Alternative Law Journal
by Anita Roddick; Thorsons, London 2001; 255 pp; $32.95 softcover.
Anita Roddick, successful founder of the international chain the Body Shop, is the author of a book on globalisation entitled Take it Personally. The immediate paradox is the author herself is a successful harnesser of globalisation. This book, however, is not about stopping world trade but about fair trade based on personal relationships that adapt to different cultures and promote community partnerships.
The book is presented in an eye catching, easy to read manner - almost like a magazine. There are graphics, colour and bold quotes that break up the text of the book. The book is divided into five interrelated themes - Activism, People, Development, Environment and Money. Each theme has a collection of comments from a wide range of authors including NGOs and individuals such as Naomi Klein, Paul Hawken, Ralph Nader and Vandana Shiva. The book's audience is anyone contemplating the some times unfathomable topic of globalisation.
The first section of the book entitled 'Activism' explores taking globalisation personally. Naomi Klein reflects on the absence of any clear leadership within the anti-globalisation movement, which is often criticised as being 'Scattered nonlinear, no focus' (p.33). She argues that it is easy to be persuaded by these critiques: 'If there is one thing, on which the Left and Right agree, it is the value of a clear, well structured ideological argument (p.33). But as Klein observes the movement is rather like the Internet itself; there are various sites and groupings· which come together to challenge globalisation, but they are also profoundly separate. Rather than characterising this as 'incoherence and fragmentation', it can be seen as 'ingenious adaptation' (p.35). Indeed Klein goes further and argues that it is to their credit that they have not taken on an overarching revolutionary philosophy. By taking it personally you sign up to a variety rather than one over arching cause, so for example the sweat shop watch, Jubilee 2000, the campaign against arms trade or Greenpeace (to name a few). Klein's description of activism explains the style of the book itself, which is a series of contributions from different organisations and individuals collected under the five thematic chapters outlined above. At the end of each chapter there is an extensive list of Internet sites and resources.
I consider the most useful contribution the book makes is in the critique of trade as an end in itself. As Roddick states:
Although we know vast amounts about the flow of capital and spending power around the world, and the figures fill the media every day - we also see very little reflection of the personal experience of globalisation by ordinary people around the world. We see the Wall Street traders; we don't see the sweatshop workers or the farmers driven from their land. We see the joy but not the misery. [pp.ll-12]
Taking It Personally documents some fundamental problems with globalisation such as the undemocratic nature of the world trade institutions, child labour, environmental threats and the concentrated control and ownership of food production and water. Despite this the overall tenor of the book is motivational and aims to make the reader feel that they can make a difference.
The book introduces the reader to a wide variety of issues by covering topics briefly and broadly for example the Zapatistas from Mexico, trade in Burma, and the workings of the WTO. This level of generality, however, has the disadvantage of promoting assertions that appear at times unsubstantiated. For example, Roddick infers that the fact there are more prostitutes than monks in Thailand is linked directly to the WTO (p.13). Clearly there are other causes besides the WTO. However, the book does not propose to be a detailed text. It is lively and readable and provides extensive resources for the reader to pursue the issues in greater detail themselves.
There is an irony that in the most general of human endeavours, globalisation, there is an urgent need for small details to assess the virtue of the endeavour itself. The central theme of the book is that world trade should be assessed by its impact on people - children, women and men on their hopes, happiness, culture, long-term environment, and future. It is a valid point and one worth 'taking personally'.
REBECCA LA FORGIA
Rebecca La Forgia teaches Legal Studies at Flinders University.