23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not what you might expect, but worth reading
If you are looking for a book that rages at the evils of capitalism then you are going to be disappointed. In fact this book is not really about globalisation. It is really about how the IMF called it wrong on some key events (just about) within the broad process known as globalisation. So we are treated to a bit of an examination of how the IMF drifted away from its...
Published on 20 May 2003 by tomsk77
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good insight to economic policies, no use of data
Until I read this book, I did not exactly understand what was wrong with IMF policies and its breath taking record of failures at many emerging markets. Dr. Stiglitz can help you understand. This book goes over the last 20 years of IMF failures in Russia, Eastern Europe and South East Asia and points out a number of wrongdoings:
1. IMF was usually uninterested...
Published on 25 May 2007 by Kivanc Emiroglu
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not what you might expect, but worth reading,
This review is from: Globalization and Its Discontents (Paperback)If you are looking for a book that rages at the evils of capitalism then you are going to be disappointed. In fact this book is not really about globalisation. It is really about how the IMF called it wrong on some key events (just about) within the broad process known as globalisation. So we are treated to a bit of an examination of how the IMF drifted away from its original mission to end up prescribing some very ideological economic measures to countries.
This takes in both the recent Asian crisis and the Russian journey to a market economy. So in that sense it is almost covering broader ground than what you might typically term globalisation. But then on the flipside it is pretty much a critique of the IMF's role rather than a general take on these issues.
As such this book is very wrongly talked about as if its part of the anti-globalisation even anti-capitalism camp. Far from it. Its very much an endorsement of market economies, but a key theme is how important the management of transition to market economies is carried out. Hence he's not against privatisation, but the process of privatisation. He's not against capital market liberalisation but how it brought about, and wants more focus on the infrastructure required before it can happen.
In this sense it's not really a call to arms, more a call to reason. It's basically a book calling for a sensible approach to dealing with markets and applying them to countries with no history of them. That might sounds much less racy than some anti-capitalist rant, but it is far far more realistic, might actually have some influence and do some good, and is part of what is actually politically achievable.
However, having said all that it has managed to be contraversial. The economic orthodoxy has been upset and that some of Stilgitz's punches must have hit home.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent detail, too repetitive.,
This review is from: Globalization and Its Discontents (Paperback)Stiglitz is clearly a first rate economist, the arguments he makes in his book are by no means watertight, but I found most of them to be very convincing. In particular his analyses of the Asian financial crisis, and the contrasting methods of communist-to-capitalist transition are excellent, he clearly explains any jargon and highlights some key areas that are often dismissed in other non-academic economics discussions.Also Stiglitz provides lots of helpful references to other works so if you feel like digging deeper in one particular area you can.
On the other hand the book suffers from an alarming amount of repetition, many paragraphs are more or less verbatim clones of previous ones and several of the chapters are clearly redundant. That said I don't know of another book that deals with the same area with such class and as it is so short the repetition isn't too much of a problem. In short it is well worth the read, Globalization is the most important issue facing us today (try saving the environment without solving it first, ain't gonna happen), we all need to have an informed opinion.
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balancing Acts,
To position Stiglitz up-front: he is not against globalization - in his estimation it is quality-neutral as a conception and it is here to stay. The aim of his study is to show what lessons need to be learned and applied to make globalization live up to its potential for the majority of the world's populations. The red thread of the book is the examination of the primarily negative impact that globalization has had on many developing countries and the two billion or so poor who live on less than $2/per day. His reasoning why this has been the case and what is to be done to bring about positive change makes this book an important resource for the critics and the proponents of globalization alike.
Due to its vital role in global economics today, he focuses his criticism on the IMF, fundamentally disagreeing with major policies of the Fund as applied by its senior representatives. But GLOBALIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS is much more than a personal rebuke of his former colleagues and associates. Anybody who has worked in and with developing countries, local policy makers and civil societies, will find themselves in tune with many of Stiglitz' salient points. Several times he comments on new strategies being tried out on "powerless" countries like Ecuador and Romania, too weak to resist the IMF and resulting in the experiment's highly negative consequences for the countries. (p. 203) The East Asia crisis (1997 onwards) features prominently in Stiglitz' account. What went wrong and why didn't the prescribed (IMF) medicines bring the ailing economies back to health? Other major examples are the 'economies in transition' - in particular Russia and the former Soviet Bloc countries.
In a summary one cannot do justice to the wealth of information contained in GLOBALIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS. Stiglitz' analysis follows several major themes. At the core of his arguments stand the dealings of the powerful "Washington Consensus" - the combined economic and financial force of IMF, World Bank and the US Treasury deciding on the "right" policies for developing countries. (p. 16) One of his fundamental criticisms of the IMF is that it is no longer transparent in the pursuit of its objectives and that it moved away from its original mandate: "The IMF was founded on the belief that there was a need for collective action at the global level for economic stability." However over time, the Fund has taken to "champion market supremacy with ideological fervour" (p. 12). The IMF was designed to complement the World Bank, whose mandate was "reconstruction and development" following World War II, now the major international agency for the eradication of poverty. By the 1980s the Fund and the World Bank had become increasingly intertwined with each broadening their range of influence. As a result, while the IMF "does not claim expertise in development - yet it does not hesitate to weigh in". (p. 34). Within the Fund's primary focus for macro-economics, Stiglitz argues, "market fundamentalism" has been the economic philosophy of choice with the result that financial institutions and international lenders have usually been the primary winners from each of the major financial crises. Yet, he stresses that the IMF policies are "not conspiracy more a reflection of interest & ideology of western financial institutions". (p. 130)
Another criticism voiced throughout the book is that the IMF prescribed economic remedies tend to be identical whatever the economic and financial crisis encountered: one size fits all. There is hardly any choice for a government in crisis. This approach, combined with the admitted lack of knowledge of the broader development context, can in some cases plunge the country into further recession rather than stimulate recovery. High unemployment in countries without an adequate social safety net is habitually a harmful side effect of the austerity measures imposed on the government by the IMF. Another victim of these policies is the environment. The wider social and political context of a country or region is often overlooked, Stiglitz contends, resulting in social unrest and worse: IMF-inspired riots. (p.77) Recession and civil strife further set back the development agenda and Stiglitz refers to numerous World Bank studies that confirm his assertions.
Stiglitz describes alternative approaches, presenting the evidence based on his own vast experience. His proposals can be subsumed under the term "balance". For example, any privatization of industry and markets should be gradual and sequenced, and must be balanced with strong institutional and legal structures. Rather than using "shock therapy" and forcing rapid privatization of capital markets, the "gradualist" approach ensures better results in the short and longer term (Russia vs. Poland). In the same vein he recognizes the need for balance between market forces and governmental interventions. He reminds the reader that the advanced industrialized economies all went through growth periods when government regulated the markets and capital flows. He asks that developing countries be given a real and honest chance to sit in the driver's seat when developing locally adapted international economic models. (review: Friederike Knabe Ottawa Canada)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into the policies of the IMF,
This review is from: Globalization and Its Discontents (Paperback)This is a very powerful account of how the policies of the IMF in 'assisting' developing countries have more often than not exacerbated the very problems that they are trying to solve. It is a brilliant critique of free market theory.
It is primarily an argument against the strict monetarist policies enforced by the IMF. Stiglitz argues that the 'one size fits all' approach used, actually fits none. In purely economic terms, this is perhaps an argument that is best left to the economists. However, Stiglitz is insistent that the social and political consequences of the pursuit of these policies cannot be ignored.
It would be easy to dismiss this as an attempt to discredit the instruments of capitalism. However, the authors background within, and widespread support for those instruments discounts this.
In summary, this is an excellent book which, despite the complex nature of the economic theories involved is very readable and easy to follow throughout.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for African leaders & developing countries,
It's fun and easy to read, and a definite reading companion.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read for global justice protestor types,
This review is from: Globalization and Its Discontents (Paperback)Most readers of "globalization and its discontents" will be campaigners rather than economists. Stiglitz manages to discuss inflation, investment, trade issues, IMF structural adjustment policies and similar without becoming boring, and explains jargon and economic concepts as necessary. This book would set up the average protestor type to demolish any stockbroker in a pub debate.
Unlike his ex-employers, the World Bank, Stiglitz carefully examines the effect of global economics on people, and to a lesser extent the environment. His inevitable conclusions are that blind pursuit of "free trade" in the developing world has been a complete disaster, and that rich countries have been rather hypocritical in applying free trade measures to their own econmies.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative critique of market fundamentalism,
Stiglitz criticises most heavily the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an organisation that was created to enhance global economic stability but has been all too often used as a tool to promote elite U.S. business and finance interests. The problem, as Stiglitz articulates it, is this: "Market fundamentalists dominate the IMF; they believe that markets by and large work well and that governments by and large work badly. We have an obvious problem. A public institution created to address certain failures in the market but currently run by economists who have both a high level of confidence in markets and little confidence in public institutions."
Stiglitz suggests that the IMF's behaviour does not have intellectual coherency when analysed within the framework of its original charter but that its behaviour does make sense if approached from the perspective that the IMF represents elite financial and banking interests within the dominant economies, most obviously, the United States, which has an effective veto over IMF policy. Therefore, when a country such as Indonesia or Russia is in financial turmoil, the IMF arranges that Western creditors (ie banks) get their money back first; in contemporary dogma this is referred to as 'bailing out' a country. The Fund arranges that Western banks get their billions of dollars back but that the poor people of the targeted country, those that have been worst affected by the Fund's policies of capital market liberalisation and structural adjustment, have their food subsidies reduced or removed, their health and unemployment safety nets cut. The population of the target country then also has to shoulder the burden of repayment. Understandably, this behaviour breeds resentment and discontent.
Stiglitz convincingly argues his case from a position of credibility. He is no anti-establishment radical and his book provides solutions as well as plentiful criticisms. For a non-economist like myself, the book was a stimulating read that never got bogged down in pages of statistics; Stiglitz keeps it readable and he never lets you forget that despite the billions of pounds sloshing around in the system, the policies advocated have a real impact on people's lives. For an insider's account of the global machinations of organisations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz has written an invaluable guide, one that should be read by protestors and economists alike.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I recommend it.,
This review is from: Globalization and Its Discontents (Paperback)A good book to learn in detail about some of the things that economically went wrong the 90's.
It is a book that can largely be understood by the total economy lay(wo)man like I, although I had to do a good deal of looking up terms as I worked through the book and I must said I have read easier going books on the topic.
It is a little funny that he starts off explaining very simple economic terms like "transparency" or "assymetries of information" in the preface, but then proceeds leaving the majority of economic terminology he uses unexplained (fiscal and monetary policies, aggregate supply and demand, etc.).
I skipped some parts that went into too much detail than was desirable to know for someone like me. Especially since everything is written from his "skewed", very personal viewpoint, not lending any weight to what a contrary viewpoint might have voiced. I am not criticising him for this, but I feel that as an individual reading up on these issues I'd have the responsibilty to balance my own sources of information in such a way as to read about the different sides.
Stiglitz uses a language that other economists "can understand" -that is to say he doesn't for example present poverty reduction or social stability as ends in and of themselves -which for the majority of his audience they are- but formulates it in a way as to explain that riots are bad for the investment climate and that too big inequality causes such riots. It is also written very diplomatically -never accusing the IMF or the U.S. treasury directly of manipulating other countries in favour of special interests, just stating that making decisions behind closed doors "can invite suspicion", for example.
He drives many of the points he makes home several times, which is good if you are trying to store new information long-term in the back of your mind, but which can be slightly tedious reading the book now, some years after it first has been published, because many of us picking it up will already be familiar with the basic concepts, since they have been absorbed into common knowledge and you'll already have read about it in leaflets, other books, or heard about it in workshops or discussions, etc.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended realistic view of globalization,
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and interesting,
Also he doesn't just say what is wrong with the policies of the IMF, he constantly gives suggestions on how things could be done differently. Stiglitz isn't anti-globalization, exactly. He recognises that that it leads to environmental destruction and poverty in the developing world. However, if the global institutions were run fairly and democratically, globalization could bring huge benefits to mankind.
The only criticism I have with the book is that it doesn't give many statistics.
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Globalization and Its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz (Paperback - 3 April 2003)