Look no further than the latest news paper or television program and it is guaranteed that people are talking about globalization. Globalization can be defined as the globalizing of states and markets based on the strategy of free-trade economics which requires the free-flow of capital and cheap labor. Proponents of globalization will often state that through internationalizing markets- countries will be more able to raise their standards of living, to modernize and to democratize- thus creating a sort of global village where people are always connected and working together. This idealism has yet to bear fruit for most people and nations. Critics of globalization will state that this practice is rapidly widening the gap rich and poor countries and their constituents, pitting already poor countries against each other to lure in foreign investors (a “race to the bottom”), increasing hegemony of super power countries, negating sovereignty of states, destabilizing countries, destroying the environment and increasing the dependency that poor countries already have on super-powers. So in practice, globalization has yet to yield the promises that its ideologues spout. However, the ideology can be critically looked at as well as something that is unapologetically justifying elite’s power and promoting an elitist politic. In the example of the Caribbean- one can look to see the impact that globalization is for the dependent countries and highlights the ideological and practical flaws of neoliberal rhetoric. A look at the historical nature of these island economies and a look at their contemporary external pressures, this essay will be able to quickly explain how imperialism, capitalism, and now globalization are under-developing the Caribbean. Although the rhetoric behind globalization tries to remove itself from the
negative history of capitalism and imperialism, we will see that globalization is merely a “new designation for an old obscenity” and is thus rooted in historical exploitation.
The political economy of the Caribbean is one that has historically been a dependent economy. Thomas Klak’s text Globalization and Neoliberalism: The Caribbean Context articulates the Caribbean’s economic situation as dependent because “all dimensions of Caribbean society were exogenously constructed and transplanted” (Klak, 6). In other words, the main population of the Caribbean was externally populated due to the European/American slave trade. These islands became a hub for colonial control and served as a cash-crop for the colonial countries. From there, European and American colonial/imperial powers transformed the nations in the Caribbean into monocultures. A monoculture is defined as a society that only works to produce a certain product, and thus its labor and its ability to sell is based off of this product, in the case of many islands of the Caribbean- the monoculture is sugar (Klak, 33). More recently, monocultures have been in bauxite (which produces aluminum) or tourism. Since these islands were externally made in a sense to be factories for their “mother countries” this made them dependent on the mother countries for resources necessary for survival. Thus, the development of wealth in Europe and the United States was directly attached to the under-development of the islands in the Caribbean.
After 1823, the political economy of the Caribbean became more of the responsibility of the United States than of Europe due to the Monroe doctrine. The Monroe doctrine essentially was a power struggle between colonial elites over which country was able to colonize and capitalize more. Thus, the United States passed the legislation that the United States would have sole access to colonizing/exploiting the western hemisphere. In other words: the Caribbean was capital for the United States and Europe would just need to back off. Thus, the Monroe doctrine just transferred hegemony from Europe to the United States. The Regan doctrine solidified the United States control over the islands and paved the way for new elites to take control- this being the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB). All of these hegemonic powers have an influence on the Caribbean and more often will determine the nature of the politics on the islands. A look into the difference between an independent and dependent economy will help address how external pressures have determined the Caribbean’s economics.
In a regular independent economy there is 1) production, 2) organic consumption, 3) surplus, 4) sales, and then 4) capital from sales is used for other goods. When a country is a dependent economy, there is no room for organic consumption because the resources used for organic consumption are taken from the country for the use of the mother country; therefore, they are constantly at the mercy of its mother country for capital and for goods. Having the resources for organic consumption enables a country to be sustaining and therefore self-determining. As opposed to no resources which will lead a nation to become impoverished this will always leave it susceptible to outside control. Thus creating a cycle that links the elites’ development with another’s underdevelopment. With the removal of colonization, these economies still worked the same. There have been many responses to solve the problems of the Caribbean islands. In the text Charting Caribbean Development by Anthony Payne and Paul Sutton articulate that there are historical and political categories that these responses fall under. From there- a look at the strengths and weaknesses to these responses will help determine an analysis for healing the Islands in the Caribbean- or at least get dialog flowing that is critical of the current status-quo. These categories are 1) modernization 2) dependency challenges 3) neoliberal revolutionizing 4) globalization and regionalism which leads into the question of 5) whither in 1990’s?
The concept that the Caribbean could develop its economies by modernization started around up through the 1960’s, which was around the same time Caribbean islands were gaining their independence. This period is marked by the St. Lucian economist Sir Arthur Lewis developed an economic strategy for the Caribbean titled “Industrialization by Invitation” and the formation of the Commonwealth Caribbean. These both in ideal were set up to “overcome the dual problems of resources and markets” (Payne & Sutton, 3). “Industrialization by Invitation” would involve wooing companies into the Caribbean which in turn would stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and put the islands into a modern industrial era These industries would be “highly capital intensive” however, “the industries that were set up produced few jobs and were often itinerant in their commitment to the Caribbean, finding it profitable, once the incentive plan has expired to move their operations to other locales offering it new package of inducements” (Payne & Sutton, 4). “Unfortunately, in practice the derivative “industry-by-invitation” policies that were followed did not fully implement Lewis’ broader agenda of sectoral diversification, substantial investment in human capital development, and diversification of agriculture” (Klak, 34)
In response to the failures of industry by invitation and due to the political climate across the globe, radical experiments went under way in the islands. On one hand there were the radical left options in Guyana and Jamaica that opted for cooperative and democratic socialism. These experiments either pushed a “self-serving agenda [of political party members] of legitimizing the states (their) ascendance to become a national bourgeoisie class” (Klak, 36) or suffered from the reactions that the United States. In short either state corruption or United States reactions neutralized the potential for liberation that these experiments had. However, this still embedded a climate for resistance that was, according to scholar Tim Hector, based in black power, embracement of working class struggles, and a push for education for liberation. However, the Caribbean should serve as a lesson on two fronts a) achieving a culture that respects and looks to empower the working class is something that is possible and that b) All forms of Marxism/socialism must critically look at the role of a vanguard state, otherwise it is doomed to transform into a de facto authoritarian capitalist state.
On the right or conservative strategies were Puerto Rico’s “Operation Bootstrap”, Barbados’ “conservative and pragmatic” governments, and Antigua’s new version of industry by invitation. These experiments with laizze-faire capitalism usually ended up with “corruption, clienteles,, and nepotism” (Klak, 40-1). What speaks here is that capitalism has a constant of not being able to sustain without subsidies. That’s that paradox that laizze-faire gives poor countries is that a) people would willingly participate in a system that has no interest in their plight and that b) without a subsidized state, capital cannot flourish. However, even with a subsidized state, the Caribbean experienced “greater dependency on foreign capital and greater dependency on U.S. subsidies and welfare assistance. […] The high structural unemployment that still haunted the island is a constant reminder of Operations Bootstrap’s myopic vision” (Klak, 42).
Neoliberal revolutionizing/Regionalism and Globalization
The social experiments and social unrest in the islands in sense seemed to expose the Caribbean to even more predatory economics “overwhelmed by the interest of the U.S.” but still moving hegemony from the United States, to that of the IMF/WB. (Payne & Sutton, 12). This was through neoliberalizing, regionalism, and globalization. The neo-liberal agenda via Reagan’s Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) would essentially “increasing profit margins, weakening trade unions, eliminating inflations through the adoption of monetarist macro-economic management and boosting growth by means of supply-side economics” (Payne & Sutton, 13). However, “the social costs for such market-friendly policies, measures in terms of unemployment, inflations, and sharply declining living standards, generally, were immense, provoking riots in Jamaica” (14). What is exemplified here is the tradition of that the “rhetoric and plans are often more ambitious than practical” in the capitalist ideology, while it does plenty in stimulate the profit of few, it does little in effect for most.
A neoliberal strategy definitely sets the stage for globalization ideologues to set the terms for debate across the globe. This shift can be marked by George Bush and signing of the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative (EAI), North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), formation of the Caribbean Community and Common market CARICOM, Association of Caribbean States (ACS)(Payne & Sutton, 18).
What is important to touch on here is that aside from all the groups set up in response/resistance to globalization, it is important to look at what the function of globalization is to see why it is not the best path for most of the world, and in this particular paper- the Caribbean. Globalization transfers political power in which “States are not rendered irrelevant […] but they do now have to recognize the power not only of other states and inter state […] but also on international capital, the banks and the foreign exchange market, all of which constantly scrutinize what states are doing and have the means [..] to force them to adopt economic policies appropriate to capitalist interest”(Payne & Sutton, 20). Hence an ever more disempowering structure for the Caribbean that a) removes sovereignty, b) does little to set up stable governments that are in the main interest of the broad base of people, c) does not set up and economically independent system, but one that increases dependence and d) now gives the Caribbean two hegemonic powers to answer too: the United States and the IMF/WB.
Whither in 1990’s?
What is to be made of the Caribbean in the 1990’s up to today? Economist Lloyd Best in his editorials to the Trinidad and Tobago Online Newspaper in his piece “How the Caribbean Economy Works” called for “contemporary strategies that Effective management therefore calls for a systematic monitoring of what takes place and of the channels through which resources are made available for deployment inshore.” Thomas Klaks text offers some good discussion and working points when he states that:
“Caribbean decisions maker need to learn from the mistakes of the past, and neoliberalism appears to be hastening a sea change of global restructuring. […] Caribbean institutions should be examining these new global-to-local relations for ways to forge sustainable paths that resist the harsh excesses and dehumanizing consequences of neoliberalism and challenge free-market triumphalism rather than acquiesce to its dictates” (Klak, 48).
A look to the liberation of the Caribbean has to be held in the mistakes that the left has made and even more to the failures of capitalism and colonialism. Although it seems idealist in theory, a good discussion about the affects that development/ under-development has had globally. This could lead to an even more fruitful discussion of what reparations would look like. Reparations could be an effective strategy, but first the damage of colonialism and dependency needs to be acknowledged.</lj>