but still pretty fab for inducing panic – Worldometers is a counting clock that looks population trends, spending on certain things, environmental decline, deaths from certain diseases and society and media. Some of the things you learn are –

  • The world population is 7 billion and counting
  • There are 2.3 billion Internet users – growing (rapidly) – also over 3 million blog posts today alone!
  • There are 900 billion undernourished people and
  • 1.5 billion overweight people
  • More than 4 billion a day is spent on the military and 26 billlion so far this year has been spent on drugs!.

And tenth – well I didn’t get to ten – If you really can’t deal with my stopping at 9. then why not suggest youre favourite ‘global data visualisation’?

Britons more dishonest than a decade ago

A recent online survey of 2000 people conducted by reserachers at the university of Essex has found that Britons are more dishonest than ten years ago. The survey asked ten questions about whether they thought a range of activities were justified or not. Some of the key findings are –

  • A decade ago, 70% of people said having an affair was never justified but this dropped to just 50% in 2011.
  • The proportion who said picking up money found in the street was never justified dropped from almost 40% a decade ago to less than 20%
  • However, while 78% of people condemned benefit fraud in 2000, this had risen to 85% in 2011

The research also showed that young people are more dishonest than older people. Researchers have hypothesised that the social causes of this are lower moral standards of media role-models – some suggested examples include

  • Footballers cheating on their wives
  • City financiers selling risky mortgages and share options when they know they are no good
  • Journalists hacking into phone accounts.
  • For good measure – I could add Politicians fiddling their expenses, and of course the Harry Reknapp Story.

This is a great example of a longitudinal study – that’s also full of problems, one of the most obvious being that surely the most dishonest people just lie about being dishonest?!

The links to the actual survey aren’t working right now, but I’ll add them in laters!

 

Whither my vain search for nice graphs on UK wealth statistics

… Hopefully in a response that’ll land me with a link to some nice.. err.. wealth distrbution graphs or pie charts…

I’ve spent the last 5 years or so looking for some nice up to date visual resources on wealth distribution in modern Britain, to update the pie chars I’ve gto from about 2006 – with really limited success – is it just me or is it just impossible to find easily accessible information on wealth stats in the UK… Or are pie charts on wealth distribution just not 2012? (or 2007-11 for that matter?)

You might think that searching around the government’s own Office for National Statistics, you’d get some info about wealth, but no, this gets  you nowhere – not if you want any data from the last few years at least.

Out of desperation you might try typing in any combination of ‘wealth distribution 2010 or 11 and UK or Britain’ to google but, with the exception of the excellent report mentioned below from 2010,  you simply get directed to old stats or stats on income distribution – so this is hopeless.  

So  unless I’m missing something – it’s actually very difficult to get reliable, up to date info on Wealth Stats – but here’s five, well four, sources of info.. no nice pie charts tho’!

Firstly there is this recent government report The most comprehensive recent source on wealth distribution seems to be this report from 2010 ‘An anatomy of economic inequality in the UK’ (summarised in this Guardian Article) which found that by retirement age the top 10%, led by higher professionals, had amassed wealth of £853 000,  while the bottom 10% of households, led by routine manual workers, had amassed less than £8,000. This means – and this is my headline figure – the richest 10% are 100 times richer than the bottom 10%

For an even starker comparison – the top 1% had, by the time they reached retirement age,  accrued an average wealth of £2.6 million, making them more than 300 times richer than the bottom 10%

The report measured wealth inequalities by looking at total assets accrued over the course of a lifetime – the findings were hardly surprising – the older you are the richer you are, the poorer your parents were, the less likely you were to accrue wealth and so on…. but it is informative to have such data to hand.

The body responsible for the above report is worth keeping an eye on – The Centre for Analaysis of Social Exclusion for updates on wealth issues.

Secondly, the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics (summarised in a blog which I’m not going to link to because it doesn’t link to anyone else) – reports that

The richest fifth have nearly two thirds of the wealth. More startling is that the poorer half of us speak for just 9p in every £1 of privately held wealth.
Private household net wealth in Great Britain totalled £9 trillion in 2006/08 and nearly 80% of this is accumulated in property and private pension entitlements. 

Median household net wealth was £204,500 in 2006/08. The least wealthy half of households accounted for only 9 per cent of wealth, while the wealthiest 20 per cent of households had 62 per cent of total wealth.

The least wealthy 10 per cent of households had negative total net wealth
Median net wealth – including pensions, houses and cars, but excluding mortgages and other debt – of a household in the South East is £287,900. In Scotland, it is £150,600.

Thirdly, you could use the recent Barclay’s wealth report I blogged about two blogs back

Fourthly, everyone of course knows about the rich list – I’m now reliant on other people’s summaries of this because of the Time’s paywall, and in any case, its international so the this list isn’t UK focussed and it doesn’t talk of ‘distribution’ focussing merely on the worst excesses.

Finally, For income inequalities – we can rely on the JRF’s yearly report on Poverty and Inequality - but this is based on income measurements rather than wealth.

You might like to think about why it’s so hard to find info on this stuff… Or if you know more about where to get this data from than I do, let me know!

The Decline of the Nation State?

This is a perennial question within the topic of Globalisation – three cases this week that illustrate arguements both for and against the continued power of Nation States –

Firstly, there is the relationship between America and Iran – Events this week suggest that the ‘undeclared war on Iran is hotting up’ – This week saw the assassination of the fourth nuclear scientist in Iran in 2 years - which comes on top of the susnet computer virus and a series of unexplained recent explosions at Iran’s nuclear power plants – while we can’t actually prove it – a lot of fingers are pointing at Israel and the The USA which is extremely unhappy about Iran’s ‘quest for Nukes’. The USA has also put an oil embargo on Iran which is encouraging other Nation States to follow suit.

Is the Nation State getting less or more powerful in the age of Globalisation?

A second example is The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which would have given the US government more power to close down sites associated with piracy – and to stop American sites that link to foreign piracy sites – which initially seems like the State asserting its power over global information flows. The bill, however, has now stalled thanks to widespread opposition – most noteably through a Wikipedia (also joined by other online knowledge sharing sites) blackout on Weds 18th January – which claimed that this legislation could be devastating to a ‘free and open web’. Whether or not this legisation goes through – it’s probalby best to see this as an example of the declining influence of the Nation State as if it doesn’t – it’s popular global opiniion working against the US – and if it doesn’t = it’s just an example of the state doing the bidding of International Media Conglomerates who own many entertainment rights and support such legislation – Murdoch supports it!

Finally, there is the issue of the devolution of Scotland - which is a bit more ambiguous – roughly equal amounts of Scots support and oppose devolution – and if devolution happens, it isn’t yet clear what it will look like – Will it mean that one more nation will be added to the current 195? or will Scotland be sort of part of the UK but not totally independent?  So does this mean the Nation State is becoming less, or more significant? Frankly, where the later is the case I dunno – but the role and nature of it’s certainly changing…

Further reading

Article – 2006 – on the Decline of the Nation State

Guardian Article – Ulrich Beck – Nation State Politics can only fail the problems of the modern world

Ebook/ essay – 2009 – Is Globalisation causing the decline of the Nation State?

An extra 100 000 millionaires suggests we’re really not all in this together

OK – So the number of UK millionaires may have fallen immediately after the crash in 2008, but since then, millionaire numbers have bounced back – rising from 528 000 in 2008 to 619 thousand in 2010.

Even worse (well, at least if you’re a fan of justice and equality), over the same period, the number of people with net worth of over £5m rose by 19 per cent over these two years, from 70,000 to 85,000.

So while the Tory government takes an axe to public services and cuts payments to the most vulnerable, the number of UK millionaires just keeps on growing……

The source for the above figures is the ‘Barlcay’s Wealth Map’ 2011.

3000 word (oops) summary of chapters 1-4 of Sach’s The End of Poverty

A Brief Summary of Jeffrey Sach’s End of Poverty – Chapters 1-4

NB –  You might also like this summary of Chapter 8 – Which focusses on AIDs and malaria in Africa

It would be useful for students of Global Development to develop a critical understanding of this book because Sachs has been one the most influential economic advisors  to both Nation States and global financial institutions such as the IMF over the last three decades. Jeffrey Sachs is well known popularly because of his links with Bono and his championing of the role of Western Aid and Philanthropy in helping to solve development problems.  

Sachs is critical of ‘grand theories of development’- such as ’70s Dependency Theory and the Neo-Liberal approach of the World Bank/ IMF in the 80s and 90s – but  he is still optimistic that if we can engage in what he calls ‘clinical economics’ and uncover the country specific barriers there are to development in individual countries, we can develop effective strategies to end poverty- both the extreme poverty faced by the world’s billion poorest, and also the moderate poverty faced by another 1.6 billion.

While development strategies need to be specific to each country, Sachs sees international co-operation crucial to ending extreme poverty and so Western Official Development Aid, good governance on the part of developing nation states, Transnational Corporations, and The United Nations all have a crucial role to play in bringing about development. Technological innovation, and Trade (including changing the rules of trade so they don’t unfairly benefit developed nations) are seen as key universal strategies to be adopted to bring about development.

Sachs is also a champion of the United Nation’s 8 Millennium Development Goals – not as ends in themselves but because lack of development in each of the 8 areas other than economic well being can be a barrier to economic development, which in Sach’s mind is correlated with all other development goals, and economic growth, measured by rising GDP per capita, to be achieved through the integration of countries into the global economy through trade remains the ultimate goal of development according to Sachs.

Students can use Sachs to all the popular theories of development from the preceding six decades – Modernisation Theory, Dependency Theory and Neo-liberalism. Below is a summary of selected chapters of Sach’s The End of Poverty, with some criticisms.

 

Chapter 1: A Global Family Portrait

Sachs outlines elements of life in four countries – Malawi, Bangladesh, India and China which broadly correspond to four ‘stages’ of development –

  • Malawi – caught in ‘the perfect storm’ is portrayed as a Malaria and AIDS infested rural backwater, largely cut off from international trade – represents the four billion people trapped in extreme  poverty – living on less than $1 a day
  • Bangladesh – ‘on the ladder of development is ‘ integrated into the international economy but at the bottom end of it, and characterized by ‘sweatshop’ labour but also increasing amounts of micro-financed businesses which offer hope for more independent economic development – represents the poor – or the 1.5 billion people living on between $1-$2/ day
  • India – at the centre of an export services revolution – is provided as an example of a country that is increasingly populated with people on ‘middle incomes’ – with increasing numbers of city dwellers working for Transnational Companies and related home-grown business earning $250 -$400 a month – although India is a country of extremes – with many in rural areas living on $1-2 a day
  • China – is characterized by rising affluence – again like India there are millions who live in poverty, but parts of China are increasingly coming to resemble the West. Sachs in fact tells of how he first saw cell phones with cameras in Beijing, not America.

Who are the poor?

Poverty is not uniformly distributed across the globe – i.e. there are rich and poor people in every country, although most of the poor live in three regions – South and East Asia and Sub Saharan Africa. Where extreme poverty was concerned Sach’s notes that the figures were as follows – (NB these are 2001 figures!) – (Updates to follow)

  • South Asia – 400 million (30% of the population)
  • East Asia – 250 million (15% of the population)
  • Sub Sharan Africa – 300 million (40% of the population )

Sachs also notes that there is hope – because the numbers of those in extreme poverty in East and South Asia have fallen by 2/5ths and 1/3rd respectively since 1981, although numbers grew slightly in Africa.He then goes on to state what should be the four development goals of our age

  • To meet the MDGs by 2015
  • To end extreme poverty by 2025
  • To ensure that by 2025 all the worlds poor have an opportunity to climb the ladder of economic development
  • To accomplish this with modest financial help from the rich countries.

 

Chapter 2 – The Spread of Economic Prosperity

According to the economic historian Angus Maddison, 1820 was the year when ‘The Great Transformation’ began. 1820 was the year when the Modern World Economy ‘took off’. The previous 800 years had seen no significant increase in world population growth or income, but from 1820, population and economic growth began to grow rapidly. Referring to this rapid period of post 1820s growth, Sachs notes that –

  • All regions on earth experience economic growth
  • Some regions grew much more rapidly than others.

To illustrate this, in 1820, the income of the average European was only 90% that of the average African and the average life expectancy was very similar, around 40 years of age. Focusing on GDP/capita, the UK was only four times richer than Africa, by 1998 this had rise to 20 times greater (factoring in PPP). We can roughly break down this inequality as follows –

  • 1/6th of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty
  • 2/3rds experience middle income lifestyles
  • 1/6th experience high income

Why did some countries grow so rapidly from the 1820s?

Sachs now looks at the United Kingdom as the country that, from 1820, developed more rapidly than any other and asks – why? – He points to the following features –

  1. British Society was relatively open- there was scope for social mobility and hierarchies were less rigid than in most of the rest of Europe
  2. Britain guaranteed certain individual freedoms (individualism) – it had a tradition of free speech and protection of private property
  3. 3.    (and critically) It was one of the leading centres of scientific revolution. In particular, Newton laid the groundings for the industrial revolution. NB Sach’s argues that technological innovation is the critical element in bringing about development
  4. Geographical advantages – It was an Island close to Europe with inland navigable waterways
  5. Britain faced less risk of invasion compared with its neighbours in Europe
  6. Britain had coal – the energy source that fuelled the great industrial revolution.

The Combination of new industrial technologies, coal power and market forces created the industrial revolution – and this meant that economies could grow beyond long-accustomed bounds without hitting the biological constraints of food and timber production. The industrial revolution in turn lead to economic growth and these two things changed the way people lived in Britain in every fundamental sense. They lead to what Sachs calls the Great Transformation – in which British society and culture were transformed, laying the foundations for yet more growth and prosperity[1]

Sachs also mentions that Colonialism was key to Britain, and Europe’s development – which involved the use of military force to press-gang Asia and Africa to the service of Western Development – Although Sach’s argues that its not as simple as the West’s development coming at the expense of India and Africa, in the long run, the West’s expansion into these regions helped bring about some, albeit extremely limited, economic growth. Colonialism and exploitation of the developing world did occur, but these are not sufficient reasons to explain why certain countries, and indeed most of Sub Saharan Africa failed to develop – which is the topic Sachs turns to in chapter 3.

Chapter 3 – Why some countries fail to achieve economic growth

In this chapter Sachs suggests eight things that can prevent a country developing

  1. The Poverty Trap – Poverty itself as a cause of economic stagnation – The key problem for the poorest countries is that poverty itself can be a trap. When poverty is very extreme, the poor do not have the ability – by themselves – to get out of the mess. This is because, when people are utterly destitute, all energy goes into survival and there is no capacity to save anything for the future.
  2. Physical geography – Being landlocked or ‘hemmed in’ by mountainous terrain can prevent access to trade networks that bring about development – this is the case with Bolivia (mountains) and Ethiopia (landlocked and poor transport networks). Also Sub-Saharan Africa has an ideal climate that allows malarial mosquitoes to breed, which has decimated much of the population in recent decades.
  3. Fiscal trap – the government may lack the resources to pay for the infrastructure, on which economic growth depends – such as health care, roads, ports, education. There are three reasons for this – firstly, the population may be too poor to tax, secondly it may be inept or corrupt and finally it may be debt burdened.
  4. Governance failures – governments have a crucial role to play in development – not only through developing infrastructure but also through resolving conflicts and ensuring peace and stability. At the extremes, poor governance can result in failed states which can often lead to economic deterioration.
  5. Cultural Barriers – The two main ones are patriarchal countries which deny women equal rights with men – not only does this bar half the population from the opportunity of being economically active, keeping women in a child-rearing role is linked to higher fertility rates, and greater poverty, and also religious and ethnic differences can lead to tensions and even genocide.
  6. Trade Barriers – Some countries economies are crippled by unfair trade rules, for example The Four West African countries whose primary export is cotton are held back economically because of the USA’s subsidies to its own domestic cotton farmers.
  7. Lack of Innovation – The ‘innovation cycle’ (aka endogenous growth) is one of the main factors responsible for the West’s and now Asia’s rapid economic growth – New products being produced and consumed lead to more innovations as people develop more products related to them – (E.G. Now we have Smart Phones – people innovate and develop new applications) – Where people are so poor they have nothing, there is no scope for innovation!
  8. The demographic trap – Poverty leads to higher fertility rates (families choosing to have more children) Economic growth leads to fewer children. Women in the poorest countries have on average 4-6 children – simply put it is harder to feed so many children, and impossible to send all of them to school – resulting in a cycle of poor health, low education and yet more poverty.

Why some poor countries grew and others declined

To cut a medium length section short – the most important factor Sachs points to not covered above is food productivity – quite simply, the reason why Asia has grown more rapidly than Sub Saharan Africa in the last 30 years is that they have experience a ‘green revolution’ – they are capable of producing twice as much food per hectare because of better irrigation and selection of more modern species of crop. He also mentions the fact that ‘natural shocks’ have prevented some countries from developing. He then gives a few examples of different countries that have experienced a selection of the problems above in the years since WW2.

 

The greatest challenge: overcoming the poverty trap

The end of chapter 3 (P73) is where Sachs outlines his classic statement of development – to quote

“The main object of economic development is for the poorest countries is to help these countries gain a foothold on the ladder: The rich countries do not have to invest enough in the poorest countries to make them rich: they need to invest enough so that these countries can get their foot on the ladder. After that, the tremendous dynamism of self-sustaining economic growth can take hold.”

 

Chapter 4 – Clinical Economics

Sachs has developed a new sub-discipline called clinical economics. Each failed conomy is unique and its ailments must be carefully diagnosed before a prescription suited to the condition can be written. Sachs includes helpful checklists to diagnose the causes of economic decline and formulate a cure for the malady. We need to look at the following aspects of a country, and its relationship to the wider world in order to assess what assistance is needed to enable it to progress further up the ladder of development:

  1. The Nature and distribution of poverty and its ultimate causes/ potential risk factors – including commodity price fluctuations and ‘climate shocks’
  2. Government policies and capacity to invest in infrastructure
  3. Physical Geography – including transport conditions, agronomy, population density and the disease landscape
  4. Governance Patterns and failures – civil rights, corruption
  5. Cultural Barriers – Gender and ethnic divisions
  6. Geopolitics – Cross boarder threats (wars/ refugees) and also trade relations.

So, at the end of the day, by 2005, this was the bottom line of development theory – it maybe flippant to say this about one man’s life work – but it don’t sound like rocket science to me! Of course I am aware of the fact that doing the analysis and implantation is an extremely time consuming task.  

If I get time I may post the rest of the summary laters! (No promises)

 

Criticisms of the End of Poverty

Firstly a few of my own –

  1. He puts too much emphasis on economic growth as a goal in itself – It is quite clear that economic growth does not yield uniform increases in quality of life across all countries – take Saudia Arabia, and possibly Nigeria as examples of countries you probably don’t want to live – but they have either a high GDP or a rapidly growing economy.
  2. I have a problem with idea of economic growth being ‘self sustaining’ – although you might say I’m saying this with the hindsight of the 2008 financial crash, this is actually coming from basic Marxist economics – a system cannot keep on growing at the rate of 2-3%, let alone at 7-8% for ever – because the bigger you get, the harder the harder it is to maintain economic growth rates. (8% of $500 billion output is much more than 8% of $50 billion!)
  3. He hardly mentions sustainable development, or the idea of “limits to growth’’
  4. ‘Clinical Economics’ maybe just sounds like an excuse to employ thousands of more ‘development experts’ to diagnose developing countries specific problems.

And criticisms from others

This is a brilliantly scathing critique! – among the criticisms

  • He is not critical enough of Corporations and their role in pulling the strings of Western Governments – who create trade policies that benefit Western Corporations rather than developing countries
  • Even though he is critical of the IMF and neoliberalisation – he still argues that ‘Trade’ is ultimately the solution to developing world problems
  • Related to the above point – this is still a Eurocentric theory – it is up to us to help them
  • Sachs also fails to acknowledge the work of developing world economists who came up with many of the ideas he seems to present as his own in The End of Poverty.

This post by John Vidal is also pretty scathing - among his point he argues that ‘Sachs seems to be suffering a dose of advanced consultivitis – symptoms include a swollen ego and a fervent belief that you can change the world. In a work littered with tales of meetings with presidents and global dignitaries, he plays the moral economist who goes from country to country handing out pills and mopping the fevered brows of administrations in economic crisis’.

This blog offers up some nice criticisms of Sach’s work – among them

  • He puts too much faith in the power of economic growth to solve all social problems – citing the example Saudi Arabia as a country that has a high GDP per capita but still a massive birth rate (and thus an eventual tendency to overpopulation
  • Another problem of econmic growth is that labour is mobile – so if you invest in education as part of a growth strategy, once people are educated – they tend to leave for more developed countries where they are better paid (known as the ‘brain drain’)
  • Even though he suggests (eventually) that aid can be an effective means of lifting a country out of poverty – he fails to give any examples of where aid has actually been effective at helping a poor country ‘take off’ successfully.
You might also like….
My summary of ‘Why Nations Fail’


[1] – The list of changes that Industrialisation and economic growth lead to is eerily evocative of Modernisation Theory from the 1940s… Sachs notes 5 aspects of the ‘Great Transformation’

  1. First and foremost Urbanisation
  2. A revolution in social mobility
  3. Changing gender roles
  4. New family structures (lower birth rates)
  5. An increasingly complex Division of labour with people getting more skilled

 

Call centres – The New Dark Satanic Mills?

Check out this job posting from Reed Employment Services

‘Spanish plus another language Customer Service Executive- Edinburgh £14,000 – Working 40 hours per week based in Sighthill, Edinburgh Our client is a market leading outsource contact centre who provides an array of sophisticated customer management solutions to major international companies around the world, primarily in the communications, financial services, healthcare, technology’

It may sound pretty swish – but this is basically an advert for a job in a call centre – and you only earn £14, 400 – which puts you below the government’s poverty line (not to mention the fact that you have to be bilingual!)  
 
If you believe Mark Serwotka of the Public Services Union- Call Centres are among the worst employment sectors in the UK – he in fact phrased the title of this post. The extract below, based on interviews with call centre workers, and taken from Owen Jone’s Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class illustrates some of the miseries of working in a call centre -

 

By the look on his face, he's run out of 'toilet time'

There are nearly a million people working in call centres, and the number is going up every year.

‘Call centres are a very regimented environment,’ says John McInally, a trade unionist leading efforts to unionize call centre workers. ‘Its rows of desks with people sitting with headphones. There’s loads of people in the room, but they’re seperate units. They’re encouraged not to talk, share experiences, and so on…. The minute you get in the door, your moveemnts are regulated by the computer…. We’ve likened the conditions to those you’d have seen in mills or factories at the end of nineteenth century.’ Think that’s an exaggeration? Then consider the fact that, in some call centres, workers have to put their hands up to go to the toilet and computers dictate the time and duration of breaks, with no flexibility whatosever. Employees are under constant monitoring and surveillance, driving up stress levels.

Many call centre workers have told McInally that the whole experience is ‘very dehumanising’. People talk about being treated like robots. Everything is regulated by machines.’ The working lives of many operators consist of reading through the same script over and over again. According to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, increasing numbers of call centre workers are being referred to speech therapists because they are losing their voices. The cause? Working long hours with little opportunity to even have a drink of water.
It's actually almost impossible to find 'real' pictures of call centres

That’s one reason why the sickness rate in class centres is nearly twice the national average, The other is deep alienation from the work….. annual staff turnover is around a quarter of the workforce. And, like so much of the new working class, the salaries of call centre workers are poor. A trainee can expect £12 500, while the higher-grade operates are on an average of just £16 000.

Twenty-eight year olf Carl Leishman has been a call centre worker in Durham for eight year. He works bruising twelve-hour shits, three days on a three days off. At his pervious job, stiff targets had to be met. Four per cent of his working hours were set aside for needs like going to the toilet or getting a drink. ‘You’d get ratings at the end of each month, and if you’d gone above those percentages then your rating would drop, affecting what bonuses and pay rises you were getting.’ Carl didn’t need to go the to toilet too often – ‘whereas some other people, like pregnant women, could really struggle to stick to that.’

His employers have a no-hang-up policy, even if the customer is swearing or being aggressive. ‘You’ll see quite often on the floor people in tears at the way people have spoken to them,’ he says. It is a job that can have consequences for your health, too. ‘Your throat gets incredibly dry. There are people I’ve known for years whose throats have gone from doing it. A lady I used to work with had to actually leave because her voice was just completely shot.’

At the core of his experience at work is the lack of control over what he does.  ‘We’re set in rows, which I hate, to be honest. It can sometimes feel very much like a chicken factory as though you don’t have too much control over what you’re doing: ‘This is the way your doing things, and that’s it, deal with it, because that’s the way it is, don’t think too much outside the box… you don’t need to think much for yourself.

Carl’s salary is just £14 400 a year.

 

Related Posts and Issues

The rise of the call centre worker is indicative of the rise of the ‘New Working Class’ - people employed in the service sector, often on low pay, and increasingly in temporary and part-time conditions (often suffering underemployment) –

The PCS campaigns for better conditions for Call Centre Workers and has put together this Call Centre’s Charter

If anyone’s got time to read it – this looks like a great PhD from 2010 - LIFE IN A NORTHERN TOWN: CALL CENTRES, LABOUR MARKETS & IDENTITY IN POST-INDUSTRIAL MIDDLESBROUGH ANTHONY LLOYD

Social Trends 41 – Income inequality in the UK – updates

Wealth and income data is one of the most important things that Sociology students should keep an eye on – in fact I think everyone should keep an eye on this data, bearing in mind its limitations of course!

All of the data below is taken from the ‘wealth and income’ chapter of  Social Trends 41 - published in 2011 (so if you want updates for next year type in ‘Social Trends 42′ to Google and you should get a link straight there!).

Trend 1 – we are 2.5 times richer today than in 1970

We are richer in terms of both ‘GDP’ – or Gross Domestic Product – which is the total value of goods and services produced in the UK in a given year, and in terms of real disposable income which is the post tax and benefit income available to households after an adjustment has been made for price changes.

The chart above demonstrates the beauty of Official Statistics – ‘cos we’re dealing with numbers, you can get a snap shot indicator of how much wealthier we are today than in the past (or poorer if you take the last two years). Also note the ‘official’ bit – the government is one of the few institutions that can maintain such an enormous task of data collection over several decades – what other institution could reliably collate figures on GDP?

Having said this – there are several things these wealth figures do not show us just one of these things is ‘income distribution – and if you look at the table below, you’ll notice 2 things – 

(Trends 2 and 3) – Firstly that the richest 10% are four times richer than the bottom 10% – and secondly that the richest 10% have got richer quicker than the median and poorest 10%

Distribution of real household income
 

Breaking this down even further – we have the chart below – which shows us that there is a much greater concentration of people at lower levels of weekly income, with nearly two-thirds of individuals living in households with disposable weekly income lower than the mean. There is a long ‘tail’ of people at the higher end of the distribution with an estimated 6 per cent of individuals (or 3.7 million people) living in households with disposable incomes of £1,000 per week or more.

NB – These are precisely the kind of people that will send their children to private school (7% of children go to private school) – if you did not go to private school – you will probably never be one of these people!!!

Looked at another way – there is approximately 15% of the population – or about 13 million individuals living below the Government’s own poverty line of 60% of median income. This basically means you have enough to survive week to week, and have little money left for luxuries or a social life. (Note – The government’s own analysis in social trends doesn’t actually mention this – you need to look at the further analysis done by the excellent Joseph Rowntree Foundation).

Trend 4 It’s also worth quickly looking at who is in poverty – People living in lone parent households and pensioners living alone were more concentrated at the lower end of the income distribution (39 per cent and 27 per cent respectively in the lowest fifth).

As a very final comment its worth mentioning that this whole chapter of Social Trends could be regarded as ideologically biased – its not as if the government can hide the vast income and wealth inequalities – but it does a fairly good job of making them seem berable – because of its limited interpretation of the stats and because it doesn’t spend too long talking about wealth distribution – where the disparities in the UK are far greater! I’ll post later with other sources that put a somewhat darker spin on wealth and income inequalities in the UK

 

 

Barclays – Banking on hunger

Barclays - Banking on Hunger

As if the tax evasion wasn’t bad enough (they paid corporation tax of 4.5% last year) Barclays are up for a public eye public shame award (you can vote for them – or one of the other 5 shortlisted companies by clicking on the link)

According to Public Eye –

Barclays effectively bets on hunger by speculating on food prices, contributing to sharp rises and falls that cause hunger and poverty. In the second half of 2010 alone, 44 million people were driven into extreme poverty due to rising food prices. Women, children and elderly people in the global south are often the hardest hit when families struggle to afford food. New European regulations could end the scandal of food speculation, but the UK government and its close allies in the financial sector, such as Barclays, are threatening to block effective rules.

This is a great example of neoliberal economic gobalisation – and it’s way different to neocolonialism –  Barclays may well be registered in the UK – but it hardly serves the interests of the British State or average citizen – Much of its money is invested abroad –  some of it in such a way as to suck economic value out of the developing world – and much of its efforts go towards networking via the WTO to ensure it isn’t regulated. Profits gained from their unregulated speculative investments are  redistributed to shareholders – mainly western institutions and individuals – many of whom are tax registered outside of Britain – meaning that the company doesn’t pay any were near its fair shared of tax to the UK – while in the meantime the poor get hungrier. yes sir, Barlcays is a living, breathing example of yer free-floating globally mobile capital accumulation machine – a key player in upward redistribution of global wealth.

I’d say it’s worthy or yer vote –

P.S. If you want to find more about how banks such as Barclays increase world hunger by driving up food prices – this is a nice infographic by the World Development Movement.