This truly is a dazzling brief introduction to a subject that could not be covered even by a very long book. As Steger points out, the fact of globalization is the predominant issue of our time. Far too man, as he points out, tend to treat the subject in monolithic or simplistic fashion, focusing on merely one aspect of globalization, and assuming that that aspect defines all of globalization. Anyone familiar with Thomas Friedman's THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE (who is frequently described as a "hyper globalizer") will recognize one such very narrow approach. Despite his brief space, Steger wants to do justice to the complexity of the subject. For the past decade, most writers on globalization have focused on economic globalization, but Steger emphasizes that the process has political, economic, religious, cultural, environmental, and ideological conditions.
Many people who tackle the question of globalization seem to want to know, "Is this a good or bad thing?" Steger is anxious to emphasize that this does not admit of an easy answer. Clearly, the massive increase of economic inequality--which occurs both on international and national levels, e.g., wealth has more and more been concentrated in the industrial countries of the northern hemisphere, and within those countries, more and more in the hands of a small economic corporate and investing elite--is not a good thing, but that is not the only aspect of globalization. Steger seems to suggest that there are both significant advantages and some lamentable dangers in globalization.
The one aspect of globalization concerning which Steger is clearly and rightfully concerned is the promotion of globalization in the ideological terms of the Neoliberal project of promoting free markets over all other concerns. The term "Neoliberal" might throw some people, since the leading Neoliberal of recent decades would include Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and most members of the George W. Bush administration (though also many in the Clinton administration, including Clinton himself). Too many are unaware that Reagan and Bush are not conservatives by traditional understandings of the label: they both pushed for massive governmental intrusion into the markets, in taking an active role in eliminating regulation, and actively employing the government to control the economy, none of which are conservative projects. One reason that the Progressive movement gained so much steam during the McKinley, Roosevelt, and Wilson years was observing the extraordinary corruption and narrow concentration of wealth (and subsequent economic inequality) that resulted from an unregulated market economy. Steger, along with a host of others, points out that with the unfettered promotion of free market capitalism with little or no governmental regulatory control (Neoliberalism's big project) is once again resulting in extreme economic inequality. Numerous studies, to some of which he refers, have undermined one of the central claims of the Neoliberal project: that expanding world markets spreads wealth throughout the world; in fact, it actually shifts wealth into the hands of a very few, a trend that has been taking place not only on a global scale, but on the national level as well (e.g., according to Federal Reserve statistics, in 1979 1% of the population possessed 20% of the wealth in the U.S., while in 1997 the top 1% held 37%, a percentage that has surely exploded following the two massive Bush tax cuts). What I believe Steger could have emphasized even more is that economic inequality is likely going to be THE world issue in the decades to come, as it is likely to become the major issue in American politics as well (given a thirty year history of a massive shift of wealth from the middle class to a very small number of citizens).
My one complaint with the book is that many of the figures and graphs were close to unintelligible. Also, given the small format, sometimes the text and text boxes were laid out rather awkwardly. I found the annotated bibliography to be of great help in mapping out future reading (I sometimes wish that publishers would require all authors of academic books to provide either an annotated bibliography or a bibliographic essay; over the years I've probably learned of more good books to read in this fashion than in any other).
I have read several of the volumes in the Oxford University Press Very Short Introductions series, and this easily ranks as one of my favorites. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to gain a handle on one of the crucial issues of our time.