Book review

01 December 1999
In the media
Published at
New Internationalist No. 319

The Lugano Report: On Preserving Capitalism in the 21st Century
Pluto Press, London, September 1999 (208pp)

In The Lugano Report, Susan George approaches this doomsday scenario from a novel direction. Assuming that the managers of globalization are well aware of the catastrophic consequences of their policies, she imagines that a secret Working Party is convened to consider the crisis and suggest ways in which capitalism – and the beneficiaries of the globalization swindle – can be preserved in the next century. The opening chapters reveal the timebomb created by the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization and all the other embryonic elements of a 'world government' designed to protect capitalism against people. Forced by sheer weight of evidence to accept the unsustainability of global capitalism in its present form, the report's authors pursue their argument to its logical conclusion: if global capitalism is unable to meet the needs of the projected 8-12 billion world population, then steps need to be taken – in secret, of course – to ensure that the population does not reach 8-12 billion. By happy chance (or perhaps not), this Grand Population Reduction Scheme can be set in motion using the very levers and tools of control of globalization. Thus, for instance, higher death rates in countries subject to structural adjustment are a welcome contribution to the reduction of the population and the international financial institutions are to be vital collaborators in this war of a system against humanity.
This is grim and terrifying stuff indeed; all the more so in the light of its presentation as an inevitable and desirable cure for the endemic ills of the global economy. Susan George’s intimate knowledge of the bureaucratic mindset means that the book works superbly as a satire – following the example of Swift’s Modest Proposal – but her greater aim is to show that there are viable alternatives to this nightmare. The answers to the baleful questions posed by the Working Party lie, as always, in places they choose not to look: the removal of sovereignty from corporate hands and a resolve to build on the network of local organizations outlined by John Madeley to create a "co-operative globalization" in which the world economy is founded on healthier, more equitable societies. We can still build a system in the service of people rather than sacrifice untold millions in the preservation of the system. That is the challenge that awaits us in the twenty-first century.