Globalization and Children: Exploring Potentials for Enhancing Opportunities in the Lives of Children and Youth
Hevener Kaufman, Natalie and Rizzini, Irene (2002).
New York: Kluwer Plenum; 176 pages. $55.00. ISBN 0306473682.
Considering, first, that children make up asignificant proportion of the population everywhere and, second, thatno nation in the world is exempt from the influences ofglobalization, it is striking how little has been written aboutthe impacts of globalization on children. Indeed, the very dearth ofsuch literature is a telling indication of the marginalization of youngpeople- simply because they are young- in today’s world whose dominantparadigm values people chiefly in terms of their contributions toeconomic productivity.
Globalization and Children… is thus timely and helps to directattention to important issues largely neglected by researchers. Thebook is a compilation of papers based on two seminars organized byChildwatch International. It contains 13 chapters, organized into threeparts, and a brief conclusion which constitutes part four. Part Ioffers “The Global Perspective” and proceeds from the laying out of aframework for the study of globalization, through reviews ofcross-cultural and legal perspectives of globalization in relation tochildren and youth, to a discussion of democratization in children’slives. Under the title “Global Trends in Children’s Lives,” Part IIincludes five chapters that cover family life, civic participation, theenvironment, the media, and developmental-ecological considerations.
Part III is entitled, “Applying the Lens of Global Change tothe Actual Lives of Children.” Each of its three chapters is concernedwith Latin America. The first of these offers a general treatment ofthe transition to democracy in this region of the world. However, therationale for its inclusion is not clear as it does not in any way linkthis democratic transition to the lives of children.
Part IV consists of a very brief (2.5 pages) conclusion by the editorswhich recapitulates points made earlier, namely that the effects ofglobalization on children and youth manifest themselves in economic,cultural and political spheres and form a mix of positive as well asnegative outcomes. It also re-emphasizes the importance of listening tochildren and respecting their views.
Although its intended audience is not clarified, taken as awhole, this book can be useful for readers seeking an introduction toselected aspects of how globalization relates to children and youth.However, the role of individual chapters is not always apparent. Somechapters deal with aspects of globalization but give no or very littleattention to children (e.g., the chapters that focus on civicparticipation, the democratic transition in Latin America, andneo-liberal policies in Jamaica), while another chapter focuses onchildren’s developmental and ecological contexts, but gives minimalattention to globalization. The book’s structure is a bit arbitrary asthere is significant overlap between chapters in Parts I and II thatdeal with aspects of democratization. The editors provide a solidintroductory chapter and a concise but articulate conclusion, but inneither place do they attempt to pull together the diverse chapters inbetween. They do not draw out from the chapters insights that coalesceinto a larger picture, nor do they reconcile divergent views (e.g.,Chapter Ten paints a bleak picture of Latin American democracy thatcontrasts with the following chapter, which reviews positivedevelopments in Brazil). Hence, the impression one gets is that thepotential for integration of the various chapters into a truly coherentpresentation is largely unfulfilled.
The depth of coverage is somewhat uneven. The chapters in Part I arethe most detailed and strongest. Also well-developed is the chapter onBrazil, which would have been a good model for fellow authors tofollow. In other places, opportunities to obtain useful insights arelimited by the brevity of coverage in short paragraphs of sometimesjust a few sentences, which merely raise a point without furtherdiscussion or connection to the next paragraph. For example, aone-sentence paragraph in the chapter on civic participation mentions afinding by Barber that “youth who participated in the PalestinianIntifada reported having grown in maturity, self-confidence,effectiveness” (86). There is no elaboration and no further sourcedetails are given. It would have been interesting to know more.
Globalization and Children… does not extend coverage to an areawhere young people feature prominently in relation to globalization:commercial consumption. For-profit providers of goods and services haveidentified children and youth as a hugely lucrative market and areheavily targeting young people as buyers of proliferating lines offashion, music, sports equipment, and recreational merchandise. Mostlocal governments readily support this development. Many cities,suffering loss of revenues resulting from sharp reductions inmanufacturing jobs owing to financial deregulation and economicliberalization, seek to carve out new niches in the globalmarket-place. To this end, city governments and urban plannersincreasingly favor “cultural development” as a preferred strategy foreconomic growth. Culture, in this connection, is seen very broadly andsignificantly includes shopping and commodified leisure pursuits.Directly and indirectly, children and youth are huge profit sources forthese emerging industries of urban culture. For example, in the U.S.alone, personal spending by youth on just snacks, soft drinks,entertainment and apparel amounts to $200 billion per year. U.S.teenagers last year spent $172 billion on mobile phones, yet still lagfar behind their European counterparts, among whom mobile phoneownership is even more widespread.
It is not fair perhaps to criticize the book for what it does notinclude. However, the absence of coverage of children and youth asparticipants in a global consumer culture represents a missedopportunity to examine questions about the roles of young people inrelation to the prevailing goals of globalization, in particularagainst the background of attempts by youth to bring about alternativenormative frameworks for development.
Similarly, the book also bypasses the emergence oftransnational youth networks whose development has been greatlyfacilitated by the advances in information and communicationtechnologies that support globalization. Along with greater awarenessand implementation of human rights in general and those embodied by theUN Convention on the Rights of the Child in particular, there has beena strong increase in advocacy and action-oriented youth alliances thattranscend national borders. This trend has sparked and reinforcedinterest in participatory planning and decision-making involving youthin their local communities and beyond.
Another important topic getting scarcely any coverage in Globalization and Childrenrelates to the impacts of globalization on the health of children andyouth. Observed effects include the positive outcomes of programs toreduce and eradicate childhood diseases and improve nutritional intakein many- but by no means all- countries. Negative effects includegreater exposure to various forms of environmental pollution, awidespread rise in obesity rates, shocking mortality rates owing totobacco use begun in childhood, and devastating effects of drugaddiction and HIV/AIDS on children and the families and communities inwhich they grow up.
Regrettably, there are a number of bibliographic omissions inthe book, preventing readers from following up on references to workthat provokes curiosity. For example, without providing furtherdetails, Chapter 12 mentions young people in relation to attempts toreduce internecine community conflict in Jamaica, where structuraladjustment policies have undermined societal traditions and erodedlong-standing authority patterns (156). Warring parties apparentlyprioritized youth activities as a route to reduce violence, but,unfortunately, the study that is cited as the source for thisobservation is not listed among the references appearing at the end ofthis chapter. Missing as well is the reference to the one study of theeffects of youth participation that was not just correlational andcross-sectional but relied on a carefully selected comparison group(87).
A minor criticism concerns some of the titles used in the book,which suggest coverage that is at times somewhat different from what isactually provided. For example, Chapter Eight is entitled “Children andthe Media” but it discusses television only and is further limited byits focus on violence. Part III promises coverage of globalization in“the actual lives of children” but one of its three chapters does notdeal with children at all, and another offers a limited catascopicview. The title of the book itself does not make clear that Asia andAfrica are only mentioned in passing, while an orientation to LatinAmerica dominates.
In the final analysis, this book helps direct attention toglobalization as a critical child developmental context. In doing so,it touches on aspects that reflect the professional expertise andexperience of the editors and authors. It does not, unfortunately,address some other important aspects of globalization in relation toyoung people. As such it should serve as an invitation andencouragement for others to break further ground in this important areaof research and practice.
University of Colorado
Willem van Vliet-- is a mental laborer with undefined skills. He has a Ph.D. in Sociology (University of Toronto), etc., etc.He became immersed in children's environments and housing problems bybirth, below sea level in an aporphyrogenic bunker in the postwarshortage-ridden Netherlands. A.k.a. El Capitán, he is in possession ofan uncertified but authentic and persistent lunatic streak, evinced,inter alia, by his editing of the Encyclopedia of Housing and a growingstockpile of more and less odd ends. After coming to CU, he hasretained an abiding interest in heather morning glory and rockgardening. Dessert remains his favorite dish. Address: email@example.com