by PHILIPPE LEGRAIN
Philip Legrain's ambitiously titled Open World: The Truth about Globalisation adds a new dimension to the debate on globalisation: a new defender of the benefits of the global village. Having worked for both the World Trade Organisation and The Economist, Legrain's credentials seem impeccable, and he quickly launches into an impassioned defence of the benefits of economic globalisation, enthusiastically attacking Naomi Klein's No Logo, arguing that "the beauty of globalisation is that it can free people from the tyranny of geography" in offering new possibilities for international and global cooperation and cultural intermingling.
Legrain rejects the anti-globalisation argument that governments are losing control to multinational companies, and that branding is taking over our lives, offering a powerful critique of the recent TRIPS agreement. He is also good on the extent to which "many of the worries about globalisation echo age-old fears about decline". In arguing for a much more interventionist model for the future of globalisation, Legrain follows the work of Anthony Giddens and Will Hutton, but he lacks scope and authority of their economic and political analysis to really add anything new to their radical democratic positions. His cultural analysis is so weak that he repeatedly idealises the new possibilities that globalisation provides; the claim that "we increasingly define ourselves rather than let others define us" is true for a privileged, but impossible to sustain for millions of people in the developing world. Open World still has one eye closed to the downside of globalisation. --Jerry Brotton