Can globalization be understood as the strictly market-driven phenomenon its proponents claim it to be. No, argues Peter Gowan, an editor of New Left Review. Such a narrow economic focus provides little real insight into the forces and objectives behind the American-led push to globalize. Instead, Gowan insists, there is a political component to the equation too often overlooked, yet it is this political component that provides the needed framework. Key here is what Gowan terms the Dollar Wall Street Regime (DWSR), a collaboration between Wall Street and financial organs of government. Contrary to orthodox opinion, DWSR views the relation between the state and the private sector as an essentially cooperative one, at least at the upper reaches of big business. Thus an intertwining of politics and economics stands behind the American drive for global dominance, a strategy that makes coordinate use of both state and private resources. Characterizing DWSR are two far-reaching and controversial theses. First, despite current wisdom, the state remains a key actor on the international stage, at least in the industrialized world; and second, there is nothing inevitable about a globalizing process once the role of political choice is understood. Taken together, these contentions challenge not only widely-held mainstream beliefs but swathes of ideological opinion on both left and right.
Gowan traces the historical evolution of DWSR in Part One, with an emphasis on international financial jockeying. Part Two focuses on the political dimension, particularly as it bears on the Middle East and eastern Europe. DWSR's capacity to illuminate is especially strong when dealing with post-cold war events in eastern Europe. Here it's fascinating to note the architect of Shock Therapy Jeffrey Sachs' incomprehension of how his measures are used to subjugate the region to US and European interests, instead of conforming to his more egalitarian theoretical model. In short, selfish political ends are deceitfully used by DWSR to guide a concrete program like Shock Therapy, despite rhetoric to the contrary -- rhetoric Sachs apparently takes at face value, leaving him no one to blame for the failures except bumbling bureaucrats. As the author points out, Shock Therapy actually worked quite effectively as one component in the West's drive to subordinate the economies of former Soviet Bloc states.
Gowan's book is invaluable for making sense of current global developments: evidence of an axis like the DWSR appears overwhelming in daily news accounts, both foreign (Iraqi oil-grab) and domestic (Enron revelations). The author's style is scholarly, yet accessible to the serious reader, even though an index and bibliography would have been helpful. It's unfortunate that the work appears to be going largely unnoticed on the Amazon web. It certainly deserves a much better outcome.