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Economic Worryland? Paths Out of the Globalization Trap. By Warnfried Dettling

Warnfried Dettling: Wirtschaftskummerland? Wege aus der Globalisierungsfalle (Translation: Economic Worryland? Paths Out of the Globalization Trap), Munich 1998, ISBN 3-463-40331-5.

12.09.1998 · Reviewed by Jürgen Turek

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The debate on globalization is not a tranquil academic conversation in the ivory tower. It is rather a highly politicized discussion about the strong economic and social consequences of the internationalization of life. On the one hand, there is a recognizable central conflict between the prevailing neoliberal economic ideology and all those points of view which are no longer able to accept the social side effects of the neoliberal medicine in modern economies. On the other hand, there are discussants who are not searching for ways to stop globalization but are looking for constructive measures of structural adaptions. One of these people is Warnfried Dettling. Formerly working in the centre of power with Germany's conservative-liberal government, and since the beginning of the nineties a free lance political observer, he is not willing to accept a "Globalization Trap." He demands social and state creativity in Germany so as not to drive away the future. His credo is, whoever is sitting in the globalization trap is blind concerning the chances of the epochal change of globalization. However, also he confirms that there is no way back and the prescriptions from yesterday are not suitable for today or tomorrow.

Dettling puts to himself the question of how to actively create positive structural and systemic change in the age of globalization and not only take change passively. Which structural reforms are neccessary to fulfil the goals of the social state in a changing world? In this context he analyzes three broad societal developments that are affecting the state, social and economic future: the worldwide competition among economic locations; the influence of further digitalization on employment and production structures; and the increasing individualization in modern industrial societies with its consequences on social cohesion. Dettling's analyzis calls to mind elements of the American debate about the future of the "civic society" which has roots in communitarianism, developed by poeple like Amitai Etzioni as a social response to the challenge of economic globalization. Warnfried Dettling picks up some of these ideas and thoughts, and he develops a German model of a self-responsible society. His basic thesis is that German society - like other developed societies - shortly before the end of the century is not in crisis; but rather "we are experiencing the transition to a new formation of society." Under these conditions, Dettling argues, the power of change will alter two fundamental institutions of western societies: life-long employment and family.

Under the pressure of new needs in global age both institutions have to change, and Dettling concretely shows how this could happen. The "Social Civic Society" is his response to the future's challenges. Society should promote economic growth and a new balance between employment and family. Therefore first, it is neccessary to create a new social contract which distributes employment to all people who are able and willing to work. Second, the welfare state takes care of all those people who are not able to work. Third, familiy, neighborhood and civic society , the so-called third sector, take care of people beyond supply and demand, help them to steady themselves and give them security; independent of achievement and failure. Dettling demands responsible behavior. He states that people in Germany have understood that the exodus of the politics from society is not only a result of globalization but has to do a lot with state failure. This insight creates for him the chance for the future. Too often, globalization has served as a pardon for wrong or unfavorable societal developments. In his words, "The irritations and fears of a society fixated only on production and consumption are not the result of globalization. Thus globalization does not cause but rather aggravates social problems."

Consequently, German electors would like to get the whole truth from politicians, and they want know what they have to expect. Dettling has written an excellent analysis of the current German social and economic situation in a globalizing world. Like other authors in this debate, he is right when he states that a lot of problems are homemade and not the result of stormy globalization. Although he is right, it is important to remember, that other specific problems of globalization need an international approach, intensive cooperation and international advising. But that is the stuff of another book.

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