I began writing this blog as a metaphorical pivot in the geo-spatial history of capitalism. Back in September 2008, as I crossed the Atlantic from Newark and flew over northern Europe and western Asia and finally landed in Delhi, I was the shifting global economy personified. On the eve of a global recession (cum depression), I departed from North America and arrived in South Asia. But my movement was merely foreshadowing the larger transformation that is taking place in the global economy, as America no longer constitutes the epicenter of the economic universe, and emerging Asian economies seem to be the only ones in the world capable of holding on to any semblance of normalcy in these immensely troubling times.
Now as I return to the United States for a brief stint (I'll be back in India next week), I cannot help but reflect on the effects of this paralyzing recession (cum depression) on the American psyche. I turn to the latest article of Thomas L. Friedman, one of the loudest proponents of economic globalization in the American public sphere, in order to index a transformation in the popular discourse of the economic recession. Here is a brief fragment:
This is a lot coming from someone like Friedman, who for the past decade or so has been preaching the merits of neoliberal economics (that is, the economics of privatization, reduction in social spending, liberalization of trade and deregulation of financial markets) to the developing world. Neoliberal globalization, Friedman has consistently harped, is the only real path towards economic and social development, and to resist its power is not only an exercise in futility, but also a social injustice, as globalization for Friedman is singularly capable of healing historical wrongs, class inequalities, cultural and religious irrationalities, everything.
Returning to a rather traumatized America is rather informative, then. Now Friedman's messiah is not capitalism as such, but rather, the "green" revolution. But until now, Friedman's approach has been to reconcile environmentalism with the ideology of capitalism, making the "green" of the environment subservient to the "green" of monetary profit. In his search for "sustainable" modes of economic development in the midst of not only an ecological crisis but also a financial one, Friedman may now have to rethink this approach, and look more seriously at how the culture of capitalism is itself caught in an existential bind. Without a radical transformation, one that critically re-thinks our unquestioned attachment to unlimited consumption, "free-trade," and never-ending and ever-increasing economic "growth," neoliberal capitalism is likely to destroy the world that we as humans have leased for the past 10,000 years. In this respect, I find it intriguing that someone like Friedman is now willing to take a hard look back at the last 50 years (when American dominated globalization began, and set the international framework for neoliberalism as an ideology to proliferate), and search for where things went wrong. This is nothing if not a start...