La Globalización Se Descentraliza:
Libre Mercado, Fundaciones, Sociedad Cívica y Gobierno Civil en las Regiones del Mundo
Free Trade, Foundations, Civic Society and Civil Government in the Regions of the World
Olga Magdalena Lazín
Decentralized Globalization provides a fresh, multi-dimensional viewpoint on globalization. This book differs from other globalization literature in that it concentrates on the significant role that civil society and civil government play in globalization. In this it is unlike other globalization literature, which tends to be written either in favor or against globalization, or highlight cross-border issues such as economic dislocation, the spread of pandemic disease, cultural assimilation, rapid decrease in transportation times, immigration, or the growth of drug-trafficking and crime cartels.
Central to the book’s argument is that civil society (which can also be translated as Civic Attitude) is distinct from civil government. Civil society is comprised of formal and informal citizen groups, non-government organizations, non-profit organizations, and private foundations. Dr. LazÍn argues civil society’s role is to help establish agendas for civil government. In this way, a strong, vibrant civil society challenges bureaucratic interests within civil government. Together, civil society and civil government promote a decentralized globalization that encourages democracy and challenges statism (centralized government control over economic planning and policy).
Decentralized Globalization provides analysis of all the component groups within civil society. However, it dedicates the most space to outlining the history of philanthropy and the important role the philanthropic sector has played in “Fast-Track Globalization.” The book breaks new ground in the history of philanthropy field for several reasons. First, it provides an international perspective on the global expansion of philanthropy. The book compares and contrasts the expansion of foundations and civil society in various regions of the world, including specific case studies in Mexico and Romania. Second, this work defines four separate U.S philanthropy models that promote civil society. This includes: a) the centralized work of the Rockefeller Foundation; b) the decentralized work of the Soros Foundations; c) the recentralized work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and d) the regionalized work of the Community Foundation of El Paso. Third, this book provides detailed research on the legal structures necessary for the creation of private foundations. The author argues that the U.S. philanthropic model, which provides tax incentives to philanthropic donors, has been the most successful in creating a growing, vibrant philanthropic sector with projects that extend throughout the world. As the book is written in Spanish, the legal research provided in this book serves as a guide as to how Spanish speaking countries can adopt new legislation that will assist in incentivizing wealthy sectors of the economy to underwrite a thriving philanthropic sector that will support the growth of civil society. This includes a review of the purpose and function of non-profit organizations and for-profit corporations. Lastly, as a naturalized U.S. citizen born and raised in Romania, the author reviews the American model of philanthropy from the perspective of a European who personally participated in the growth of civil society, spread of democratization, and expansion of free trade that led to the collapse of the a communist Eastern European government.
An important tenet of the book is that there is a significant distinction between “Gradual globalization” and “Fast-Track Globalization.” Chapter one and Appendix I provide a detailed outline of how “Gradual Globalization” began many centuries ago with European imperial expansion. Communism and statism arose in response to this expansion. Following World War I and World War II, the conflict evolved into a struggle between the free-market capitalist system and communism. Dr. Lazín argues that 1981 stands out as pivotal date in the history of globalization. That year, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher formed an alliance that led to the defeat of Communism. Together, the United States and the United Kingdom facilitated the development of an international financial system that allowed for the flow of international capital. This ultimately led to the expansion of free trade. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 it made the United States world superpower. Following this shift in power, “Gradual Globalization” was replaced by “Fast-Track Globalization.”
Underlying the concept of “Fast-Track Globalization” are the premises that it could not have happened without the rapid expansion of free trade or the rapid expansion of a global communication network. In the 1990s, the world was rapidly transformed by the expansion of the internet, cell phones, and online videos. At the same time, the number of free trade agreements proliferated at a rapid pace. This book reviews 165 of these agreements, providing details on 35 of the most significant agreements. It also identifies 13 major trading blocs. These are differentiated by region, region to country, and country to country agreements. The World Bank (I.B.R.D.) estimates that as much as one third of all world commerce is now done under free trade agreements. The free trade agreement data provided in chapter four of this book serves as excellent reference material for students of international economic relations interested in free trade facts and figures.
Another tenet of this work centers on the concept of decentralization. By definition, decentralization means a shift from concentration of power in the hands of a few to expansion of power into the hands of many. As the title of this book implies, decentralized globalization refers to the expansion of civic society, civil government, free trade, and foundations. The book argues that decentralized globalization results in democratization, freedom, and a better quality of life. However, as the author notes, there are some exceptions. For example, dictators Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro have learned to use the global communications network to brand themselves as “men of the people.” While continuing to suppress civil society and civil government, they have used the media to control the flow of information and recentralize their power. Other interesting cases concern the American “dot.com” industry. In the philanthropic field, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been structured so that the principals can personally choose to fund projects they believe to be of global significance. This contrasts with the centralized Rockefeller Foundation that has been structured so that a large governing board and a staff of philanthropic professionals set the course of action. It is also contrasts with George Soros’ decentralized approach to philanthropy that funds independent foundations throughout the world. Another interesting “dot.com” exception is presented by Google. Its internet search engine works to sort, prioritize, organize, and recentralize the expansive amount of information on the internet according to its own set of preferences and priorities.
To conclude, Decentralized Globalization looks at globalization through a multi-dimensional lens. It provides an important new perspective on how private individuals have shaped globalization through their participation in civil society. It also relates how since the 1990s, new free trade agreements and a new global communications network have aided the expansion of “decentralized Fast-Track Globalization.” The book is detailed, factual, and theoretical. It is an excellent reference source for those interested in studying globalization, international economic relations, and the history of philanthropy.
Margaret C. Boardman, Ph.D.
Reilly Center for Science, Technology & Values
University of Notre Dame
South Bend, IN