The distribution of world incomes

“The history of global capitalism – if it could ever be written without the pervasive Western Europe-centric ballast that most of its forms carry – would have to be written mainly as the history of China’s and India’s global economic weight.  The recent, approximately 150-year history of the global ‘splendor’ of the ‘West’ would appear as a brief and relatively insignificant interlude.  Whether the most powerful actors in the ‘West,’ as well as the numerous organizational locations where the collective interests and actions of the ‘West’ are coordinated, have the moral, cultural, and political tools necessary to acknowledge the fact of this brevity and insignificance, and in what creative and peaceful institutional forms the ‘West’ will be able to exploit in order to adjust to the imminent end of its ‘splendor’ is, no doubt, one of the most fundamental questions of the survival of humankind” (100).  Wow.  Do you get the feeling that Dr. Böröcz doesn’t like the “West”?

      Dr. Böröcz is a big picture guy who buttresses his simplistic elevator analysis of the economic comings and goings of countries with impressive-sounding terms like global institutions, global geopolitics, global power, global strategy, global military significance, monolithic “law-like” institutional power, transnational global quasi-legal processes, global governance, global systems, global bargaining, global volume of speculative financial transactions, intergenerational imbalances, global violence, global mobility of states, alternative global organizations, and the global governance of economic accumulation.  And if we’re smart and pay close attention to his analysis, we’ll see that the West is doomed.

      Dr. Böröcz focuses on the rate of growth of countries’ GDP and concludes that the “global economic weight [of the West] is eroding” and that “the ‘engine’ of the world economy is neither in Western Europe nor in North America.  Instead, it has moved (back) to Asia” (102).  He goes on to predict the imminent “drastic shrinkage of [the West’s] economies in global terms” (102).  In order to prevent economic Armageddon in the West, Dr. Böröcz hints that there may be a conspiracy afoot, “pitting . . . the two engines of global growth, China and India, against each other” (101), and refers to “the creeping encirclement of both China and India” by the West during the “last decade” (102).  Should we call Oliver Stone and ask him to start the screenplay?

      As Dr. Böröcz correctly points out, “the global system is in a great flux” (100).  But he fails to acknowledge that despite the recent growth in the economies of China and India, they together account for less than 12% of the world’s total GDP compared to the United States and the European Union, which together account for approximately 50% of the total (according to statistics from the World Monetary Fund).  He ignores the dominant “economic weight” of the West and reaches the rather feeble conclusion that if China and India continue to grow and perhaps were to join forces by forming some sort of “development partnership” (104), the “character of the world will change – forever” (105).

      Before we pronounce the end of the West as we know it, perhaps Dr. Böröcz and other eminent sociologists would be wise to descend from their ivory towers of academia, fly to China, rent a car, drive out to various rural towns and provinces, and talk to some of the millions of impoverished peasants and workers who are fed up with their government and who represent a sleeping volcano of unrest that could very well erupt long before the West collapses.

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