what is globalization, anyway?

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at yale.edu
Thu Nov 25 07:58:42 PST 1999

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-lbo-talk at lists.panix.com
> [mailto:owner-lbo-talk at lists.panix.com]On Behalf Of Doug Henwood
> Images of multinational corporations shuttling raw materials and
> parts around the world, as if the whole globe were an assembly line,
> are grossly overblown, accounting for only about a tenth of U.S.
> trade. Ditto trade penetration in general.

Doug, the point about the lack of novelty of globalization is well taken, but this focus on trade as a percentage of GDP seems rather un-Marxist in focusing on the exchange value, while ignoring the real global labor that goes into trade consumed in the US. While all Nike labor in Indonesia may have a dollar value equivalent to payments made to Michael Jordan, it seems plain wrong to thereby calculate that therefore half of Nike's expenditures are in the United States - the result you get from a pure numeric value measurement. Sure, those capitalist measurements matter tremendously for Nike's profit-loss statements, but a measurement of the labor-hours that go into products consumed in the US would indicate that foreign labor makes up far more than 10% of the hours needed for US consumption.

If all foreign workers were paid the same as US workers, then a dollar measurement of trade as a percentage of GDP would have more meaning. But a small percentage in dollar terms mostly measures the measly wages paid overseas and understates the tremendous downward pressures on US wages in those areas impacted by trade.

Are there are measures out there that calculate how many US labor-hours versus foreign labor-hours go into US consumption?

-- Nathan Newman

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