Out of Touch with Reality
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Vladislav Inozemtsev

PhD in Economics; he is Head of the Department of World Economy at the Faculty of Public Administration, Lomonosov Moscow State University, and Director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies.

Globalization is currently one of the most popular subjects
amongst the social sciences, and is especially well advanced in the
U.S. and West European countries. The principal differences arising
in the debates on this subject in these countries are not so much
concerned with defining the essence of globalization as with
estimating its consequences. It seems that other nations have been
more involved in discussing the phenomenon of globalization. They
are debating whether they are capable of playing a special role in
this process, or whether globalization is not some alien, if not
hostile, force. It is no surprise, then, that the bulk of Western
research concerning globalization has been confined to
methodological investigation which fails to provide a profound
analysis of the existing reality; the social scientists who speak
on behalf of the developing countries introduce ideological
treatises where a selective study of practice corresponds with
expedient conclusions.

The latter approach is the method practiced by Russian social
scientists, confirmed in great measure by two recent books on
globalization, both of which have stirred interest and public
attention. One of them was written by a group led by Mikhail
, the other by Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the
Communist Party of the Russian Federation. These books prompt some
important conclusions about the specifics of sociological thought
in Russia today.

At first glance, the books under review seem completely
dissimilar. The one written under the auspices of the Gorbachev
Foundation is devoted to the theoretical comprehension of the
contemporary global processes and only its concluding part, which
does not exceed one-fifth of its volume (G, pp. 445-548), is
devoted to Russia. In contrast, Zyuganov’s estimation of
globalization (Z, pp. 8-170) anticipates his general reflections on
the destiny of the socialist idea and Russia’s place in the modern
world; this book will require some effort in discriminating his
frequently profound thoughts from common ideological trappings.
Zyuganov’s work creates the impression of being better integrated;
the author consistently, although not always very convincingly,
advocates his vision of the global situation.

The book edited by Gorbachev is actually a collection of essays,
each one dealing with the author’s “pet subject.” In contrast with
Zyuganov’s singular contribution, readers of the Gorbachev book
will have to work hard to discover the individual positions of its

Nevertheless, both books have much in common. Their chief
similarity derives from the mutual desire to speak out earnestly on
some imaginary issues, criticizing or praising the product of their
own imagination which, naturally, requires no proof, instead of
examining the hard facts of globalization.

Gorbachev distinguishes between ‘globalization’ (as an objective
phenomenon) and neoliberal ‘globalism’ (as a policy deserving
condemnation. G, pp. 13-15). However, he fails to propose any
explanations for the shortcomings of the contemporary world. One of
the contributors to Gorbachev’s book, Victor Kuvaldin, has
an incomprehensible term ’globality’ in the title of his article
(G, p. 31), but never once (!) does he make mention of it
throughout his piece. Globalization as a notion remains largely
undefined throughout the almost 600-page book. The most Gorbachev
does is note that “globalization …is primarily the result of the
technological revolution in information theory and
telecommunications” (G, p. 13). Kuvaldin maintains that
“globalization is a process that molds the global human community,”
following the discovery that “the absolute majority of the Earth’s
inhabitants are gradually approaching a common understanding of the
basic principles of the organization of life” (G, pp. 35, 32)! What
those “basic principles” actually are is a subject that is not even
mentioned. In this context it is only natural that Valentin
notes that “the question ’What is globalization?’ is
now crudely and visibly” turning into the question ’What kind of
globalization is it?’” (G, p. 374).

In my opinion, such “turning” stems from the absence of an
answer to the first question.

The obscurity and consequential inadequacy that accompanies the
Gorbachev book are characteristic of a number of the themes. For
example, while examining the consequences of globalization in the
economic sphere, Oleg Bogomolov and Alexander
note that “there are no recognized criteria of fair
distribution of the economic effects of globalization.” In the same
breath they claim that “even in the absence of hard and fast
definitions of what is fair and justified and what is not, we can
speak of disproportions that need to be eliminated” (G, p. 117).
But if there are no hard and fast definitions of what is fair and
justified, is it not better to agree with Hegel who believed that
“all that exists is reasonable”? No wonder those same authors
follow up their three-page quotation from Joseph Stiglitz
with a very candid evaluation: “There is no better way of putting
it” (G, p. 142). Perhaps, it is not worthwhile trying?

The political aspect of globalization is analyzed by Mikhail
. He articulates the features of the new century as “an
increasing complexity of policies and structures of political
organization… and an increasingly clear-cut delimitation of various
levels of political organization,” noting that “the saddest thing
about all this is that those levels are quite definitely
disunited.” Does that mean that the prospects are none too rosy?
Not at all, since “alternative structures of global political
organization can be suggested and built up” (G, pp. 245, 248).
Perhaps, they can. But where can we find an analysis of what
already exists?

Frankly speaking, the Gorbachev Foundation experts seem to have
little respect for their readers. They overburden their book with
empty and occasionally misleading statements. It is obvious that
“aid programs must above all be oriented to the needs of the
recipients and not the donors” (G, p. 66); there is no doubt that
“the advantages of economic globalization do not materialize
automatically and not all countries are aware of them in full
measure” (G, p. 115); it is quite possible that “the noticeable
increase of reciprocal ties in the world through mutual penetration
of its individual parts is not yet the result of, but rather the
’promise’ of, globalization” (G, p. 194), while “cardinal
restructuring of the existing world order should be viewed as the
first and top priority of global security” (G, p. 436). What is the
conclusion of all that? What future scenarios do the authors
envision for the development of the world? The reader will not find
answers to those critical questions.

The worst thing, however, is that the Gorbachev book declares
“imperatively” that “post-industrialism – a term that until
recently has been obscure in its social content – is now being
replaced by, and equated to, ’globalism’ which emerges as a
definite geostrategic tendency and policy” (G, p. 390). Actually,
the term ’post-industrialism’ stopped being obscure as far back as
in 1976 with the publication of Daniel Bell’s famous book, whereas
’globalism’ remains one of the least defined notions used by
sociologists to this very day, and the two terms are “equated” only
in the book under review.

The above is but one of the many indications that most of the
co-authors in the Gorbachev book have a very vague idea of Western
publications, and what they do know has not been gleaned from
original works on globalization. The only noticeable exception is
the essay by Vladimir Kollontai on Western concepts of
economic globalization (G, pp. 147-192). The author has chosen
respectable sources that really deserve attention against a heavy
mass of printed matter on the subject. It is rather amusing that
for his impressive analysis Kollontai used more material than the
rest of the authors combined.

Now, what about the book by Gennady Zyuganov? The author seems
to be less inspired to explain the development and theory of
globalization than to present his position as a politician and
party leader. Yet, he does not see fit to dispense himself from
defining the basic notions, and that is an indication of his
respect and interest for the reader. He distinguishes between
’globalism’ and ’globality’ (Z, p. 12), and uses ’globalization’ in
the philosophical and concrete meanings (Z, pp. 13-15).

In his book, Zyuganov focuses on the deep historical roots of
the globalization process, noting that “the era of great geographic
discoveries contributed no less to globalization than the creation
of space communications systems” (Z, p. 13). He cautions against
exaggeration of the scope of globalization, pointing out that
“economic interdependence in 1990 remained almost at the level of
1910” (Z, p. 294). The author also gives a detailed description of
the origin of the contemporary globalization which, in his view,
grew out of the economic and political system that took shape in
the wake of World War II (Z, pp. 18-33), as well as of the
development of ideas about the globalizing world. We can only
regret that Zyuganov compares viewpoints that do not always carry
the same weight as regards their significance and impact on the
development of theoretical thought, and that he speaks more of
those scholars who popularized rather than of those who created new
concepts (Z, pp. 23-25).

It is also a disappointment that although Zyuganov mentions the
research done by scores of authors (Z, pp. 89-103), nowhere does he
provide his quotes with references. In any case, the first part of
his book offers a much clearer (and more adequate) understanding of
what contemporary globalization is and what its consequences are,
than the manuscript authored by Gorbachev and his colleagues.

Basing upon the above foundation, Zyuganov builds an extremely
realistic analysis of recent events. He denominates the sweeping
changes in the principles of the world order launched by the
incumbent American leadership as a “demolition of the Yalta system
and the entire balance of power in the world” (Z, p. 138), as a
“coercion to globalization with the backing of military power” (Z,
p. 126). He convincingly proves that the terrorist acts of
September 11 were largely provoked by the U.S. foreign policy
(ibid), and that the “international community” – on which the group
of authors led by Gorbachev stakes so heavily – “is today no more
than another name for imperialism with the United States in the
lead” (Z, p. 149). (It is noteworthy that the author never
suspected that the U.S. would make so bold as to ignore all
consideration for the said community and start the war in Iraq
without putting the issue to vote in the UN Security Council.)

Unfortunately, Zyuganov’s constant harping on the global
aggressiveness of imperialism subtracts from the credibility and
weight of many of his arguments. On top of that, without any need
whatsoever, he resorts to the ideological arguments of the
pre-perestroika times. Naturally, the U.S. bid to remake the
postwar model of the world, its attempts to establish hegemony, its
interference in other countries’ affairs cannot but evoke
condemnation. However, it would be naive to expect the vacuum
caused by the collapse of the U.S.S.R. to remain unfilled. Even in
the context of geopolitical strategies as set forth by Zyuganov,
the U.S. policies appear as quite logical. Hence, not indignation
but a search for possible lines of action capable of neutralizing
and restricting such policies is required.

Such an approach would be more natural of Zyuganov who is known
as one of the few people who did not swallow the bait of
antiterrorist demagogy that has gained such widespread traffic of
late. On the one hand, he notes quite reasonably that it is
“absolutely inadmissible to lump together any and all armed action
for national and social freedom under the legal definition of
terrorism” (Z, p. 151); on the other, he points out that the war on
terrorism should not allow for extraordinary measures and
international coalitions. His reference to the experience of the
French authorities in 1961 through 1963 (Z, pp. 161-163) appears to
be the most honest thinking – of all made public in Russia – on how
the fight against terrorism should be organized. Zyuganov stresses
that the world “in which the final vector of big politics will
develop under the influence of various global and regional centers
of power and poles of influence”, “will remain complicated, full of
conflict, affluent and difficult to predict” (Z, pp. 350-351,

It is quite obvious, however, that Zyuganov’s capacity to
provide precise estimates of the new realities that sets him apart
from the Gorbachev Foundation experts is all too often depreciated
by his efforts to follow ideological clichOs. His description of
Western society as “the highest stage of imperialism” (Z, pp.
84-85) sounds none too convincing. His attempts to depict
“intellectuals” as “the new class of workers of the 21st century”
(Z, pp. 210-211) are quite puzzling, and his bid to describe
bourgeois governments weaned on the individualism of their citizens
as “hirelings of independent Robinsons” (Z, p. 250), etc., sounds
naive, to say the least. But these shortcomings pale in comparison
with the flagrantly ideologized assessments that he makes when he
speaks of the influence globalization has on Russia’s future.

The Gorbachev Foundation experts and Zyuganov choose two
different approaches to the analysis of this problem, both of
which, in my opinion, are equally acceptable. Understanding how
dependent Russia is on worldwide processes, Gorbachev and his
colleagues assign it a passive role. Zyuganov, on the contrary,
believes that Russia is quite capable of playing the opponent to
the present-day model of globalization. There are points on which
the authors partially agree: the disastrous state of Russia’s
economy (G, p. 483; Z, pp. 258-261) and the significance of Russian
traditional values for the country’s progress (G, pp. 442-443; Z,
pp. 363-386). The two books also agree in their evaluation of the
present-day Russian political system as a regime that is inclined
to develop in the direction of authoritarianism and autocracy (G,
p. 452; Z, pp. 298-299). Where do they differ?

Gorbachev and his colleagues do not provide a clear-cut answer
as to which road Russia’s reforms should take. Three possibilities
are named: Russia retains the raw materials orientation of its
economy, becomes industrially oriented, or stages a post-industrial
breakthrough. However, in their opinion, a “big leap… which would
make it possible to reduce the time needed for economic
modernization is unacceptable to Russian society at present and
incompatible with the essence of post-industrial change” (G, p.
486). The conclusion they come to is that it would be best for the
country to “become party to certain generally meaningful and
basically progressive tendencies” (G, p. 487).

Apparently, this approach does not provide for any possibility
of developing a prudent policy of economic reform. Neither does the
analysis of Russia’s position on the international stage go further
than a simple enumeration of all the outstanding possibilities (G,
pp. 498-508).

Gennady Zyuganov’s stance does not allow for such vagueness.
Presuming that the immediate future holds in store “a war of the
worlds” in which the traditional “Russian world… will face the
apocalyptic world of cosmopolitan conglomeration and liberal
egocentrism” (Z, p. 223), the author builds an ideologized system
of goals, wherein he persistently opposes Russia to the West (Z,
pp. 302-332). He believes that “the citizens of Russia of all
nationalities will have enough wisdom … not to succumb to
nationalistic frenzy” (Z, p. 325). At the same time he states that
if “the policies of Russia… are today determined by Abramovich,
Mamout, Chubais and Aven, one can well imagine how far they have
strayed from the country’s genuine interests” (Z, p. 397). Zyuganov
(Ph.D.) fails to bolster his arguments when he refers to the
“profound analysis” of globalization processes made by Patriarch
Alexii II and the Church Councils (Z, pp. 339-342). As they say,
“Render to Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s, and to God what is

Sad to say, those examples are but an incomplete list of the
many misunderstandings and blunders made by the author. It is
apparent, however, that all these errors are of ideological nature
and stem from the desire to appeal to the political feelings of the

At the same time the book contains clear-cut and uncompromising
stipulations which cannot but evoke solidarity with the author.
Zyuganov is quite convincing when he speaks with irony of the
reasons for the thaw in Russian-American relations and of the
nearsightedness of such policies (Z, pp. 388-389, when he says that
Russian federalism is an unviable structure (Z, pp. 366-367), that
the current centralization of authority is nothing but another move
toward authoritarian rule (Z, pp. 372-374, 407), and, finally, when
he says that the artificial boosting of the ruble exchange rate
(which encourages imports and holds back the development of local
industries) is “one of the greatest hoaxes in world economic
history” (Z, p. 267). “Plato is my friend, but my best friend is
truth.” The overwhelming majority of Russian readers will find
Gennady Zyuganov’s book much more appealing than the pretentious
work of Mikhail Gorbachev and his colleagues.

On the whole, the perusal of those two books evokes sad
thoughts. The impression is that the Russian intellectual elite has
so far failed to produce a consistent analysis of the situation in
the contemporary world that would be based on hard fact and take
due account of the opinions of their counterparts abroad. The
Russian intelligentsia seems to have lost its capacity for
evaluating the achievements and failures of the authorities from
positions of principle, to set out landmarks and propose goals for
a meaningful forward movement. It is also sad that many reasonable
and well-grounded studies of globalization, as well as quite
sensible analyses of the ongoing processes in the country, are
dressed in hopelessly outdated ideological packaging to be consumed
by the Russian public. The result is that such a situation rules
out a constructive and serious dialog among scholars and the
general public, a dialog that is critically important for the
current stage of the country’s development.

Vladislav Inozemtsev, Doctor of Science
(Economics), is Director of Research of the Center for
Postindustrial Studies, Chairman of the Board of Advisors of Russia
in Global Affairs, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Svobodnaya Mysl –
XXI magazine.