College Quarterly
Fall 2003 - Volume 6 Number 1
Notes Empire of Disorder
Alain Joxe
Cambridge, Mass: MIT/Semiotext(e), 2002

Reviewed by Michael R. Whealen

Alain Joxe is a renowned scholar only recently gaining an international reputation, despite an impressive career in his native France. His interpretation of emerging international political patterns put many of the ironies, anomalies and calumnies of the current scene in an intelligible perspective. Joxe shows that the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized is one of reciprocal necessity. This ancient but astute truth about imperialism bears repeating. By definition, an hegemonic power is so only in relation to the colonies within its control.

Starting with this idea and drawing upon extensive classical and contemporary political thought, Joxe develops a twofold thesis. First, he argues that globalization, the growing and accelerating flow of commodities, services and capital across national boundaries, is ultimately neither sustainable nor desirable if we are genuinely concerned about the kind of world our children will inherit. The problem is the old one of the inequitable distribution of the wealth that globalization has generated. It is not just that colonies are more impoverished (culturally and socially as well as economically) than colonizers, but that it is colonialism itself that produces both the wealth and poverty.

Joxe then predicts that the initiatives of the "overdeveloped" nations (primarily the US) to coerce or seduce the rest of the world and their own domestic populations into this distributive straitjacket ultimately will fail. "Globalization," he writes, "is quickly turning the world into a chaos, leading to an increasing disparity between rich and poor, the rise of an international, rootless 'noble class,' and an escalating number of endless cruel little wars. Yet the United States refuses to conquer the world and assume the protective imperial role for the societies it subjugates. Instead, it operates on a case-by-case basis, regulating disorder and repressing the symptoms of despair instead of attacking its cause."

This book is a treasure for anyone who wants to understand emerging geopolitical realities more fully the Cassandras who envision the future as an endlessly replayed loop of Blade Runner or the breathless apologists of a global, laissez-faire, "happy-ever-after" consumerism. In the end, however, we find that, for Joxe, the Emperor has no clothes.

Michael R. Whealen, Centre for Academic Writing, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


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2003 - The College Quarterly, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology