Bertell Ollman on Globalization

"Globalization" is but another name for capitalism, but it's capitalism with the gloves off and on a world scale. It is capitalism at a time when all the old restrictions and inhibitions have been or are in the process of being put aside, a supremely self-confident capitalism, one without apparent rivals and therefore without a need to compromise or apologize.

The main features of capitalism in its stage of globalization include: 1) free trade; 2) free movement of capital; 3) the easy relocation of industries across national borders in pursuit of lower labor costs, lower taxes and fewer pollution controls; 4) the rise in influence of financial capital, and the banks and Treasury Ministries that represent it, over industrial and commercial capital, and the institutions that represent them; 5) a spectacular increase in personal debt as a springboard for heightened consumption; 6) growth in the number and size of business mergers both nationally and internationally, followed invariably by radical restructuring and downsizing of the labor force; 7) in the stock market, "financial instruments"-national currencies, insurance, debts, commodity futures, etc.-take over from the production of real goods as the main targets of investment, making the stock market more of a casino than ever; 8) the rapid flow of advertising, public relations, infotainment, and spin into all walks of life, including education; 9) the replacement of many full time jobs with temporary and part-time jobs, and the spread of outsourcing and contract labor; 10) a quantum increase in the speed at which information, particularly information relevant to profit making, moves around the globe;

11) minimal taxes on business; 12) deregulation of business practices that harm workers, consumers and communities; 13) attacks on the economic welfare and security reforms of the past century mainly to reduce business taxes but also to increase the number of workers willing to work for very low wages; 14) privatization of many formerly public institutions and functions (except, of course, the police and the army); 15) the spread of "accountability," quantitatively measurable and interpreted from a managerial point of view, to all sectors of society, including education; 16) the widening of social and economic inequality beyond anything seen in the capitalist era; 17) the weakening of all independent organs of the working class; 18) the weakening of the national state (and therefore of democratic control) in areas where capitalists never wanted the state to exercise much control in the first place; and 19) the creation and strengthening of various international institutions-like the I.M.F., the World Bank, the W.T.O., the Davos Conference (see Chapter 1) and N.A.T.O.-to coordinate, make propaganda for and enforce our still hesitant participation in all these developments. Oh, and 20) exams, lots of exams, everywhere-to prepare the next generation, of course, for all the new slots that have been created, but also to insure that they perform uncomplainingly once slotted.

Taken together, these developments~which are all internally related constitute a new stage in capitalism. It is a serious error to think that they have brought us beyond capitalism. If anything, with these changes, our society is more thoroughly capitalist than ever before. After all, more and more of the world is privately owned, more and more wealth is devoted to maximizing profits rather than serving needs (and only serving needs in so far as they maximize profits), more and more people sell their labor power in order to live, more and more objects (ideational as well as material) carry price tags and can be bought in the market, and money and those who have a lot of it have more power and status then ever before. This is capitalism, capitalism with a vengeance, and that's globalization. Which means, too, that the problems associated with globalization cannot be solved-as so many liberals would like to do-without dealing with their roots in the capitalist system.

So, has capitalism changed a lot since Marx's day? Yes, of course. Is Marx's analysis still relevant? Just because of these changes, it is more relevant now than ever.