Globalization and Its Discontents by Saskia Sassen Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

Globalization and Its Discontents by Saskia Sassen

This book provides a lot of essays on what is considered to be the new global economy from one who considers herself an expert observer. Sassen is internationally recognized as an expert on globalization and her writings have appeared in magazines and journals throughout the world. The collection of essays that is contained in this book deals with various topics such as gender and migration, which is often called the globalization of labor, the global city, information technology, and inequality and some of the new dynamics that are taking place within it.

By bringing together both literary studies and cultural studies, as well as political economics, political science, feminist theory, sociology, and the chasm that is taking place between low income inner city areas and large metropolitan business centers Sassen is able to show many things about the global economy and its importance. Many of the common misconceptions regarding globalization are taken on in these essays which are not all original but have a great deal of insight. It provides a very provocative look at the global society and how it is increasing.

The book, however, is interested in many of the specific aspects that are related to globalization. For example, one of the largest themes of the book has to do with the impact the globalization has on migration. Many of the powers that belonged generally to a particular nation or state are being dispersed because of all of the globalization that is taking place. There are some new insights made in the book but much of it deals with the insights and opinions that Sassen has created and published in other magazines and journals. There are contributions that are made in this book that are important, and the largest one has to do with the migration of globalization.

This deals with the attention that Sassen gives to what she calls the 'global city.' In these type of cities, such as New York, London, and Tokyo, Sassen talks about the largely immigrant low-wage individuals who exist there and brush against the white-collar, high wage workers that also work in that city. However, it is generally the low-wage immigrant population that actually helps to keep the global city running, in Sassen's opinion. There are some newer insights in the book, however, and they come from the two chapters that Sassen has written on globalization and gender. These are very valuable and they are much more recent than some of the other information.

Sassen asks many questions and opens up quite a large area for inquiry in these two chapters but she does not take the discussion as far as it could have gone. The effort within these two chapters is not to find a closure for these issues but simply to open up a field of discussion that can be dealt with at a later date. The chapters suggest a great deal of information but they are not as useful as they could be because they do not provide answers to the information and questions that Sassen suggests. It is quite likely, however, that Sassen may revisit this particular theme in later works, and it is hoped that she will do this, so that some of the questions and ideas she discusses can be expanded upon and answered.

The book is rather hard to read because it is somewhat dry and full of facts, figures, and charts. Her writing in general is fairly clear, though, and this helps to alleviate some of the problems that are generally found in books that are considered to be relatively dry. It would be nice, however, if she could be more clear on some of the topics that she discusses, because there are still areas that must really be read and studied carefully before they will actually make much sense. The language in the book is somewhat obfuscated in areas and it seems like a lot of scholars tend to write this way, which is apparently what they think that others wish to read. It would be easier and less confusing if Sassen were to write in language that was even more clear and somewhat simplified so that all individuals could understand all of the concepts in the book more easily.

Much of the problem with the book is that there is a great deal of jargon used throughout it and while this is fine for those who are in this field and understand this type of writing it is much more difficult for others who are not as familiar with this type of writing and this particular field. Granted, many individuals who are probably not interested in the field of globalization will not take time to read the book but those that may be developing an interest in this particular area of study may find that Sassen's book is somewhat difficult to get through, and that some of the concepts that they wish to understand are still unclear when the book has been finished. This would not be true of all individuals but the book is still one that could have been better written to ensure that the concepts that Sassen was trying to get across were more clearly presented and easier to understand.

Another problem with the book is while many may have held out a great deal of hope for how well the book would be presented and how interesting it would be it is not all that well argued and appears to be repetitive in many of the things that it has to say. There is not as much analysis as could have been used and the substantive theory that is presented is often weak and uncertain. This, combined with the lack of clarity in much of the writing and the jargon that is utilized throughout the book, makes it more difficult to read and not as valuable in the way of insights as it could have been.

The information contained in the book was also published in essays that Sassen had written between the years of 1984 and 1997. The introduction is realistically the only completely new material that is contained within the book. Another problem with repetition is that many of the articles have contents that are also discussed in other articles throughout the book. Instead of reinforcing many arguments throughout the book that appear to be important it seems that Sassen is only repeating again and again what it is that she has to say.

There are literally hundreds of endnotes contained within the book and many of them have information into that is very important. It would have made more sense had Sassen taken these endnotes and incorporated them into the text because most people will not take the time to read many of the endnotes, especially if they are required to stop what they are reading and look to see what the endnote has to say. It is distracting and it seems as though it could have been organized better.

Many of the analyses that Sassen provides within the book are also inconclusive and it leaves the reader with a feeling that the work itself is not really finished. This is, however, largely true in a way. Globalization goes on and so there will always be more to say about it. In that sense to work actually is not finished. However, books usually come to a conclusion that sums up the information that was presented in it and makes recommendations or information available that looks toward the future of the field. While this is slightly different because it is a collection of essays it still seems as though Sassen could have utilized the last chapter in a much more fulfilling way and attempted to summarize some of the information that had been contained within the essays, while also possibly making more suggestions toward conclusive information or ideas for the future.

Sassen also makes arguments in her book that do not seem to necessarily have merit or have information with which they can be backed up and verified. This is understandable to an extent but in a work like this that is written on such a high and scholarly level it would seem that information to backup was said should be something that Sassen would include without question. Instead, she makes various arguments about the cities in the world and about how cities in America have changed so much in the structure of business that working one's way up through the field and succeeding in the way that individuals used to when they talked about the American Dream is something that is no longer possible.

It is difficult to completely agree with what Sassen has to say on that particular topic as there are still many individuals in this country that start out low and work their way up through the ranks into management or other high-level positions. However, Sassen is right to an extent because there are a…

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