Book Review – Flat World, Big Gaps – Economic Liberalization, Globalization, Poverty and Inequality

The position advanced by the authors of this book represent a shift from the dominant view in neo-liberal economic circles that economic liberalization and globalization are good for economic growth, poverty alleviation and reducing inequality in society. The authors argue that instead of closing the gaps created by poverty and inequality between countries and within societies, economic liberalization and globalization have made the situation worse. To substantiate their arguments, the authors draw richly from various case studies ranging from Eastern Europe, Latin America, Middle East, East Asia to Africa. The plethora of case studies presented makes this book unique, and exciting to read as it offers the reader the opportunity to search for the evidence themselves to test the validity of the arguments posited. Furthermore, the inclusion of a useful list of tables and figures in the beginning of the book makes it easy to find information that the reader may be urgently looking for a specific use without having to browse through the pages e.g. rates of poverty per region, global Gini coefficients and other useful information.

The book shows that contrary to conventional neo-liberal wisdom that globalization creates opportunities and opens market for countries; it aggravates inequality which the authors attribute to inter-national (globalization) rather than intra-national disparities. The book further shows that the advent of globalization has not brought any improvement in terms of addressing inequality and poverty rates, instead the conditions appear to have worsened. Countries’ commitment to social spending has been negatively affected as a result of slow economic growth associated with globalization.

Avoiding being trapped in theoretical deliberations, this book presents a realistic picture of a world which is supported by hard facts on the impact of economic liberalization and globalization. Worth noting is that the issues that the books raise are not necessarily new as other authors have raised them before. However, this book goes a step further to present comprehensive evidence from a myriad of authors. The book therefore gives the reader a sanctuary from which he/she can critical reflect on the developments in the world today without being clouded by neo-liberal propaganda which blindly accepts that economic liberalization and globalization are good for development and creating an equal world. The recent anti-globalization movements throughout the world symbolizes a rise of a giant wave of dissatisfaction among the economical marginalized.

Finally, it is clear that although globalization may have created a world with integrated systems which makes it easier for people to interact and conduct business, it has however created gaps in terms of poverty and inequality. In other words, economic liberalization and globalization has done nothing to close the gaps but instead they have ‘globalize inequality’. It is a source worth reading, especially for those who want to understand the impact of globalization and economic liberalization on poverty and inequality.

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