Amy Chua, a Law Professor at the University of Yale, in her book World on Fire, very eloquently asserts that the global spread of laissez-faire markets and ostensive democracy has become a key exasperating agent causing “group hatred and ethnic violence” (Chua, 2004: 9) in countries around the world, primarily in the Global South. Chua asserts thateconomic liberalization allows “market-dominant minorities” (6) to accumulate disproportionate amounts of wealth, and influence compared to the rest of the native population, while political liberalization empowers the dispossessed “indigenous majorities” (6), who then use the power against the market-dominant minority. Chua therefore refutes the "powerful [Western] assumption that markets anddemocracy go hand in hand” (123) and instead, bluntly stated as the subtitle of her book, argues that “exporting free market democracy breeds ethnic hatred and global instability.” To illustrate her argument, Chua cites a series of cases studies, some of which are personal recollections, highlighting ethnically-targeted assaults in developing countries, such as the Philippines, Zimbabwe, andVenezuela, to name a few. Moreover, Chua blames the West, mainly the United States, for exporting a version of capitalism and democracy that they don’t practice themselves (14). As a result, Chua explains that as long as the West continues to push an extreme ideology onto the world, it will continue to endure violence and instability.
Likewise, the book World on Fire: How Free Market Democracy BreedEthnic Hatred and Global Instability, boldly states that free markets and democracy are major instigators of political instability in the Global South. But is Chua’s assertion right and properly substantiated? Are free markets and democracy a major source of political instability? Her assertion lacks coherence and proper support. Chua has a fixated paradigm, where the bottom line is always ethnical,thus presenting a patchy argument. There are other influencing factors at play surrounding the discussion, which need to be accounted for properly, such as: class structure, social organization, colonial history, role of the state, resource scarcity, and even cultural customs and beliefs.
Chua provides an alternative and compelling argument to conventional wisdom regarding thelarger debate in the social sciences over the role of free markets and democracy in development in the Global South.
The mainstream view of development argues that a free market economy “hand in hand” (123) with democracy, provides mutual reinforcement, and thus are the key to rapid economic growth in the Global South. Free markets and free societies will bring about peace, stability and development,through increased cooperation between states, between socioeconomic classes, and between people (Todaro & Smith, 2009). The counterargument, taking on a Marxist connotation, argues that a free market system by nature breeds inequality and causes economic fragmentation within society. Moreover, the argument is that democracies are structured within and for the capitalist system, where politiciansonly advocate for the interests of the business and political elites. Therefore, free market democracies only facilitate economic exploitation and simply give the masses the false illusion that they are represented and integrated in the political economy; consequently, bringing about no fundamental development to the masses (Kurtz, 2004).
Chua broadens the discussion to include an ethnic nuanceto the debate. In her book World on Fire, she posits that “the global spread of markets and democracy is a principal, aggravating cause of group hatred and ethnic violence” (Chua, 2004: 9), thus causing political instability, and consequently underdevelopment. She goes on to illustrate that around the world, “for widely varying reasons” (6), many states are not ethnically or culturally...