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FALSE DAWN by John Gray


The Delusions of Global Capitalism

by John Gray

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-56584-521-8
Publisher: New Press

A depressingly convincing analysis of an international economy headed for disaster. Gray (European Thought/London School of Economics) considers the contemporary drive for a global free market the last gasp of the Enlightenment. The economist’s faith that markets are the ultimate human organizing device has become the final remnant of the belief that world historical development is converging on a single, optimal set of institutions and values. Only in the US do people still believe this can happen, but in the world’s dominant economic power, it is a political and intellectual orthodoxy. Gray argues that not only will this utopian vision fail just as surely as did its predecesors, it is more nightmare than dream. The case for the economic advantages of global free trade is convincing, but it also “involves a wild abstraction from social realities.” No other society is willing to tolerate the “social dereliction” evident in the American collapse of families and widespread use of incarceration as a means of social control. Indeed, capitalism has taken very different forms in countries with different cultural traditions, and it is only through “an extraordinary blindness to history” that American economists have imagined that Western-style market reform could transform, for example, a non-Western country like Russia. The central problem for the US today, according to Gray, “is that its institutions and policies are predicated on an early modern ideology” ill-suited for “late modern conditions.” Unfortunately, he’s not optimistic about finding a solution for this problem, leaving the US and the rest of the world in a rather gloomy situation: “a deepening international anarchy is the human prospect.” Almost as intriguing as the conclusion is depressing, however, is the question of how he could write this book without mentioning his apparent transformation from New Right to Burkean conservative. Listening to this powerful challenge to economic orthodoxy could improve human prospects.