Centeno, Miguel Angel, and Katherine S. Newman, eds.: Discrimination in an Unequal World.
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Subject:||Books (Book reviews)|
|Publication:||Name: International Social Science Review Publisher: Pi Gamma Mu Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Pi Gamma Mu ISSN: 0278-2308|
|Issue:||Date: Fall-Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 86 Source Issue: 3-4|
|Topic:||NamedWork: Discrimination in an Unequal World (Essay collection)|
|Persons:||Reviewee: Centeno, Miguel Angel; Newman, Katherine S.|
Centeno, Miguel Angel, and Katherine S. Newman, eds. Discrimination
in an Unequal World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. xiii + 306
pages. Paper, $27.95.
The collection of essays in Discrimination in an Unequal World refocuses attention on the role of globalization in contemporary social inequality. Ethnicity-based discrimination around the world is not new; in fact, it is an age-old phenomenon. The stage for such discrimination is set through mingling within the same geographic and social space of groups with unequal power. Colonialism, hierarchical caste systems, gender barriers, and immigration have provided rationales for exclusion. Indeed, the migratory flow of labor in the globalized economy is currently the most powerful force bringing people of different ethnicities, with highly unequal power, together. Historically, discrimination emerges as soon as the members of the sociologically dominant group begin to systematically restrict opportunities available to members of the minority group. This book addresses the question as to whether globalization has contributed to intensify or alleviate the phenomenon of discrimination in an increasingly interconnected global economy. Research findings of case studies from South Africa, Brazil, Japan, and India beam a bright light on the global network of inequality.
The book begins with a brief discussion of the pro and counter arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of globalization. Advocates assert that "globalization brings about a freeing of human capital and the elimination of traditional barriers.... In a competitive world, no one can afford to discriminate except on the basis of skills" (p. 1). But the evidence does not support this assertion. Opponents claim that the new emphasis on human capital only conceals existing unequal distribution of opportunity by rewarding education and skills accessible only to the privileged. That is, by and large, true. While globalization may appear to reduce poverty levels, measures of global inequality, using the gini coefficient, have increased in the last two decades. How have developments in contemporary globalization impacted discrimination globally? The short answer is that the rich countries (a.k.a. center) have been affected differently than poor countries (a.k.a. periphery). In the center, the steady supply of low-skilled and semi-skilled labor from the periphery, coupled with certain companies outsourcing some of their operations overseas not only strengthens the hand of capital, but also contributes to the decline of the bargaining power of labor unions. Faced also with dwindling government social and economic support, insecurity among workers creates room for suspicion and resentment of members of other (usually minority) ethnic groups, oftentimes leading to discrimination. In the periphery, while the growing dominance of capitalist structures and ideas may displace traditional social and economic patterns, as well as reduce the significance of ethnicitybased discrimination, the fact remains that "members of discriminated-against groups are disproportionately found among the lower socioeconomic classes" (p. 36). Many governments across the globe have responded to group-based discrimination with affirmative action policies, designed to: (a) eliminate ongoing discriminatory practices, and (b) compensate marginalized groups underrepresented in desirable positions or in the distribution of scarce opportunities. The latter has come to be referred to as "positive discrimination," a policy that elicits resentment from the majority group as a form of reverse discrimination. What's more, with accelerating globalization, the increased insecurity of wage workers in the center has provided another rationale for the diminishing public support for positive discrimination (p. 40). Similarly, in the periphery, globalization appears to reduce support for positive discrimination among elites.
Three case studies of race, class, and discrimination in post-apartheid South Africa show first that respondents make a distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor, and that Whites and Coloreds tend to view affirmative action negatively. Second, racial identity and socioeconomic context do matter, and that the level of trust toward outsiders is significantly lower. Furthermore, the status quo ante (i.e., the pre-1994 status of the various groups), in terms of a huge gap in educational participation, still remains, with Whites vastly overrepresented in higher education, Blacks vastly underrepresented, and Coloreds and Asians in-between.
Brazil presents another scenario. Given that the country has been portrayed as a model of racial democracy, a systematic analysis of class, race, and social mobility show interesting findings. The analysis of the composition of inequality demonstrates that racial discrimination still permeates society, and that class has a major effect in the educational system. Brazil is, at bottom, relatively democratic racially, but as opportunities for social climbing becomes narrower, race becomes increasingly salient.
Two studies of sex-based discrimination and male-female wage differentials in Japan dent the popular image of Japan as one of social equity. Although the number of married women in waged work has increased over the last four decades, a huge gap in labor force participation between married and unmarried women, courtesy of the "marriage bar," remains. The persistence of gender inequality in Japan, its pioneering demonstrations of the economic benefits of globalizing the economy notwithstanding, is proof positive that economic modernization alone is not a magic bullet that eradicates traditional discrimination.
Besides gender, the caste system is perhaps the largest functioning system of exclusion by identity. Four studies analyze the persistence of caste-based stereotypes, discrimination, and inequality in India. While education is generally famed as the escalator to social mobility, that is not the case in India: "Returns on education vary by caste and that those on the bottom of the hierarchy benefit less from their educational investment that those above" (p. 19). Educational opportunities and income are associated with caste background. Dalit (the so-called 'untouchables') encounter systemic discrimination, in terms of lower earnings, as well as barriers in entering the more dynamic and remunerative private sector.
Discrimination in an Unequal World clearly demonstrates that exclusion, based on certain identifiable markers and categories is, to put it squarely, a universal phenomenon. Education, for some marginalized groups, has not been the much-touted leveler of the playing field. Neither has the force of globalization. This book brings into sharp focus the reality of discrimination in an increasingly globalizing system. Scholars of ethnicity, gender, and class inequality will find this volume an invaluable resource.
Okori Uneke, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Behavioral Science
Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
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