Friday, May 28, 2010

The meaning of deviant globalization

In a nutshell, here's how I would summarize my theoretical-historical argument about deviant globalization:
  1. The modernist promise of complete, inclusive, efficient, equitable nation-building failed (for many reasons), and we can't go back to that. Since we can't go back, we should stop holding the high-rectitude bureaucratic-modernist state up as the tacit normative standard, which is what we do when talk about "failed states" and "transparency" and "good governance" and so on.
  2. Instead, the reality we've got in the Global South is deviant globalization, warts and all.
  3. What's more, deviant globalization isn't all bad, since it markedly increases the overall income of these communities, even if it has lots of unpleasant externalities. (But hey, all industrial capitalism has nasty externalities — visited the Gulf Coast lately?) It sure beats a predatory state.
  4. In some cases deviant entrepreneurs even start to backfill some of the functionality that modernist states used to promise (and usually failed to deliver) — health care, education, infrastructure, social insurance, security, justice, etc. Needless to say, state incumbents find this highly threatening, even if they have no one but themselves to blame.
  5. But: deviant entrepreneurs deliver these political services in a partial, exclusive, inequitable (and often inefficient) way. Indeed, they don't even pretend to try to be complete, inclusive, or equitable. They are delivering services to clients, not benefits to citizens; this is "privatization" albeit perhaps not exactly as Maggie Thatcher imagined it.
  6. In sum, the social-political ambition of these deviant entrepreneurs is far smaller than their state-based predecessors, but then again, so is their hypocrisy. (Just compare Mobutu Sese Seko to "El Chapo" to appreciate the difference.)
  7. The one place that the hypocrisy still flourishes is among western policy analysts, who continue to measure and discuss these countries according to a series of metrics and morals based on a long-discredited vision of what the nation-state could and should be.
Update: The practical choice for countries in the Global South is not "Should we try to be more like Singapore, or more like Denmark?" Rather, the real choice is more like, "Do we want to be more like Venezuela, or more like Mexico?" These are not pleasant choices, but we may as well face them with open eyes rather that holding on to absurdly antiquated and historically discredited conceptual and political standards.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Black market sanction busting

Riz Khan discusses how sanctions regimes creates vast profit opportunities for deviant entrepreneurs, who in turn become political forces in their own right.

Saturday, May 15, 2010