Globalization in Question

Hirst, Paul, Thompson, Grahame and Bromley, Simon
Polity Press, Cambridge
9780745641522 (pb)

Order this book?

Cover of book In the thoroughly updated and revised 3rd edition of Globalization in Question, Hirst, Thompson, and Bromley provide a thorough attack on the 'myth' of 'globalization,' which argues that the boundaries and power of nation-states are being eroded and that the nation-state is becoming irrelevant in the wake of a virtually uncontrollable global economy based on world market forces.

More specifically, Globalization in Question is a fascinating book written about the international economy and the control of economic activity in the contemporary world. First, the authors challenge the basic premise of the globalization argument—that nation-states no longer matter and that they are at the whim of dynamic global economy. Second, the authors argue that truly transnational companies are actually very rare, and most still have some national allegiance and an international development strategy of their own and that any economic market is necessarily embedded in established political and social institutions. Third, they argue that there is a large concentration of foreign direct investment among major industrial economies, while developing countries remain on the margins.

Additionally, the authors differentiate between what they call the 'globalized economy'—where states have lost the power to regulate economic transactions inside or outside of their borders, as economies are subsumed into a global system of processes and transactions, versus the 'inter-national economy'—characterized by transactions between relatively distinct nation-state, where basic social processes are still determined at the level of national economies. Once more, the authors argue that nation-states have been and continue to be central to understanding the international economy, as they help to prevent social breakdown, reduce exposure to economic shocks, are the source of law, are the providers of security and certainty.

The first half of the book provides an in-depth empirical examination of the 'myth' of 'globalization.' Chapter 1 provides an overview of the globalization thesis. Chapter 2 attacks the strong version of the globalization thesis and provides a history of the international economy, while chapter 3 explores trade and foreign direct investment and argues that the world economy that emerged since 1945 has been increasingly dominated by the 'Triad economic blocks,' USA, Japan/East Asia, and the European Union. Chapter 4 examines 'international competitiveness and its relationship to globalization' (p. 22), while also examining issues surrounding 'North' and 'South' divergence. Chapter 5 further explores issues particularly relevant to developing economies, particularly the recent industrialization of Asia, and suggests this is 'less a result of globalization than an example of state-led, catch-up development' (p. 22).

The second half of the book examines the nature of economic and political sovereignty. Chapter 6 examines whether 'supranational regionalization is a more accurate description of the international economic and political system' (p. 22). Chapter 7 'examines the present structure of governance of the world economy' (p. 23). Finally, chapter 8 discusses 'examines the political dimensions of governance, exploring the changing role and capacities of the nation-state and the possible roles that such entities may perform in promoting and legitimating extended governance in the international system' (p. 23).

Hirst, Thompson, and Bromley's latest edition distinguishes itself from other related academic literature in the economic, sociology, development, international relations, and other various fields interested in global issues by clearly demonstrating that the idea of an internationalized economy is not new. Additionally, the latest edition is empirically well-informed, looking at a number of data sets, including those concerning international trade and investment, characteristics and behaviors of multinational corporations, and the movement and flows of labor. Furthermore, the authors do a good job of discussing the history of the international economy, including migration and international labor markets, monetary regimes, and integration measures. Finally, though the authors clearly come down against the globalization thesis, they make a strong attempt to provide a comprehensive discussion of both sides of the case.

My only critique of this important work, while admittedly some improvement in this respect has been made since the last edition, is that the authors simply do not do an adequate job of engaging much of the relevant sociological literature on globalization, nor is there any substantial reference to world-systems or sociological development theorists. However, in light of recent and ongoing world-wide economic challenges, the latest edition of this book is extremely timely. Additionally, the latest edition is also both very well written and accessible, while simultaneously rigorous and thorough.

The subject-matter of the book will be of interest to individual readers across the globe. Though the main ideas and message presented in this book are the same from previous editions, the third edition includes many important updates and represents a thorough revision throughout, and in some cases completely re-written or entirely new chapters. Scholars, graduate students, and policy decision-makers/practitioners across academic disciplines and professional fields interested in the impacts and implications of globalization will find this book of great worth.

Jonathan H. Westover
Utah Valley University