Academic journal article African Studies Review

Generations and Globalization: Youth, Age, and Family in the New World Economy

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Generations and Globalization: Youth, Age, and Family in the New World Economy

Article excerpt

Jennifer Cole and Deborah Durham, eds. Generations and Globalization: Youth, Age, and Family in the New World Economy. Blooming to n: Indiana University Press, 2007. 240 pp. Photographs. Notes. Works Cited. Index. $65,00, Cloth. $24.95. Paper.

In their introduction to these case studies of change in generational relations and the new transnational economy, Cole and Durham remind us that World Bank and International Monetary Fund structural adjustment programs (SAPs) contributed to globalization. In Africa and elsewhere, the conditions attached to IMF loans had a deleterious effect on social programs that previously provided incentives and a safety net, particularly for a country's youngest and oldest generations. Likewise, globalization deepened the chasm between beneficiaries of the new market-driven economy and the many who found themselves further marginalized. The outcome was plummeting incomes and increased class divisions with "consumer driven enclaves" of wealthy elites surrounded by others for whom elite lifestyles and Western goods "were mostly out of reach" (4).

Two demographic factors intersect with globalization: changing demographic balances from lowered infant mortality rates and extended life expectancy, and increased transnational migration as young people from the global South seek improved economic opportunities or safe havens from war in more affluent regions. Such demographic alterations challenge existing policies, both in Africa and elsewhere.

Three of the seven cases in this volume illustrate how the state's role in providing a social safety net is under siege. China confronts lingering vestiges of state socialism as it faces new demands for "quality" (sushi) education from its growing urban, middle-class population (Woronov, ch. 1). Education that privileges individual achievement and prepares youth for roles in the new, highly competitive global economy is the goal of quality education in China. Madagascar struggles to define the gendered role of youth as its government moves from socialism to a liberalized global economy that has spawned new generational and gender relations (Cole, ch. 3). In the North, Western European nations work to shed their welfare state apparatuses in favor of a European Union model that champions individual responsibility, achievement of knowledge, and economic competitiveness, all in a socially integrated global economy that includes youth, middle-age wage earners, "third-age" (55-74 years) physically able workers, and "fourth-age" elders needing care (Greenberg & Muehlebach, ch. 6).

Of the contributions, four investigate changing concepts of youth and work. Magazine and Sanchez (ch. 2) focus on transnational migration between Tlalcuapan, Mexico, and California, demonstrating how generational expectations of ayuda (reciprocal family work) have changed over time as global capitalism has opened opportunities for transformation and adaptation between and within generations. The new global market and "fresh contacts" with global players from abroad also affect cycles of intergenerational exchange in Madagascar (Cole, ch. 3), where youth negotiate older networks of patronage and exchange, creating novel opportunities for upward social mobility. …

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