Centeno, Miguel Angel, and Katherine S. Newman, eds.: Discrimination in an Unequal World.

Author:Uneke, Okori
Position:Book review

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...

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