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Politics as Usual: What Lies Behind the Pro-Poor Rhetoric [Paperback]

Thomas W. Pogge
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 April 2010
Worldwide, human lives are rapidly improving. Education, health–care, technology, and political participation are becoming ever more universal, empowering human beings everywhere to enjoy security, economic sufficiency, equal citizenship, and a life in dignity. To be sure, there are some specially difficult areas disfavoured by climate, geography, local diseases, unenlightened cultures or political tyranny. Here progress is slow, and there may be set–backs. But the affluent states and many international organizations are working steadily to extend the blessings of modernity through trade and generous development assistance, and it won′t be long until the last pockets of severe oppression and poverty are gone. Heavily promoted by Western governments and media, this comforting view of the world is widely shared, at least among the affluent. Pogge′s new book presents an alternative view: Poverty and oppression persist on a massive scale; political and economic inequalities are rising dramatically both intra–nationally and globally. The affluent states and the international organizations they control knowingly contribute greatly to these evils – selfishly promoting rules and policies harmful to the poor while hypocritically pretending to set and promote ambitious development goals. Pogge′s case studies include the $1/day poverty measurement exercise, the cosmetic statistics behind the first Millennium Development Goal, the War on Terror, and the proposed relaxation of the constraints on humanitarian intervention. A powerful moral analysis that shows what Western states would do if they really cared about the values they profess.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press; 1 edition (9 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745638937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745638935
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 610,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"I would recommend this book for its provocative and well–argued positions on a range of topics." Population Studies "In an age of economic austerity and financial crisis, the temptation is to literally adopt the old adage that ′charity begins at home′ ... Pogge′s book is an important corrective to such arguments." Central European Journal of Economic and Security Studies "Likely to challenge, disturb and shock any reader willing to enter the world described by Pogge. Nevertheless, it is essential reading ... Pogge brings a very personal and heartfelt morality to issues that are usually dealt with in high economic terms." Kelvingrove Review

From the Back Cover

Worldwide, human lives are rapidly improving. Education, health–care, technology, and political participation are becoming ever more universal, empowering human beings everywhere to enjoy security, economic sufficiency, equal citizenship, and a life in dignity. To be sure, there are some specially difficult areas disfavoured by climate, geography, local diseases, unenlightened cultures or political tyranny. Here progress is slow, and there may be set–backs. But the affluent states and many international organizations are working steadily to extend the blessings of modernity through trade and generous development assistance, and it won′t be long until the last pockets of severe oppression and poverty are gone. Heavily promoted by Western governments and media, this comforting view of the world is widely shared, at least among the affluent. Pogge′s new book presents an alternative view: Poverty and oppression persist on a massive scale; political and economic inequalities are rising dramatically both intra–nationally and globally. The affluent states and the international organizations they control knowingly contribute greatly to these evils – selfishly promoting rules and policies harmful to the poor while hypocritically pretending to set and promote ambitious development goals. Pogge′s case studies include the $1/day poverty measurement exercise, the cosmetic statistics behind the first Millennium Development Goal, the War on Terror, and the proposed relaxation of the constraints on humanitarian intervention. A powerful moral analysis that shows what Western states would do if they really cared about the values they profess.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Thomas Pogge, the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University, has written a remarkable study. He exposes as myths the ideas that capitalist globalisation is gradually improving the lives of the world's poor through trade and aid, and that any remaining problems are local in origin, from backward cultures to bad rulers.

Chapter 1 introduces the global justice debate. Chapter 2 presents "my central claim: the dominant Western countries are designing and upholding global institutional arrangements, geared to their domestic economic elites, that foreseeably and avoidably produce massive deprivations in most of the much poorer regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America." Chapter 3 looks at how the United Nations and the World Bank present the situation of the world's poor. Chapter 4 examines how the Bank fixes the international poverty line at an absurdly low level. Chapter 5 looks at the huge growth of global inequality between and within nations.

Chapter 6 argues that global poverty is a higher moral priority than the abortion debate and that pro- and anti-abortion activists should work together for the better moral cause of ending poverty. Chapter 7 studies 9/11 and concludes that the US and British `war on terror' `copied the two great moral failings of the terrorists' - harming the innocent and caring little about their actions' morality. Chapter 8 criticises Kofi Annan's misuse of the Rwandan genocide to press for more `humanitarian interventions'. Pogge's Chapter 9 claims to relate our foreign policy failings to the flaws of our domestic institutions, but in fact it only presents an arid scheme for reforming what he rightly calls the EU's `undemocratic rule'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this 30 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback
Political philosophy focusing on institutions has taken a pretty severe blow recently, in the form of Amartya Sen's The Idea of Justice, so it's nice to see the old Rawlsian framework put to good use here by Thomas Pogge, Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale.

Less an elaboration of a new framework (as Sen's is), than a scatter shot attack on the idea of `Western' morality, Pogge examines a separate topic in each chapter. Our complicity in the starving of millions through trade arrangements, the dilution of the Millenium Development Goals through cynical manipulation of language, the mismatch between rhetoric and action on human rights violations (using Rwanda as an example), the list goes on.

His pleasingly concise prose means the chapters aren't too long, though it is certainly wearing to be chastised so thoroughly for one's complicity in the deaths of 18 million a year. However, that responsibility is diluted amongst democratic citizens, so it's not you alone that's doing it, you'll be pleased to know. It's all of us. Particularly decision makers and politicians. Decision makers because there's a disproportionate burden of responsibility on those negotiating trade agreements, for example, where vastly greater power is on the `Western' side of the table, meaning almost any proposal, no matter how belittling, is likely to be accepted by the `developing' country. They, though, aren't elected.

Politicians, in theory, care about what we all think. So, through such supposed democratic mechanism, our responsibility is borne. Maybe we don't agitate enough, then, for institutional reform at the global level? Or simply give enough to charity? Well, either, both, and certainly not neither, Pogge argues.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking study of ethics and politics 7 July 2010
By William Podmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Thomas Pogge, the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University, has written a remarkable study. He exposes as myths the ideas that capitalist globalisation is gradually improving the lives of the world's poor through trade and aid, and that any remaining problems are local in origin, from backward cultures to bad rulers.

Chapter 1 introduces the global justice debate. Chapter 2 presents "my central claim: the dominant Western countries are designing and upholding global institutional arrangements, geared to their domestic economic elites, that foreseeably and avoidably produce massive deprivations in most of the much poorer regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America." Chapter 3 looks at how the United Nations and the World Bank present the situation of the world's poor. Chapter 4 examines how the Bank fixes the international poverty line at an absurdly low level. Chapter 5 looks at the huge growth of global inequality between and within nations.

Chapter 6 argues that global poverty is a higher moral priority than the abortion debate and that pro- and anti-abortion activists should work together for the better moral cause of ending poverty. Chapter 7 studies 9/11 and concludes that the US and British `war on terror' `copied the two great moral failings of the terrorists' - harming the innocent and caring little about their actions' morality. Chapter 8 criticises Kofi Annan's misuse of the Rwandan genocide to press for more `humanitarian interventions'. Pogge's Chapter 9 claims to relate our foreign policy failings to the flaws of our domestic institutions, but in fact it only presents an arid scheme for reforming what he rightly calls the EU's `undemocratic rule'.

He notes, "Many more people - some 360 million - have died from hunger and remediable diseases in peacetime in the 20 years since the end of the Cold War than perished from wars, civil wars, and government repression over the entire twentieth century. ... 1,020 million human beings are chronically undernourished, 884 million lack access to safe water, and 2,500 million lack access to basic sanitation; 2,000 million lack access to essential drugs, 924 million lack adequate shelter and 1,600 lack electricity; 774 million adults are illiterate; and 218 million children are child laborers. Roughly one third of all human deaths, 18 million annually, are due to poverty-related causes, easily preventable through better nutrition, safe drinking water, cheap rehydration packs, vaccines, antibiotics and other medicines."

The rich states, and the international financial institutions they run, promote the avoidable evils of massive poverty and oppression, selfishly pushing rules and policies that they know harm the poor, while hypocritically claiming to promote development goals. The capitalist states rob the poor while claiming to aid them. Poor countries illicitly transfer an estimated $1 trillion a year to rich people in the rich countries.

Pogge concludes, "By foreseeably producing these effects, the present global order is unjust insofar as there are feasible (i.e., practicable and reachable) institutional alternatives that would not produce such catastrophic human suffering."

This poverty could be ended! $296 billion a year, just 0.66 per cent of global GDP, would lift above the poverty line of all those who live below this line.
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