Jul
11

Globalization and Seed Sovereignty

Walshe's "Globalisation and seed sovereignty in sub-Saharan Africa" (2019) explores some of the contestations and contradictions that exist between globalization and sovereignty (Ch 1), sovereignty in a globalized world (Ch 2), and seed sovereignty (Ch 3). The book provides two country case studies on Kenya (Ch 4) and Ethiopia (Ch 5), exploring their respective laws / regulations / proclamations regarding seed (their content, drafting, influences, implications), and then a case study of local seed use / change from the Oromia region in Ethiopia (Ch 6). Walshe's book is a useful reference, particularly the two chapters on that analyze the laws / regulations / proclamations.

The conclusion makes some bold claims about this research (a publication drawing on doctoral work), such as "this book provides the first in-depth study of new Kenyan and Ethiopian seed laws for the first time and also provides the first local study of seed sovereignty in Ethiopia" (p. 237). Lots of firsts being claimed. One example of an Ethiopian researcher whose knowledge and contributions could be better recognized - of many - is Fassil Gebeyehu Yelemtu's doctoral study "The social life of seeds" (2014). Dr. Fassil is now with the African Biodiversity Network (who was interviewed, but whose work was not cited or recognized). 

  91 Hits
91 Hits
May
14

The Liberal Virus

For additional background on Samir Amin see my posts on Unequal Development (1976) and Capitalism in the Age of Globalization (1997). Some notes from his 2004 book "The Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World":

"Towards the end of the twentieth century a sickness struck the world. Not everyone died, but all suffered from it. The virus which caused the epidemic was the 'liberal virus.' This virus made its appearance around the sixteenth century within the triangle described by Paris-London-Amsterdam. The symptoms that the disease then manifested appeared harmless. Men (whom the virus struck in preference to women) not only became accustomed to it and developed the necessary antibodies, but were able to benefit from the increased energy that it elicited. But the virus traveled across the Atlantic and found a favorable place among those who, deprived of antibodies, spread it. As a result, the malady took on extreme forms. The virus reappeared in Europe towards the end of the twentieth century, returning from America where it had mutated. Now strengthened, it came to destroy a great number of the antibodies that the Europeans had developed over the course of the three preceding centuries." (p. 7)

"The dominant forces are such because they succeed in imposing their language on their victims. The 'experts' of conventional economics have managed to make believe that their analyses and the conclusions drawn from them are imperative because they are 'scientific,' hence objective, neutral and unavoidable. This is not true." (p. 15-16)

"The very principle of democracy is founded on the possibility of making alternative choices. There is no longer a need for democracy, since ideology made the idea that 'there is no alternative' acceptable. Adherence to a meta-social principle of superior rationality allows for the elimination of the necessity and possibility of choosing." (p. 21)

"...this liberal virus, which pollutes contemporary social thought and eliminates the capacity to understand the world, let alone transform it, has profoundly penetrated the whole of the "historical left" formed in the aftermath of the Second World War. The movements engaged at the present time in social struggles for "another world" (a better one) and an alternative globalization will only be able to produce significant social advances if they get rid of this virus in order to begin an authentic theoretical debate again." (p. 42)

  167 Hits
167 Hits
May
08

Capitalism in the Age of Globalization

Samir Amin (1931-2018) spent his life research, writing and acting against capitalism, in particular highlighting how exploitative is it for the peripheries of the system. On this, Unequal Development (1976), is one of the earlier important works. In its place, he advocated for a socialist system. In the 1970s he introduced the term "eurocentrism", a critique that has influenced all of the social sciences (he wrote a book by that title, published in 1988, which I will aim to cover in a later post). Born in Egypt, he spent much of his life in West Africa, largely writing in French (which he was educated in). This post covers "Capitalism in the Age of Globalization: The Management of Contemporary Society" (1997).

I have the 2014 re-print, which is useful because Amin includes a Preface that he wrote in 2013. In several regards, Amin foresaw many of the challenges that would emerge in the decades that followed the publication of this book, which he reflects on in saying: "So far as I was concerned, the new system was nothing other than the latest stage in moves to world domination by the centres of historical imperialism (USA, Western Europe, Japan), which they sought to impose through exclusive access to the planet's natural resources, a monopoly over modern technology, control of the globalized financial market, and sole deployment of weapons of mass destruction. I maintained that the nations of the South, being victims of this system, would not willingly bow to its demands, and that the North-South conflict was therefore destined to grow in scope and importance" (p. xv)

"Generalized, globalized and financialized monopoly capitalism now has nothing to offer the world, other than the sad prospect of humanity's self destruction, and further deployment of capital accumulation is inexorably heading in this direction. Capitalism has outlived its usefulness, producing conditions that suggest a necessary transition towards a higher stage of civilization. The implosion of the system, caused by the ongoing loss of control over its internal contradictions, signals 'the Autumn of Capitalism'." (p. xxix)

"During the Uruguay Round (which ended in December 1993) Western powers pursued common objectives, while attempting at the same time to reconcile some of their differences. It is important to say it clearly: the common denominator for all the Western powers, throughout this affair, has been a marked hostility toward the Third World. The true objective of the Uruguay Round is to block the competitiveness of the industrialized Third World, even at the expense of the holy principles of liberalism, and thus to reinforce the "five monopolies" of the dominant centers. In this area, as in every other area and at every other time, the double standard prevails." (p. 28-29)

"With Trade Rights in Intellectual Property (TRIP), an offensive has been launched not to reinforce competition, but on the contrary, to strengthen the power of technological monopolies - at the expense, of course, of developing countries for whom the possibility of acquiring the technology they need in order to progress becomes even more uncertain. Will the 'trade secrets' that GATT-WTO wants to include under this category bring us back to the mercantilist monopoly practices of 300 years ago? Even the language used to discuss the topic is not neutral. We no longer speak of knowledge as the common property of humanity, but rather of 'piracy' when someone tries to acquire it! This policy sometimes verges on the obscene: GATT-WTO, for instance, wants to forbid Third World manufacture of inexpensive pharmaceutical products, which are of vital importance, in order to protect massive profits of monopolies in this sector." (p. 29)

  135 Hits
135 Hits
Feb
05

On the Commodity Trail

Alison Hulme's "On the Commodity Trail: The Journey of a Bargain Store Product from East to West" (2015) tracks the geographies that products move within. Starting with an inquiry in Bargain Stores, Hulme begins in the dump in Shanghai, then to factories, over seas in containers and via global ports, back to the bargain store, and projecting the likely return to the dump. I picked up the book looking for an ethnography I might use to teach an introductory undergraduate course. This did not fit that purpose, but is interesting nonetheless. Unfortunately for the author, the commodities spaces change so rapidly that this 2015 publication could be read as a history, as these geographies and processes have changed so rapidly. The book is easy to read and is well suited to lower level undergraduate courses.

  145 Hits
145 Hits
Subscribe to receive new blog posts via email