Reviewed by Walter de Mirci in International Relations, Volume XIV, No 1, April 1998
Globalization is perhaps one of the most debated topics of our times. Strongly defended by internationalists and criticized by those who stand to lose most by the new rules of the world game, it also creates confusion among those who experience great difficulty in understanding what globalization really means and how it affects their daily lives.
Ian Clark offers a detailed historical analysis of globalization and its fragmentating effects from the pre-First World War period to the present in Globalization and Fragmentation: International Relations in the Twentieth Century. The author's main objective is to define what drives globalization forward and what globalization's effects are on those forces for fragmentation that lead to greater isolation and often to extreme nationalism.
Clark gives a comprehensive and well-structured perspective clearly divided by historical period. In each chapter he identifies the main trends based on specific historical facts that led to greater globalization as well as their negative effects that gave way to fragmentation. The author's point of view is interesting in that it portrays globalization as a concept that has been evolving since the beginning of the century and not as a result of a new integration and the latest technological innovation.
Clark also argues that globalization arises from evolving state political practices and thus the entire concept should not be depoliticized. In other words, globalization would not exist without the political will of nations. Although Clark rightly believes that globalization is a political process pushed forward by the most powerful states to satisfy their own interests, a concept that could have been further analysed is the effect of even greater technological change like the Internet which bypasses government regulation and is very difficult to control. Furthermore, `emerging markets' are increasingly gaining a wider share of world trade thus playing a more important role on the world stage. In Ian Clark's opinion that might simply be another step in the continuum that was initiated in the early century.
The author states that fragmentary effects will always coexist with the efforts to globalization and thus constantly interact as the state is challenged from the outside because of interdependence and from the inside by the domestic constituency. He also mentions the lack of US leadership as a cause for fragmentation. Clark states that the export of American ideas and values after both the First and Second World Wars greatly contributed to globalization. However, today, there seems to be a tendency towards globalization even when the United States takes a step backward and concentrates on domestic issues.
Clark believes that the formation of regional blocs can be seen as a form of fragmentation. I would suggest, however, that they represent another step towards globalization since there is a move to create some sort of `rapprochement' between these blocs in the longer term as demonstrated by the APEC countries as well as the negotiations between the European Union and the MERCOSUR. The main trend seems to be that states realize that they stand to gain more in the long term from globalization than they will lose. The pressures, however, will persist since no one system creates only winners. As Clark states at the end of his book: `Precisely how the balance between globalization and fragmentation will be adjusted depends on the new role that states are able to forge for themselves, and how successfully they manage to mediate between increasingly potent international pressures and the heightened levels of domestic discontent that will inevitably be brought in their wake'.
Clark's work is very useful for students of international relations at all levels as well as for students of international politics or economics as it provides an excellent background to the world's present political and economic situation. The book is also interesting for all those who fear the great transformation occurring in today's world as a result of globalization as it proves that we are living in today is simply an evolution in a long continuum that began in the early part of this century.
WALTER DE MIRCI