- Beng shidai: Caituan hua, pinqiong hua, yu shao zinu hua de weiji 崩世代：財團化、 貧窮化與少子女化的危機 [Generation of Collapse: Crises of Capital Monopoly, Poverty, and the Lowest Fertility in Taiwan] by Thung-Hong Lin 林宗弘 et al.
Published in the midst of a presidential campaign and numerous government-sponsored activities celebrating the centenary of the founding of the Republic of China, Generation of Collapse: Crises of Capital Monopoly, Poverty, and the Lowest Fertility in Taiwan warns of social and economic challenges in the years to come. Here is a reality in sharp contrast with what the government attempts to present via mass media. Offering abundant statistics and insightful arguments, the authors convey a message that appears to resonate strongly with how the general public feels. Unsurprisingly, therefore, it quickly became a national best seller and won a well-deserved Golden Tripod Award (Jin Ding Jiang 金鼎獎), awarded by Taiwan's Ministry of Culture.
This book discusses two of Taiwan's major social issues: globalization and neoliberalism. Though written for a general audience, it also attempts to engage with the scholarly literature on the causes and consequences of globalization. Previous research has addressed the ways in which the unprecedented scale, speed, and intensity of global connections have significantly broadened the scope for international interactions, posing questions about the role of the state. Some authors have argued that the tide of globalization is overwhelming and cannot be resisted by protectionist state policies, whether their goal is the national interest or the preservation of local culture; other authors reject the idea that there is a unified global market for trade and investment. Paul Hirst, Grahame Thompson, and Simon Bromley (1996), for instance, [End Page 143] argue that the world is increasingly divided into large trade blocs. In such an unequal and fragmented place, there are still important decisions to be made by governments about international and domestic economic policies: markets need not rule supreme. Still others (e.g., Held et al. 1999; Castells 1996) suggest that globalization is producing as much division and difference as similarity and integration. Politics now occurs at various scales, from the global and the transnational to the local. It is often said that this transformation has hollowed out the power of nation-states, with new kinds of public and private organizations (corporations, regulatory agencies, charities, and so forth) assuming more significant roles at the transnational level. In Generation of Collapse, Thung-Hong Lin and his coauthors take the position that the role of the state is of critical importance in shaping the future of the collective in the era of globalization and neoliberalism.
The book's main theme is straightforward: most of the major challenges to Taiwanese society can be traced to neoliberalism. Challenges include increasing income inequality, public policies that tilt toward large corporations and are unfriendly toward new businesses, the devaluation of college degrees, the emergence of large numbers of working poor, an extremely low fertility rate, and a rapidly aging population. While the book includes a wealth of information that supports its thesis connecting neoliberalism to social troubles, a certain degree of nuance in interpreting the examples and statistics seems wanting, and the arguments sometimes seem speculative. For example, the authors offer no empirical evidence to support the assertion that higher-income individuals have a higher fertility rate; the relationship between income and fertility is usually negative, with the typical explanation being the higher opportunity costs to higher-income women who have children (see, e.g., Jones, Schoonbroodt, and Tertilt 2011).
Some of the problems identified in this book may be functions of globalization. However, as the authors point out, they may also be consequences of the neoliberal ideology of "small government" and, perhaps more accurately than the term neoliberalism suggests, the power of capitalists and large corporations fostering policies that in effect generate a public transfer system that exacerbates social and economic inequalities. The authors declare, "What...