david teh on 13 Sep 2000 08:09:57 -0000

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RE: <nettime> draft article on WTO

i am also staunchly NOT anti-corporations. it was not a 
glance at the hefty Corporations Law that made me so, 
either, but a gradual awakening to the sheer density of 
corporate entanglement by all individuals in a society 
like ours.  these 'bodies' mediate all of our 
activities so thoroughly - they are providing our 
parents with anaesthetics, prams, and disposable 
nappies; they are playing an integral part in actually 
feeding us every day; they are providing the 
infrastructure necessary to bury us.  not to mention 
that most of us work for or with them.

to march around pretending to defy (or distance oneself 
from) these things is clearly futile as political 
praxis and (for me) would be far too close to 
meaningless.  but acknowledging their presence and 
their power is NOT tantamount to buying into the values 
they propagate in a wholesale fashion, a fact the more 
radical side of s11 seems hell-bent on ignoring, in its 
bizarre crusade against the corporation.  a strategy of 
conscientious consumption, awareness-raising, consumer 
responsibility makes more sense to me.

further to our discussion, you raise a very perplexing 
problem here: specifically, the lack of any centre 
around which these disparate dissenting voices might 

in my last offering, i referred to the anti-corporate 
sentiment as some sort of residual/catchment platform.  
i think it does currently (misguidedly) act as such. 
but i do not think that this arrangement has a future.  
when the template of this activism was struck in the 
1960s, things were significantly different - it is 
often remarked that the various countercultural forces 
that came together, say, at Berkeley, were able to fuse 
together on the grounds of opposition to the war in 

if we are able to accept that today's movements are 
similarly disparate, and that they inescapably hold a 
fair bit in common with that movement (ideologically, 
socio-economically), it nonetheless becomes brutally 
clear that they lack the nexus provided by the VietNam 
war, a common point of agreement in the name of which 
some of their significant differences could be 
overlooked, and on which they might come together to 
form a truly formidable street/media force.

it's not hard to see why anti-corporatisation doesn't 
fit the bill: when the Berkeley gang made their 
objections the VietNam war, it was backed by a common 
undertaking (who knows how instrumental?) NOT TO 
PARTICIPATE.  they were all committed to dodging drafts 
and shunning their country's military involvement in 
the war, even though they might've originally got 
active for other reasons.

when it comes to s11, unfortunately our protestors are 
fairly likely to take part in the web of corporate 
activity they vilify as soon as they turn their backs 
on Crown Casino (and for every subsequent day until 
their deaths).  none of which makes the 
protest 'hollow' exactly, but it certainly removes the 
prospect of any binding political activity (beyond a 
day's marching) for this motley coalition to unite in.

responses and solutions to this bind are difficult to 
conceive of.  we may as well assume that there is no 
functional core of the current protests in ideological 
terms.  so how best to harness the collective force of 
these objections? 

i think the answer has to be in aggressively 
aestheticizing the realm of corporate activity, 
painting/presenting it in bright, politically-tinged 
colours - WITHIN the phenomenon of its own spectacle. 
[a la Guy Debord (1967): "The Spectacle is capital 
accumulated to the point where it becomes image"] the 
ones that do good work and report on it have to be 
rewarded with positive media attention, conditional 
endorsement by the good-guys(watchdogs), and 
encouragement by government.  the ones that still 
offend human rights/environmental concerns etc, need to 
be tarred and feathered in prime-time.

the solution you suggest involving legislative change 
will be an integral part of any strategy to deplete the 
ill-gotten humanity of the corporation.  but it will be 
a painstaking process, not likely to show significant 
changes in one lifespan.

i, for one, do not like to rule out the possibility 
that the answer to this problem is itself high-
corporate.  there are certainly examples of 
institutional players taking advantage of corporate 
size/flexibility/reach/etc to operate within the 
highest levels of political decision-making, on behalf 
of bodies that are not strictly corporate; that is, the 
corporations in the wings of the australian political 
theatre that manage to get the best of both worlds. 

the well-nigh criminal tax-concessions granted to 
corporations like the Catholic church are an example of 
this.  while disgusting in itself, this example yet 
shows the potential for a creative space to be opened 
up (will a little legislative help!) at the margins of 
incorporation.  could a watchdog be capitalised, 
incorporated, and then operate for something 
like 'charitable purposes' that can be shown to benefit 
the community? perhaps a fund that subsidises 
responsible tendering in industry, or 
responsible/ethical investment, offering interest-
discounts underwritten by lucrative tax breaks....?

it's getting properly utopian, now, isn't it?! but food 
for thought, anyway.

David Teh

Quoting "Robbins, Mark" <mrobbins@lims.com>:

> I did not attend any of the anti-globalisation 
protests, and mostly for <...>


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