In this post, I am going to share the thesis of my former student (thesis supervisee) Mr. Nash Denver Baya on Walden Bello and deglobalization. Mr. Baya graduated BA in Philosophy from Silliman University in May 2016. I hope that this post will help philosophy students who are writing their thesis as a final requirement for their degree, as it will serve as a model thesis for them.
Walden Bello on Deglobalization:
Alternative for a New World Order
Nash Denver Baya
Rationale of the Study
This thesis aims to critically engage Walden Bello’s model of critical social theory in my attempt to contribute in addressing the socio-economic and political problems brought about by globalization. This is inspired by the fact that Bello’s notion of deglobalization, which is at the center of his model of critical social theory, can be viewed as a new “Copernican style” of change from the existing hegemonic and ineffective capitalist system. I will argue that Bello’s model of critical social theory provides us with deep theoretical and practical insights that can shed light on the issues that may have been intentionally hidden by the capitalists. I will argue further that his Copernican style of alternative for a new world economic system can be used by the countries in the margins of the global economic system for a more sustainable economicgrowth.
Globalization by definition “is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology.” According to Bello, it is a process driven by corporate profitability for global prosperity. It is in this logic that multilateral agencies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) were created. However, as empirical evidence shows, the goals of these agencies may only be limited to theories. In fact, most of the member countries of the WTO intend to withdraw from the agreement after its fifth ministerial meeting in 2003. In a relative parlance, the IMF may only have contributed in worsening the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis by devaluing most of its member countries’ currencies and transforming financial crisis to a social and economic crisis by demanding tight macroeconomic policies. Instead of reducing poverty, these multilateral agencies have pushed more than 20 million lives below poverty line during the first few years after their conception. This goes to show that these capitalist institutions are not only ineffective, but highly contradictory to the purposes that they were made for as well.
In relation to this irony, these capitalist agencies have become instruments for the United States (US), the leading capitalist country today, in its unilateralist intentions. As Bello writes:
In response partly to these crises, partly to increasing competition with traditionally subservient centre economies, and partly to political resistance in the South, Washington under the Bush administration has retreated from the globalist project, adopting a nationalist strategy consisting of disciplining the South through unilateralist military adventures, reverting to methods of primitive accumulation in exploiting the developing world, and making other centre economies bear the brunt of global adjustments necessitated by the crisis of over-accumulation.
As we can see, the traditional capitalist problem of over-accumulation is being made possible again by the very agencies that were supposedly the ones to aid the marginalized countries. Instead, they are being used by the US to benefit only their corporations and industries through aggressive protectionism in trade and investment matters. This aggressiveness is due to the wariness of the Bush administration towards an economic globalization that is not under their supervision since this could compromise their economic power. As Bello puts it, “it seems that the motto of the Bushites is protectionism for the USA and free trade for the rest of us.” From this, we can conclude that these capitalist agencies only serve to benefit the US economy (and other capitalist countries) at the expense of the marginalized countries.
The above discussion indeed shows that the current economic system that we have is ineffective and, at worst, is being used to serve only the capitalist intentions of the elite countries. It is for this reason that I, as already mentioned, will engage Bello’s model of critical social theory which hopes to contribute in emancipating the world from the destructive effects of global capitalism.
Several scholars and well respected socio-economic and political thinkers today, such as Jacques-chai Chomthongdi, Nicola Bullard, Shalmali Guttal, Martin Khor and Joseph Stiglitz, have worked with Bello and have been influenced by his critical socio-economic philosophy. In addition to them, Oswald De Rivero and David Sogge share the same sentiments as with Bello which affirm and support his contention that the WTO, IMF and WB supplement the destructive effects of global capitalism.
Jacques-chai Chomthongdi’s work entitled “The IMF’s Asian Legacy” deals with the concrete and devastating effects of the IMF’s tutelage on handling the crisis of Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea during the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. His work is focused on the exposition of what really happened during the events and how the IMF, which supposedly claimed that they alleviated the situation, further aggravated the problem. Following Bello, Chomthongdi argues that the IMF doesn’t provide aid but instead liability and, thus, should be eradicated. According to Chomthongdi, there is little to no factual evidence at all to support the IMF’s claim that it’s through their intervention that the recovery of these countries was possible. Rather, there is a direct link as to why development for these countries had become slow and hard to attain. As facts show, the IMF’s intervention only saddled more public debts without resolving the problems that plague the affected countries in the first place, such as unemployment and poverty. In addition to this, according to Chomthongdi, the results of these debts are not only beneficial to the elite countries since it increases foreign ownership, but it is also detrimental to the indebted countries by reducing national sovereignty in policy making. This leads us to believe, as Bello contends, that the IMF caters only to the intentions of its stakeholders instead of providing aid to the economically destabilized countries. In fact, it is in their dilemma that these agencies are able to take advantage of them.
Influenced by Bello, Nicola Bullard likens the IMF to an armadillo. According to him, “the IMF is like an armadillo, burrowing deep into its own reality and blinking when it steps into the daylight of public debate, but it also has a tough and impenetrable shell.” Ironically, as an agency created for aid and assistance for the developing countries, the IMF is somehow blind and deaf to the real needs of its subjects as it continues to impose rehabilitative strategies that aren’t just ineffective but also disadvantageous. Albeit the new managing director Horst Koehler, who tries to zealously introduce reforms within the institution, the IMF continues to have little interest in hearing the concerns of the poor. For Bullard, Koehler’s enthusiasm for reforms may capture the attention of the staff of the IMF in the near future, but his efforts would still have to go through and against deeply rooted capitalist culture held by most of its stakeholders.
In relation to this, Bullard also likens the World Bank, another arm-wing of global capitalism, to a chameleon. He writes:
True enough, but while taking up the mantle of institutional reform, social security, political democracy and participation in the fight against poverty, the Bank is pushing its own value-laden normative view of social relations and assuming ever-higher moral ground. All the while, deftly skirting the central issues of redistribution, economic democracy, and the unequal relationship between people and capital.
From this we can deduce that the World Bank has taken up new agendas in order to hide its flaws. Like a chameleon, the World Bank hides itself from scrutiny by posing as a strong advocate against current social issues that plague the world. However, though most of its claims are true, the promise of a poverty-free world is still nowhere near reachable.
In correlation to the points above, Shalmali Guttal, the current executive director of the Focus on the Global South — an organization co-founded by Walden Bello —, criticizes the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers or the PRSP of the IMF from which it chooses its benefactors. The PRSPs are prepared by the local government wherein they state the causes of their poverty and determine who the poor are as well as their proposed strategies for over-coming poverty. In theory, it is through the PRSP that the IMF and the World Bank are able to strategically select who to prioritize as creditors. Furthermore, the WB and IMF claim that through the PRSP initiative, “there will be greater importance than before on the participation of civil society in the development, implementation and monitoring of poverty reduction strategies.” However, as witnessed by the countries where the PRSP is implemented, none of these things was able to materialize. The reason for this is that the surveys for the PRSP do not include in the deliberations the local civil society organizations, such as labour unions, peasant organizations, social movements, women’s groups and indigenous people’s organizations, which have first-hand experience of poverty. On contrary, the PRSPs have been nothing more than consultations of the Chief Security Officers and the well-resourced national and international NGOs. From this we can infer that any information provided by the PRSP to the IMF will have little significance and, thus, as Bello would have us believe, rendering the IMF and WB inefficient and incompetent in its goals of poverty reduction.
In relation to Bello’s notion of aggressive protectionism by the US, Martin Khor in his work “Globalization and the South: Some Critical Issues” discusses the failure of the WTO in promoting trade equity between the developed and the developing countries. According to Khor, the promise of development for the countries in the South has not materialized due to the non-implementation of the commitments of the countries in the North. To cite an example, as Khor explains, the tariffs that should have been lowered through the WTO agreements had remained high in the North making it difficult for the South to export their products. This in effect shows that this inequality threatens the livelihood of the less competitive exporters without affecting the economic power of the rich and developed countries.
Apropos of Shalmali Guttal and Martin Khor’s points, Joseph Stiglitz in his book Globalisation and Its Discontents believes that the adverse effects of having a national economy regulated by international institutions came from their lack of transparency and accountability. As mentioned by Guttal, most of the decisions made by the IMF are hardly directed to the needs of the poverty-inflicted masses since none of them was ever invited in its hearings and most of its tribunals are done in secret without public debate or appeal to each national court. In addition to this, the IMF’s lending policies do not, as argued repeatedly above, alleviate the creditor’s economic crisis since it only cradles more debts that hinder a country’s development. According to Stiglitz, this is because of the IMF’s continued implementation of the “shock therapy” without first establishing institutions to protect the public and local commerce of the country. It seems then that the IMF is too stubborn in implementing the therapy without even considering first the fact that it may not always be applicable in all cases of economic crisis. According to Stiglitz, only through well-planned loans can the IMF truly give assistance to a developing country; other than this, high interest debts and lowered sovereignty will significantly lower a nation’s economy.
Furthermore, Oswaldo De Rivero, a retired Peruvian diplomat and was once the ambassador of Peru to the WTO, argues that globalization is a direct attack on the sovereignty of nation-states causing them to lose control of their fiscal and monetary policies. In his book The Myth of Development, he claims that the rise of huge transnational corporations and their alliance with international lending institutions are breeding the evolution of a supranational authority. According to him, “the converse effect is the marginalisation of Third World countries.” As a result, countries in the margins are now powerless to direct their national affairs to exert any form of influence over this rising hegemonic global power scheme. Due to this dissimilarity of international control and power, De Rivero also argues that globalization, in line with Darwinism, is turning the world economy into a global jungle from which only the fittest and riches will survive. While human evolution took place over a considerable period of time in order to adapt and weed out the weaker species, it takes globalisation a relatively shorter time to diminish the sovereignty and autonomy of many nation-states. Moreover, according to De Rivero, globalisation does not allow any room for adjustments especially in the case of the non-viable economies.
In similar point of view with Bello, David Sogge in his work Give and Take: What’s the Matter with Foreign Aid describes the gap between an aid’s emancipatory potential and the crippling practices that can actually be observed. For him, most of the aid’s donors expect something in return for their help and it is for this reason that the humanitarian and development discourses are frequently nullified by the foreign policies that take precedence of the aid. In short, Sogge considers official aid as a vehicle of foreign policy that is, similar to Bello, detrimental to the countries that are marginalized and financially in need.
As shown in the discussions of the works above, we can truly say that Walden Bello’s critical socio-economic and political theory remains very relevant in addressing the serious issues of our global economy today. In addition, not much work has been done about him or his work albeit the fact that Bello’s idea for a new world economy provides a radical solution to the problems of the marginalized countries. This indeed shows the necessity of pursuing this research project in my attempt to further enlighten the masses regarding the global economic discrepancies and contribute in emancipating the world from global capitalism.
Statement of the Problem
In attempting to help reduce the detrimental effects of globalization through an exposition of Walden Bello’s critical social theory, this thesis will be guided by the following questions:
1. What is the nature of Walden Bello’s critical social theory?
2. How does Bello’s notion of deglobalization play out in his critical social theory?
3. In what way does Bello’s notion of deglobalization pose itself as an alternative to the destructive effects of global capitalism?
Significance of the Study
As already mentioned, this study aims to critically understand Walden Bello’s notion of deglobalization, the central concept of his critical social theory, in my attempts to contribute in reducing the detrimental effects of global capitalism. It will offer a much needed enlightenment and elucidation of the discrepancies within the present global economic system. This enlightenment is crucial for the society if we aspire to emancipate the world, especially those in margins, from the damaging effects of global capitalism.
In addition, as an extended result of the social enlightenment and elucidation, the study will promote Bello’s model of social critical theory. By providing logical connections between the global capitalists and the multilateral agencies, the timeliness and relevance of Bello’s theory will be given more prominence.
Scope and Limitations
Walden Bello is one of the most respected and esteemed critic of the current corporate-driven globalization. His works are directly aimed at the most concrete social and political issues that plague the world today, such as The Food Wars, The Anti-development State: The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines and Dilemmas of Domination: The Unmaking of the American Empire. However, my thesis will focus mainly on his work Deglobalization: Ideas for a new World Economy in my attempt to lessen the detrimental effects of the corporate-driven globalization. Although his other works offer knowledge that are of equal importance, I will only consult them when needed since my thesis will mainly deal with the alternative economic system that Bello provided in his work Deglobalization.
In addition to this, due to my lack of background on the dynamics of the multilateral agencies and the global economic system, I intend to incorporate in my thesis some of the most reliable researchers that have done study on the hidden discrepancies of the multilateral agencies.
My thesis is primarily focused on Walden Bello’s notion of deglobalization which, as already mentioned, attempts to contribute in reducing the detrimental effects of global capitalism. In doing so, I will critically engage from a critical hermeneutic lens Bello’s notion of deglobalization, which is at the heart of his critical socio-economic and political theory found in his seminal work Deglobalization: Ideas for a New World Economy. Firstly, I will employ a historic analysis of the adverse effects of the corporate-driven globalization through its multilateral agencies, such as the WTO, IMF and the World Bank. This is crucial since the unfavorable effects of these agencies are the premises from which Bello created his theory. Secondly, after establishing the premises, I will then proceed to hermeneutically engage Bello’s text in order to fully understand his notion of deglobalization. Lastly, on the later parts of this thesis, I will connect the two key points I have mentioned above in attempting to contribute in alleviating the effects of global capitalism through Bello’s notion of deglobalization.
Walden Bello’s Critical Social Theory
In this chapter, I will engage Walden Bello’s model of critical social theory which is found in his critiques of globalization and neoliberalism. Moreover, I will also discuss his critiques of the multilateral agencies, namely, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization, which are the primary instruments of globalization and neoliberalism. However, before I engage Bello’s model of critical social theory, I will present first a brief overview of his life and works. This is crucial since this will give us a better understanding of the context from which Bello is coming from and, hence, will provide us with a better understanding of his social critical theory.
Life and Works
Walden Bello, born in 1945, is one of the most respected and highly regarded socio-economic and political thinkers today. In 1995, he co-founded the Focus on the Global South — an organization established to challenge neo-liberalism, militarism and corporate-driven globalization — of which he became the executive director and then later became its senior analyst. Prior to this, he was also the executive director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First, in Oakland, California. After he realized that the corporate-driven globalization is an oppressive system, Bello then offered his alternative which is captured in his notion of deglobalization.
He studied at Princeton University for his PhD in Sociology in 1972. After his stint in Princeton, he subsequently taught at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was a research associate with the Center for South East Asian Studies. Although distant from his home country, his concerns for the Philippines proves to remain strong as he joined political activism following the declaration of Martial-Law by then President Ferdinand Marcos on September 21, 1972. For the next two decades he became a key figure in the international movement to restore democracy in the Philippines as he co-ordinated the Anti-Martial Law Coalition and establishing the Philippines Human Rights Lobby in Washington, DC.
His love for country was further manifested when he broke into the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington DC to provide with substantial evidence that proves that the IMF and World Bank’s loans and grants supported the Marcos Regime. The 3,000 pages of confidential documents that he stole, which he valiantly pleaded guilty, became the main source of his ground breaking book entitled Development Debacle: the World Bank in the Philippines. This book turned out to be an underground bestseller in the Philippines and contributed to the rage of the Filipinos that led to the people power movement, which has resulted in Marcos’s deposition in 1986.
After the fall of Marcos and the discovery of the atrocities of the multilateral agencies towards the marginalized countries, Bello continued to critique the corporate-driven globalization and filled his works with evidences that prove that the multilateral agencies are the primary culprit in the financial subjugation of the developing countries. These works prove to be very relevant and, at best, almost as if prophetic. In fact, his critique of the Asian economic ‘miracle’, Dragons in Distress (1990), was written six years before the financial collapse that swept through the region. This goes to show that Bello, as an analyst and a writer, is proficient in criticizing the current economic system.
During the Asian financial crisis of 1997, just two years after the conception of the WTO, the Focus on the Global South played a major role in advocating different modes of development for the affected countries since the multilateral agencies prove to be indeed a failure and a detriment.
At the unsuccessful WTO meeting in 1999, Bello was beaten up by a Seattle police after playing a key role in the teach-ins around the protest events. In 2001 during the G-8 summit in Genoa, he was again detained by the Italian police and nearly run over by a police car.
Despite these harassments, Bello’s unfaltering efforts against the corporate-driven globalization continued as he again played a key role in civil society circles in elaborating the strategy to derail the WTO ministerial in Cancun in September 2003 and in Hong Kong in December 2005. In September 2006, he was finally banned by the Singapore government from entering the island state hindering him from attending the World Bank-IMF’s annual meeting.
Aside from being an economic activist, Walden Bello also played a leading role as an environmentalist being the former chairperson of the board of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. His book A Siamese Tragedy (1998), which documents the environmental destruction of Thailand, received the Chancellor’s Award for the best book from University of the Philippines in 2000. In addition to this, the book also became the bestseller among the Thai people and won the praise of the former Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun.
In addition to being an activist, Bello is also a huge campaigner for peace, which includes actions against any immediate military interventions. In fact, he was the leading voice from the South that urged the US not to resort to military action when the dreadful bombing of the 9/11 occurred. In March 2002, he led the peace mission to the southern Philippines island of Basilan, where the US army recently sent their special forces. In March 2003, in a last ditch effort to stop the US invasion of Iraq, he was also one of the leaders of a peace mission of the Asian parliamentarians and civil society activists that visited Baghdad. Furthermore, he also led a mission to Lebanon at the height of the Israeli bombing of that country in August of 2006. In addition to these precarious endeavors, Bello has campaigned for years for the withdrawal of the US military bases in the Philippines, Okinawa and South Korea. He also helped to erect several regional coalitions devoted to denuclearization and demilitarization of the said countries.
As an author and co-author of 14 books on global, Asian, and Philippines issues, Bello has won multiple praises and awards that prove that indeed his knowledge on the social issues today are both relevant and important.
In addition to these, he was also awarded The Right Livelihood Award, also known as an alternative to the Nobel Prize, for his outstanding effort to educate the civil society on the detrimental effects of the corporate-driven globalization and how alternatives can be implemented. Aside from this, Bello was awarded in 2001 the South Korea’s Suh Sang Don Prize. Naomi Klein, a well-respected Canadian author, labeled him as the “world’s leading no-nonsense revolutionary.” Furthermore, Chalmer Johnson has addressed him as the “world’s best guide to American exploitation of the globe’s poor and defenseless.”
As the discussions above show, Walden Bello’s life as an educator and activist as well as his multiple precarious endeavors have led him to produce works that are all of equal importance. However, as I have already mentioned, my thesis will focus primarily on his notion of “deglobalization”, which is at the core of his model of critical social theory. As I already mentioned in the previous chapter, Bello’s notion of deglobalization can be rightly viewed as an alternative to the destructive tendency of the corporate-driven globalization and neoliberal system. But before I engage Bello’s notion of deglobalization, let me first present his critique of globalization and the neo-liberal order.
Bello on Globalization and Neo-Liberal Order
Globalization could be understood in many ways, but in this study I take it as a process of increasing interdependence and integration between certain units around the world, typically nation-states. According to Thomas Friedman, globalization allows us to exchange goods and services including culture with other nations. As we can see, the primary goal of globalization is to unite all the countries into a borderless world through an open-market system and global information technology. Apropos to this point, it is here where globalization works hand in hand with neo-liberalism. In a nutshell, neo-liberalism is a process wherein tariffs and trade barriers are eliminated to promote freer and smoother trade within nations. Friedman argues that globalization allows poor countries to develop economically and raise their standards of living. In theory, by opening local markets to foreign trade and investment without hindrances from local state policies will promote faster, freer and a guaranteed path to development. Moreover, globalization is touted to be the best strategy in working hand in hand against global problems such as the problems of overproduction, stagnation and environmental degradation.
However, as Bello would contend, the predictions of globalization are nothing more than dismal outcomes. Sixteen years ago, during the 1990s, globalization foretold that state policies would no longer matter and that “corporations would dwarf states.” Conversely, according to Bello, US, China, and European states are becoming richer before the 1990s globalization started while the countries in the margin, that were supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of the promise of development, are pushed down way below the poverty line. Examples to these are the Asian Financial crisis and the collapse of the economy of Argentina wherein a report from the Central Bank showed that more than $4.9 billion were withdrawn from the banks during November of 2001 which lead to most of the Argentinian banks to declare bankruptcy. Being the most doctrinaire practitioners of capital liberalization, their collapses are two most pivotal events that prove the fallacious theory of globalization and neo-liberalization.
Ironically, according to Bello, the interference of strict capital control was the reason why China was able to insulate itself from the economic collapse engulfing its neighbors. In fact, similar action was also beneficial to Malaysia during the Asian Financial Crisis that struck the region. Along with this, the United States’ hegemonic authority allowed itself to practice protectionism while imposing the disadvantageous neo-liberal order upon the other countries, especially those in the margins. All of these are direct evidences that indeed show that neoliberal order does not deliver on its promises and at worst, is detrimental to the development of its constituents.
Furthermore, instead of building a collective response against overproduction, stagnation and environmental devastation, the national capitalist elites, as stated by Bello, have competed with each other to shift the burden of adjustment. This is brazenly displayed when the United States did not sign the Kyoto Protocol which forced Japan and Europe to absorb all costs of global environmental adjustment and thus makes the US comparatively more competitive.
Simultaneously, globalization’s obsession with economic growth is becoming a huge detriment to the environment considering that development entails the use of environmental resources that are becoming too scarce or polluted. According to Bello, although unending growth is the center piece of globalization, the rate in which it is being instigated is becoming too much for the environment to handle. In fact, to put more emphasis on this, Pope Francis, in his remarks to the largest gathering of world leaders in UN history, blamed environmental degradation on “a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity.”
From the above discussions, we can see why Bello argues that the urgent task is not to steer corporate-driven globalization in a “social democratic” direction or to humanize it, but to manage its retreat so that it does not bring about more chaos and demise. In other words, as I will try to show in the next chapter, Bello calls for deglobalization, a process that entails a radical shift of the economic system towards an alternative that should promote a more genuine development. However, albeit all the evident destructive results of globalization and the neo-liberal order, the current economic system still continues on this path. This is because, as Bello would argue, global capitalism has found refuge for globalization and neo-liberalization through its multilateral agencies.
These agencies’ capital lending capabilities and their promises of easy access to loans during a country’s financial quagmires make them guaranteed carriers of the neo-liberal policies. This fact, together with their utility towards the United States, makes them a detriment to the world especially to those countries in the margins. In order to understand fully the nature and dynamics of these multilateral agencies, let me now proceed to an engagement with Bello’s critique of these agencies.
International Monetary Fund
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, most countries tried to protect its own economy by raising tariffs and quotas on imports while at the same time lowering the prices of their export products to increase their global market share. This action in theory will improve the country’s economic status but at the expense of the country at the receiving end. Such action is known as the Beggar-Thy-Neighbor policy. As Thomson Gale would explain, the action undertaken by a country is Beggar-Thy-Neighbor if “welfare gain in the country imposing the policy is offset by the welfare loss in the countries affected by the policy.” This may remedy a country’s economic problems but it is still self-defeating due to the fact that the country imposing the policy is also affected by another country undertaking the same action. The results therefore only worsened the 1930s economic dilemma. To avoid this from ever happening again, 45 representatives of different countries gathered in the Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in the northeastern United States to agree on a framework for international economic cooperation, hence, the birth of the International Monetary Fund.
Although conceived on July 1944, the International Monetary Fund formally existed on December 1945 and only later then became operational on March 1947 with France as its first borrower. The primary objective of the IMF during its conception was to prevent the Beggar-Thy-Neighbor policy to reoccur and promote stability of the international monetary system. This involves the role of providing surveillance, technical and financial assistance through money lending. However, as Bello would argue, the IMF has miserably failed to deliver on its objectives and can be considered as a capitalist contrivance since most of the developed countries hold 45.47%, US having 19% of this, of the total votes on decisions that need the majority.
The argument aforementioned is premised on the fact that the IMF, aside from being a form of surveillance or monitoring of global financial flows, is able to implement trade policies on countries in exchange for financial support. These policies, however, do not always play well on the side of the country on the receiving end. For instance, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis where Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea’s social crisis was turned, according to Bello, to an economic collapse after the IMF’s intervention. Economists from the BrettonWoodsProject.org claim that this was because of the IMF’s implementation of its orthodox policy prescriptions which includes control on government spending and grafting higher taxes, higher interest rates, and liberalized markets and fewer state controls. They also added that such prescription does not apply on the Asian financial crisis since the countries were not suffering from excessive government spending or inflation, but from profligate financiers who cared little more for the riskiness of their loans.
Aside from its detrimental intervention on the Asian Financial Crisis, which is a clear failure of its primary objectives, the IMF also manifested its utility to the global capitalist after it vetoed Japan’s proposal for an Asian Monetary Fund (AMF). The AMF was proposed during the height of the Asian Financial Crisis which proved the incompetence of the multilateral institutions, especially the IMF. It was aimed towards securing a regional network funded by Asian countries to overcome current and future economic crisis. However, the proposal was right away vetoed by the United States. Bello argues that, this was expected since the AMF, if pushed through, would drastically lessen the power of the IMF and, thus, also weakens the US influence on the Asian region.
Unlike a democratic system in which each member country would have an equal vote, rich countries like the US dominate decision-making in the IMF for the reason that voting power is determined by the amount of money that each country pays into the IMF’s quota system. This results in the disproportionate amount of power held by the US enabling it to put the interests of its bankers, investors and corporations above the needs of the world’s poor majority. The veto of the AMF is a clear and direct evidence of the fact that the IMF, as a capitalist agent, indeed serves only the intentions of its rich stakeholders such as the US. The IMF, together with other multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, is used by the US to ensure that its capitalistic power is preserved.
Founded on 1944, the World Bank claims to be a vital source of financial and technical support to the developing countries around the world. It also claims that, unlike a bank in its ordinary sense, it creates a partnership with its member countries to reduce poverty and support development. However, analogous to the IMF, the World Bank has proven to be one of the most valuable assets of the US in terms of implementing its influence and power to the global economy.
Similar to the IMF, decision-making in the Bank is determined through capital subscription of its constituents. According to Bello, 15 per cent of the voting power gives a country the capability to retain a veto over major lending decisions. The US, being the richest of its members, has 17 per cent of this voting power, well beyond the critical 15 per cent. As a matter of fact, the excess voting power of the US is clearly manifested through the fact that out of fourteen issues that sparked debate within the World Bank, the US was able to impose its view on twelve of them.
From the perspective of the US, having control over the World Bank is crucial since to have control over an agency that has the financial and political leverage on the other countries means that it also has control over them as well. As stated by Bello, by performing “the difficult task of requiring performance standards of their borrowers, a task which the United States and other lenders may be reluctant to impose on a bilateral basis”, the World Bank becomes a key asset of the US in implementing its control. In addition to this, “neither bilateral assistance nor private sector flows, if available, are as effective in influencing less developed countries as the multilateral development banks.” Clearly, the technique from which the US, as repeatedly argued as the world’s leading capitalist, impose its hegemonic power over the global economy is simply apodictic.
Furthermore, aside from its evident service to the world’s global capitalist, the World Bank’s legitimacy has been in question for the past decades due to its proclivity to prioritize the countries that can benefit it in return and its fictitious mission against poverty as well as against environmental degradation. In line with the findings of the Meltzer Commission , Bello argues that the World Bank “is irrelevant to the achievement of its avowed mission of global poverty alleviation” since most of its non-grant loans are focused on the well-off countries than to those who need it the most. In addition to this, the Commission also discovered that the World Bank’s failure rate for its projects are much higher for the countries in the margins compared to the countries that have positive credit records. Furthermore, Bello stated that the image of an environmentally sensitive Bank also faded when it was discovered that the Bank is the leading backer of the Chad-Cameroon Pipelines, a project that proves to be harmful to ecologically sensitive areas such as Cameroon’s Atlantic Littoral Forest. Moreover, a look at the World Bank’s loan portfolio showed that most of its lending are funneled towards environmentally harmful projects like damns, roads and power. In fact, as Bello mentioned, Herman Daly, an environmental staff of the World Bank, left because he felt as if he had no impact on the agency’s policy.
Furthermore, the World Bank’s claim that it supports good governance was also falsified when several reports showed its provision to the corrupt Suharto Regime over Indonesia. All these reports, including the one from the World Bank’s internal report, illustrate that the World Bank, similar to Bello’s contention, tolerates corruption, accords false status to false government statistics and is complacent about the state of human rights and the monopolistic control of the economy.
As the discussion above shows, it is clear that Bello’s contentions against globalization’s harmful obsession for development and its fictitious mission of poverty alleviation are accurate. Additionally, as repeatedly argued, the World Bank, being one of US’s most effective tool and as an agent of globalization, is detrimental both to the economy and to the environment especially in the marginalized countries. However, the subjugation of the countries in the margin does not stop there. The harmful effects of globalization continue in the form of the neo-liberal order which is made more operational through an agency that serves as the third pillar in implementing the IMF and World Bank’s liberal policies, the World Trade Organization.
World Trade Organization
Founded in 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with rules of trade between nations. Bello described the event of its conception as having “an air of triumphalism”. He writes, “The WTO was sold to the global public as the linchpin of a multilateral system of economic governance that would provide the necessary rule to facilitate the growth of global trade and the spread of its beneficial effects.” At the heart of the system, the WTO believes that by lowering trade barriers, its system also breaks down other barriers between peoples and nations. The result, therefore, is an assured and coherent development. As also promised,
WTO can cut living costs and raise living standards, settle disputes and reduce trade tensions, stimulate economic growth and employment, cut the cost of doing business internationally, encourage good governance, help countries develop, give the weak a stronger voice, support the environment and health, contribute to peace and stability and be effective without hitting the headlines.
However, despite the promise of a greener pasture, realizations of the true effects of the WTO are building up just few years after its conception. As Bello would put it, seemingly it was “a robbery carried out in broad daylight”. Moreover, he contends that many countries that signed up on to the WTO’s trade agreements realized that they have signed away their freedom for development. To explain further, Bello argues that by signing the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measure (TRIMs) , countries have given up the opportunity for industrialization through trade policies especially since the TRIMs declared that mechanisms such as local-content policies and trade balancing requirements are illegal. Moreover, TRIMs are rules that restrict preference of domestic firms and thereby enable international firms to operate more easily within foreign markets. In addition to this, according to Bello, by signing the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) , developing countries realized that they have given high-tech transnational such as Microsoft and Intel the “right to monopolize innovation in the knowledge-intensive industries.” Furthermore, TRIPs also provided “biotechnology firms such as Novartis and Monsanto the ability to privatize” the knowledge that has been gathered for years from interactions between human communities and nature. Another agreement that proved to be detrimental is the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). According to Bello, countries realized that by signing the AoA, they have agreed to open their markets to massive surplus dumping of huge agricultural superpowers which, as a result, is destroying smallholder based agricultures. Additionally, the Agreement has been criticized by civil society groups for reducing tariff protections for small farmers, a key source of income in developing countries, while simultaneously allowing rich countries, like the US, to continue subsidizing agriculture at home. Unlike the IMF and World Bank’s liberal policies, the detrimental neo-liberal order in the WTO is more legalized and constituted than the others. Sadly, realizations of these harmful effects only came to surface few years after signing the WTO agreements.
What’s more, similar to the IMF and the World Bank, democracy in the WTO is as fictitious as with the other two. At the very heart of the triumphalist air during its conception is the glimmering one-country-one-vote process of decision-making where the US should supposedly have an equal voting power as with the least powerful country in the organization. However, the failure of the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Seattle in December 1999 proves that this is not the case. Bello argues that the primary reason for this was the absence of a transparent decision-making. Inconsistent with its own constitution, the process that truly reigns in the organization is not a one-country-one–vote but the process of consensus, which in practice, as Bello writes, “Is a process whereby the big trading countries impose their consensus on the less powerful countries.” Worse, the countries that manage this consensus are the four countries named the Quads and are headed by the US, which, as repeatedly argued, is the world’s leading capitalist. This again only goes to show that the WTO, similar to the IMF and World Bank, is a contrivance to the global capitalist and is a detriment to the global economy.
Now as we can infer from the above discussions, globalization and the neo-liberal order, together with the multilateral agencies as their agents, are detrimental to the global economy, especially to those in the margins. As a corporate-drive phenomenon, globalization only serves the interests of the United States at the expense of those countries in the margins. It is for these reasons that there is a need to adopt an alternative system that should promote a genuine global development. However, this alternative shouldn’t just be any alternative but one that is Copernican in nature which can be found in Bello’s deglobalization. With this, let me now proceed to discuss Walden Bello’s notion of deglobalization.
Walden Bello’s Notion of Deglobalization
After presenting Walden Bello’s critique of globalization in the previous chapter, I will now proceed to engage his notion of deglobalization and show how this can pose itself as an alternative to the problems brought about by economic globalization. The discussion that follows begins with a presentation of what deglobalization is according to Bello and then proceeds with the discussions of the two crucial stages of this notion which are deconstruction and reconstruction.
Deglobalization, according to Bello, is a process of restructuring the world economic and political system so that the latter builds the capacity of local and national economies instead of degrading it. Furthermore, deglobalization means the transformation of a global economy from one integrated around the needs of transnational corporations to one integrated around the needs of peoples, nations, and communities. In other words, as I have already mentioned, it denotes a Copernican Style of revolution from the current problematic system to solve its dilemmas or, at the very least, lessen them. However, this restructuring and transformation must primarily begin with the complete abandonment of the current system or, to use Bello’s word, “deconstruction” of the system.
Deconstruction, as a crucial aspect of deglobalization, invokes to delegitimize, exploit the contradictions, derail and put an end to the key organizations of globalization. In this regard, the criticisms that Bello has provided us in chapter 2 are key elements in the process of deconstruction. As we have clearly discussed, the IMF, World Bank and WTO are obvious utilities in the US’s practice of its hegemonic and capitalistic power. Moreover, as we have seen, it is the countries in the margins that are often the ones at the detriment in this practice. Furthermore, these organizations’ strict economic system and neo-liberal policies offer less or no room at all for different countries to develop relative to their culture and environment. In other words, the multilateral agencies, as repeatedly argued, are ineffective in their avowed poverty alleviation towards our pluralistic world.
It is in this regard that Bello argues that these agencies should either be decommissioned, neutered or their powers should be radically reduced and turned into just another set of actors co-existing with and being checked by other international organizations, agreements and regional groupings. For instance, according to Bello, the IMF should be converted into a research agency with no policy powers but one tasked with the job of monitoring global capital and exchange rate movements, in other words, turning it into an advisory and research institution only. Furthermore, Bello argues that the World Bank should end its loan-making capacity and devolve its grant activities to appropriate regional institutions marked by participatory processes. In the case of the WTO, Bello suggests a more drastic action rather than just reducing its powers similar to the IMF and the World Bank. According to him, the free trade mandate and the expansion of the power and jurisdiction of the WTO, which is now the most powerful multilateral instrument of the global corporations, is a mortal threat to development, social justice and equity, and the environment. Hence, it is in this regard, following Bello, that our strategic goal must be halting or reversing WTO-mandated liberalization in trade and trade-related areas. As the US’s capitalistic instruments, it is only logical, therefore, that if we aim for a better economic system, then deconstruction must begin in these multilateral agencies in order to disempower and abolish the hegemony of the United States.
As we can clearly see, deconstruction, as part of Bello’s Copernican Revolution, is a crucial aspect of deglobalization. However, leaving the past is a bit more complicated especially in terms of the global economic system. According to Bello, in social change, new systems cannot really be effectively constructed without weakening the hold of the old systems. This entails that the strategy of deconstruction necessarily must proceed with one of construction; hence, an alternative should be presented for construction so as to set a goal that would make the deconstruction, especially in the societal aspect, achievable. The discussions that follow are some of the ways that Bello proposed to reconstruct the world economic system.
Deglobalization, as already stated above, does not imply isolation but rather a reorientation and re-empowerment of a country’s economy. This includes, according to Bello, a shift from prioritizing exports to cultivating local industries and agriculture. The main premise for this is to draw most of a country’s financial resources for development from within rather than becoming dependent on foreign investment and foreign financial markets. In order to do so, according to Bello, long-postponed measures of income redistribution and land redistribution must be carried out to create a vibrant internal market that would be the anchor of the economy and create the financial resources for investments. It is through this process that Bello hopes to strengthen a country’s economy from within rather than being overly dependent on other country’s economy. Furthermore, by improving the economy from within, we can reduce the need for foreign loans and investments that, as we have seen, are the primary medium from which the multilateral agencies are able to impose their detrimental neo-liberal order.
Additionally, Bello contends that today’s need is not another centralized global institution but a deconcentrated and decentralized institutional power and the creation of a pluralistic system of institutions and organizations interacting with one another, guided by broad and flexible agreements and understanding. A logical connection can be made in the IMF’s “one size fits all” policy wherein the same “shock therapy” is implemented in all different countries that lead, as discussed in the previous chapters, to the Asian Financial Crisis. As we can see, the primary problem of a centralized institution is that it often neglects the fact that in a pluralistic world, a single solution to a problem or a single plan towards development might not always be applicable to all countries relative to their diverse culture and environment. Making this worse is the fact that, as we have proven, these centralized institutions, like the IMF, World Bank and WTO, are deaf and blind to the real problems of the marginalized countries since they remove from them their democratic voice.
To solve this, a pluralistic system of institutions and organizations that upholds the moralities of democracy must be created. This system is consists of all the countries respecting each other’s autonomy. As a result, Bello argues that this will give a country more breathing space for it to grow and find its own rhythm of development that is relative to its culture and ideals. Furthermore, he contends that economic decisions must not be left to the market but rather be subject to democratic choice. Moreover, the private sector and the state must also be subject to constant monitoring by the civil society. In other words, what Bello wants to achieve is to strengthen again the voice of the masses, especially those that are in the margins, in the public sphere. Through a pluralistic system of institutions and organizations that are administrated democratically, we can again re-empower those that are subjugated for the benefit of the world’s capitalists.
Bello admits, however, that by decentralizing institutions that were created for the purpose of interdependence and, above all, smoother, freer and faster trade relations between nations, trade efficiency will suffer. Nonetheless, he argues that trade efficiency is a small price to pay if we can regain the conditions for the development of integrity, solidarity, community, social justice, greater and more democracy, and sustainability. Truly, Bello’s deglobalization as a Copernican alternative is a direct contradiction to the logic of the market in the pursuit of cost efficiency. However, Karl Polanyi, as quoted by Bello, states that this is about re-embedding the economy in society, rather than having society driven by the economy. In other words, deglobalization isn’t just about reorienting the economy but it is a reorientation of the whole economic and societal system wherein human condition is the priority rather than economic growth and profit. In fact, as an extended result of this reorientation, by de-emphasizing economic growth and profit, Bello argues that we can also drastically reduce environmental disequilibrium.
As we can see from the discussions above and in relation to the discussions in the previous chapters, Walden Bello’s notion of deglobalization as a Copernican alternative is an auspiciously effective system in addressing the socio-economic problems brought about by globalization. As already proven, if we seek to remove the detrimental hegemony of the United States, then we must begin the deconstruction from the multilateral agencies. Moreover, in the process of reconstruction, countries that are subjugated and marginalized by the world’s leading capitalists (especially the US) must be re-empowered and given the chance to choose its path to development that is suitable to their culture and environment. This can only be achieved if we disempower the overly centralized economic system that serve only the US and other leading capitalist countries and replace it with a system that is people-oriented and suitable in a world that consists of diverse cultures and beliefs.
The above also shows that Bello’s notion of deglobalization promotes social justice since it reorients the focus of the economic system towards the needs of the people from the profit oriented system of the transnational corporations. As a result, the economic system then becomes more humane since the masses are given the opportunity to speak and more importantly be heard by the pluralistic governing body that Bello hopes would replace the current transnational corporations. In this way, democracy will be true to its name and social justice will reign.
Lastly, in the case of environmental degradation, Bello’s notion of deglobalization would somehow put an end to the capitalists’ tendency to over accumulate at the expense of environmental preservation. At first glance, Bello’s notion of deglobalization might very well be contradictory to the logic of profitability, but by redirecting the course of the production process from being export-oriented to the production of goods for the local economy, the need to exploit environmental resources would be reduced to the minimum, if not completely eliminated, which will give the environment time to rejuvenate itself. With this, it is therefore not difficult for us to see why this thesis argued for a critical engagement with Bello’s model of critical social theory, which I believe would greatly contribute in addressing the socio-economic and political problems brought about by globalization.
Summary, Conclusion, Recommendations
This thesis critically engages, from a hermeneutic lens, Walden Bello’s model of critical social theory in hopes to contribute in addressing the socio-economic and political problems brought about by globalization. First, I argued that Walden Bello’s model of critical social theory provides us with deep theoretical insights that will shed light on the issues regarding the world’s economic system brought about by globalization and neo-liberal order. Furthermore, I have argued that his notion of deglobalization can pose as a Copernican alternative to the problematic and oppressive capitalistic system.
In chapter 2, I presented Bello’s model of critical social theory which is found in his critiques of globalization, the neoliberal order and the multilateral agencies namely: IMF, World Bank and WTO. According to Bello, globalization and the neoliberal order was promised to be the instrument that would unite the world through an open market system which, supposedly, should result in world economic development. However, as I have discussed, this wasn’t the case as most of the leading practitioners of the open market system, like Argentina, Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea, became victims of economic collapse. Conversely, the countries like China and Malaysia, that practiced strict economic and capital control, were able to isolate itself from the economic collapse engulfing their neighbors. Evidently, the open market system imposed by globalization and neoliberalism is detrimental to the world economy; especially those located at the margins of the global system and should therefore be transformed. However, the world’s capitalists were able to find refuge for both globalization and neoliberalism in the form of the multilateral agencies.
As I have discussed in Chapter 2, the IMF and the World Bank’s capital lending capability makes them a vague but very effective medium of the neoliberal order especially to those countries who are suffering from financial dilemmas. Furthermore, Bello argues that because the IMF and the World Bank are able to impose policies into their debtors, they are then the most effective instrument for the world’s capitalists, especially the US, in imposing there hegemonic control.
Furthermore, as I have discussed in Chapter 2, the detrimental neoliberal order was then institutionalized through the conception of the Word Trade Organization in 1995. Bello argues that unlike the IMF and World Bank, the World Trade Organization was sold to the public as a guaranteed path to global development through reduction of trade barriers and the promotion of a smoother and freer flow of trade between nations. However, few years after signing the Trade Agreements of the WTO, nations realized that they have also signed away their rights to use tariffs and capital control to protect themselves against trade debaucheries from bigger and richer nations. Moreover, similar to the other two multilateral agencies, decision makings in the WTO are not done democratically since decisions are made only through the process of consensus between the Quads and are headed by the United States.
Apropos to the points above, as agencies that are supposed to alleviate the economic condition of the countries in the margins, it is therefore logical that the needs of these countries should be the focus of these agencies, however, that is not the case. Bello argues that democracy is absent in their decision makings and these agencies’ priorities are not the countries in the margins but those that are well off and have excellent paying capabilities. Therefore, they are, in addition to being instruments of the world’s capitalists, deaf and blind to the real needs of the countries in the margins and are truly detrimental to the world economy. In addition to this, I presented as well that the current system is also destructive to the environment because of the world’s capitalist’s tendency to over produce and over accumulate. Conclusively, it is for these reasons that there is indeed a need for a Copernican style of revolution from this detrimental economic system.
In chapter 3, I discussed Walden Bello’s notion of deglobalization which is the key theme in this model of social critical theory and I argued that this notion can pose itself as the needed Copernican revolution to the unjust system that we currently have.
According to Bello, deglobalization is the reorientation of the world economic system from one that is integrated upon the needs of the transnational corporations to the needs of the people. As we can clearly see from the discussions above, the current economic system focuses mainly on the transnational corporations and does not heed the needs of those that are marginalized. Bello suggests that in order to emancipate the world from the dilemmas brought about by globalization, we need to deconstruct the current system and reconstruct a new one that should uphold the genuine meaning of democracy and promote a just society. Furthermore, to reduce the environmental degradation, Bello suggests that we reorient the process of production to local level instead of production for exports and cultivate economic development from within rather than from the international level which, as already proven, has the tendency to over accumulate.
As we can see, the discussions above clearly show that we can indeed find the needed Copernican revolution in Walden Bello’s model of social critical theory. It is for this reason that I recommend that more scholars should look into Bello’s critical social theory in pursuit of solutions to the problems brought about by globalization.
Furthermore, I recommend that the countries in the margins should instil Bello’s suggestion that development should start from within rather than from the transnational agencies because I believe it is through lessening our dependence on these agencies that we can also loosen the grip of the world’s leading capitalists.
Lastly, I recommend that we continue to fight and deconstruct the current economic system by neutering the multilateral agencies. This fight might prove to be easier said than done, especially that the US is jealously guarding its hegemonic power. But if we truly desire a world wherein democracy is upheld and social justice is regained, then we should continue to fight for our rights until genuine equality is achieved in our economic system.
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