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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

From the Village To Sociopolis

4 September, 2001 - 00:00

Globalization is perhaps the most popular word among the world political elite. Some are pinning great hopes on it as a panacea for various economic malfunctions. Others, antiglobalists, utterly hate and berate all that is associated with the word.

The authorship of this term has been ascribed to American sociologist Robertson who gave interpretation to the notion of globalization in 1985 and expounded the basics of his concept in a book in 1992. This buzzword is rather obscure, obscure in the sense whether or not globalization can be blamed for one’s mistakes, non-professionalism and gross miscalculations in the development of a country or, on the contrary, this word can be adopted and pronounced at any opportunity in lieu of such well-worn terms as democracy, liberalization, reforms, social justice, etc.

We learn from the article “Ukraine and the Challenges of Globalization” by Ukrainian Academician Yury Pakhomov (Den, No. 139, not published in The Day) that “haphazard globalization is making a ruinous and increasingly intolerable impact on this planet.”

It looks like representatives of the elite that must ex-officio tackle the globalization-related processes have decided to go the first of the above two ways and blame globalization for what it has nothing to do with.

It is odd to hear from a learned academician that the concept of the Washington Consensus lay in incorporating a monetarist model “designed to break down nation state borders, to fully open the non-Western countries, and to clear their domestic markets for domination by transnational (mostly Western) capital. It is the Washington Consensus prescriptions applied to globalization that made it possible to redistribute the world wealth so rapidly and torrentially in favor of transnational companies, as well as the leading Western countries.”

All we have to do is to add freemasons who shape the destinies of the world, think up all kinds of consensus, and, undoubtedly, want to enslave Ukraine which experiences “a most powerful global pressure.”

Naturally, no claims can be raised about our politicians and economists if Ukraine has fallen victim to some international conspiracy. It takes little effort to guess that this is precisely the reason why Ukraine has seen such a dramatic fall in GDP. Our politicians and economists have nothing to do with this. A poor country. All hopes are being pinned on the world public.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

Yet this writer is puzzled: was Ukraine under foreign occupation when it began talks with the IMF? Or were all the its top leaders taken hostage and the populace signed a strings-attached treaty in order to rescue their leaders?

Had Ukraine not been in a deepest crisis by that time?

And what does inequivalent exchange mean? Does this mean we are occupied by NATO troops, which force us at gunpoint to export metal and then announce antidumping investigations and bring in, again by force, French perfumes, a couple of vials in exchange for a ton of metal?

Or was it the IMF that forced the National Bank to transfer its reserve funds to foreign banks and pay up to 100% in hard currency against treasury bill coupons? Or was it international organizations that helped Pavlo Lazarenko take tremendous amounts of money abroad and then awarded him a medal to top it off? But what makes globalization positive is precisely the fact that everything becomes publicly known: while formerly a country’s elite could hide its misdeeds from the public, now it is impossible to do so. One has to learn to play by transparent worldwide rules.

It is strange why these black evil forces of the world failed to impose all the above-mentioned on Slovenia which, unaided by the IMF, has pursued an economic policy drawn up by its own experts and boosted its average per capita GDP from $3060 in 1991 to $9890 in 1999. One can give a wealth of the examples of successful countries which pursued THEIR OWN policy. Thus the problem is not in international organizations but in wasteful management of the country, irrational utilization of loans, which brought about incredible corruption, absence of any economic concept of reform, non-professionalism of the political and economic elite, and simulation of reforms by the latter. Incidentally, reforming the social security policy was one of the preconditions for IMF loans. The 1993 World Bank report on Ukraine said, “The poor and those reduced to poverty should be fully protected.” As we see eight years later, these problems have only been exacerbated in Ukraine. So why are we criticizing the affluent countries for the gap between them and the poorer states when our own country is being increasingly torn apart?

FEAR OF GLOBALIZATION

It is worldwide competition that prods governments to mobilize and take active part in these process, for otherwise they will hopelessly drop out of the world space and become outcasts.

Globalization is setting more stringent requirements for national elites, shifting the their rivalry from the national to international level, which the Ukrainian leading elite regards as a deathblow. For Ukraine has not become a full-fledged country over the past decade. It has been bound in a unitary country by administrative and bureaucratic methods totally ineffective under the conditions of globalization. What this country still lacks is understanding of what the Ukrainian nation is, its domestic market, and moreover it lacks an elite capable of thinking on a national level and representing the majority of its population. The words of some politicians capable of thinking as befits statesmen only sink in the wild chorus of local elites that sing praises of their homelands as patterns of national excellence.

That Ukraine is totally unprepared for entering the global space is also manifested by its blurred foreign economic priorities.

We cannot support Prof. Pakhomov’s opinion that “the narrowing area of exchange between the developed countries and the rest of the world will provide even a country like Ukraine an additional chance to integrate in the worldwide economic space.”

The integration of OECD economies is an objective process bringing about an ever-widening gap between them and other countries. This group includes countries with an average per capita income of over $15,000. Other countries are of interest to them only as raw material suppliers and importers of consumer goods, for, to turn out high-tech products, one needs not only a powerful technological base but also a sizable domestic market for the primary sales of these products, a well-developed infrastructure to push them onto the world market, and support of a certain international alliance of countries. High-tech products are of an exclusive nature and high profit rate, which in fact allows the leading countries to increase the distance from the poorer ones. Of course, given the current quality of economic management, Ukraine cannot nurse even the faintest hope of entering Europe in the next twenty years, which both American and European forecasts also confirm. The EU earmarks one forth to one third of its overall budget for keeping afloat its own backward regions, but even this money is not enough. Why then should they admit poverty-stricken Ukraine (with the average per capita income of $750)? To make the whole Europe work for our money losing economy? By EU criteria, Ukraine will be able to claim common market membership only in forty years at its current rate of development.

BREAKTHROUGH STRATEGY

Mapping out the strategy of this country’s entry into the global space and its breakthrough into the group of developed countries is the immediate duty of the Institute of World Economy chaired by Academician Pakhomov. A strategy like this should have long been under discussion in government, research, and business circles. But instead of dwelling on this issue, let us put emphasis on a key element of this strategy, that is, Yevhen Marchuk’s idea of “priority development.” It is quite obvious that the current catch-up development will only increase Ukraine’s lag because the copy is always worse than the original and the gap will only widen. Priority development in the conditions of limited resources is based on the so-called “laser beam strategy” which makes it possible to embarse embracing the whole technological chain from fundamental research to large-scale production, including servicing of the supplied equipment.

The priority-development strategy (I would even say breakthrough strategy) implies not only the drafting a concept to concentrate resources and make a breakthrough in the promising directions. The main thing here is the nation’s ability to mobilize. This in no way means that the poor should tighten their belts still harder. The essence of mobilization is that the country should become aware of its integrity. And it is here that we encounter the problem.

The point is Ukraine still does not have a nation. What it does have is a territory and a population that lives in a regionally split society.

URBAN DEVELOPMENT

But there is another problem in Ukraine that slows down its development. A country of peasants, Ukraine underwent urbanization only in the postwar years. Urban population accounted for 46% and only 65% of the total population in 1950 and 1985 respectively. The cities have in fact absorbed a huge mass of marginal population. Former peasants relied on a land-cultivation culture based on the cult of mother earth, an archaic mythology, and the yearly cycle of development. Such cultures are extremely conservative and used to developing in a closed or limited space, where everybody knows or is related to each other.

It is common knowledge that civilized cultures became developed thanks to cities — not the “rural cities” typical of Russia and Ukraine but trade centers with a market place, a university, and extensive ties with other cities. Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote, “A peasant is like a plant. Even now, all his existence, all that he thinks, feels and wants bears the seal of vegetation, of its serene dream.” Fencing off vegetation, the city dweller creates a new world “on a purely human ground. This is a civil ground.” Thus man switches over from communal cohabitation to a civil society. “The vegetational spread gave way to civil cohesion in the city. The city is a superhouse, it means overcoming the household, the human lair and establishing a new structure, more abstract and complex than the family oikos [household].”

This clarifies the strategy carried out in the USSR: to fill top state offices in the constituent republics with people of rural origin and to send city dwellers to Moscow where it was easier to keep watch on them, and their broader world view would better meet the country’s requirements. Therefore the center faced no risks: former peasants were unable to perform the secession of Ukraine on their own. What matters is not so much the place where a person was born as the fact that many Ukrainian leaders preserved this rural, vegetational mentality.

This is why, even supported by President Leonid Kuchma at a conference on November 16, 2000, as supposedly vital, the priority development strategy remained unheeded by the Ukrainian elite. Can a plant elite possibly be thinking in terms of a priority or leap forward? These terms mean a gap in existence, while a gap means death to a plant.

Here lies the reason why Academician Pakhomov defined Mr. Marchuk’s suggestion as a daring idea. But what is daring here? This intellectually sound and professionally well-grounded idea (see Yury Marchuk Ukraine: a New Paradigm of Progress, Kyiv, 2001) is the only feasible way out of the group of the world’s most backward nations.

WHERE DOES STRENGTH RESIDE?

It is quite obvious that Ukraine cannot creep, like a vegetating country, into the ranks of the developed ones. It can only break through, armed with new technologies not only in engineering but also in habitat organization. But there is a trap here: sociopolis is being identified with technopolises, technoparks, and free economic zones. In truth, there is no lesser difference between sociopolis and these structures than between a Mercedes and a Tavriya. You can drive them, but the question is how. Here, too, we are facing a choice: either to eke out an existence like a plant or to work creatively.

There is such an economic term as rent. Moreover, there is quasi-rent, i.e., incomes obtained through superprofits derived from the sales of high-tech and exclusive products. But quasi-rent also results from a certain organization of a habitat functionally fit both for work and for recreation. This kind of habitat encourages creativity, investment inflow, and superprofits. The polis (city) is not a cluster of settlements and households, as is the case in a village, but a place for public meetings, a space reserved for civic affairs. Sociopolis is the development of the polis, a “new form of societal organization” which “shapes a fundamentally new, socialized, economy,” Mr. Marchuk’s book says. It is this form of development that organically fits in with the trends of globalization because it rationally combines the individual approach to and global linkage with the world. Thus it is clear what to do and how. The only remaining problem is how to replace the rural mentality with that of the sociopolis. Or does this country perhaps want to remain a huge backwater village and thus hide from globalization? Our elite seems to be showing much more affection for the times of peasants and Cossacks, but with regal dachas. Then one should ask international organizations to consider Ukraine a relic-like object and disburse a subsidy to keep afloat a museum country where crop yields have remained unchanged for centuries and where grain fields still see, as they did dozens of years before, a battle for, the this time capitalist, harvest. The countryside is still the same, be it the eleventh or twenty-first century. In this is its strength.

By Serhiy UDOVYK
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