Monday, February 25, 2013

The body thing that Global Political Economy texts don't include

O'Brien and Williams, in their truly excellent textbook, Global Political Economy (which I am teaching this semester), identify the key changes of the 20th century that have transformed the global political economy.  These are:

  • the World Wars and the inter-war "economic turbulence,"
  • the dominance of the US and the West,
  • decolonization and "the struggle for development," 
  • the liberalization of domestic and global markets (what I would call the Reagan-Thatcher revolution),
  • "the growth of international organizations in governing global affairs" (what I would refer to as the expansion of regimes)
  • "a revolution in information technologies and its impact upon social, political economic and military organization."
As I reviewed this material for today's class, it occurred to me that another major revolutionary change of the 20th century was not mentioned here and is not mentioned in any text that I know of:

  • antibiotics, vaccines, and other advances in medical science that change humans' relation to the natural world.
(And not necessarily always for the better.)  

And yet one more, as yesterday's the article by Michael Moss in yesterday's New York Times magazine section reminds me:
  • the creation of mass produced food, which acts on our bodies in ways that are becoming increasingly apparent.
I have not worked this out yet.  The inkling of an answer that I have has to do with the fact that there can be no global political economy without human bodies (workers, consumers, etc.), and the condition the human bodies are in will of necessity be deeply imbricated with the GPE.  I'll toss it out as a question to the undergrads and see what they think.  (It's a quiet class.)

Anyone have any ideas?

1 comment:

  1. There's a fun article I used to teach for a class on globalization that showed how the paths of undersea internet cables today closely trace trade routes from the 19C - something to do with what are considered 'safe' corridors - and I also used a very good textbook by Held that had a chapter on how colonial language standardization formed one of the "infrastructures" of globalisation, esp computer programming. Always intriguing to think about how the transformations of the 20C have roots in earlier ages. But agree that the public health part of globalization is vastly understudied - especially as the WHO, UNICEF and similar are among the most influential international orgs, that we often ignore in polisci. would love to see what you come up with.