Book Review – A Very Short Introduction to Globalization (3rd edition – 2013) by Manfred B. Steger (Kindle edition)

Below is a book review by a current MA Global Leadership student at Redcliffe College, Michael Greed, which is posted in its entirety as a guest blog.

I thought it would be helpful to publish this, firstly, as this book is a stimulating introductory text to the concept of globalisation which deserves wide readership, and which is set as a key text in Redcliffe’s MA programme (module titled The mission of the church in the context of postcolonialism and globalisation), and secondly, as Michael’s excellent summary provides useful brief commentary on related issues around leadership and a Christian engagement with globalisation.

Thank you Michael for granting permission to publish this book review here.

By Michael Greed, May 2014

Then came the churches then came the schools
Then came the lawyers then came the rules
Then came the trains and the trucks with their loads
And the dirty old track was the telegraph road
(Knopfler, 1982)

Thus came the relentless advance of globalization. As peoples have spread across the globe and interacted with one another, the law of the jungle has prevailed: eat or be eaten. Discover, control, exploit – as illustrated by Knopfler’s lyric above.

Steger begins his Very Short Introduction by investigating what globalization is and defining it: “Globalization refers to the expansion and intensification of social relations and consciousness across world-time and world-space.” (18%) He then shows that globalization is not a new phenomenon: it began with pre-historic early human migration. Rather, what has been happening from 1980 onwards is the expansion of globalization to a point of “convergence” (28%). Steger introduces its four dimensions:

Economic: “neoliberal capitalism” is the dominant ideology, in which western-based transnational corporations run the globe to their own advantage.

Political: nation-states have lost their dominant role to transnational corporations, but use immigration controls to counter an increasingly borderless world.

Cultural: “McDonaldization” is on the increase, though “cultural hybridity” may be gaining momentum.

Ecological: the two major issues are “uncontrolled population growth and lavish consumption patterns in the global North” (58%).

Steger then identifies three “globalisms”, ideologies that claim global scope: market globalism, justice globalism and religious globalisms. I was startled to find “justice” and “religious” at opposite ends of Steger’s spectrum. The Bible places them hand in hand: “Pure and genuine religion … means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1.27, NLT) Using the term “religious” in this way may be confusing. In his longer volume (2008) Steger writes of “Jihadist Globalism” rather than “Religious Globalisms”.

As a further critique, I offer a fourth globalism: spiritual globalism, something to do with the biblical prophecy that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2.14, NIV). The Bible states that this is God’s world (Psalm 24.1), and he has good and great global plans for it (Romans 8.19-21). The global Christian missionary movement, which embraces both justice issues and fundamentalist proselytization, is in response to this. The focal point is generally local Christian congregations, in partnership with the global Church. Combs’ article (2014) is an excellent example of this.

Steger places market globalism in the centre with justice and religious globalisms on the left and right. Jesus states that we cannot serve God and “Mammon” (Matthew 6.24). I suggest that market globalism is the lavish and unconstrained worship of Mammon. We have put it centre stage, in God’s rightful place, where “spiritual globalism” should be.

Steger concludes his book with some strong exhortations: because of the “uneven” way in which the world is integrated, “we must link the future course of globalization to a profoundly reformist agenda” with “a moral compass” and “an ethical polestar” to guide us (83%).

Who is the leader who can guide us in this reformist agenda? Robert House and his team discovered that all cultures value inspirational leadership (2004, p. 61). But inspiration is not a moral compass. Additionally, House’s data was drawn from middle management (Grove, 2005, p. 2), whilst most of the world’s population are not middle managers.

Does the world need strong leaders who can enforce a reformist agenda? Kaplan (2013) argues that where there is a clear “top dog” with sufficient “coercive power” stability and order are maintained. But do “stability and order” bring about a “reformist agenda”?

Or are strong leaders themselves the problem? Mahatma Gandhi argued that the ideal is “government of the people by the people and for the people” (1982a, p. 28). Is the result of that anarchy? Tim Harle (2011), entitling his book, “Embracing Chaos” maybe says Yes.  But what Gandhi and Harle understand is that people do not need to be controlled. Rather, they need to be recognized and valued.

Che Guevara makes the same point with his emphasis on us, the people: leaders have a role, he writes, “insofar as they embody the highest virtues and aspirations of the people and do not wander from the path” (1965). Those leadership approaches that emphasise “followership” and the servant-facilitator role of the leader have a similar focus. “Let the poor man stand up tall, give him back his pride,” sang Garth Hewitt (1982) after experiencing the poverty of Calcutta (Kolkata).

This, I believe, is the moral compass of Steger’s reformist agenda. Global leaders who will “integrate” the people of the globe “evenly” are those who recognize the value and dignity of each individual and each community, identify with them and make their hopes their own.

References

Combs, C. (2014) Local church, global Church: serving together in Russia, Wycliffe Global Alliance. Available from < http://www.wycliffe.net/stories/tabid/67/Default.aspx?id=4721&gt; (Accessed: 7 May 2014).

Gandhi, M. (1982a) The Words of Gandhi, selected and with an Introduction by Richard Attenborough, 2nd edn. New York, NY: Newmarket Press.

Gandhi (1982b) Directed by Richard Attenborough [DVD]. Culver City, California: Columbia Pictures.

Grove, C.N. (2005) Introduction to the GLOBE Research Project on Leadership Worldwide, Grovewell LLC. Available from: <http://www.grovewell.com/GLOBE&gt; (Accessed: 9 April 2014).

Guevara, C. (1965) Socialism and Man in Cuba. Available from: <http://www.marxists.org/archive/guevara/1965/03/man-socialism.htm#body-41> (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

Harle, T. (2009) Fractal Leadership Emerging Perspectives for Worldly Leaders, Bristol, UK: Bristol Business School.

Harle, T. (2011) Embracing Chaos: Leadership Insights from Complexity Theory, Cambridge, England: Grove Books Ltd.

Hewitt, G. (1982) Road to Freedom, Myrrh.

House, R.J. (2004) Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.

Kaplan, R. (2013) Anarchy and Hegemony, Austin, TX: Stratfor. Available from: <http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/anarchy-and-hegemony> (Accessed 6 May 2014).

Knopfler, M. (1982) ‘Telegraph Road’, from the album, Love Over Gold, Vertigo Records. Available from <http://www.poemhunter.com/song/telegraph-road/> (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

Lewis-Anthony, J. (2011) Book Review of ‘Embracing Chaos: Leadership Insights from Complexity Theory’, Modem Leaders Hub. Available from < http://www.modem-uk.org/resources/MODEM+book+review+Harle+Embracing+Chaos.pdf> (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

Northouse, P.G. (2012) Leadership: Theory and Practice, 6th edn. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.

Steger, M. B. (2008) Globalisms: The Great Ideological Struggle of the Twenty-first Century, 3rd edn., Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

The Bible, New International Version. Available from < http://www.biblegateway.com&gt; (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

The Bible, New Living Translation. Available from < http://www.biblegateway.com&gt; (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

Young, R. J. C. (2003) A Very Short Introduction to Postcolonialism, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available from <http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-eBooks&gt; (Downloaded: 14 April 2014).

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