Xavier Rambla Sociologia

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Archive for febrer, 2015

febr. 09 2015

Students’ open debates on globalisation

Who decides on taxes? While empirical evidence shows that governments mostly do so, recent proposals are opening the debate on global taxes. Should a global tax on wealth be implemented? Thomas Piketty has made this suggestion, which at least could be implemented at the scale of the European Union. However, a wider debate on legitimacy starts immediately. Do taxpayers have to fund authorities who are not directly accountable by means of ellections?

The bulk of debates on the global civil society are normative. What should NGOs and social movements do? To what extent should governments and international organisations be receptive to their vindications? However, a couple of crucial research findings should be introduced in the debate. On the one hand, the global civil society is not only dealing with the agenda of international organisations but also with an array of transnational economic activities. This point is clearly supported by the evidence on the growing interest of NGOs and social movements on the implications of the standards whereby global value chains are managed for an array of environmental externalities and social issues such as decent labour and child development.

 The cultural and ideological consequences of colonialism cannot be overlooked to understand the current world. Not only socio-economic development but also war and debates on intersectional inequalities (e.g. those on gender) are involved in this debate. How to enable communication in multilingual settings is at stake too. Although “global English” may seem a pragmatic solution, it is far from obvious in normative terms.
Rescaling is also relevant for the debate on growth and de-growth. Globalisation studies have convincingly provided evidence of emerging complex interaction between social agents operating at the local, national and supra-national geographical scales. Globalisation is not a zero-sum game where global transformation automatically neutralise the political capabilities of states and local communities. Then, if we are to save energy and build new social relations beyond productivism, we must create a new type of local economies. Most agricultural and industrial goods must produced as close as possible, but some activities such as financing and financial regulation or fighting climate change must be conducted globally. As a consequence, promising solutions cannot only prioritise local face-to-face relations regarding global anonymous institutions but have to build a new pattern of geographical re-scaling.

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febr. 09 2015

Students’ open debates on development

Does Nancy Fraser’s three-dimensional definition of global justice account for all the relevant issues? Philosopher Nancy Frazer proposed a three-dimensional definition of cosmopolitan justice that takes into account a wide array of concerns. Maybe you find some suggestions in her work. She proposes to distinguish distribution (e.g. Piketty’s global wealth tax, Tobin’s tax on financial transactions), recognition (e.g., rights of ethnic minorities, multilingualism, LGBT rights) and participation (global civil society, deliberative development)

Albeit difficult, the distinction between the influence of power in defining the MDGs and the normative underpinning of the MDGs is very helpful. We can discuss if these goals are grounded on human rights, capabilities or justice, and have arguments to both agree (e.g. with Amartya Sen or Martha Nussbaum) or to disagree. Some critics argue that “development” is a Western discourse that disrupts native political projects in the Global South (e.g. Arturo Escobar and Vandana Shiva). Crucial to the social analysis of development is the observation that the empirical evidence that politics has been at stake does not automatically refute the normative theories on global justice. Some authors propose to recognise a complex and multi-lateral ecology of knowledges but not necessarily to conclude that any claim concerning validity is so consistent as any other one. There is no point in conflating the appraisal of validity with the analysis of the social relations embedded in knowledge. Such an intellectual operation is neither  coherent in logical terms nor respectful of cultural diversity in ethical terms.

Hans Rosling and Richard Wilkinson clearly show that development cannot be reduced to the GDP per capita. Despite some very general correlations, public health does  not only depend on economic growth. Moreover, compelling evidence unveils the harmful effects of inequality for public health. So, public health does not only depend on biological factors or material power but also on the political economy. Power relations dramatically impinge so much on political decision-making and economic distribution that eventually have consequences for public health.


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