The Barnes & Noble Review
Thinking About Globalization
In a brilliant collection of essays on the new global economy, Saskia Sassen, one of the leading experts on globalization, takes on its common political, cultural, and economic misconceptions and offers a thoughtful, provocative new look at our increasingly global society.
As Sassen elucidates the opaque dealings that both weaken and strengthen the national idea, her discussions range from the increasing concentration of wealth and power in global cities such as New York and Tokyo and how such cities exploit vast numbers of poorly paid immigrants to how agreements such as NAFTA, GATT, and the European Common Market depend on national governments to stoke the wildfires of international activity to how the breakneck speed of financial markets leaves regulators unable to restrict or even monitor their rapacious behavior.
What emerges from Sassen's meditations is a portrait of a planet undergoing a radical concentration of resources and might and a diminishment of accountability. Perhaps, Sassen muses in a concluding chapter, acknowledgment of the real facts of globalization will help policy makers use the nation-state to human advantage.
Sassen's new book, Guests and Aliens, surveys the history of European migration in the last two centuries in order to better understand the current worldwide "crisis" of immigration. Sassen situates the modern American experience as one phase in the global history of border-crossing. Beginning with the ancien régime,Sassendescribes the entwined histories of economies and migrations, finding that, contrary to the modern metaphor of "mass invasion," migrations were essential spurs and adaptations to economic growth, often supported as a matter of policy by receiving countries. Sassen points out that the flow of peoples across borders has never been simply a matter of individuals seeking better opportunities in richer countries else world poverty would have created massive, indiscriminate migratory flows, which has not occurred. Rather, migrations are and have always been highly selective, self-limiting processes, dependent on economic dynamics in the receiving country, patterned and bounded in duration and in geography.
Sassen criticizes current migration policy as blind to the fact that migrants have often been "guests" rather than "aliens." The dominant metaphor of immigration policy that of "mass invasion," invoking the need to police borders is increasingly at odds with the modern effort to create border-free economic spaces, to transnationalize flows of capital, goods, information, and culture. The clash of these two quite different regimes one for the circulation of capital and one for the circulation of immigrants poses problems that cannot be solved by applying the old rules of the game. Sassen urges us to move away from a mentality of national crisis to one of management, and she closes by outlining an "enlightened approach" that recognizes migrations as "acts of settlement and of habitation in a world where the divide between origin and destination is no longer a divide of Otherness, a world in which borders no longer separate human realities."
Peter Philbrook and D. Berchenko