on 18 June 2003
Gilpin has written a book that is not full of technical jargon, but is detailed and unpatronising, one that covers every base, but is not overexpansive, and a book that can rightfully take its place on any student's or educated layman's bookshelf. In a world where people demontsrate against the WTO despite knowing little about it, or loudly write the state's obituary but know little about its role in the world economy, or celebrate unconditionally the 'anglo-saxon' market system without ever having glanced at how the Japanese and German system work to good effect, this book is priceless.
and that is its strength and weakness.
On the one hand, the Gilpins put thinking about the global ec in perspective: there are the economists who are more interested in the mathematics of their models, ignoring unquantifiable things that won't fit within them. The author is very very hard on them, while respecting what they contribute. Then there are the political economists, who believe that history and the functioning of institutions need to be taken into account for a full and accurate picture.
This really put things in perspective for me in a clearer way than I knew, and I have been writing about economics for years. The Gilpins demonstrate why economists need to transcend the basic algebra and esoteric game theory models that obsess them.
On the other hand, being a survey means that there is not great depth in the book. Just when things are getting interesting, the author abruptly moves on to another subject, leaving me frustrated and wanting more, much more in the case of the issues I am currently researching. Moreover, the coverage of the footnotes is uneven, leaving me wondering what sources the author used. Gilpin's view, if I read it correctly, is that of a moderate conservative believing in free trade while attempting to take into account the complexity of the issues, such as the failure of the LDCs to develop.
Moreover, the Gilpins prove once again that American academics are rarely good writers. The prose bristles with repetitions and leaden, if clear, writing style. It made the book a chore to read at times, however useful the content.
Nonetheless, this is a useful book, written at the high undergraduate level. Recommended.
on 17 August 2009
Robert Gilpin is Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University. In this standard work, he presents theories of economics and politics, regional integration, multinational corporations, financial instability, economic development, international trade, the financial and monetary systems, investment, the nation-state, and the governance of the global economy.
As he writes, "This is still a world where national politics and domestic economics are the principal determinants of economic affairs." He notes, "the extent and significance of economic globalisation have been greatly exaggerated. ... international finance is the one area to which the term `globalisation' is most appropriately applied."
He cites monetarist Milton Friedman's belief that it does not matter that mainstream economics' key assumption - perfectly rational individuals with perfect information operating in perfectly working markets - doesn't reflect the real world. Gilpin acknowledges `the conservative bias pervading the discipline'.
But he does not stay realistic for long. He espouses neoclassical economics, part of the US ruling class world-view. He avows a `commitment ... to economic liberalism': he is for free trade, for free (flexible) labour markets and against what he calls `overly generous welfare programs'.
He notes the World Bank's absurd `convergence theory', which claims that investment in poor countries is more profitable, so investment will flow there, so they will grow quicker and catch up with the rich countries. Worked well, hasn't it?
He also claims that mainstream economic policies work well, writing, "What better example than the Federal Reserve's very successful management of the American economy in the mid-to-late 1990s!" This looks rather silly now.
Gilpin's book is the summit of what he rightly calls `the American discipline of international political economy', which reflects the views and serves the interests America's US ruling class. It does not reflect reality.