Classless Confusion

The Nation has an analysis of globalisation in its upcoming issue that is almost very good. I say “almost” because although he makes some excellent points, the author William Greider creates all kinds of confusion by studiously avoiding any mention of class.

Now I know that it’s not fashionable to talk about class any more, but sometimes it’s indispensable. Greider’s main point is that globalisation has been good for the capitalist business class in the U.S., but bad for the working class. Except that Greider doesn’t actually use this terminology, preferring instead to spend 3,000 tortuous words talking about “national interests”, “America” or simply “us”, and writing such jaw-dropping sentences as “If free trade is a win-win proposition, Gomory asked himself, then why did America keep losing?”

Hmm, America as the loser from free trade. I think the cotton farmers in Burundi, sweatshop workers in Kuala Lumpur or about 5.5 billion other people could have a few problems with this view. But the confusion is unnecessary. He could instead have said that globalisation hurts workers, both in the U.S. and abroad, and benefits the global capitalist class who exploit their labour.

By making the U.S. as a nation into the “losers”, he risks perpetuating the myth that the enemies of U.S. workers are Mexican/Guatemalan/Thai/Vietnamese workers. The reality is that the enemy of both groups is the class which exploits them both. But to make this connection you have to use the dreaded concept of class with all its fusty Marxist associations, and this is something even a left-wing magazine like The Nation seems unfortunately loath to do.

1 thought on “Classless Confusion

  1. Another thing that annoyed me about this article was the implicit praise of Ralph Gomory because he used to be a senior vice president at IBM and is “largely apolitical.”

    Why do people who are so critical of the establishment always have to fawn on any establishment figures who happen to share our views? If we are really anti-establishment, then surely a person’s “mainstream” credentials should diminish their credibility rather than enhancing it…

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