Special Articles / Ashok Antony D'Souza / Noam Chomsky's Discourse on Globalization and U.S.' Imperialism
A literature review is designed to identify related research and to set the present research within a sound conceptual and theoretical context. Hence, this chapter aims at reviewing the existing literature on Chomsky’s views on globalization, US imperialism and activism, along with the literature on social action in India. The purpose of such a review is to develop a clear understanding of the phenomena under investigation. For easy reference, the review is classified into the following sections: i) theoretical foundation of Chomsky’s discourse, ii) Chomsky’s views on globalization, iii) his views on US imperialism, iv) his views on activism, v) social action in India, and vi) relevance of Chomsky to social action in India.
Theoretical Foundation of Chomsky’s Discourse
Chomsky’s analysis of world politics grows out of his understanding of power and its significance for human freedom (Wilkin, 1997). As an anarchist, much of his work – on ideology, propaganda, and the hypocrisy of political leaders and intellectuals, for example – stems from an inter- est in how power shapes the context of people’s everyday lives. Human beings, argues Chomsky, have a variety of innate capacities of which the most fundamental ‘is the capacity and the need for creative self-ex- pression, for free control of one’s own life and thought’. He also regards it as ‘a fundamental human need to take part in the democratic control of social institutions’ (Quoted in Rai, 1995, p.102). But which of these capacities is realized, and in what ways, depends on the institutional context structuring the social environment. For example, Chomsky re- gards private property as an obstacle to human freedom (Wilkin, 1997).
A rich understanding of institutionalized power, in all its forms and effects, is a necessary prerequisite to remaking the world in ways that enhance human freedom. It is for this reason that Chomsky finds the work of Foucault insightful, while disagreeing with him on other issues. Indeed, it could be argued that Chomsky, together with Foucault, is part of a ‘left realist’ tradition stretching back through E.H. Carr to Max We- ber, Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx and defined by an emphasis on power and a skepticism of received wisdom and the claims of the pow- erful (Laffey, 2003, p. 594).
In keeping with his deep skepticism of power and defense of hu- man freedom Chomsky is deeply suspicious of the state. Worship of the state ‘has become a secular religion for which the intellectuals serve as a priesthood’ (Chomsky, 1991, p. 19). It has also blinded them to its true character. With Bakunin, Chomsky sees the state as ‘the organized au- thority, domination, and power of the possessing classes over the masses . ..’ (Chomsky, 2003 p. 7, 9). The government, in contrast, ‘consists of whatever groups happen to control the political system, one component of the state system, at a particular moment’ (Quoted in Rai, p. 91).
Similar concerns motivate Chomsky’s analysis of the modern corpo- ration. In common with early twentieth-century liberal writers, Chom- sky sees the corporation as an authoritarian and totalitarian organiza- tion, concerned more with command than with the rational pursuit of profit and the efficient production and distribution of goods and servic- es. Like private property and the state, for Chomsky corporations repre- sent concentrations of unaccountable power, and as such are an obstacle to democracy and the exercise of human freedom (Laffey, 2003, p. 595).
When he turns to world order, Chomsky’s analysis is shaped by these assumptions. The foreign policy of a particular state reflects domestic structures of class power. Chomsky rejects the notion that ‘nations’ are the basic actors in world politics. Inside each nation, he argues, there are ‘radical differences in privilege and power’ (Chomsky, 1994, p. 5). In the US, for example, the contemporary domestic power structure
consists of ‘the industrial-financial-commercial sector, concentrated and interlinked, highly class conscious, and increasingly transnational in the scope of its planning, management and operations’ (Ibid., p. 1). Patterns in foreign policy, in particular, the often stark elision between the stated aims of policy and its actual effects, and the repeated willing- ness to use force against the weak, are traceable to these structures of power and interest, which are persistent over time. What is worse is that class interests are not confined to particular states but extend across the international system. A key organizing principle of world order, argues Chomsky, is that ‘the rich men of the rich societies are to rule the world, competing among themselves for a greater share of wealth and power and mercilessly suppressing those who stand in their way, assisted by the rich men of the hungry nations who do their bidding. The others serve, and suffer’ (Ibid., p. 5).
Thus, Chomsky has a very strongly formed philosophical base which permeates all of his lectures and writing, including his discourse on glo- balization and the US imperialism (Edgley, 2000).
Chomsky on Globalization
In an interview to Maria Ahmed (2006) Chomsky expressed his views on globalization in the following words:
I don’t know of anyone opposed to globalization -- that is, international integra- tion, economic and otherwise - except, perhaps, for some dedicated hermits….So, at some level, workers and companies agree: everyone favours globalization, in the technical sense of the word, not the doctrinal sense that has been appropriated by advocates of the investor-rights style of integration that is built into the so-called “free trade agreements,” with their complex mixture of liberalization, protection- ism, and undermining of popular democratic control over policy….The question is what form it should take. No one has the right to appropriate the term for their own particular choice on this matter.
Globalization that does not prioritize the rights of people will very likely degenerate into a form of tyranny, perhaps oligarchic and oligopolistic, based on concentrations of tightly-linked state-private power, largely unaccountable to the public.
Thus, Chomsky shows great clarity of thought when he distinguishes the technical sense of the term ‘globalization’ (which refers to things be- coming international) from its doctrinal sense which is used to refer to a specific form of international economic integration that has been im- posed in the past 25 years by a small section of the wealthy and powerful nations through the international financial and corporate sectors they control. He believes that the power of Western nations and institutions is so enormous that their notion of globalization has become the com- mon term today (“Rediff Interview with Professor Noam Chomsky”, 2001).
Chomsky is one of the few intellectuals who made early efforts to critically analyze globalization. He summarized the process with the phrase “old wine, new bottles” to suggest that the motive of the elite is the same as always: they seek to isolate the general population from im- portant decision-making processes, the difference being that the centers of power are now transnational corporations and supranational banks. Chomsky argues that transnational corporate power is “developing its own governing institutions” reflective of their global reach (Chomsky, 1996).
According to Chomsky, a primary ploy has been the co-opting of the global economic institutions established at the end of World War II, the IMF and the World Bank, which have increasingly adhered to the “Washington Consensus,” requiring developing countries to adhere to the limits on spending and structural adjustments that often involve cutbacks in social and welfare programs. IMF aid and loans are normal- ly contingent upon such reforms. Chomsky claims that the construction of global institutions and agreements such as the WTO, GATT, NAFTA, and the MAI constitute new ways of securing elite privileges while un- dermining democracy (“Notes on NAFTA: The Masters of Man”).
Chomsky believes that these austere and neoliberal measures ensure that poorer countries merely fulfill a service role by providing cheap labor, raw materials and investment opportunities for the first world.
Additionally, this means that corporations can threaten to relocate to poorer countries, and Chomsky sees this as a powerful weapon to keep workers in richer countries in line (Chomsky, 1993).
Chomsky feels that the term “neo-liberal policies” is a misnomer. The policies are neither “new” nor “liberal”, and liberalization itself is being shaped into an instrument of power. It is because liberalization is actually eating into the core of democracy by its anti-democratic prac- tices (Chattopadhyay & Chaudhuri, 2001).
According to Chomsky the basic feature of globalization is the mar- ginalization of the majority for the profit of a few. He argues that the claim of the US that globalization had brought about an economic boom in the 1990s was fallacious as it had failed in Mexico and other Latin American countries and even in the US. The world economy or its rate of growth has declined significantly in the last 25 years. For instance, in the United States, the rate of the growth of the economy or productivity has slowed considerably and for most of its population it has been an extremely poor period in terms of income, working hours and so on. There has been enormous concentration of wealth and power in various sectors. But general economic growth has slowed considerably under globalization (Fox, 2001).
Surprisingly, even trade has slowed down in the last 25 years. The average wages in the US are now lower for 70 per cent of the popula- tion if you compare with the situation 20 years ago. Meanwhile, working hours have increased dramatically. An average family in the US works about a month and half in a year more than they did 10 years ago. But their security of life has been very sharply reduced. People do not know whether they are going to have a job or not. That is similar in Europe and other developed nations. In general, it is a pretty gloomy period for most of the world under globalization (Chomsky, 1993).
One of the crucial aspects of globalization is to undermine demo- cratic functioning, to move decisions from the public democratic arena to private hands, to the unaccountable concentration of wealth and power. It has taken resources away from education and the public and transferred them into private hands which are unaccountable to the public (Chomsky, 1994).
According to Chomsky the major result of the expansion of global- ization and the neo-liberal economic policies has been the increasing of the gap between the haves and the have-nots. As this gap further in- creases, there will be unrest among the have-nots, and the US plans to control that unrest through various means, including use of coercion (Chattopadhyay & Chaudhuri, 2001). The US has already been trying to gain a position of control through the might of arms and hence it has to continue with its satellite-based ballistic nuclear-missile program to retain the total dominance. With the aid of its policies of globalization, US hegemony has reached a point where “it is now a threat to human survival”. Even the environment, which preserves human lives, is getting destroyed (Ibid, 2001).
Chomsky dislikes the term anti-globalization being used to describe what he regards as a movement for globalization of social and environ- mental justice. In his writings, he has drawn attention to globalization resistance movements. He described Zapatista defiance of NAFTA in his essay “The Zapatista Uprising”. He also criticized the MAI, and reported on the activist effort that led to its defeat. Chomsky’s voice was an im- portant part of the critics who provided the theoretical backbone for the disparate groups who united for the demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle in November of 1999. Thus Chomsky has not only writing on the evil-effects of neoliberal globalization but also practicing whatever he has been preaching. This has increased the credibility of his writings and speeches (Rai, 1995).
Indian Experience with Globalization as a Corroboration of Chomsky’s Views
There are many thinkers in India whose ideas have parallels with Chom- sky’s thoughts on globalization although they have not made attempts to develop their own theories. The validation of Chomsky’s ideas on glo- balization could be found in the works of Amit Bhaduri and Deepak Nayyar (1996), Vandana Shiva (1997), Byres (1998), Jean Dreze (2000), Basu (2001), Buggi, Reddy & Gowda (2001), Nayar (2001 & 2003), Muk- hopadhyay (2002), Jagadish Bhagwati (2004), Varshey, (2004), Bhamb- hri (2005), Bardhan (2005), Choubey, Pendse & Shukla (2005), Chan- drasekhar & Ghosh (2009), Prabhat Patnaik (2009) and many others. Although their analyses regarding the processes of globalization may not be totally in agreement with that of Noam Chomsky’s many of their empirical studies go on to prove the analysis put forth by him.
Chomskyian idea that the capitalistic agenda of the elites has been taking precedence over the aspirations and needs of the people was found to be true even in pre-independence India. In the year 1938, Na- tional Planning Committee of the Indian National Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru as Chairman, had completed its work on a plan for the devel- opment of post-independence India. Businessmen published their own plan, the so-called “Bombay Plan,” in 1944. The signatories include G.D. Birla, with wide interests in the textiles, jute and insurance; J.R.D. Tata, with interests in iron and steel and internal air lines; and Kasthuribai Lalbai, with interests in textiles and shipping. It provided the vision that guided Nehru in formulating the industrial and agrarian policy of India after independence. This Plan had allotted a gradual control of the state over the basic and key industries only, with the rest of the industries being under the private sector. It was considered to be a weak and inef- fective approach to bring about the much needed socio-economic struc- ture within the country (Nag, 1949).
Bombay Plan took precedence over the other two plans proposed to Nehru. These are the “People’s Plan”, proposed by the Indian Fed- eration of Labour under the leadership of M. N. Roy in 1944 and the “Gandhian Plan” put forth by Mahatma Gandhi and his disciples. In the “People’s Plan” primacy was given to employment-generation through improvement in agriculture and developments of small-scale industry.
The Gandhian approach to development focused on the village level economy. Such an approach wanted agriculture to be the mainstay of the Indian economy and envisaged the creation of self-sufficient village units. Thus, the exclusive precedence given to the plan of the ‘elites’ to determine the course of economy proves Chomsky’s contention that it is the wealthy and the powerful who determine the policies for the state which in reality has great implications for the lives of the poor who are left out of the entire process.
Baldev Raj Nayar (2001, p. 53-84) states that the ‘plan frame’ draft- ed by the eminent economist P.C. Mahalanobis, just before the second five year plan, sought the active intervention of the state in a planning framework to free the economy from the domination of metropolitan capital and provide for a measure of economic autonomy. However, it was not put into operation in certain significant respects due to the in- fluence of private corporate sector in working arrangements with for- eign capital. However, Marxist activists and scholars have said that the claims of building socialism in India in general and whatever was made operational of the Mahalanobis strategy in particular was the strategy by the government to build capitalism on behalf of the bourgeoisie or the capitalist class (Nayar, 2001, p. 52).
Right from the start, the strategy of ‘mixed economy’, which aimed to restore national control over domestic economic space, was received with considerable hostility by international capital, the governments of the developed capitalist economies and the multilateral institutions which were created to further their interests. The strategy was also sub- verted by the powerful interests who have been adversely affected, even if not uprooted, by the structural changes and economic discipline that were needed to ensure its success (Chandrasekhar & Ghosh, 2009, p. xii).
There were a number of features of India’s post-Independence growth strategy that structurally limited the potential of the system. To start with, despite the talk of land reform, of providing land to the tiller and curbing the concentration of economic power, little was done to attack or redress asset and income inequality. Only the worst forms of absentee landlordism were done away with, but the monopoly of the land remained intact in most parts of rural India. And while some mo- nopolistic practices were curbed, asset concentration in the industrial sector was never really challenged. Rather, India’s monopolists were able to use state intervention as a device to consolidate and expand their mo- nopolistic positions (Ibid, p.1).
One of the reasons for the failure of Nehruvian model of develop- ment was that the state within the old economic policy regime had to simultaneously fulfill two different roles that were incompatible in the long run. On the one hand it had to maintain growing expenditure to keep the domestic market expanding and on the other the state exche- quer was the medium through which large-scale transfers were made to capitalist and pro-capitalist groups, so that the state effectively be- came the most important instrument for primary accumulation by the domestic capitalist class in its various manifestations. Over and above this, the state also failed to impose a minimum measure of discipline among the capitalists, without which no capitalist system anywhere can generate a sustained growth (Ibid. p.2). Thus, it could be seen that it was mainly due to appeasement of the capitalistic interests that India entered into a fiscal crisis that partially led it towards globalization.
The crisis in 1990s was cited as the reason for the introduction of the New Economic Policy in India. The two central components of the neoliberal policies adopted by Indian government have been the lib- eralization of India’s private sector and a reform of the public sector. Thus, India took to liberalization, which essentially meant that many of the activities, which the state performed, were reduced whether it is centralized price control, monopoly over infrastructure and public services, to name some. However, the new economic policy is, in a way, based on anti-democratic practices, as the Narasimha Rao government which introduced the new economic policy did not receive any electoral or popular mandate for the package of new economic policies. The Lok Sabha elections of 1991 were not contested by the Congress party on its economic program (Bhambhri, 1996).
Amit Bhaduri and Deepak Nayyar (1996) assessing the interna- tional pressures, conditionalities in the reform process have argued that though there was the balance of crisis needed to be responded there was no reason to treat such a crisis as a reason to abandon all available choices and follow the same prescriptive format as elsewhere. However, the Indian capitalists, along with the support of the capitalists from out- side, were too eager to open up the Indian economy to serve their own interests (Mooij, 2005).
It was assumed that the package of new economic policies would receive sharp opposition from the Indian bourgeoisie because their own class interest would be hurt. However, there has been very close linkages between Indian bureaucracy and Indian capitalism right from the time of Sardar Patel. The advanced industrial countries too recognize that the linkage with the higher echelons of Indian bureaucracy is essential for the promotion of the interests of the transnational corporations in India. In fact, it was due to the cooperation of the Indian bureaucracy and the capitalists that foreign capital was able to change the conditions within India to its advantage (Bhambhri,1996).
The international linkages of Indian bureaucracy and crucial policy makers were revealed dramatically by the parliamentary committee which was established to investigate the corrupt activities indulged by some stock brokers. The Ram Niwas Mirdha Committee of 1994 indi- cated some important foreign banks in India for indulging in corrupt activities in league of stock brokers, but these Foreign Banks were fully protected because they had provided jobs to the family members of im- portant and influential public policy makers in India (Varshey, 2004).
With India opening its economy to the globalization process the IMF and World Bank started insisting on the deregulation of national economies and liberalization in trade and investment sectors as condi- tions for the grant of financial assistance or loans to countries world over. They advocated free trade, which in modern usage means trade or commerce carried on without such restrictions as import duties, ex- port bounties, domestic production subsidies, trade quotas, or import licenses. Not only did India adopt Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) on the behest of the IMF and World Bank but also privatization. Privatization essentially involved the state selling out its assets to pri- vate ownership. However, along with these reforms the World Bank, the IMF, and the ADB have been important instruments of the advanced industrial countries which have started ‘auditing’ the policy framework and performance of the government of India. They have been insisting that India should improve its governance and allow market mechanisms to determine its macro-economic arrangements. They have also served notice to the Indian state to maintain a good record on ‘Human Rights’. Thus there has been widespread interference with the sovereignty of our nation (Bhambhri, 1996).
India has been on a march to borrowing money from abroad and for establishing large number of collaborative arrangements with foreign financial and trading companies. The Indian state has not only disman- tled its regulatory arrangements restricting the flow of ‘foreign capital’ into India, it is encouraging Indian big businesses to launch joint ven- tures with the multinational corporations (Nayyar, 2003).
India has serious regional imbalances and developed states and underdeveloped states have to follow different strategies of economic development and interstate cooperation. However, the opening of the Indian economy to foreign capital and retreat of the central government from its leadership role has compelled the state governments to com- pete for the flow of foreign capital and collaboration with multinational corporations. As every foreign investor is attracted towards developed states the backward states like North-Eastern states have been pushed towards underdevelopment (Bhambhri, 1996).
In the context of economic liberalization proposals were made to re- duce ‘labor market rigidities’ - firms employing below 1,000 were to be allowed to function outside the jurisdiction of Industrial Disputes Act, while at the same time contractual labor was sought to be made legal. There was a demand for a market-oriented exit policy enabling employ- ers to hire and fire freely became significant. Though this has no legal sanction there has been great deal of labor retrenchment in the private sector through illegal closures (RoyChowdry, 2005). There has also been dislocation of labor through outsourcing, subcontracting, etc. to evade ID. Even the public sector has resorted to labor rationalization through VRS, free on recruitment, contract employment, etc. There have been some bitter industrial confrontations in MNCs. Thus, globalization has brought in significant shifts in terms of labor relations, role of trade unions and management attitudes (D’Souza, 2007).
A significant group that has been playing a very active role in the process of liberalization in India is that of the NRIs through their links with dominant groups within the domestically resident society (Ghosh, 2006). Since these groups have had a political voice that was far greater than their share of population, they have exerted considerable influence to make the economic policies work to their advantage. Consequently, local elites and the middle class are easily accumulated in the process of liberalization.
The growth of Indian economy under globalization regime has not been very impressive (Chandrasekhar & Gosh, 2009). Scholars argue that even if we accept that overall growth of the economy has been good we need to understand the impact of the reform process with respect to two not unrelated measures – the rate of growth of incomes and its distribution. The first is fairly easy to establish since we have data for per capita incomes as well as aggregate national income published annually by various government sources. It is true that the rate of growth in the Indian economy during reform period has been much higher on the av- erage than in any other phase in the post-Independence era. So, on that count, economic reforms have something to celebrate about. It remains a moot question whether the economy would have done better (grown faster) if the earlier policies were pursued, and this is more difficult to establish.
On the second issue regarding distribution, there is wide divergence between the official estimates (and its adherents) and the dissenters. The official estimates suggest that poverty has declined to 27% (Sundaram & Tendulkar, 2003; Deaton & Dreze 2002). However, Sen and Himnagshu (2004) debunk these findings and suggest that during the 90s, the claim of poverty decline by earlier studies is not tenable due to miscalcula- tions. They conclude that not only has poverty not declined but in- equality in all dimensions has increased sharply during the 1990s which makes this decade unique – it was the first decade in post-Independence India when inequality increased.
However, all these measures of poverty use an indirect way to mea- sure poverty — an income measure of the poverty line which is actually meant to be linked to an energy requirement measure — 2400 and 2100 calories for rural and urban areas per adult person. U. Patnaik (2004), using calorie-based estimates to measure poverty finds the picture to be even more alarming. Between 1998 and 2003 the level of per capita food grains absorption was lower than seen in the last 50 years. Between the early 1990s and 2003 the annual absorption of food grains per head came down from 177 kg to 155 kg. Thus, there is now substantial evi- dence that India’s success at reducing the incidence of poverty during the 1970s and 1980s was halted, if not reversed, during the globalization era.
Globalization has had negative impact on Indian employment, edu- cation and health scenario among other things. A Survey of 2,581 units in eight sectors in India estimated a decline in employment from 16.2 million in September 2008 to 15.7 million in December 2008, implying a loss of about half a million jobs (Chandrasekhar, 2009).
Education policy in the recent past has been neglecting the public school system and encouraging private schools. Public spending on education has been significantly lower than required. In 2007-08, for example, the total public spending was only Rs. 1.4 lakh crore: a deficit of 36 per cent (Ramakumar, 2009).
The findings of the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) carried out during 2005-06 shows that over one in 18 infants die be- fore they are one year old. As a result of the weak public health care system the reach of Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) con- tinues to remain low (only 44 per cent). According to the 2004 data of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), 40 per cent of the respondents did not take treatment for their serious ailments because of financial constraints. Health care, being predominantly private-sector driven, makes the system urban-oriented with a bias towards tertiary- level health services. Profitability has become the bottom-line, ignoring equity and rationality. Many drugs are sold at huge profit margins of 200 to 400 per cent, thus putting essential drugs beyond the reach of the common man. Policymakers are reluctant to impose any price control because of the industry lobby prevailing over politics (Ramachandran, and Rajalakshmi 2009).
Along with globalization there have been stupendous changes in the political domain in India. The reform process has downplayed the role of ideology, as the opposition to the reform process did not sustain and achieved a convergence among the political parties. For example, both BJP and Janata Party opposed reforms prior to 1996 elections but car- ried on with the reforms once they secured power. The left parties too have done the same thing in the UPA and the state of West Bengal de- spite continuing with anti-reforms rhetoric (D’Souza, 2007).
Several scholars argue that there is a close nexus between globaliza- tion and the rise in communalism, fundamentalism and secessionism (Varshey, 1999). These have been the effect of the reform process and in turn have facilitated greater economic reforms by shifting the political discourse from economic issues towards the socio-cultural and ethno- nationalist identities (Mooij, 2005). For example, political parties have turned to subscribe to primordial ties like caste, language and religious identities mainly to dissuade people from the issues of socialism and welfare (Sarangi, 2005).
The globalizing forces have been insisting on decentralization of governance in the form of strengthening of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) in India (Pai, 2005). For example, the loan agreement between the state government and the World Bank has been specifying that the devolution of powers to local bodies must be made part of the gover- nance reform. However, the PRIs are not consulted or given any power in deciding whether a particular form of SEZ should be allowed to come up within its jurisdiction. Thus, this has been a ploy to sidelining the centre by weakening it and directly negotiating with the state govern- ments. Thus, the entire sovereignty and federal system of governance has been compromised with in the process of appeasing the neoliberal forces. This also serves the design of the central government to evade its responsibility.
In India, proponents of neoliberalism were trying every means, fair and foul, including crash measures, to privatize even the insurance sec- tor. However, due to the stiff opposition from trade unions, especially those in the financial sector, by the political Left, and progressive intelli- gentsia the government was not allowed to privatize nationalized banks and key public sector companies, to hand over pension funds to specu- lative finance capital, to make currency fully convertible, and to hold large amount of foreign assets by the financial sector. This has saved us from the major part of the onslaught of the global crisis (Patnaik, 2009).
The 1990s were marked by significant increase in the incidence of frauds and scams in India’s financial markets (Chandrasekhar & Ghosh, 2009, p. 108). It has continued well into the twenty-first century. The recent Satyam scam, for example, reveals many peculiarities of the In- dian capitalism (Parthasarathy, 2009). Despite the rhetoric of ‘merit’ and ‘efficiency’ as the guiding principles of capitalism it is a well-proven fact that Indian private sector is largely dominated by family owned and controlled businesses of sundry sizes, that caste, community, gender, and social networks play a significant role in who gets nominated to top positions within the companies, and how businesses are run. And these have significant implications for corporate governance as well as corpo- rate loot as is proved by Satyam, Maytas, and Nagarjuna Finance - the three companies that have been recently involved in financial irregu- larities. It is interesting to note that besides top executive positions even directorships - including so-called independent ones, are also based on kinship, caste, and community. No one has bothered to ask, for exam- ple, how so many of Satyam and other companies floated by the family had directors who are Rajus – related by kinship and caste. This brings out the peculiarity of Indian form of neoliberalism which, with all their adulation of American style free market economy, is not just reluctant but strongly opposes corporate governance reforms which would put in place independent boards and CEOs who will have the interests of business, employees and shareholders in mind, and not the interests of founder and promoter families.
Hence, in the Indian context, we need to note that businesses are not only run and controlled by members of the same clan, but also have several other ‘professional’ employees and directors who have crucial links with other companies and government institutions to insulate their business from the dynamics of the free market. Such linkages are not uncommon in the capitalist west, nor is it uncommon in western capitalist countries for such companies to survive or even thrive on gov- ernment contracts. What in India even a company like Maytas with little infrastructure expertise can manage to get huge government contracts, and get these contracts implemented through sub-contractors over a long period, and obtain land at a fraction of the market cost. All this is made possible by the building up of intricately linked caste and political networks over a long period of time. Thus, Chomskyian ideas on globalization have greater relevance to the Indian context than any other.
Also, neoliberal globalization has not left even the field of activism and social movements untouched. The 1980s was considered the golden age of social movements in India. It came to be identified as ‘New So- cial Movements’ with the women’s movement, anti-caste movement, the farmer’s movement and environmental movement gaining in strength and numbers. However, the space for social movements has been shrink- ing in the wake of globalization. The numerous movements found today have become weak, localized and fragmented. For example the inter- ests of the capital and the rich peasants coincide today and hence the rich farmers have been endorsing the policies of privatization. Thus, the small and landless agricultural farmers are left with very little leadership and the resources to organize large-scale protests (Deshpande, 2004).
This stark reality of neoliberal globalization has led at least a hand- ful of the Indian scholars to look for meaningful retreat from neolib- eralism. They are seeking not just a temporary retreat but the one that develops an alternative development trajectory, a trajectory of peasant agriculture-led growth, which requires an economic regime altogether different from neoliberalism (Patnaik, 2009).
Thus, the overall impact of the globalization process on Indian economy, society and polity seems to be validating the propositions of Chomsky.
Chomsky on US Imperialism
Beginning with his analysis of the US war against Vietnam, US foreign policy and imperialism have been central to Chomsky’s view of world politics (Chomsky, 1970, 1973a, & 1973b). Specifically, he claims double standards in the US foreign policy which preaches democracy and free- dom for all, while promoting, supporting and allying itself with non- democratic and repressive organizations and states such as Chile under Augusto Pinochet, and argues that this results in massive human rights violations. In a speech made at around 1990 Chomsky said that “if the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged” (Chomsky, 1991).
Chomsky opines that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emer- gence of a unipolar world has heightened US hegemony (Chattopadhyay & Chaudhuri, 2001). He thinks that the US as the world’s remain- ing superpower acts in the same offensive ways as all superpowers. One of the key things superpowers do, Chomsky argues, is try to organize the world according to the interests of their establishment, using mili- tary and economic means. Chomsky has repeatedly emphasized that the overall framework of US foreign policy can be explained by the domes- tic dominance of US business interests and a drive to secure the state- capitalist system. Those interests set the political agenda and the eco- nomic goals that aim primarily at US economic dominance (Chomsky, 2000).
Chomsky believes that a consistent part of the US foreign policy is based on stemming the “threat of a good example”. This ‘threat’ refers to the possibility that a country could successfully develop outside the US managed global system, thus presenting a model for other countries, in- cluding countries in which the US does not have strong economic inter- ests. This, Chomsky says, has prompted the US to repeatedly intervene to quell “independent development, regardless of ideology” in regions of the world where it has little economic or safety interests. In one of his works, What Uncle Sam Really Wants(1992), Chomsky argues that this particular explanation accounts in part for the US interventions in Guatemala, Laos, Nicaragua, and Grenada, countries that pose little or no military threat to the US and have few economic resources that could be exploited by US business interests (Chomsky, 2003).
Chomsky claims that the US government’s Cold War policies were not primarily shaped by anti-Soviet paranoia, but rather toward preserv- ing the US’ ideological and economic dominance in the world. In his book Deterring Democracy (1991) he argues that the conventional un- derstanding of the Cold War as a confrontation of two superpowers is an ‘ideological construct’. He insists that to truly understand the Cold War one must examine the underlying motives of the major powers. Those underlying motives can only be discovered by analyzing the do- mestic politics, especially the goals of the domestic elites in each coun- try (Chomsky, 2006).
Chomsky argues that although the Cold War may be over the US foreign policies have not changed. Only the pretexts for them have changed. It is one of the reasons why the US military budgets have been increasing year after year. It is not a defense against Russia anymore but against the technological sophistication of the Third World. The US be- lieves that globalization has deeply polarized the handful of the rich and the poor worldwide. It uses military systems to keep the poor nations in control (“The Rediff Interview with Professor Chomsky”, 2001).
Chomsky has strong reservations regarding the US’ claim that it is fighting terrorism to maintain world order and peace. He says that the US leads the pack of rich and powerful nations that carry out interna- tional terrorism on smaller nations. The US is the only country in the world that has been criticized by the International Court of Justice for perpetuating terrorism in Nicaragua. It is the US who nurtured the Is- lamic terrorist organizations in the world. It is the Central Intelligence Agency that has been aiding and abetting terrorist outfits across the world, all for the diplomatic, strategic and economic advantages of the US. So even Osama bin Laden, for whom the US has been bombing a poor country like Afghanistan, has been the creation of the US (Ibid.).
Other countries support the US in its “war on terrorism” for their own interests. Hence, for instance, there are a number of powerful sup- porters to the US cause in Afghanistan for their own strategic interests, not for wiping out terrorism and for the betterment of the world. India and Pakistan have been trying to win over the US, all because of Kash- mir. Russia is eager to support the US action because it wants the Bush administration’s tacit approval in Chechnya. China wants to legitimize the massacre of Muslims in western China. So, all these powerful nations are in the same league. All of them are setting up terrorist groups and training them. Hence, it is obvious that the US is not fighting a war against terrorism but pursuing its own strategic and economic interests (Barsky, 1997).
The conditions created by the Western cultural imperialism in gen- eral, and, the US in particular create a conducive atmosphere for the ‘culture of terrorism’ to be considered acceptable and justified (Chomsky, 2004).
It is also the US propaganda that the current war against terrorism is the result of a clash of civilizations. After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was necessary for the US to invent new pretexts to carry out the same policies. And one of the pretexts, terms invented by the academic world, is the clash of civilizations. So, before, the US was fighting communism. Now it is fighting the civilization of Islam or whatever. Looking at the alignment of the world it is very clear that there is not simply any clash of civilizations. The most fundamentalist Islamic state in the world is Saudi Arabia. It is the favorite country of the US. The biggest Muslim state in the world, Indonesia, too is one of the most favored nations by the US. Hence, the argument that the clash of civilizations has led to the war does not hold any water (Sperlich, 2006).
Thus, Chomsky argues that it is not “fight against terrorism” but the “culture of terrorism” which is the dominant U.S. policy. “Culture of ter- rorism” refers to the imperialistic tendencies of the U.S. to define and use terrorism in an arbitrary but concealed manner. Chomsky provides piles of evidence to prove that despite the US projecting itself a nation respecting freedom, democracy and human rights it has constantly en- gaged itself in proxy state terrorism (Roy, 2003).
The definition given in the U.S. Army manuals reads thus: ‘terror- ism is [t]he calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature…through in- timidation, coercion, or instilling fear’ (U.S. Army Operational Concept for Terrorism Counteraction, 1984, Quoted in Chomsky, 2003b, p. 236). Chomsky shows that the US manipulated facts and language to its advantage to such an extent that it changed the official US Code defini- tion when it found that according to this definition the US itself would qualify as a terrorist state.
When the UN passed resolutions on terrorism, the first major one being in December, 1987 condemning terrorism as a crime in the harsh- est terms the US and Israel opposed it as against the 153 nations sup- porting it by means of veto in the Security Council (Chomsky, 1996).
Chomsky even opposes the US global “war on drugs,” claiming its language to be misleading, and referring to it as “the war on certain drugs.” He favors education and prevention rather than military or po- lice action as a means of reducing drug use (Chomsky, 1993). In an in- terview in 1999, Chomsky argued that, whereas crops such as tobacco receive no mention in governmental exposition, other non-profitable crops, such as marijuana, are specially targeted due to the effect achieved by persecuting the poor (Chomsky, 1999).
The culture of individualism, consumerism, competition and covert violence that the political economy of the West propagates through the Mass Media is seen quite acceptable and even noble due to the subtle dy- namics of the cultural imperialism which functions more at the uncon- scious level than the rational one. Hence, ‘cultural imperialism’ could be seen as a pre-condition to maintain an unwritten justification for the ‘culture of terrorism’ which in turn helps the imperialistic state to main- tain its political and economic hegemony on the ‘non-conformist’ states (Chomsky, 2005).
Chomsky also criticizes the US governments for becoming anti- democratic. He maintains that a nation is only democratic to the degree that government policy reflects informed public opinion. He notes that the US does have formal democratic structures, but they are dysfunc- tional. He argues that presidential elections are funded by concentrations of private power and orchestrated by the public relations industry, focusing discussion primarily on the qualities and the image of a candi- date rather than on issues (Chomsky, 2004).
Chomsky’s strong criticism of the US foreign policy should not cause us to think that he is blind to the many good things that US society pos- sesses. Chomsky often expresses his admiration for the civil liberties by US citizens. According to Chomsky, other Western democracies such as France and Canada are less liberal in their defense of controversial speech than the US. However, he does not credit the American govern- ment for these freedoms but rather mass social movements in the US that fought for them (McGilvray, 2005).
On the question of India’s relations with the US Chomsky observes that India would not stand to gain much from the series of diplomatic exchanges between Washington and Delhi. He cites, for example, how the US was all praise for India in August 2001 and dismissed Pakistan as a rogue state. But after the September 11 incidents it quickly changed its stand and with the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan became one of its closest friends. Thus the US is known for continuously shifting its stand to suit its own interest. Hence, he feels that it is unwise on the part of India to engage in any serious strategic or economic relation with the US (Chattopadhyay & Chaudhuri, 2001).
Indian Experience with US Imperialism – A Validation of Chomsky’s Views
Congress government under P.V. Narasimha Rao initiated the pro-West tilt in the country’s foreign policy in the early 1990s in keeping with post-Cold-War realities. NDA government also emulated the Congress. As soon as it was in office, the Congress went about further strengthen- ing its strategic ties with the US and its surrogate in the region, Israel. The violation of the sovereignty of countries such as Lebanon and Syria by Israel and the horrendous atrocities in Gaza that followed did not prompt a strong response from the Indian government. On the contrary the UPA government further intensified its security and military links with Israel.
A Document on ‘Indo-US Trade and Economic Cooperation’ men- tions that traditionally, India has never been a favorite destination for the US foreign investors (‘Document/US Foreign Investment’, 1995). However, with the collapse of USSR and India’s willingness to join to open Indian economy to the reform prescriptions of IMF and its sister institutions India’s relation with the US grew in both affinity and coop- eration. For instance, the US investment increased from $22.38 million in 1986 to $1135.41 million in 1993. This was 39 percent of the total FDI approved in that year (Bhambhri, 1996).
Critics of the government allege that in the last five years of the UPA rule India has been reduced to the status of a junior partner of the US. During its tenure India distanced itself from its traditional friends and from groupings such as NAM. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State in the Bush administration, in a speech in June 2007, advised the Indian government to distance itself from groups such as NAM. She also said that NAM had “lost meaning”. NAM is the only forum that unites all developing countries. It is one of the few groupings that question he untrammeled military spending of the US despite the Cold War hav- ing ended more than a decade and a half ago. It has been critical of the “preventive wars” and regime changes the US has resorted to. India has been very circumspect in reacting to US adventurism Cherian, 2009).
The neoconservative Bush administration had charted a special role for India in the region. After 9/11, senior American officials were quot- ed as saying the US had only India and Israel as allies “for the long haul” in its global war against terror. The US gave Israel the green signal to sell high-tech weaponary to India. Presently Israel has emerged as the top weapons supplier to India, replacing Russia. Many multi-billion-dollar defense and aviation deals have already been signed with the US. The US and India now closely cooperate in the fields of intelligence and sur- veillance. The chiefs of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have already visited India to liaise with their counterparts here and they are accorded great hospitality and were granted meeting even with the country’s Home Minister (Koshy, 2005).
An opinion poll taken last year and published in Financial Times showed that the majority of Europeans viewed the US as the biggest threat to international stability. But the Indian elite seem fixated on the desire of turning their county into a regional superpower with US help (Ibid.).
In other parts of the world, especially in Latin America, governments are going out of their way to keep Washington out of the picture while resolving bilateral disputes. However, Indian government preferred to make the US the arbiter in South Asia. In neighboring Bangladesh, the army was allowed to take over the government with the tacit approval of the US and India. It was Washington on behalf of New Delhi that did most of the diplomatic heavy lifting to persuade Islamabad to cooperate fully on issues relating to terrorism. It is Washington that is trying to facilitate a breakthrough in the continuing political impasse on Kashmir (Patnaik, 2009).
In its quest for the nuclear deal, it put the Iran pipeline project on the back burner. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State in the Bush admin- istration, explicitly warned the Indian government against going ahead with the deal with Iran. In fact, Washington had prevailed on New Delhi to implement many of the tough sanctions the West had clamped on Iran for continuing with its civilian nuclear programme. Pakistan, de- spite being among the US’ closest allies, has gone ahead and signed a gas pipeline deal with Iran. The US hopes to build India up as a coun- terweight in the region to China. It is no secret that the US views China as the new emerging superpower that in due course will challenge its hegemonic policies (Koshy, 2005).
Political analysts have taken note of the fact that in the recent past the top functionaries of the US have been visiting India to promote economic and political interests of their country and they find that the In- dian policy makers are very hospitable to the US economic involvement in the Indian market (Bhambhri, 1996).
This process of India’s cooption and cooperation with the US has had negative impact on the National Sovereignty of India – the US imposed its Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), pressurized Russia not to transfer cryogenic engines to India for Space Research Organization because such a ‘transfer’ was violative of the US laws. This action of the US established that the laws passed by the sovereign parliament of India were subordinate to the laws of the government of the US. The US also put India on notice for violating patent laws and copyright laws of the US. The US has demanded that India should amend its patent laws and bring its laws in harmony with the laws of the US (Ibid.).
The US has strongly objected to the ‘subsidization’ of the Indian agriculture because it creates fiscal deficits in India and leads to bad management of the Indian economy. Thus the good management of the Indian economy has become the concern of aid-giving countries and global aid-giving institutions (Bhambhri, 1996). As a visible result of this process, the RBI ended the Rs.6,000 crore general line of credit en- joyed by NABARD two years ago. There is a mountain of reserves which are being used by the RBI to support the US’ balance of payments, while it refuses to support rural development banking in this country even to the most meager extent (Patnaik, 2009).
However, as India grew stronger as an economic power the US rela- tionship with it started to change in a drastic manner. In March 2005 the American Ambassador to India, David C. Mulford, announced: “It is official. It is the policy of the United States to help India to become a ma- jor world power in the 21st century. This is what Secretary Condoleezza Rice conveyed to Prime Minister Singh during her visit to India” (Op- Ed article, The Times of India, March 31, 2005). However, Rice stated in New Delhi and later in Washington as well, that this “major world power” groomed by the United States would not have Washington’s sup- port for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. In other words, what was being offered was a permanent place in the grand imperial coalition (Koshy, 2002).
Leaders and senior officials of the USA have repeatedly stated from September 2001, when India declared whole-hearted support to its War on Terror, that the India-US relationship is essentially military rela- tionship on American terms and primarily in American interests. The Framework Agreement on Defense Cooperation signed on June 28, 2005, in Washington by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Defense Minister Pranab Mukherji was clear evidence of this. The Agreement said that the two countries were entering into a new era and transforming the relationship “to reflect on common prin- ciples and shared national interests.” It stated that “defence relationship would support and be part of the larger bilateral strategic partnership… conducting joint exercises and exchanges and collaborating in multina- tional operations.” Strengthening the militaries’ capabilities to combat proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and expanding collabora- tion in missile defence are important parts of the Agreement. Expan- sion of defence trade finds a prominent place in the Framework (Koshy, 2005).
It is important to note that the Defence Agreement was made just twenty days before the much-heralded Joint Statement of July 18, 2005 and in fact provided its basis. It was a condition precedent to the nuclear deal. The Joint Statement, which is often presented as dealing only with the civilian nuclear deal, begins by declaring the American President’s and the Indian Prime Minister’s interest “to transform the relationship between their two countries and establish a global partnership.” It spe- cifically “expressed satisfaction at the New Framework for the US-India Relationship as a basis for future cooperation (Quoted in Koshy, 2005).
A series of developments followed in fairly quick succession after the Joint Statement of July 18, 2005: the visit of President Bush at the beginning of March 2006; the acceptance of the separation plan; legislative actions in the US Congress and Senate culminating in the Hyde Act; and negotiations in New Delhi and Washington. Since 2005 the attention of the Prime Minister and the foreign policy establishment seems to have been entirely focused on Washington. On doing so, many opportunities and risks in foreign affairs are sidelined, if not totally ignored (Cherian, 2009).
It is also worth remembering here how the former US President, George Bush, and economist Paul Krugman blamed India and China for the 2007-08 global price rise citing their high rate of per capita income growth which they say must be raising gain demand per head both for direct consumption and for use as feed to convert into animal products. However, the fact is that there has been a sharp decline not only in the per capita outcome, but also in per capita total (food plus feed grains) demand over the period of market-driven economic reforms. Due to the stagnating income of the majority there has been falling intake leading to mass hunger (Patnaik, 2009).
In its quest to be an ally of the US Indian government has strained its relationship with its neighboring countries. The UPA government signed up with the Quadrilateral Forum in 2007. It is a US-Japanese initiative to firm up an anti-China alliance. The group consists of the US, Japan, Australia and India. Under the auspices of the group, military exercises involving the navies of the four countries took place in 2008. The Bush administration had planned an Asian NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)-like grouping with India as one of its major pillars.
The Indian elite have collaborated with the US in its capitalistic agen- da because it suits them. However, they have not allowed any substantial change to take place in the unequal socio-economic relation based on caste-class-gender so that their traditional privileges are not sacrificed while compromising on the sovereignty and welfare of the country. In fact they have added other dimensions to this fragmentation – religion, language and region. Political and social analysts have observed that a conscious attempt is going on in India to accelerate the process of growing fragmentation of the proletariat by social and political forces of various kinds. This is giving rise to the emergence of new identities in the name of multi-religious, multi-caste, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural reality of India. This is a replica of what we find in the US. Paul Sweezy (1995) while referring to the US reality observed that the working class- es were ‘divided’ between black and white and later into many ethnic and immigration groups.
Thus, the onslaught of globalization and the imperialism has been harming not only the poor as the wealthy of India have been reaping its benefits while managing to maintain their traditional privileges as well. This again goes on to prove Chomsky’s view that the wealthy have joined with their colleagues throughout the world to form a “de facto world government” to ensure the perpetual triumph of capitalism. Thus, it is in the project of capitalism today that the elites of India have found a meeting point with the US imperialism and neoliberal globalization, as the entire country along with its dalits and tribals continue to be impov- erished (Telumbde, 2003).
Chomsky on Activism
The question that arises after going through the discourse of Chomsky on globalization and the US imperialism is, ‘what is the way out of this situation of domination and injustice?’ According to Chomsky it is only through dissent we can hope for an alternative system. Chomsky argues that the labor unions and labor-based political parties must be part of this process. To achieve the sort of society that will allow the full de- velopment of individual potential, the populace must demand govern- mental support of alternative modes of production that are not solely measured by profit (Chomsky, 1999).
Chomsky believes that social action must not be reactionary but be based on rational assessment of the individual and society, and a vision of a society that would allow for the optimal expression of all that is noble in them. In his own words, ‘social action must be animated by a vision of a future society, and by explicit judgments of value concerning the character of this future society. These judgments must derive from some concept of the nature of man’ (Chomsky, 2003, p. 403).
Chomsky (2003) elaborates his ideas on social action in the follow- ing words – It must, needless to say, be stressed that social action cannot await a firmly established theory of man and society, nor can the validity of the latter be determined by our hopes and moral judgements. The two – speculation and action – must progress as best they can, looking forward to the day when theoretical inquiry will provide a firm guide to the understanding, often grim, but never hopeless struggle for freedom and social justice (p. 406).
Chomsky describes himself as a “fellow traveler” to the anarchist tradition, and refers to himself as a libertarian socialist, a political philosophy he summarizes as challenging all forms of hierarchy and attempting to eliminate them if they are unjustified for which the burden of proof is solely upon those who attempt to exert power. He identifies with the labor-oriented anarcho-syndicalist current of anarchism in particular cases, and is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He believes that libertarian socialist values exemplify the rational and morally consistent extension of original unreconstructed classical liber- al and radical humanist ideas to an industrial context (Chomsky, 1996, p.77).
Chomsky further defines himself as a Zionist, although he has clari- fied that his definition of Zionism is considered by most to be anti-Zi- onism these days, the result of what he perceives to have been a shift (since the 1940s) in the meaning of Zionism (Peck, 1987).
In his 1973 book For Reasons of State, Chomsky argues that instead of a capitalist system in which people are “wage slaves” or an authori- tarian system in which decisions are made by a centralized committee, a society could function with no paid labor. He argues that a nation’s populace should be free to pursue jobs of their choosing. People will be free to do as they like, and the work they voluntarily choose will be both “rewarding in itself ” and “socially useful”. Society would be run under a system of peaceful anarchism, with no state or other authoritarian institutions. Work that was fundamentally distasteful to all, if any existed, would be distributed equally among everyone.
Though Chomsky was critical of the Soviet Union’s approach to im- plementing socialism, he was less critical of Communist movements in Asia, noting what he considered to be grassroots elements within both Chinese and Vietnamese communism (The Legitimacy of Violence as a Political Act?). This, however, does not mean blanket endorsement of the policies of the People’s Republic of China. In the context of remarks on the topic of peak oil in April 2005, Chomsky stated, “China is prob- ably the most polluted country in the world – you can’t see. It’s kind of a totalitarian state, so they kind of force it on people, but the level of pol- lution is awful…” (Chomsky on Peak Oil).
In practice Chomsky has tended to emphasize the philosophical ten- dency of anarchism to criticize all forms of illegitimate authority. He has been reticent about theorizing an anarchist society in detail, although he has outlined its likely value systems and institutional framework in broad terms. According to Chomsky (2005b), the variety of anarchism which he favors is - … a kind of voluntary socialism, that is, as libertarian socialist or anarcho-syndi- calist or communist anarchist, in the tradition of , say, Bakunin and Kropotkin and others. They had in mind a highly organized form of society, but a society that was organized on the basis of organic units, organic communities (p. 27).
On the question of the government of political and economic institu- tions, Chomsky has consistently emphasized the importance of grass- roots democratic forms. Accordingly current Anglo-American in- stitutions of the representative democracy “would be criticized by an anarchist of this school on two grounds. First of all there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly – and critically – because the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere” ” (The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism).
Chomsky is scathing in his opposition to the view that anarchism is inconsistent with support for ‘welfare state’ measures, stating in part that - One can, of course, take the position that we don’t care about the problems people face today, and want to think about a possible tomorrow…. Or one can take a much more humane position: I want to work, today, to build a better society for tomorrow – the classical anarchist position, quite different than the slogans in the question. That’s exactly right, and it leads directly to support for the people facing problems today: for enforcement of health and safety regulation, provision of national health insurance, support sys- tems for people who need them, etc. That is not a sufficient condition for organizing for a different and better future, but it is a necessary condition. Anything else will receive the well-merited contempt of people who do not have the luxury to disregard the circumstances in which they live, and try to survive (Answers by Noam Chomsky).
Chomsky has lectured and written extensively on the responsibility of the intellectuals in his political writings. He views truth and rational- ity as great means of liberation of the oppressed. Equally important is honesty. Chomsky asserts that simple honesty is not enough for social action. There has to be a greater commitment to discover truth and ar- rive at what is important. It should result in the act of the intellectuals taking a firm stand in favor of the victims of oppression (Rai, 1995, 143).
Chomsky invites all intellectuals and the people concerned to be- come part of an alternative world vision not based purely on accumu- lation and domination. As Chomsky puts it “Pick your cause and go volunteer for a group that is working on it. Above all, never give up hope – for yourself, your country, your remarkable species, your planet” (McGilvray, 2005, 258-259).
Chomsky says that in the field of social action there are some positive developments the world over. Recognition of human rights is growing among people the world over and there are growing movements against free-trade regimes, deprivation and injustice. Only if such movements spread can a positive change in the world order be brought about (Chat- topadhyay & Chaudhuri, 2001).
Chomsky advocates networking with other activists as ‘to do these things alone is extremely hard, especially when you’re working fifty hours a week to put the food on the table’. He says – Join with others, and you can do a lot of things. It’s got a big multiplier effect. That’s why unions have always been in the lead of development of social and economic progress. They bring together poor people, working people, enable them to learn from one another, to have their own sources of information, and to act collectively. That’s how everything is changed -- the Civil Rights movement, the feminist move- ment, the solidarity movements, the workers movements. The reason we don’t live in a dungeon is because people have joined together to change things. And there’s nothing different now from before. In fact, just in the last forty years, we’ve seen remarkable changes in this respect (Keisler, 2002, p. 21).
Chomsky asserts that mass support and participation is very impor- tant for any movement to have success. He says - Continuous struggle is the only way to achieve human rights and social justice. Go back to ‘62, there was no feminist movement, there was a very limited human rights movement, extremely limited. There was no environmental movement, meaning rights of our grandchildren. There were no Third World solidarity movements. There was no anti-apartheid movement. There was no anti-sweat shop movement. I mean, all of the things that we take for granted just weren’t there. How did they get there? Was it a gift from an angel? No, they got there by struggle, common struggle by people who dedicated themselves with others, because you can’t do it alone, and made it a much more civilized country. It was a long way to go, and that’s not the first time it happened. And it will continue (Peck, 1987, p. 132).
Chomsky outlines the qualities needed of a social activist in the fol- lowing words – Be honest, critical, accept elementary moral principles. For example, the principle that if something is wrong for others, it’s wrong for us. Things like that. Understand the importance of the fundamental anarchist principle, namely, prior illegitimacy of power and violence, unless you can justify it, which is not easy. It’s their burden of proof, not yours. And that’s true whether it’s personal relations in a family, and whether it’s international affairs. Beyond that, try to join with others who share your interests to learn more and to act responsively to improve the many very serious problems of the world, which can be done (Peck, 1987, p. 127).
Chomsky does not believe that non-violence is the only way in activ- ism, although it is highly desirable. He says that nonviolent resistance is often a way to proceed, but it depends on who you are confronting. If you are confronting people that are going to use extreme violence, non- violence is not going to be effective. But to appeal to the humanity of the enemy is sometimes effective. There are lots of ways to proceed. Thus, there is no universal formula. Every circumstance requires a unique for- mula (Rai, 1995).
Chomsky gives reasons for directing his activist efforts to the state of which he is a citizen. He believes that his work can have more impact when directed at his own government and that he holds a responsibility as a member of a particular country of origin to work to stop that coun- try from committing crimes (Barsky, 1997).
Finally, Chomsky advises social activists not to really bother about how much is accomplished. Even seemingly little achievements could be very important in the long-run. We should keep working towards achieving the immediately needed things without giving up long-term visions (Rai, 1995).
Critique of Chomsky’s Views
Not everyone sees Chomsky in a positive light. Internationally, he is a much sought-after expert contributor to media coverage of world af- fairs. In the United States, in contrast, Chomsky has long been almost entirely excluded from the mass media. Some of the American writers have accused of ‘false and treacherous teaching’, and described as a man ‘who has made a career out of hating America and out of trashing the record of this country’ (Zahn, 2002). Chomsky is also criticized for his view of 9/11 from the US left, by Christopher Hitchens and Eric Al- termann amongst others. As Paul Robinson charged in The New York Times in 1979, ‘Noam Chomsky is arguably the most important intel- lectual alive today’. But his political writings are ‘maddeningly simple- minded’, reducing US foreign policy to only one factor, ‘the needs of American capitalism . . .’ (p. 3).
Despite Chomsky’s international prominence and the rigorous qual- ity of his research (Hitchens, 1994) reference to his work in the politi- cal science literature is rare, and seldom flattering. Serious treatments of his political work by scholars in the field are few (Falk & Coker). Even among those whose work is broadly sympathetic, substantively or politically, to his arguments, Chomsky’s writings are regularly dubbed ‘radical’ (Cox, 2001) or ‘polemical’ (Campbell, 1992).
The failure to engage with his work is revealing of the politics of the discipline of political science. Most often, Chomsky is marginalized or dismissed less for intellectual reasons than for political ones. When sharing platforms with ‘official’ political science scholars, for example, Chomsky’s lack of formal credentials in the field is frequently noted, often with ridicule. His arguments and the substance of his research, meanwhile, are sidelined or ignored. Notably, it is only in political sci- ence and related fields that Chomsky has had this experience (Edgley, 2002). It should be noted that lack of professional credentials, however, has not prevented him from being taken seriously in other fields outside linguistics, such as mathematics (Laffey, 2003).
Chomsky’s political writings are theoretically informed and more so- phisticated than he is usually given credit for, as Alison Edgley (2002) and others have demonstrated. Edward Said, for example, points out that ‘Chomsky does not reflect theoretically on what he does; he just does it. So, on the one hand, he leaves us to suppose that telling the truth is a simple matter while, on the other hand, he compiles masses of evidence showing that no one can really deal with the facts’ (Said, ‘Permission to Narrate’, p. 267). Walter LaFeber contends that ‘Chomsky is instructive about the present and future because he is serious about the past. . . . And he is deadly serious about the use of evidence’ (p. 320).
It seems apt to conclude this section with the words of Mark Laffey (2003) who said –
Instead of cheap comments about his (Chomsky’s) lack of credentials, or the polemical nature of his writings, then, we would do better to consider Chomsky’s work on its merits, as offering better or worse answers to a vari- ety of serious questions. None of this is to prejudge the issue: there is doubt- less plenty to disagree within Chomsky’s accounts of US foreign policy, the media, and world politics more generally. But in an age of widespread liber- al triumphalism, increased concentration of corporate media, and acceler- ating barbarism and violence on a global scale, we could do worse – indeed, much worse – than to engage with his principled and rigorous efforts to understand and explain our world (p. 603).
World of Social Action
Having discussed Chomsky’s views on globalization, US imperialism, and activism, the remaining section of this chapter focuses on a review of the literature related to social action. First we shall take up the West- ern literature pertaining to social action, and later discuss the various perspectives presented by Indian literature on the concept of social action.
Social Action in the West
In the West, even though Mary Richmond in 1922, had referred to social action as one of the four forms of social work - other three being case- work, groupwork and community organization - none of the schools of social work developed a special curriculum for it (Siddiqui, 1997, p. 216). There was a tendency to identify social action with specialized agencies, professional groups and social workers as individual citizens (Cohen, 1958). Some social workers, however, felt that this represented a retreat from social work’s full responsibility. For them, social action was a logical outgrowth of the fundamental belief of the social work profession in the worth and well-being of the individual as were more direct services to individuals (Siddiqui, 1997, p. 216).
In a study of ‘Social Action and Professional Education’ made in 1944 by Marion Hathway, it was evident that skills and strategies of social action were dealt with only around the fringe of the total curriculum rather than as an integral part of it (Siddiqui, 1997, p. 216-17).
As the years passed by the nature of professional practice in social work, particularly in the US, was more firmly moving in the direction of becoming individual-centred. As the welfare services were more and more privatized on account of the general shift in the social policy to cut down expenditure on welfare, social workers started opting out for private practice rather than taking up jobs in institutional settings.
NASW in the US realized in the 1960s that even in an industrialized society like theirs there existed the problems of poverty and unemploy- ment which could not be tackled by methods like casework, group work and community organization. Hence, they turned to the method of so- cial action (Prasad, 2008, p. 30).
During the 1970s radical literature on social work occupied consid- erable space but during the 1980s, despite the predictions that militan- cy in social work practice will increase, the trend was towards greater consolidation of social services. Even in the 1990s there was not much literature published in the area of social action (Siddiqui, 1997, 220). Although since the beginning of the 21st century there has been argu- ments in favor of critical social work, role of social action has not been discussed in much detail.
Social Action in India
Social work education in India started by laying emphasis on curative methods. Hence, social action as a method of social work was not given much space either in education or in practice (Siddiqui, 1997, 213).
The First Review Committee on social work education in India the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 1965, strangely, said that as the objective of social reform has already been achieved social workers should get into social service and social welfare functions like attending to the needs of children in orphanages. It did not make a mention of social action as a method of social work. However, the veterans in social work education and practice like Kulkarni, Hasan, Dasgupta and Nana- vatty came out strongly against this approach in a Seminar organized by Association of Schools of Schools of Social Work in India (ASSWI). Kulkarni, for example, strongly advocated the commitment of the pro- fession to act as a powerful force in favour of democracy, social justice and social development (Kulkarni, 1967).
The Second Review Committee on Social Work Education in India (UGC, 1980) in its report stated that, Our model of social work practice and education was based on an industrial, urban and metropolis dominated society…. Social work education was thus based on an individual-urban based model…the late sixties have revealed that industrialization cannot eliminate poverty even from the affluent societies….It has brought to the fore the global need to emphasize the teaching of social action, social policy and social administration, since it is the social milieu and not only the individual, that is the major client of the profession.
Siddiqui (1997) opines that the changing characteristics of social workers, together with the reorganization of the work and market situ- ation for social work have led to the marginalization of social action as a method of social work. Given these trends, he feels that social action as a method will remain on the periphery rather than become a central method.
In the quest to attain ‘professional’ status social work had to face the dilemma of finding compatibility between social work which could play conformist role and social action which demanded a confrontationist role. Hence, very often than not, the process of professionalization of social work led to the weakening of social action as a method (Siddiqui, 1997, p. 212).
However, there is a large chunk of social workers who feel uneasy about the lack of ‘social commitment’ within the social work profes- sion. The social commitment is generally assumed to imply involvement of social workers with macro issues and using their power to remedy the prevailing injustice in society. Thus, without their being conscious, many social workers have the regret and guilt that the method of social action which has the potential to show their social commitment is rel- egated to the periphery (Siddiqui, 1997, p. 212-13).
Indian Literature on Social Action
The first article on social action in Indian context appeared in Social Work Forum by Nanavatty in 1965. He defined social action as a process of bringing about the desired changes by deliberate group and community action. The first major work was published the very next year by M. Vasudeva Moorthy. He defined social action as a process of securing legislation and mobilizing public opinion to bring out change. He saw social activist as a social reformer but not as a revolutionary (Moorthy, 1966). As could be observed, both with Nanavatty and Moorthy, ‘social change’ was the central concern of social action and legislative action formed a major strategy for bringing about the change. The relationship of social action with social work was not dealt with adequately as some- times it was seen as a distinct method and at other times as a part of the more established methods like casework, group work and community organization.
Barnabas in an article published in 1966 opined that the major func- tion of social action was not just bringing about desirable change but also resisting the change which is undesirable.
The scope of social work practice was vigorously debated in the 1980s. The inability of the counselors, group workers or even commu- nity organizers to make a dent in the reduction of mass poverty started the exhortations for social action (Siddiqui, 1984). This period added three major works to the neglected literature on social action, beginning with Social Work and Social Action of H.Y. Siddiqui in 1984, Social Ac- tion through Law of P.K. Gandhi in 1985, and a chapter on social action by S. Dasgupta in Encyclopedia of Social Work in India in 1987.
Desai (1984), in an article, raised the issue of non-existence of a sound theoretical base for social action in India. She also argued that social action was a total way of thinking, feeling and acting and, hence, could not be restricted to one course.
Singh (1984) highlighted the disturbing fact that out of the 27 schools offering Masters degree in social work only four had some content on social action in their curriculum. He also argued that social action should be based on democratic framework, non-violence and constitu- tional provisions.
Dasgupta (1987) in his article argues that social action movements break the narrow confines of welfare model. He suggested that social ac- tion could be used in different settings with individualized approaches.
Stages of Social Action. Siddiqui (1984) has identified four stages in the process of social action. They are: i) developing awareness, ii) orga- nization, iii) selection of strategies, and iv) action. These, as could be observed, are based on the tactics identified by Lees (1972).
Principles of Social Action. Britto (1984) has proposed six principles of social action. They are: i) credibility building, ii) legitimization, iii) dramatization, iv) multiple strategies, v) dual approach, and vi) manifold programs. These principles were based on the process Gandhi adopted in mobilizing the masses during the national struggle for freedom in India.
Types and Models of Social Action. Britto has also made a distinc- tion between the elitist and popular social action. In the elitist model, social action is carried out by the elite for and on behalf of the masses with or without mass participation. In this category he identified three models of social action: legislative model, economic sanction model, and direct physical action model. In the popular category he identified direct mobilization, dialectical mobilization, and consietization models.
As Siddiqui (1997, 213) has opined , social action should not be seen as diametrically opposed to other methods of social work but rather as an alternative approach of trying to achieve the basic objective of social work practice.
Reasons for the Emergence of Social Action in the Country
Although voluntary efforts have historical roots in the country (Gan- grade, 1987, p.221-2; Pathak, 1980, p 69-71, 110; Chatterjee, 1977, p.250; Chowdry, 1971, p.11; Sheth, 1982, p.49; Dhanagare, 1983, p.129; Sethi, 1988, p.22) the SAG phenomenon in its current form is of recent origin, spanning the past four decades (Fernandes, 1985; Karat, 1984).
According to Stephen (1991, p.2-3), the phenomenon of SAGs pres- ent in large numbers in South India was shaped by the following histori- cal factors:
a) isillusionment among the youth of the growing unemployment rate and dissatisfaction with the development path followed by the gov- ernment which offered no hope for the ‘poor’ in India.
b) Setting up of raining centres which provided the forum for discuss- ing social issues at an intellectual level, through seminars, confer- ences, consultations and which also focused on training lay leaders.
c) the advent of Freirean Approach which threw open an alternative approach of education as a tool for social transformation, and
d) shift in policy at the resource agency end leading to direct support of grassroots groups.
Stephen (1991, p. 4) provides a profile of the activists of 1960s: “the pro- file of the leaders who belonged to this period was a mix of Marxism (as far as tools of Marxian analysis go), Frieranism (drawing from Paulo Freire’s pedagogical value premises of participatory processes) and a bit of Christian Theology (inspiration). The activists were middle class in origin and hence followed a theoretical and intellectual approach.”
Korten (1990: 30) feels that there is “a need to energise and decen- tralize action towards a people-centred development vision on a much broader scale….the power of people’s movements has largely been ig- nored in the field of development.”
Theories on the Emergence of Social Action in India
Various authors and organizations try to explain the emergence and rapid growth of SAGs in India in the late 1960s and the 1970s. The RSS basically views Christian AGs as a new church plot and approach – un- der Marxist cover – to break Indian society and make Christian con- verts, at least on a long term basis (Agarwal, 1983, p. 4).
According to the CPM (I) analyst, Karat, there is a sophisticated and comprehensive strategy worked out in imperialist quar- ters to harness the forces of Vas/AGs to their strategic design to penetrate the Indian society and influence its course of development. …by providing liberal funds to these groups, imperialism has creaed avenues to penetrate directly vital sections of the Indian society and simultaneously use this movement as a vehicle to counter and disrupt the potential of the left movement (Karat, 1984, p. 20-1).
Social analysts on the other hand link the growth of AGs with the socio-economic and political crises affecting the Indian society since the late 1960s. Kothari (1984, p.216-20) thus characterizes the context in which AGs developed:
The engines of growth are in decline, the organized working class is not growing, the process of marginalization is spreading, technology is turning anti-people, develop- ment has become an instrument of the privileged class, and the state has lost its role as an agent of transformation, and even as a mediator, in the affairs of civil soci- ety. Democracy has been the playground for growing corruption, criminalization, repression and intimidation for large masses of people….In short, the ‘top down’ model of development and policies has failed and the State has lost much of its credibility. At this point of history, the existing institutions and theoretical models on which they are based have run their course. Hence, the need for a new genre of organization and a new conception of political roles.
Aaftaab (1981, p.63) discerns a two-fold crisis in the situation of 1970s:
“a crisis of the capitalist path of development with its manifestations now festering in every sphere, economic, political, social and cultural; and a crisis of politics – in- ability of given conceptions, analysis and practices to meet the given situation. The two aspects of the crisis are related to one another. The economic conditions of the masses have deteriorated and the muti-party, parliamentary-democratic system, to common perception is no longer capable of delivering the goods. On the whole, in the 1970s an ideological atmosphere legitimizing non-party, grassroot level activists prevailed”.
Position of Social Action within Social Work Profession
International definition of social work (Sewpaul and Jones, 2004: 494):
The social work profession promotes social change, problem-solving in human re- lationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilizing theories of human behavior and social system, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.
It is quite clear then that to fulfill this mandate of social work, social action will have to play a pivotal role.
Prasad (2008) opines that social action as a method of social work has passed through vicissitudes of hue both conceptually and in practice. There are no field work modules developed in schools of social work to provide proper training in social action. Also, there are very few agencies where social action is professionally practiced and hence placement of the students for field work in this area is difficult to be made. Another reason, for lack of theoretical and practical inputs in this area is that schools and the faculty therein are marginally committed to poverty and other critical problems of the poor.
However, it could be recalled that social Work profession as we understand it now, had developed through and out of the reform movements of earlier centuries, when humanitarian considerations led to organized charity. But what is now pointed out by competent authorities is that the particular methods and approaches had developed in support of, and in the course of reform movement, later became a sort of “be all and end all” of social workers. Gradually the field of social reform in which social workers were the first to function, was increasingly taken over by political luminaries, labour leaders, etc. with social workers playing only a rather minor role (Batra, 2004).
Acknowledging the importance of social action within the field of social work K.K. Jacob (1965) states that:
Social action is essentially an effort at initiating suitable changes and reforms to im- prove socio-economic conditions and to better the social climate, which objective is shared by the social work profession. Hence, it is easy to see that social workers have to play an important role in social action. In fact they should be the central figures who should get the interested individuals and groups together and function as the prime movers in this primary movement for making the neighbourhood and the country at large, a better place in which to live and function (p. 64).
Over the years, in the quest to become a ‘profession’, social work principles and practice started operating within the generally accepted social framework within which improvements were sought to be made, rectifying specific aspects and eliminating particular defects. This led to criticism that social workers are so very conservative, always upholding the status quo, without a sense of the past and the promise of the future, and without changing the present for a better future (Jacob, 1965; Sid- diqui, 1997). Prabhakar (2009), for example, says that, The social work field has emerged as a buffer against the hidden and open, planned crimes of the state against the people. With state as the main agency of manufactur- ing poverty, it also creates its army of social workers to take care of the fallout in human rights in the name of democracy and human rights (p. 18).
Jacob (1965) criticizes the profession in the following words, Many of the social workers have preferred to watch the social revolutions taking
place in the fields of Community Development, worker’s welfare, social education, etc. from a safe distance, watching the stream of national resurgence and regen- eration pass by under the bridge on which we prefer to stay, waiting to administer casework or group work to those that could not swim along or got obstructed in the course of life (p. 67).
Mullay, writing from a radical perspective, observes ‘humanism and social equality must form the twin pillars of an ideal social work so- ciety’ (1997, p. 29). In this spirit, critical social work, spearheaded by Frankfurt School has been giving great importance to social action as it believes that social conflicts could be effectively addressed only through meaningful social action.
It needs to be noted here that there is quite a lot of confusion among the social work writers as to whether social work is a method, model or approach of social work. Mary Richmond (1922) and many others (Jacob, 1965; Siddiqui, 1984, etc.) argue that social action is an accepted method of social work. Rothman’s (1974) discusses social action one of the three models of community organization (other two being locality development and social planning).
Saldanha (2008), however, believes that it is better to look at social action as an approach of social work so that it becomes the primary ori- entation for the function of all the established methods of social work. He states that, Social action might be pedagogically transacted, instead of as an isolated method, as a methodological approach that foregrounds the tactics/methods employed by this strategy/approach while being in- clusive of other methods (similar to the approach of integrated social work practice). While case work and group work may be visualised as functioning primarily at the level of individual human inter-subjectivity and interaction; and community organization may be seen as organis- ing interest-based, social formations larger than groups for interven- tion; social action as an approach may justifiably conceptualized as an approach/methodology that is inclusive of the foregoing methods and yet having its own distinct methods based on class and other identities (caste, tribe, gender, race, and so on) for addressing structural issues of redistribution (p. 133).
He further argues that seeing the approach in this cumulatively inclusive, yet distinctive, manner is all the more important given the substantiative shift in orientation that social action implies: from indi- vidual to the collective, from persons visualized as objects of relief and welfare to collective human subjects capable of conscious, self-directed action; and from situations analyzed in their relatively static, isolated and symptomatic manifestations in the present to an understanding of dynamic historical causes of processes within given structured contexts. Thus, social action may be conceived as an important theoretical and methodological approach/perspective within social work. Social work research and interventions in policy formulation and through social welfare administration, which are considered as other methods of social work, fall outside the foregoing logical continuum of social units; and may best be conceptualized as methodological practices with respect to social institutions and social processes.
Whatever may be the difference of opinion on the position of so- cial action within social work profession it needs to be emphasized that there is, by and large, unanimity on its relevance and importance. As Cox, Elrich, Rothman and Tropman (1974) state, ‘to believe that social action is dead is to be badly deceived….Many social action efforts are developing in cities and towns where there had previously been little in the way of grass-roots organizing’ (p. 401-2). Thus, many social work authors agree that there is a need for generic practitioners to engage in the task of transforming the social structure which is the cause of indi- vidual problems through the method/approach of social action.
Relevance of Social Action in the Globalized Context
Globalization is a complex, abstract phenomenon, but civil society has shown that it is neither unalterable nor inevitable. Citizens all over the world – human rights advocates and religious leaders, environmental- ists and trade unionists, ordinary people from the global North and South – work together to make concrete improvements in people’s lives (Globalization, 2004).
Noam Chomsky points out the significance of current anti-war movement as compared to the nature of movement that happened dur- ing the time of Vietnam War. He opines that the involvement of the people all over the world, including Americans, in opposing the ill-ef- fects of globalization and the US imperialism has grown over the years. The Mumbai Resistance 2004 was a significant mark of a strong anti- capitalist and anti-war movement. It indicates that the double edges of a single razor are imperialist wars and neoliberal capitalism.
The anti-globalization movements across the world have a very “unique” political bearing. The protestors do not consistently make any political or ideological homogeneity. It is a heterogenous body of com- munists and non-communists, social activists and intellectuals, NGO workers and environment scientists, religious leaders and the national- ists. The protestors only pinpoint that a change is needed in the very “structural principle” (Giri, 2004).
Reflecting on the response by the right wing to the activism oppos- ing the oppressive elements of globalization and imperialism Lori Wal- lach notes, “We are labeled as anti, anti, anti. We need to change that perception. It’s they who are anti. We are a movement for democracy. For equity. For environment. For health. They are for a failed status.” (cited in Cooper, 2002). It is based on this consciousness that whatev- er was called “anti-capitalist”, “anti-globalization”, anti-corporate”, etc. before the Seattle protests against the WTO in December 1999 is now termed as the “Movement for Global Justice” or the “Global Justice and Solidarity Movement”.
In the oppressive climate of globalization Ferguson and Lavalette (2006) speak about a ‘social work of resistance’ with an emphasis on grassroots, social justice movements. Tesoriero and Rajaratnam (2001, p. 32) concur that social work must fulfill the role of offering ‘an alterna- tive voice that challenges the supremacy of economic motives’. While feminist and Marxist perspectives may be useful, other authors have drawn attention to the relevance of theories of human rights as guid- ing frameworks for a liberating social work practice in the global era (Dominelli, 2005; Ife and Fiske, 2006; Skegg, 2005).
Many authors envision social work as a profession that will integrate local concerns with a global awareness and meet the needs that emerge in that context (Ahmadi, 2003; Dominelli, 2005; Ferguson and Lavalette, 2006). Gray and Fook (2004) use the term ‘glocal’. Ife (2001) talks about a ‘global-local discourse’ to describe the potential focus of social work as a profession. Yip (2005a) proposes a ‘dynamic model’ of cross-cultural social work that involves ‘various cultural exchanges’ between western and Asian countries.
Hence, today, there is a growing demand within social work frater- nity to engage with the issues of inequality and injustice perpetuated by globalization and US imperialism both within and outside the profes- sion of social work. Writers have argued that social work is currently failing in its potential as a global force for social change (Midgley, 2001), and point out that against its domestic focus (Johnson, 2004) social work students need to be adequately prepared to work in a globalized context (Gray and Fook, 2004; Sewpaul and Jones, 2004; Tesoriero and Rajaratnam, 2001) with skills in policy, mediation, alliance-building and communication technology (Ahmadi, 2003; Caragata and Sanchez, 2002; Roff, 2004). As Midgley (2007) has opined, in the present context ‘social work educators and practitioners need to pay attention to the way global power relationships affect international and domestic inequali- ties and the lives of the families and communities they serve’ (p. 623).
Ife (1997, p. 178) argues that ‘social work is, by its very nature, radi- cal’. He stresses the importance of bringing radical social work in from the margins of the profession. Alston and McKinnon (2001) have ar- gued similarly that professional social work is concerned with human rights, social justice and support for marginalized people. It is common- ly agreed today that it is the social action method of social work that has the potential as well as the mandate to bring about such a transforma- tion in society (Bhattacharjee, 1982).
As Kulkarni (1967, p.112) has opined, ‘in developing countries, so- cial action is crucial and must precede social work. It is wasteful in a developing country to start with social work and leave social action behind. Social action…created the necessary conditions and climate in which social work could be done more effectively.’ Hence, it could be argued that a country like India requires the practice of enlightened so- cial action in challenging times like the present. The present attempt of trying to understand the implications of Noam Chomsky’s discourse on globalization and the US imperialism to social action in India could be considered as a small beginning in this direction.
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