Book Review: Fences and Windows, by Naomi Klein. Picador, 2002

October 23, 2006

Naomi Klein, in Fences and Windows, chronicles the development of an international movement of activists fighting against global corporatism. Klein compiles essays, articles, and speeches she wrote from 1999 to 2001 and provides startling insight into how globalization, though claiming to offer economic support and create intersections within the broader world community, has in fact given rise to fences that marginalize and limit those on the outside from experiencing true and liberating democracy.


Klein divides the book into a number of sections, beginning with “Windows of Dissent,” which covers how the activist movement developed and some of the concerns that those within this diverse people network agree on together.  Klein clarifies that these activists erroneously have been labeled as “anti-globalization,” when they are “not calling for a return to narrow nationalism but for the borders of globalization to be expanded, for trade to be linked to labor rights, environmental protection and democracy” (p.5).  However, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund’s practice of globalization often works from a trickle-down economic model offering loans to impoverished nations in exchange for the right to cut social spending, privatize resources, and to be unrestricted by labor, trade and environmental regulations. Klein emphasizes that this leads to profound economic, ecological, and social decline and the centralization of power, or fencing of it, in the hands of multinational companies and superpowers that have privatized the nation’s resources (p.36).


Klein highlights further in the segment of the book titled, “Fencing in Democracy” the negative impacts of neo-liberalism and restriction-free trade. With startling statistics, Klein suggests that NAFTA can be blamed for the increase in poverty in developing nations, particularly Mexico. She further suggests that the loss of jobs and land from trade agreements is fueling migratory movements to the U.S. as people are left with no other choice for finding work. 


In the book’s remaining sections, Klein hits on a variety of topics.  She discusses the relationship between protestors and government officials, and then makes an important point by stating that “demonstrations themselves aren’t the movement,” but that the movement is lived out on a daily basis in our communities (p. 157). She also makes a connection between terrorism and consumerism common to American culture.  She ends by openly evaluating some of the strengths and weaknesses of this movement that is seeking to show that “another world is possible” (p.193). I was most interested in her comments about the difficulty of knowing how to create a democratic movement that allows the many people coming under its umbrella to have a voice in the direction of where it is going while seeking to maintain some level of common ground and unified understanding amongst those involved.  


This book was quite appropriate in terms of how it builds on other topics that we have been covering in class. Klein’s suggestions regarding how networks of people can make a difference in the world when they act together were hopeful.  Klein also exposed false ideologies that propagate oppressive systems of global corporatism in such a way that I developed a deeper level of concern for just political and economic practices to be established. On another note, it was interesting to compare this movement’s structure, values, and struggles with those common to the Emerging Church as there are a number of similarities they share it seems.


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