Fences and Windows – Book Review

October 22, 2006

Fences and Windows; dispatches from the front lines of the globalization debate
Naomi Klein
Picador: 2002

Naomi Klein is a journalist and media commentator.

Klein composites a number of columns and speeches to record the ongoing battle against oppressive globalization and overarching corporations between 1999 and 2001. Throughout the book, Klein documents the activists groups that have been forming, their growth and development, as well as the structures that they have been fighting against.

Windows of Dissent
Through a number of dramatic articles, Klein captures the “coming out party of a movement” (p. 3) in which activists boldly challenge the WTO, World Bank and other oppressive organizations. While this movement does not have centralized leadership or any stated plan, it can be seen as a network of causes, working together towards a common goal.
Fencing in Democracy
Klein argues against globalization in the sense that it “gradually swallows everything else” and creates a “one-size-fits-all government”, destroying culture and societies abilities to govern themselves (p. 78).
Fencing in the Movement: Criminalizing Dissent
By recording her own experiences and those of fellow activists, Klein points to a criminalization of dissent. Through police violence against protestors and the increased restrictions on demonstrations, free speech is being denied and democracy is being withheld from those wishing to voice their opposition to globalization.
Capitalization on Terror
In light of September 11th, it has now become American to support big business and branding. To resist globalization, is to be unpatriotic.

Windows to Democracy
In the final chapters of the book, Klein gives us hope by painting us pictures from around the world of people fighting for the right to participate in their own lives. In Mexico, we see a “caravan of renegades” (p. 210) seeking justice and opportunity for economic freedom and in Italy we see a new hope for life. And now, Klein suggests, the task is to move past the details of the globalization debate and look at the real effects of globalization on the lives of people throughout the world. If globalization is limiting democracy, then democracy and people’s universal right to food, opportunity and freedom should become our focus.

This whole book seemed very abstract to me. Activists fought against the general idea of “globalization”, but not against all aspects of it. The nature of the movement, as a network of different movements, made it hard to understand what the protests were against, and to see the end goal of these protests. While I am sure that this book provides an exciting account to the well studied activist, for the casual observer, it is rather hard to follow.

In general, politics is not my favorite subject, and not something that I am passionate about. But, it is the way that our world runs, and because of that, I need to make an effort to care. I like that the activism Klein documents changes things on a broader scale. As an individual, I can easily offer a meal to a homeless person or tutor a low income child, but it is much harder to work towards systematic change. Through politics, one can seek to change a whole system, redeeming a broken practice and bringing redemption on a much larger scale. While I think this type of activism is uncomfortable for many churches, small steps can be made by educating ourselves about social movements, not fearing politics and the power associated with it, and by supporting activist movements whenever feasible.


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