Jeffry ODell KORGEN and Vincent A. GALLAGHER. The True Cost of Low Prices: The Violence of Globalization. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis , 2013. Pp. 206. ISBN 978-1-62698-002-0. Reviewed by Nicole S. HARVELL and Andrew T. McCARTHY, Anna Maria College, 50 Sunset Lane, Paxton, MA 01612

The True Cost of Low Prices: The Violence of Globalization is written with an educational tone meant to elicit awareness and hope.  While a text of this nature could have concentrated on our personal and collective failure at social responsibility, hoping to evoke an emotional or guilt response, this second edition retained its more practical and balanced tone. The authors, Jeffry Korgen and Vincent Gallagher, do not identify globalization as inherently evil, but they do see institutional violence “structured into the global economy.” After setting out this argument in the first chapter, they take the reader through a series of justice issues that exemplify the tragic consequences of a global economy in which business leaders are driven to maximize profits while shifting the liability to vulnerable and desperate workforces. These laborers do not have the capacity to stand up against corporations with the locational agility to find a more pliable workforce across the globe.  The result could be described as a violence of opportunity.

In subsequent chapters the authors consider the economic and physical risks workers are required to endure for survival wages or less and how immigration status is used to increase risk while decreasing opportunity to break free from the cycle of poverty. Raising the shocking statistic that there are more people enslaved today than in 1860, Korgen and Gallagher note that those human beings forced into captive labor now are more easily replaced in the global economy. The result is that they have less extrinsic value to the slaveholders and are thus treated even more brutally. In a surprisingly short chapter, the authors detail the shift from colonial practices in which military force was used to ensure access to resource markets in developing countries to the more recent rise of paramilitary and drug cartel forces which allow elites to profit in the global economy at the expense of non-elite exploited local peoples. The related application of torture and assassination went from bad to worse in this global transition.

Another topic covered thoroughly in the book is environmental violence which grows with global profit-taking in spite of expanding social consciousness about the fragility of the environment. A result associated with the detrimental effects of profit-driven land use is the rise of food politics. Here the problem is not that there is not enough food, but rather than there is not enough access to food. This consequently affects those living in poverty who cannot afford to buy healthy and substantial food. The authors also give special attention to the impact of injustice on women and children. They identify the horrendous treatment of this segment of our population, but, in the one point where I was left wanting, they did not seem to give as much detail  on how globalization has exacerbated these long standing atrocities.
Korgen and Gallagher have set up their chapters to allow the reader to see the underlying violence of globalization, encounter the aftermath in real human lives through intensive narrative portraits, and address the systemic causes. Each chapter also informs the reader about the teaching of the Catholic Church on specific issues, and unequivocal Scriptural claims against each injustice are also presented. Chapters conclude with an evaluation of the positive strides being made to bring justice to the situation. The discussion questions following every chapter serve as a great way to reflect on the content for the individual reader or as group discussion prompts. The authors also include a section that provides the reader with ways they themselves can “Go Make a Difference.”  These suggestions include activities which are already helping to eradicate injustice from our world today.

The final chapter turns our attention to the God who loves the poor and stands with them. The reader is called to solidarity with the globally vulnerable. Korgen and Gallagher identify many ways that solidarity is prevented or interrupted as a result of globalization. With the coming of Christ, there came on opportunity for a God of the poor, a religion of disciples who were called to stand with all people and love one another. With this there is hope to change, hope to help, hope to prevent the violence of globalization.