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On the Origins of Global History
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We act as philosophers whenever we take a moral decision. Academic philosophies are bellwethers of the popular mood, and vice versa. For instance, the most influential philosophical tradition produced by the 20th-century US was the pragmatism of Richard Rorty , arguing that truth is merely what works best as truth for a given community. Every culture has its philosophies, in the form of characteristic tendencies in decision-making.
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Philosophies are embedded in the material fabric that surrounds a people, in its architecture, its utensils, its experience of landscape. The focus on regional traditions can inevitably lead to caricatures. Well maybe, but it reads a little like gap-year ethnography.
But to be fair, he repeatedly strives to break down simplistic cultural oppositions. Polarities are sketched not as ends in their own right, but as starting-points on a voyage to a more sophisticated understanding. The book as a whole represents a covert plea for dialogue, compromise and humility. Time and again, Baggini exhorts us to follow the middle path between extremes, a principle that he sees as central to the philosophy of both Aristotle and Confucius. But more often than not, what he advocates is simply a rebalancing, via greater self-consciousness about our moral choices.
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Chapter three discusses the failure of the United States to provide leadership in international economic cooperation The chapter moves on to a general discussion of foreign policy whose relevance to the overall book is a bit unclear but it contains very interesting sections e. Chapter four surprisingly goes back to the s and introduces labor questions Wagner Act , the Social Security Administration and its international predecessors, housing policy in international context, electrification in international context e. The chapter concludes by showing that Great Britain had its New Deal announcement in , Canada in , and other countries followed suit such as the Dominican Republic and Colombia Unfortunately, as Patel points out several times and in different places, the New Deal in the US did not touch upon immigration policy, nor did it do anything about internal racism Chapter five discusses how the New Deal created the basis for an American World order and how it cemented the role of the US in international economic policy.
This story is coupled with a bewildering array of globalization examples.
Patel assumes familiarity with the New Deal and its key components, so the book is not recommended to any beginner. Interestingly, Patel spends more time discussing the Atlantic Charter than the Bretton Woods Conference that for IPE epitomizes the partial internationalization of the New Deal via US hegemony even though he bemoans the lack of hegemonic leadership in chapter three.
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Patel also overlooks that the crisis is practically a re-run of the Great Depression; instead, he seems to assume that the New Deal still lives on, overlooking the turn towards neoliberalism since the s that overturned key components of the New Deal see Invisible Hands by Phillips-Fein. For the IPE specialist, the book may serve as a useful starting point for specific questions regarding the many agencies created during that period in the US. Historians of Puerto Rico, Brazil or Ghana to name just a few may also find the book to be a useful source for their own national histories in a global context.
One wished that the author had included a methodological discussion of global history given that the field has seen a tremendous upsurge with the creation of the Journal of World History in and to distinguish his study more from the IR transnational relations approach that he seems to follow.