|Table of Contents
Personal and Professional
Honors and Memberships
ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age
Andre Gunder Frank
Prepared and published as a testimonial contribution to the twenty-fifth anniversary issue of
|The shortcomings in my tribute here are mine, not SJ's. That is because my own
competence is far too limited to permit me to comment knowledgeably, and perhaps even
adequately to appreciate, this incisive and wide ranging journal. The journal has
criminologist and Marxist parentage, professional criminological credentials, coverage of
contemporary global economic, political, social and cultural problems and a commitment to
social justice in a world systemic perspective, which it brings to its both academic and
lay readership. I have none of the above, except the same commitment with a general
perspective, which perhaps intersect with those of SJ and its analysis of social justice,
crime, conflict and world order So I must confine my comments to that intersection.
The sine qua non of any world system perspective and approach is the age-old adage that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Indeed it is more than that, since the whole also helps shape the parts and their relations to each other. That does not mean that using a telescope to look at the whole need prevent also examining a part under a microscope, for the former can help select which part to examine and why. Indeed - to change similes - seeing the forest [or today perhaps especially its limits or even absence] offers an essential perspective on the tree; and missing the forest for the trees obscures not only the forest, but distorts the reality of the tree/s. These homilies are all the more pertinent to concerns about social in/justice as Honest Abe observed six score and sixteen years ago about a house divided that cannot stand with injustice 'there' and justice 'here.' If we did not then, as I contend we already did; then certainly now do we live in a single global house and home, as Gorbachev observed at the United Nations, in which we cannot have or even aspire to justice for some with injustice for others.
SJ's global and world systemic perspective and coverage are not, therefore, ephemeral luxuries that could readily be shed or sacrificed to the microscopic examination only of practical brass tacks in the school of criminological hard knocks. On the contrary this wider SJ [like] perspective is absolutely essential for any responsible analysis, not to mention confrontation, of LA Law, Miami Vice and the Moscow Mafia. For ultimately, indeed demonstrably even quite proximately, its is world embracing global structures and forces that largely set the alternatives of constraints and challenges within which social public and even private choices have to be and are made in each of these and most other instances.
That being the case and my being untutored in criminology or even social justice, I take this opportunity to pose a related issue of interest to me, which some future issue of SJ may or may not wish to pursue: Is in/justice greater in the private [including family] realm or in the social ones? Socially, is in/justice greater inter-nationally [that is really in the inter-state and world economic arena] or at state levels, or sub-state/local ones and/or in the realms 'governed' by what ecological, economic, political including armed, legal, social, race, gender, cultural, religious or other processes, structures and institutions? To combat injustice and work for greater justice, which of these levels and/or institutional realms or particular pressure points offer the greatest leverage and payoff in greater justice [for whom] for the least, or least costly [to whom?] effort?
Like charity, does justice begin at home? My impression is that although perhaps it should, it does not. Injustice may be even more rampant on the private level than at the social ones, if only because there are even less built in safeguards and less bargaining power for the weak to ward off injustice at the private interpersonal level [e.g. domestic violence/ abuse/ oppression/ exploitation] than there is at the relatively more institutionally and legally protected social level. Of course, the lack of effective provisions for justice at the social level, e.g. war, the world economy, or even a recession that increases unemployment, also impact at the private level and generate further injustice there, e.g. aggravating injustice in burden sharing, alcoholism, separation, abandonment, divorce, spousal and child abuse, and many forms of emotional terrorism among family members and friends.
At the largest social level, global processes, structures, and institutions are the ones that seem to generate the greatest injustice. The world market is beyond the control of anyone and systematically polarizes income and wealth, including of course the most important standard of living, that is length and quality of life itself. The few and compared to the market itself weak 'governing' institutions that there are, like the IMF and WTO, only aggravate the market forces as recently observed in South East Asia and Eastern Europe and institutionalize devil take the hindmost injustice. Ecologically, the rich pollute and the poor suffer the consequences so much so that they are themselves obliged to pollute some more. The greatest polluter of all has probably been the war machine and war itself. The United Nations institutional safeguards against war have been totally ineffective. In violation of seven distinct sections of the UN Charter, the Security Council voluntarily permitted itself to be hijacked to 'legitimate' a war by its richest member against one of its poorer ones whose poor people have been embargoed for years since primarily to support the price of oil to favor the richest of the rich. Then regarding Bosnia the Security Council abdicated its peacekeeping responsibilities altogether in favor of NATO. In Africa civil war with foreign intervention has recently killed a million poor opressed and people.
Thus, although this global 'theater of operation' is one that cries out the most for intervention in favor of justice, it also offers scant hope of furthering it. All international institutional initiatives for remedies have either been blocked by the richest and most powerful or they have been used by them, and by especially by the United Sates, to further their own interests. Perhaps the only saving grace is that international institutions, excepting the IMF, mostly lack enough teeth to take even more bites out of the most disadvantaged. Even the new permanent International Criminal Court [as distinct from the present special single case ones on Bosnia and Rwanda] for holding individuals criminally responsible for violations of human rights, which was recently agreed to in Rome, is so circumscribed to be an instance only of last resort as to be virtually ineffective, Significantly the limitations were written in to please the United States which nonetheless voted against it along with such 'allies' as Israel, China, Libya, Iran and Iraq.
So, however much - and it IS much - the real world operation of intra-state processes and institutions generate and maintain social injustice, by and large that still pales by comparison with the inter-state level. Nonetheless in this regard some states are more equal than others. 'Sovereignty' is invoked to prevent the international 'community' or another state to intervene in a state with flagrant violations of human rights and institutionalization of injustice, but not of course IMF intervention to exacerbate unjust opression and exploitation and even to generate the conditions that then explde in civil war, as in SomaliamRwanda and Yugoslavia (Chossudovsky 1997). Moreover, there is the 'glass house' problem even if it is often covered by hypocrisy: It is the biggest and most powerful states in the region and indeed the world that themselves generate and regenerate the greatest injustice in the most institutionalized forms: Among rich countries, the United States has the worst distribution of income and highest per capita rate of incarceration with 'legal' executions, and all are racially biased. The 'cradle of democracy" in the United Kingdom has Europe's worst record of systematic violation of human rights, and not only in Northern Ireland. The Soviet Union had gulags, and Russia is a "Wild East." China has virtually no rule of law. In India, violence against the poor and women, and a fortiori against poor women, and even more so against low caste and tribal ones, is institutionalized in "the world's largest democracy." The very foundation of Israel is a systematic and continued state pogrom against Palestinians and other Arabs; and even within Israel, North African, Ethiopian and Russian Jews suffer systematic discrimination. South Africa may or may not have had the greatest institutionalized injustice in Africa under apartheid, but its consequences have remained largely perpetuated since. In South America, the largest and richest country with now the most progressive president also has the most unequal distribution of income and the most rampant violence against both rural and urban poor, including merchant sponsored police murders of street children. The systematic crimes of the military governments in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador and elsewhere in Latin America, not to mention other regions in the world, have been systematically swept under the rug in the name of 'national reconciliation' by their successor 'democratic' governments, which have also maintained the same exclusionary economic policies.
At sub- and intra- state levels, it may be difficult to establish a uniform gradient of in/justice. On the one hand, the least unjust provincial and local entities may well be less unjust than their respective 'national' states regarding economic, political and social rights and more localized legal and other social, including charitable, 'home' rule intervention may be more fruitful. But this partial boon to greater justice among the most privileged is also systematically counterbalanced if not negated in at least two important ways: In the United States for instance, among the less privileged, the least privileged, like Indians in the American West and Blacks in the South, then turn out to be the most unjustly oppressed by 'home' rule; and then it is federal intervention, i.e. through the Bureau of Indian Affairs or civil rights legislation and Supreme Court decisions that offers the greatest even if still limited protection against the most flagrant local injustices. The same pattern is observable elsewhere in the world.
The other limitation to greater justice through home rule is that the economic, political, and social means to do so are themselves limited at the sub-state level by the systematic state - and all the moreso international -bias in favor of the privileged to the detriment and cost of the underprivileged. That is systematically the case despite, and often because of, transfer payments via the state budget and the banking system as well as through the political/legal/social institutions at the 'national' level and a fortiori at the international level, which wantonly polarizes even more. That is, the 'system' itself operates to deprive those who need them most of the means necessary to redress injustice through home rule even if there is the political and social will to do so, which for the same reasons there mostly is not.
Throughout this global, national and local mosaic of in/justices, some institutional realms generate and offer more in/justice than others. I already mentioned ecological, economic, political including armed legal, social, race, gender, and cultural, religious ones above. Rather than try to construct some index or even indication of in/justice among them, I prefer here only to pose questions for others to research and answer about where which of these generate and perpetuate more in/justice, and where and how it may be most advantageous [I repeat for whom?!] to intervene to redress injustice and promote more justice.
To end this essay, I make bold to state my own optimist-with-experience position on this issue of in/justice: There is no end. Not only is there no 'end to history,' but there is also no end to the quest and struggle for justice. That position may not be or make me a popular, for it negates at least two widely affirmed and held postulates: One is that there is progress at least over the long term also in the achievement of justice. Not so. The was probably more social justice for 95,000 years of 'tribal' gathering/hunting than there has been in 5,000 years of 'civilized' state systems. And there has been no concerted progress therein [except locally and then at the expense of more injustice toward and within other peoples and places] even during any 1,000, or recent 100, or 10-year period thereof. The second erroneous postulate that is widely held left, right, and center is that there is some already real/ized or potentially imaginary 'system' that can offer, not to mention guarantee, justice social or private. I contend that both postulates are only imaginary illusions indeed, as is demonstrated by the experience that I have gathered through my optimism.
But that experience is not limited to my own optimism, for it is the distillation also of the optimism behind literally countless popular, social, legal, personal struggles over the millennia, not to mention the illusions in and surrounding 'capitalist' and 'socialist' 'systems,' 'The American Way,' 'Asian Values' and all that. There is and can be only ONE global 'world system,' and everybody has to accommodate to and/or struggle within it. Realistic acceptance of this fact of life by SJ can only be instrumental in its analysis of social justice, crime, conflict and world order. Indeed historically and still today, most struggles for justice have not taken the form of unrealistic attempts to establish a just kingdom of heaven here on earth. Most struggle 'for justice' has been and is a struggle against [a particular] injustice here and now, and those who struggle mostly do so, not because they want to, but because they have to. They have no alternative but to struggle in so many different ways against INjustice. Moreover, if they did not do so or if they could chose not to so struggle, the injustice would be even greater than it already is. And that is likely to continue in the future as it has in the past. Therefore SJ is assured of a good raison d'etre and more power to it till Kingdom come, since there is NO END.
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||Personal and Professional
||Honors and Memberships
||ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age
||Essays on NATO and Kosovo, 1999||On-line Essays
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