Nadav Eyal portrays losers from globalization. The Israeli journalist is more general, but there is no doubt that he has many interesting stories to tell.
Globalization has seen better times. Most recently, she was often the focus of crisis diagnoses. She is also the main character in Nadav Eyal’s book.
In 2001, according to the Israeli journalist, an uprising against globalization had started, and at the latest the financial crisis had led to a return to extremism. Added to this would be developments such as Brexit, louder criticism of large capitalists, the strengthening of an authoritarian right in Europe, but also radical forces in the global left.
According to Eyal, the revolt takes various forms
fundamentalism, populism, nationalism, resistance to migration, trade wars and a shaken world order.
Large sections of the population would rebel “against their economic system as well as against their cultural influences and universal values”: an uprising against liberalism, indeed a “true crusade against the ideas of progress”.
The world’s economic, cultural and political interdependencies have a long history. It was moving forward, sluggish, developments were reversed, connections were broken, others were newly formed.
The revolt against globalization is carried by the middle class
After the end of the Cold War, globalization deepened in the 1990s and was already the subject of numerous publications. They are researched by social scientists; global perspectives are on the rise in historiography.
The fact that the revolt against globalization is also carried by the middle-class today makes it particularly dangerous for Eyal. In the book it sounds like this: “When the fortune cookie turned out to be poisoned and all promises were broken, it was only natural for the middle classes to reconsider their longstanding loyalty to mainstream politics. Determined to regain their lost power, they sought refuge in Radicalism.”
Who belongs to this group, whether the diagnosis also applies to the new global middle class in China or India and how exactly this radicalization works is not spelled out. This vagueness is symptomatic of a book whose theses tend to remain in general.
In addition to historical outlines and references to some recent studies, a number of reports form the core of the book. Like a pointillist painting, the author says, a picture should emerge from many small dots, a dark one in this case.
The author travels to London and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives; he meets Trump voters in the American province, neo-Nazis in Thuringia and refugees on the Serbian-Hungarian border. It’s about dying coral reefs and arid fields, the restricted area around Fukushima or the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India in 2008.
Eyal brings these reports of hot spots around the world together with the occasionally brought up thesis of the uprising against globalization. Even if one takes into account that periodizations are inevitably rough, it is astonishing that the author hardly takes into account important milestones of the past decades: that the integration density of 1913 was only reached again in the 1970s, and that violent protests already took place in the 1990s formed against globalization; that comparable theses were then discussed in detail (and more precisely) – from Ralf Dahrendorf to Dani Rodrik.
Eyal, on the other hand, generally attributes the 1990s to an “age of responsibility”, a phase of stability that began in 1945 and has now come to an end.
The author undoubtedly has many interesting stories to tell, but what he also offers in terms of interpretations is not only not very original, but often has an arbitrary effect. It is questionable whether every polluted body of water (or the United States‘ arms legislation) can be compulsorily incorporated into the narrative of opponents, critics and losers of globalization.
Sometimes the impression arises that Eyal tells his book past established interpretations and ongoing debates. Not every accumulation of points gives a coherent picture.