Globalization is defined as the increased interconnectedness of places. However, the dimensions of interconnection vary through time and space. Africa is the most culturally diverse continent in the world. Modern scholars are curious of the fact that socio-economic failures in Africa continue to hold such a wave without considering all political and historical contexts. James Ferguson who is an anthropology professor at Stanford University in his book “Global Shadows: African in the Neo-Liberal World Order” traces the multifaceted relationship between policy and expression in neo-liberalism. This paper seeks to analyze Ferguson’s views on state and state transformation and the general impact of globalization on African states. The paper also compares his evidence with the processes happening in the US.
State and State Transformation
Ferguson asserts that the reforms and policy measures that were supposed to reverse the marginalization of African economies have all failed. In the 1980 and 90s, international lenders imposed structural policies on African countries with the aim of stabilization and economic growth. The effects of these policies remain highly debatable (Ferguson 9). As a matter of fact, the reforms have slowed down economic growth and increased marginalization and inequality. He argues that the main cause of under-development in Africa is negative perception. Poor information, low investment, and low speculation are the main causes of the poor African economies.
He argues that globalization is yet to bring about equality and convergence in the continent. Actually, economic and social inequalities in Africa are widening. Furthermore, structured adjustment programs have been imposed upon African states by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reform programs since the 1980s. They were introduced to solve the payment crisis in Africa in the 1970s by encouraging investment through privatization and currencies weakening, but the policies have failed.
The political environment has also been adversely affected because of the generalization of Africa as an insecure continent. As a result, even the most peaceful countries have suffered from the “criminalization of the state in Africa” (Ferguson 10). Structural adjustment loans to Africa have negatively impacted the central state capacity, increased corruption, and debts. Although the formal democratization of countries in Africa marked a new beginning for most countries, the multiparty elections have done little to change the significant dynamics of predatory states. Most of the elections have been interfered with by the authoritarian leaders most of whom do not wish to relinquish power. Ferguson asserts that even the genuine multiparty elections have witnessed organized violence (Ferguson 12). Nonetheless, the politics of most states has changed from the Guerilla insurgence and embraced the civil society. However, the civil groups are politically organized and, in most cases, work for the government.
How Globalization impacted African States
Ferguson insists that globalization impacted Africa in two major ways: modernization and governing extraction. He claims that modernization was not only about cultural differences but about global hierarchy as well. For most Africans, modernity was a special dream rather than an anticipated future. However, for most of them, it has become a broken promise (Klein 16). In fact, it has negative effects on African culture. Only the rich live a first class kind of life. Poverty remains wide spread on the continent.
However, he is not calling for enlightenment of the others in Africa; instead, he indicates that most of the Africans who complain about their life circumstances not being modern enough are not referring to their cultural practices, but expressing their genuine expression of the poor state of their socio-economic conditions compared to other places in the world (Ferguson 186). As a matter of fact, the insufficiencies are not even addressed by the poverty reduction programs of the World Bank which serve only to benefit the corruption, rich areas, and build the reserves of multinational investors.
He affirms that the position of Africans in the world has been defined based on the perception that it depended on foreign aid. Direct foreign investment in the continent by 2004 was $15 billion annually. Although this is a small margin in world standards, it is a great improvement from $1 in the previous years. However, a great percentage of the investment by foreign companies is in mineral extraction. As a result, most of the resources from Africa are carried away from the continent. In fact, the National Intelligence Council’s projections indicate that by 2015, 25% of the imports in North America will be from Africa. The modernization projects in Africa failed to represent social change, and the collapse of the economies calls for complete abandonment.
Ferguson’s Theory and the State in General
Ferguson has a theory about the state in general. Both the nation and local-state remove from political party since the debate does not include the economic and social forces that are outside the limits of the units in question. He believes that rethinking these units “becomes an elementary act of theoretical and political clarification… to strategically shape the struggles of subaltern peoples and social movements around the world” (109). Nonetheless, it is a subtle task to move from reconsidered categories to different organizational approaches of political action. His strategies also seem to be weak in his attempt to object to the trends in economics and politics advocating for open market and free trade in the nation-state. According to Harvey, neo-liberalism considers market exchange to be ethic (35). On the other hand, Ferguson insists that ‘moralizing’ the production of wealth in Africa might lead to the critique of neo-liberalization. However, in his argument, Ferguson creates some contrast between the moral order economies in Africa and the natural order of neo-liberalization by IMF that overlooks the practices and negotiations which serve as foundation of adjustment.
One of the reasons why neo-liberalization has been successful in Africa is that it appeals to the elite in the African countries. In some instances, Ferguson overlooks the interest of the African class that works with overseas investors and imposes policies to facilitate marketing. However, he discusses how the Angolan economy is appealing to investors from the foreign countries as the Angolan elite grows fabulously rich. Because of the class division in Africa, any debate touching the morality of wealth is unlikely to contain any policy on neo-liberalization of the economy. As Ferguson puts it, “romaralisation” of debate at the national level cannot bring any substantial changes because the economic policy is mainly accountable to IMF. Therefore, the opinion of the locals would not count.
By illuminating the strategy by which Africa has been divided into a group of militarized areas based on favoritism in government in which foreign-based industries such as oil production are serviced by cheap labor, Ferguson demonstrates that the so-called improvement of Africa by foreigners is all but two-facedness. In so doing, he tries to rescue the basic rules of modernization from the cultural related criticism: the reason for construction of more reasonable policies and desire to improve access to resources. Ultimately, Ferguson asserts that before stooping low to conceptualize African welfare based on charity, debt forgiveness, or provision of foreign aid, Western theorists must acknowledge the fact that the West is actively involved in the dispossession of African resources (Ferguson 175).
Parallels between Africa and the U.S.
I believe that parallel lines should be drawn between the materials used by Ferguson and the situation in the US. Unlike in Africa, the US government gives opportunities to everyone to benefit from the resources. Generally, there are equal opportunities for everyone as long as he/she is capable and aggressive enough. Similarly, the government taxes the rich more than the middle class and the poor to provide equal services to the public. For instance, through the health insurance scheme, everyone has the privilege to access medical services from hospitals as long as they have the medical cover.
Additionally, it is unlikely for foreigners to come into the country and exploit the resources because of the strict requirements for accountability. This is different from Africa where rich foreigners gang up with those in power to suppress the poor. In addition, the pace of globalization in the US is much faster than in Africa because of the availability of resources. Most of the US citizens live above the poverty line as opposed to most Africans who live below the poverty line and thus are more vulnerable to exploitation (Klein 67). While Africans are struggling for basic resources like food and shelter, people in the US have easy access to food and shelter. The US is also a heterogeneous society with people from all backgrounds living together unlike Africa where countries are divided based on ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Ferguson’s book is an original and insightful analysis of the complexities concerning the social and economic processes commonly referred to as globalization. In fact, the idea of globalization as a process of convergence commonly expressed by the metaphor of flow and tide is depicted instead of being disjointed and disconnected points of investments. This process has increased the level of economic inequalities enriching only the mighty in the society at the expense of the poor. The natural flows are replaced by jagged edges. The instituted global policies do not bring out global prosperity, but promote global inequality and support democratic means to fight against any opposition.