Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
Ezequiel marcos Siddig
Sylvia Rivera: 1951-2002
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Review by Nicola Bullard
My first encounter with Barbara Garson is described on page 314 of her new book Money Makes the World Go Around." Here's what she wrote: “Is PTT for sale?” I scribbled during an IMF session called “Global Integration” and passed the note to an Australian economist based in Thailand. “Yes,” she wrote back. “Most of its assets are scheduled for auction.”
That brief exchange took place during an IMF World Bank annual meeting in the heady post Asian financial crisis days. The Australian economist is me, except I am not really an economist.
Apart from that slight inaccuracy, the rest of Barbara Garson's book Money Makes The World Go Around is absolutely great. She sets out to “follow the money,” tracking her investments (her publisher's advance for this book) through a small local bank and the international behemoth Chase. Both paths are fascinating and take us to places we wold never visit on our own: the ForEx trading room of Chase, the planning offices of a multi-billion dollar petro-chemical refinery in Southern Thailand, and a union meeting in the living room of a sacked Sunbeam worker in Tennessee, USA.
In fact, the book is so good I felt humbled: after six weeks in Thailand she got a better feel for the country than I have in six years [working with Walden Bellow at Focus on the Global South,] and her grip on financial investments, capital markets and the language of the City is sure and lucid. What's more, Barbara Garson is an excellent writer with a genuine interest in both the big and the little picture. This was brilliantly demonstrated in her book of many years ago,, All the Livelong Day, which recounts with empathy and humor the true-life work stories of hundreds of working class Americans trapped in tedious, dangerous, insecure and poorly paid jobs. The humanity of Barbara Garson is that she cares whether these people still have their jobs in recession-struck USA and because she is genuinely interested in the fate of the people she interviewed in Thailand first before than after the financial crisis. They are not statistics, they are real people with quirky personalities, ambitions and sad stories.
Apart from the deceptively plain writing, and the curiosity and wit that drives the story along, Barbara Garson approaches her subjects with an open-mindedness which disarms and charms all those she meets. She finds everything interesting, she asks all the dumb questions most of us would never dare, she chats with the bosses and asks about their lives and their kids, just as she chats with the Malaysian fisherman or the Tennessee factory worker and describes for us their lives in the world of hyper capitalism.
The book is not without moral force and a political spin. One of the nastiest villains we encounter is “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, the doyen of downsizing, who writes books with titles such Mean Business. During his stint at Sunbeam, Dunlap virtually clear-felled the company, destroying thousands of jobs and lives, and even losing his shareholders a big pile of money. It was the company's third restructuring in a decade, and as Garson says “How many times can you squeeze a lemon?”
But, there are also heroes: farmers, clever engineers, feisty young women from Isarn (North Eastern Thailand) who strike out with their own noodle shops, stoical factory workers from small town Southern USA and Mangrove Action Network activists hammering out strategies in New York City.
Amid all these earthy and amusing stories she explains with utter clarity how the international financial markets work, the driving force of shareholder values, the increasing dis-articulation between workers and capital, profit and productivity. Barbara Garson (who once ran as vice-presidential candidate for the Socialist Party) is firmly on the side of the people and she builds a picture, frame by frame, of how the globalized economy effects people. She puts the “real” back into the economy.
page-turner and a subtle political tract: a rare combination. What's more, it is
funny and wonderfully written. Z