A Critical Review of Tom Conleys 2004 article, ‘Globalisation and the Politics of Persuasion and Coercion’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 39, Issue 2.
The authors objective in this article is to show that politics worldwide has been significantly impacted by the ‘discourse and practice of globalisation’ (Conley 2004, p. 195). The three salient, interlinked themes are ideology, persuasion and coercion, which together, the author claims, have led to a singular view of reality, persuasively presented to the public, followed by coercive implementation of an economic liberal agenda; all alternatives having been marginalised.
Ideological and Material Components of Globalisation
The first theme discusses the effect of political ideology on globalisation. The author claims that equal, bilateral consideration needs to be given for ‘ideas, rhetoric and discourse’ and material components of globalisation, since it is the ideological factors that influence perceptions of political economic policy constraints and opportunities (Conley 2004, p. 186), and the material components that provide the structural limitations. Further, it is argued that ‘dominant interpretations’ can influence the fulfilment of the process, and change the political environment (ibid., p. 186).
According to the author, governments have developed a ‘deterministic’ evaluation and liberalising reaction to globalisation. The author concedes that various political and economic events caused a shift in policy perception, and equates this with liberalised policy changes becoming institutionalised ideology. This may be partially accurate, however the article appears to neglect the impact of the growing strength of global institutions such as the World Bank and World Trade Organisation, which have placed considerable pressure on states to implement a neo-liberal structure (Firth 2005, p. 11).
Whilst the argument that ideology certainly impacts world views and narrows the range of options which are open for consideration is acceptable, the author does not do enough to show that ‘at each point of material change’ Conley 2004, p. 186) there were alternative interpretations of this ‘material reality’ (ibid.) leading to differing policy when considering the impact of the world economy.
Globalisation as Persuasion
Closely linked with ideology, the second theme contends that globalisation has been framed as an ‘international imperative’ (Conley 2001, p. 241, 2004, p. 184), to persuade the population that liberalisation of the economy was the best, indeed, ‘only viable option’ (Conley 2004, p. 185). It is ultimately claimed that globalisation is the justification for the shift to economic liberalism. It is also suggested that the government has used ‘persuasion’ to lower the publics’ expectations of the state (Conley 2001, p. 241, 2004, pp. 184, 188).
With a degree of rhetoric, the author presents these ideas, and attempts to persuade. His primary argument has an element of success, effectively showing that governments have used persuasive methods, to both push globalisation as a national good, and also showing that a degree of public ‘education’ has taken place, espousing the same notion. The use of the term ‘education’ has negative connotations in the article, and the authors own beliefs come through strongly in this section. The author places negative images of various changes, both at a social and political level, however beyond his own use of language and interpretation, there is little that shows ‘economic liberal’ globalisation has caused this. It could be argued that it is actually the social changes have led to this change.
Economic Liberal Coercion
After persuasion paves the way, it is argued that coercion, in the form of ‘economic liberal policy change’ is then used to enforce change (Conley 2001, p. 241, 2004, p. 192). According to the author, the public has been coerced into becoming market driven and self-regulating, ‘succeeding and failing on market terms’ (Conley 2004, p. 193). Further, economic liberal coercion has allowed the role of the state to limit itself, as well as ultimately limiting political choice with an institutionalised conception of globalisation and state capability. Since coercion ‘has’ the effect of modifying the economic policy ‘terrain’ (Conley 2001, p. 241), and ‘economic liberal globalisation has dominated the perceptions of those who have made the decisions’ (Conley 2004, p. 195), then, he informs, that this has the additional effect of reinforcing ‘the already substantive constraints of the world political economy’ (ibid., p. 192).
There is an degree of contradiction here. While the author first informs that governments are not as tightly constrained by global forces as they claim, here it is stated that they are constrained.
The author certainly points out some inherent issues with economic liberal policies in this section, and clearly demonstrates the economical effect on several sections of community and industry. However it is a large leap to claim such a change has come from a small group of politicians, at a certain time. The concepts that underpin economic liberalism are not new, nor is the idea of globalisation.
The author suggests that effective ‘social democratic globalisation’ alternatives to liberalisation exist (Conley 2004, p. 195), however they have been marginalised by the liberalised, institutionalised ideas of the two major parties.
Language use in the article is overall reasonable, however the use of some terms can be perceived as loaded. The bias against ‘economic liberal’ globalisation is quite evident, and there is emphasis on the social inequalities ‘created’ by economic liberal globalisation. It is apparent that the author places all onus on government, when that government was ‘elected’ by the nation; it would seem that some of the blame should be accepted by the voting populace. It is therefore surprising that more sociological data was not considered, as particular trends in sociology are likely to have considerable application in this area.
The author certainly succeeds in demonstrating that since the Hawke/Keating years, the dominant theories of globalisation have led to adoption of economic liberal policies. Overall, the article succeeds in showing the main portions of his argument, however in many cases it raises more questions than answers.
(Western et al. 2007)
Conley T. (2001) The Domestic Politics of Globalisation. Australian Journal of Political Science 36:2, 223-246.
Conley T. (2004) Globalisation and the Politics of Persuasion and Coercion. Australian Journal of Social Issues 39:2, 183-200.
Firth S. (2005) Australia in International Politics : An introduction to Australian foreign policy. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
Western M, Baxter J, Pakulski J, Tranter B, Western J, van Egmond M, Chesters J, Hosking A, O’Flaherty M & van Gellecum Y. (2007) Neoliberalism, Inequality and Politics: The Changing Face of Australia. Australian Journal of Social Issues 42:3, 401-418.