Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Culture of the New Capitalism, by Richard Sennett

This is a thoughtful and ponderous book on the way the ‘new’ economy is travelling. Reading it, you get the feeling we will all soon be eclipsed by globalisation, that machines and money will take over. The book gives alarming statistics on how many jobs have been shed by new sophisticated technologies.

Money and its pursuit is like a force of nature, red in both tooth and claw as the saying goes, whereas politics tries to civilise money. In this book of lectures, we see how money is more and more encroaching on politics. Soon politics (if it hasn’t already happened) will be run by money. The scales are being further and further tipped. Soon politics will provide next to no protections for its citizens.

People in the West, you also get the impression will soon be eclipsed by the new economy. The combined populations of the two rising economies – China and India – come to about two and a half billion people. Call centre workers in India, we are told, have far superior educations to their Western counterparts. How can we compete against such well educated people, all willing to work for less than us? Globalisation will only hasten this competition for work in Western countries.

This is a pretty depressing read. The new economic superpowers are going to be India and China (I don’t mean to say I’m depressed because those countries are going to prosper. Good on them. They have huge poverty problems, and if globalisation can put more food in mouths, then that’s a good thing.)

One wonders how the economies of the world will look in twenty years. Where will power lie? What will world politics be like?

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