Modern academy is curious of the fact that underdevelopment, poverty, and deficiency in third world countries continue to hold such wave, denuded of all political and historical contexts. On the one hand, Wolf commented that academics had, in fact, benefited from the orientalization and marginalization of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia (24). Other authors like Ayittey claim that ideas like socialism or the state are western imports (17). He claims that the existence of such an idea as a ‘failed state’ demonstrates that neo-liberal policy’s definition of success as well as failure is not comprehensive. It only considers the global market’s profitability. For these reasons, James Ferguson in his book “Global Shadows: African in the Neo-Liberal World Order” traces the multifaceted relationship between policy and rhetoric in neo-liberalism. He extends the argument that development in the nation-state should be viewed based on the globalised economy.
Fergusson claims that social scientists who come up with arguments, facts, and historical narratives that become the basis of people’s understanding often use semantic quibbles rather than contextual material inequalities. For instance, while most cultural theorists are opposed to the generalization of Africa as one entity because there are different distinct cultural traditions and African languages, Ferguson asserts that it is such a kind of intellectual parochialism that has made social science irrelevant. He claims that scholars “refusing the very category of ‘Africa’ as empirically problematic…have allowed themselves to remain bystanders in the wider arena of discussion about Africa” (Ferguson 3). Although ‘Africa’ may be an artificial classification, it is a consequential category that informs interregional interactions and geopolitical events and whose existence must be accepted as a social organizing principle.
Ferguson gives a thorough analysis of the process of globalization. Most people consider globalization as an unavoidable process of economic and homogeneity and social convergence that will incorporate all countries of the world. While there are debates about the current pace of globalization, it is assumed that convergence takes place. However, Fergusson affirms that globalization is a process of disconnection. Instead of joining regions together as a whole, a global economy skips from one point to the other “excluding the spaces that lie between the points” (47). Ferguson cites Angola as an example. This is a state where oil production is conducted off-shore mainly by workers from the foreign countries who reside in private areas. Although foreign companies are mining oil in Angola, they make not much contact with the wider society in the country. Indeed, reports show that the government secluded the oil industry from the inefficiencies of the economy sectors .
Ferguson asserts that the fact that reports about business opportunities in Africa can be presented alongside of other ideas that the states of Africa are renowned for poverty and failure indicates that globalization is yet to bring about homogeneity and convergence in the continent. Actually , economic and social inequalities in Africa are widening. Furthermore, the entire African continent became highly marginalized in the global economy for the past three decades as capital investment levels have fallen. Instead of looking at Africa as an irregularity to the prosperity of globalization elsewhere, Ferguson supposes that the marginalization of large sectors of Africa’s economy is not strange but rather is inherent to the strategy by which the global economy is structured.
He argues that structured adjustment programs have been imposed up5on African states by the International Monetary Fund reform programs since the 1980s. SAPs were introduced to solve the payment crisis in Africa in the 1970s by encouraging investment through privatization and currency devaluation. However, these policies have failed, according to Ferguson, because the manufacturing industry failed. Nonetheless, he concurs with the idea that SAPs have proposed. Africa as an economic market. He affirms that Africa is suitable for investment as long as marketing is accepted in former state-run sectors like banking, telecommunication, security forces, and transport. However, he is not calling for enlightenment of the primitive other in Africa; he is, instead, indicating that most of the Africans who lament about their life circumstances not being modern enough are not referring to their cultural practices, but expressing their genuine indictment of in adequate socio-economic situations and their deficiencies in relation to other countries in the world (186). As a matter of fact, the inadequacies are not even addressed by the poverty reduction programs of the World Bank which serve only to benefit the corruption, rich regimes, and fatten the reserves of multinational investors.
Ferguson has a theory about the state in general. Both the nation and local-state are depoliticizing, 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 an elusive task to move from rethought categories to different organizational strategies of political action. His strategies also seem to be weak in his attempt to object neo-liberalism 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 a critic of scientific capitalism 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 basis of structural 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 grow fabulously rich. Because of the class division in Africa, any debate touching the morality of wealth is unlikely to restrain 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 enclaves based on nepotistic 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 hypocrisy. In so doing, he tries to rescue the basic prescripts of modernization from the cultural relativists’ criticism: the reason for construction of more equitable 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).
I believe 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 easily access to food and shelter. The US is also a heterogeneous society with people from all backgrounds living together unlike in 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 to be 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.