Books, Contemp Culture, MP520, Ramblings, Reading Reflections

Book Review #4 – Fences and Windows (Picador USA, 2002)

Author:  Naomi Klein is a Canadian journalist and activist who has written extensively on the effects of globalization and the ‘corporatization’ of the world. 

Outline:  Fences and Windows is an organized anthology of essays, articles, and speeches that Klein wrote from 1999 (the Seattle protest of the World Trade Organization) through 2001 (the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City).  The essays center on the effects of globalization as it has been promoted by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization and capitalist governments that, in her view, bully around developing nations and economies.  “Fences” represent the barriers put in place by the institutions of capitalism and corporations, while “Windows” represent the few but light (and life) giving examples of breaking down the fences and reclaiming individuality and humanity.

As Klein repeats throughout the book, she supports the ideals of globalization and considers herself a “true internationalist” (76), but detests the economic and political methods and models used by proponents of globalization.  These methods and models have not worked to foster healthy economic growth in developing nations.  Instead, they are a gross form of corporatization, forcing small countries to feed on products of the global corporate.   

A question that Klein seeks to answer in Fences and Windows is, “What does a globalization activist look like?”  Klein may be unique in that she is not fighting against corporation X who has harmed the indigenous population in Developing Nation Q.  Instead, she seeks to speak out against the general trend that is taking place throughout the world.  Just as Fences and Windows jumps from Seattle to Canadato Mexico to Italy to Brazil, and numerous places in between, Klein sees the fight against “McWorld”, as she likes to call it, as a multi-theater war with pluralized interest groups warring on either side.  Throughout the book, Klein criticizes attempts to label and stereotype a typical globalization activist.  Rather, they are as varied and unique as the solutions they offer and the strategies they take.

Reactions: Klein’s book seemed to work from the same understanding of Walter Wink – the powers are good; the powers are fallen; the powers must be redeemed.  Despite taking on some of the largest and most powerful institutions in the modern world, Fences and Windows has a kind of hesitant optimism in it.  Klein believes that the alternative vision to the Fences, described throughout the book as a healthy and vibrant global commons which any race, ethnicity, location, etc. can access, is such a powerful image that it will eventually prevail over the fallen powers.

I appreciated what Klein had to offer in Fences and Windows.  After taking an international relations course in my undergrad, I was familiar with many of the events and players in the globalization debate, but Klein offers an honest and feasible alternative to either supporting the powers or rejecting globalization entirely – promoting a global dialogue without the unfair influence of oppressive corporations.

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One thought on “Book Review #4 – Fences and Windows (Picador USA, 2002)

  1. Pingback: can’t catch my breath » Blog Archive » MP520 - Thursday Reflections, Week 6

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