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<nettime> FW: [a16-international-planning] Walden Bello: The struggle for adeglobalised world

walden bello talk in australia at the wef meeting.

From: Neil Watkins <>
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2000 09:36:33 -0400
Subject: [a16-international-planning] Walden Bello: The struggle for a
deglobalised world

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Number 53, September 2000

Focus-on-Trade is a regular electronic bulletin providing updates and
analysis of trends in regional and world trade and finance, with an
emphasis on analysis of these trends from an integrative,
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on the day of publication

 From Melbourne to Prague: the struggle for a deglobalised
by Walden Bello

(Talk delivered at a series of engagements on the occasion of
demonstrations against the World Economic Forum (Davos) in
Melbourne, Australia, 6-10 September 2000.)

We are, here in Melbourne in the next few days and in Prague in two
weeks' time, participating in an historic enterprise: that of creating a
critical mass to turn the tide against corporate-driven globalization.

For years, we were told that globalization was benign, that it was a
process that brought about the greatest good for the greatest number,
that good citizenship lay in accepting the impersonal rule of the market
and good governance meant governments getting out of the way of
market forces and letting the most effective incarnation of market
freedom, the transnational corporation, go about its task of bringing
about the most efficient mix of capital, land, technology and labor.

The unrestricted flow of goods and capital in a world without borders
was said to be the best of all possible worlds, though when some
observers pointed out that to be consistent with the precepts of their
18th century prophet, Adam Smith, proponents of the neoliberal
doctrine would also have to allow the unrestricted flow of labor to
create this best of all possible worlds, they were, quite simply,

Such inconsistencies could be overlooked since for over two
decades, neoliberalism or, as it was grandiosely styled, the
“Washington Consensus” had carried all before it. As one of its key
partisans has nostalgically remarked recently, “the Washington
Consensus seemed to gain near-universal approval and provided a
guiding ideology and underlying intellectual consensus for the world
economy, which was quite new in modern history.” (1)

Globalization Unravels I: The Asian Financial Collapse
The unrestricted flow of speculative capital in accordance with
Washington Consensus doctrine was what our governments in East
Asia institutionalized in the early 1990’s, under the strong urging of the
International Monetary Fund and the US Treasury Department. The
result: the $100 billion that flowed in between 1993 and 1997 flowed
out in the bat of an eyelash during the Great Panic of the summer of
1997, bringing about the collapse of our economies and spinning them
into a mire of recession and massive unemployment from which most
still have to recover. Since 1997, financial instability or the constant
erosion of our currencies has become a way of life under IMF-
imposed monetary regimes that leave the value of our money to be
determined day-to-day by the changing whims, moods, and
preferences of foreign investors and currency speculators.

Globalization Unravels II: The Failure of Structural Adjustment
The Asian financial crisis put the International Monetary Fund on the
hotseat, leading to a widespread popular reappraisal of its role in the
Third World in the 1980s and early 1990’s, when structural
adjustment programs were imposed on over 70 developing countries.
After over 15 years, there were hardly any cases of successful
adjustment programs. What structural adjustment had done, instead,
was to institutionalize stagnation in Africa and Latin America,
alongside rises in the levels of absolute poverty and income inequality.

Structural adjustment and related free-market policies that were
imposed beginning in the early 1980’s were the central factor that
triggered a sharp rise in inequality globally, with one authoritative
UNCTAD study covering 124 countries showing that the income
share of the richest 20 per cent of the world’s population rose from
69 to 83 per cent between 1965 and 1990. (2) Adjustment policies
were a central factor behind the rapid concentration of global income
in recent years--a process which, in 1998, saw Bill Gates, with a net
worth of $90 billion, Warren Buffet, with $36 billion, and Microsoft
co-founder Paul Allen, with $30 billion, achieve a combined income
that was greater than the total combined income of the 600 million that
live in the world’s 48 least developed countries, a great number of
which had been subjected to adjustment programs.

Structural adjustment has also been a central cause of the lack of any
progress in the campaign against poverty. The number of people
globally living in povertythat is, on less than a dollar a day--
increased from 1.1 billion in 1985 to 1.2 billion in 1998, and is
expected to reach 1.3 billion this year. (3) According to a recent
World Bank study, the absolute number of people living in poverty
rose in the 1990’s in Eastern Europe, South Asia, Latin America and
the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africaall areas that came under
the sway of adjustment programs. (4)

Confronted with this dismal record, James Wolfensohn of the World
Bank had the sense to move the institution away from its identification
with structural adjustment with public relations initiatives like the
SAPRI, or the Structural Adjustment Program Review Initiative, that
it said would be jointly conducted with NGOs. But the IMF under
the doctrinaire Michel Camdessus refused to see the handwriting on
the wall; it sought, instead, to embed adjustment policies permanently
in the economic structure through the establishment of the Extended
Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF).

Yet as a consequence of greater public scrutiny following its
disastrous policies in East Asia, the Fund could no longer pretend that
adjustment had not been a massive failure in Africa, Latin America
and South Asia. During the World Bank-IMF meetings in September
1999, the Fund conceded failure by renaming the ESAF the “Poverty
Reduction and Growth” Facility. There was no way, however, that
the Fund could successfully whitewash the results of its policies.
When the G-7 proposed to make IMF certification a condition for
eligibility in the now defunct HIPC Initiative, Rep. Maxine Walters of
the US House of Representatives spoke for many liberal American
lawmakers when she commented, “Do we have to involve the IMF at
all? Because, as we have painfully discovered, the way the IMF
works causes children to starve.” (5)

So starved of legitimacy was the Fund that US Treasury Secretary
Larry Summers, who in an earlier incarnation as chief economist of the
World Bank was one of the chief backers of structural adjustment,
told the US Congress that the “IMF-centered process” of
macroeconomic policymaking would be replaced by “a new, more
open and inclusive process that would involve multiple international
organizations and give national policymakers and civil society groups a
more central role.” (6)

Globalization Unravels III: The Debacle in Seattle
Freedom, said Hegel, is the recognition of necessity. Freedom, the
proponents of neoliberalism like Hegel’s disciple, Francis Fukuyama,
tell us, lies in the recognition of the inexorable irreversibility of free-
market globalization. Thank god, the 50,000 people who descended
on Seattle in late November 1999 did not buy this Hegelian-
Fukuyaman notion of freedom as submission and surrender to what
seemed to be the ineluctable necessity of the World Trade
Organization (WTO).
In the mid-nineties, the WTO had been sold to the global public as the
lynchpin of a multilateral system of economic governance that would
provide the necessary rules to facilitate the growth of global trade and
the spread of its beneficial effects. Nearly five years later, the
implications and consequences of the founding of the WTO had
become as clear to large numbers of people as a robbery carried out
in broad daylight. What were some of these realizations?

- By signing on to the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment
Measures (TRIMs), developing countries discovered that they had
signed away their right to use trade policy as a means of

- By signing on to the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual
Property Rights (TRIPs), countries realized that they had given high
tech transnationals like Microsoft and Intel the right to monopolize
innovation in the knowledge-intensive industries and provided
biotechnology firms like Novartis and Monsanto the go-signal to
privatize the fruits of aeons of creative interaction between human
communities and nature such as seeds, plants, and animal life.

- By signing on to the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA), developing
countries discovered that they had agreed to open up their markets
while allowing the big agricultural superpowers to consolidate their
system of subsidized agricultural production that was leading to the
massive dumping of surpluses on those very markets, a process that
was, in turn, destroying smallholder-based agriculture.

- By setting up the WTO, countries and governments discovered that
they had set up a legal system that enshrined the priority of free trade
above every other good--above the environment, justice, equity, and
community. They finally got the significance of consumer advocate
Ralph Nader’s warning a few years earlier that the WTO, was a
system of “trade uber alles.”

- In joining the WTO, developing countries realized that they were
not, in fact, joining a democratic organization but one where decisions
were made, not in formal plenaries but in non-transparent backroom
sessions, and where majority voting was dispensed with in favor of a
process called “consensus”which was really a process in which a
few big trading powers imposed their consensus on the majority of the
member countries.

The Seattle Ministerial brought together a wide variety of protesters
from all over the world focusing on a wide variety of issues. Some of
their stands on key issues, such as the incorporation of labor
standards into the WTO, were sometimes contradictory, it is true.
But most of them, whether they were in the streets or they were in
meeting halls, were united by one thing: their opposition to the
expansion of a system that promoted corporate-led globalization at
the expense of justice, community, national sovereignty, cultural
diversity, and ecological sustainablity.

Seattle was a debacle created by corporate overreach, which is quite
similar to Paul Kennedy’s concept of “imperial overstretch” that is
said to be the central factor in the unraveling of empires. (7) The
Ministerial’s collapse from pressure from these multiple sources of
opposition underlined the truth in Ralph Nader’s prescient remark,
made four years earlier, that the creation of global trade pacts like the
WTO was likely to be “the greatest blunder in the history of the
modern global corporation.” Whereas previously, the corporation’s
operating within a more or less “private penumbra” made it difficult to
effectively crystallize opposition, he argued that “now that the global
corporate strategic plan is out in us an opportunity.” (8)

Truth is eternal, but it only makes a difference in human lives when it
becomes power. In Seattle, truth was joined to the power of the
people and became fact. Suddenly, facts that had previously been
ignored or belittled were acknowledged even by the powers-that-be
whose brazen confidence had been shaken. For instance, that the
supreme institution of globalization was, in fact, fundamentally
undemocratic was recognized even by representatives of its stoutest
defenders: the United States and the United Kingdom.

Listen to US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky after the
revolt of the representatives of developing countries that helped bring
down the Ministerial: “The process…was a rather exclusionary one,”
she admitted. “All meetings were held between 20 and 30 key
countries…And that meant 100 countries, 100, were never in the
room…[T]his led to an extraordinarily bad feeling that they were left
out of the process and that the results…had been dictated to them by
the 25 or 30 privileged countries who were in the room.” (9)

Listen to Stephen Byers, the UK Secretary for Trade and Industry,
after the Seattle shock: “WTO will not be able to continue in its
present form. There has to be fundamental and radical change in
order for it to meet the needs and aspirations of all 134 of its
members.” (10)

Globalization Unravels IV: Meltzer Torpedoes the Bank
The Asian financial crisis triggered the IMF’s crisis of legitimacy. The
Seattle Ministerial collapse brought the WTO to a standstill.
However, under Australian-turned-American Jim Wolfensohn’s
command, the World Bank seemed likely to escape the massive
damage sustained by its sister institutions. But the torpedo in the form
of the famous Meltzer Commission found its mark in February of this

Formed as one of the conditions for the US Congress’ voting for an
increase of its quota in the IMF in 1998, the Commission was a
bipartisan body that was tasked to probe the record of the Bank and
Fund with the end in view of coming up with recommendations for the
reform of the two institutions. Exhaustively examining documents and
interviewing all kinds of experts, the Commission came up with the
devastating conclusion that with most of its resources going to the
better off countries of the developing world and with the astounding
65-70 per cent failure rate of its projects in the poorest countries, the
World Bank was irrelevant to the achievement of its avowed mission
of global poverty alleviation. And what to do with the Bank? The
Commission urged that most of the Bank’s lending activities be
devolved to the regional developing banks. It does not take much,
however, for readers of the report to realize that, as one of the
Commission’s members revealed, it “essentially wants to abolish the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank,” a goal that had
“significant pockets of support... in our Congress.” (12)

Much to the chagrin of Wolfensohn, few people came to the defense
of the Bank, and it was in a state of shock that the agency held its
joint spring meeting with the IMF in a Washington, DC, that was shut
down by some 40,000 protestors. The spirit of demoralization that
gripped the Bank was conveyed in Wolfensohn’s missive to Bank
staffers before the meeting that “the next week will be a trying time for
most of us.” (13) That the April 2000 meeting of the Bretton Woods
twins could take place only under heavy police protection, with the
use of a system of decoys to breach protesters’ lines in order to bring
apprehensive delegates to the fortified bunkers at Pennsylvania and
19th NW in central DC spoke volumes about the tattered legitimacy
of the two institutions.

The Davos Process I: Relegitimizing Globalization
Why do I keep coming back to the question of legitimacy? Because,
as the great Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci pointed out, when
legitimacy has vanished and is not regained, it is only a matter of time
before the structure collapses, no matter how seemingly solid it is.
Many of the key advocates of globalization realized this in the wake of
the joint crisis of the WTO and the Bretton Woods twins. They knew
that the strategy of denial that these three institutions deployed in the
past would no longer work and that the aggressive approach of pro-
globalization firebrands like Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, who
accused NGOs of ignorance and of being an “uncivil society,” was
likely to be counterproductive.

To the more soberminded among the pro-globalization forces, the first
thing to do was to recognize the facts. Fact No. 1, according to the
influential free trader C. Fred Bergsten, head of Washington’s Institute
of International Economics, was that “the anti-globalization forces are
now in the ascendancy.” (14) And Fact No. 2 was that central to the
response to these forces “has to be an honest recognition and
admission that there are costs and losers,” that “globalization does
increase income and social disparities within countries” and “does
leave some countries and some groups behind.” (15)

Here is where the Davos process--of which the current exercise of
the World Economic Forum (WEF) is a part--has proven to be
central to the project of relegitimizing globalization. Davos, high up in
the Swiss Alps, is not the center of a global capitalist conspiracy to
divide up the world. Davos is where the global elite meets under the
umbrella of the WEF to iron out a rough consensus on how to
ideologically confront and defuse the challenges to the system.
Meeting shortly after what many regarded as the cataclysm in Seattle,
the Davos crew in late January composed the politically correct line.
Repeated like a mantra by personalities like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair,
Bill Gates, Nike CEO Phil Knight, and WEF guru Klaus Schwab, the
chorus went this way: “Globalization is the wave of the future. But
globalization is leaving the majority behind. Those voices spoke out in
Seattle. It’s time to bring the fruits of globalization and free trade to
the many.”

It was British Prime Minister Tony Blair who best articulated the
vision and rhetoric of “compassionate globalization.” Blair said:
“Alongside the advance of global markets and technologies, we are
seeing a new search for community, locally, nationally, and globally
that is a response to change and insecurity, but also reflects the best of
our nature and enduring values. With it is coming a new political
agendaone that is founded on mutual responsibilityboth within
nations and across the world.” (16)
He continued: “We have the chance in this century to achieve an open
world, an open economy, and an open economy with unprecedented
opportunities for people and business. But we will succeed only if
that open society and economy is underpinned by a strong ethos of
mutual responsibilityby social inclusion within nations, and by a
common commitment internationally to help those affected by
genocide, debt, and environment.” (17)

“I call it a Third Way,” Blair declared with passion. “It provides a
new alternative in politicson the centre and centre-left, but on new
terms. Supporting wealth creation. Tackling vested interests. Using
market mechanisms. But always staying true to clear valuessocial
justice, democracy, cooperation.... From Europe to North America,
Brazil to New Zealand, two great strands of progressive thought are
coming together. The liberal commitment to individual free in the
market economy, and the social democratic commitment to social
justice through the action of government, are being combined.” (18)

Now, one thing that the British public has finally realized about Mr.
Blair is that with him, there is a huge gap between rhetoric and
substance. What actually does “globalization with a conscience” or
the “Third Way” or “globalization with compassion” have to offer?
To find out, one must turn from Blair to Bergsten, who, to his credit,
dispenses with the soaring rhetoric and admits that the program is
actually a system of “transitional safety help the adjustment to
dislocation” and “enable people to take advantage of the phenomenon
[of globalization] and roll with it rather than oppose it.” (19) In short,
instead of being run over by the globalization express, people will be
asked to quietly and peacefully roll over and adjust to the constant
and unpredictable change wrought by the TNCs search for

The Davos Process II: Coopting the United Nations
As important as the rhetoric in the Davos response is the process of
bringing people onto the bandwagon. This would be achieved
through dialogue, consultation, and the formation of “partnerships”
between TNCs, governments, the United Nations, and civil society

The UN was a piece of cake. Discussions with Secretary General
Kofi Annan produced the “Global Compact” that has become the
centerpiece of the United Nations’ Millennial Celebrations. Signed
by 44 TNCs, the Compact has been promoted by Annan as a major
step forward for it supposedly commits its signatories to respect
human, labor, and environmental rights and provide positive examples
of such behavior. To many NGOs, on the other hand, the Global
Compact is turning out to be one of the UN’s biggest blunders for the
following reasons:

- Despite a Compact provision that membership in the Compact will
not be given to business entities complicit in human rights violations,
the founding membership includes the worst corporate transgressors
of human rights, environmental rights, and labor rights: Nike, Rio
Tinto, Shell, Novartis, and BP Amoco.

- The Compact will provide a great public relations venue for these
corporations to promote a clean image very different from the reality
since compliance with the Compact will be self-monitored and no
sanctions exist for violating the Compact’s principles.

- The Corporations will be able to use the UN logo as a seal of
corporate responsibility, thus appropriating the UN’s image of
international civil service “not only for short-term profit but also for the
long-term business goal of positive brand image.” (20)

The Davos Process III: Managing Civil Society
As for civil society organizations, they were not as naive as Annan and
the UN and thus neutralizing them demanded more sophisticated
measures. As a first step, one had to divide their ranks by publicly
defining some as “reasonable NGOs” that were interested in a
“serious debate” about the problems of globalization and others as
“unreasonable NGOs” whose agenda was to “close down
discussion.” (21) Then towards those identified as “reasonable,” one
put into motion what one might call a strategy of “disarmament by
dialogue” designed to integrate them into a “working partnership” for

Here the model was the “NGO Committee on the World Bank” and
other joint World Bank-NGO bodies set up by Wolfensohn and his
lieutenants in the mid-nineties. While the NGOs that joined these
bodies may have done so with the best of intentions, Wolfensohn
knew that their membership in itself already helped to legitimize the
Bank and that over time these NGOs would develop a stake in
maintaining the formal relationship with the Bank. Not only was
Wolfensohn able to split the Washington, DC, NGO community, but
he was able to harness the energies of a number of NGOsmany of
them unwittingly--to project the image of a Bank that was serious
about reforming itself and reorienting its approach to eliminating
poverty before Meltzer Commission was able to expose the
hollowness of the Bank’s claims.

Wolfensohn ‘s neutralization of a significant section of the Washington,
DC, NGO community in the mid-1990s should serve as a warning to
civil society of the mettle of the forces it is up against. The stakes are
great, and how civil society responds at this historical moment to the
aggressive courtship being mounted for its hand will make the
difference in the future of the globalization project. Developments are
so fluid in the correlation of forces in the struggle between the pro-
globalization and anti-globalization camps that strategies that might
have been realistic and appropriate pre-Seattle, when the multilateral
institutions had more solidity and legitimacy, may be timid and
inappropriate, if not counterproductive, now that the multilateral
agencies are in a profound crisis of legitimacy.

Let me be specific:
- Will NGOs breathe life into a WTO process that is at standstill by
pushing for the incorporation of labor and environmental clauses into
the WTO agreements instead of reducing the power and authority of
this instrument of corporate rule by doing all in their power, for
instance, to prevent another trade round from ever taking place?

- Will they throw a life saver to the Bretton Woods institutions by
participating in the civil society-World Bank-IMF consultations that
are to be the central element of the “Comprehensive Development
Framework” that Wolfensohn and the IMF leadership sees as the key
to the relegitimization of the Bretton Woods twins?

- Will they allow themselves to be sucked into the Davos process of
“reasonable dialogue” and “frank consultation” when the other side
sees dialogue and consultation mainly as the first step to the
disarmament of the other side?

Reform or Disempowerment?
Our tactics will depend not only on the balance of forces but will turn
even more fundamentally on our answer to the question: Should we
seek to transform or to disable the main institutions of corporate-led

Institutions should be saved and reformed if they're functioning, while
defective, nevertheless can be reoriented to promote the interests of
society and the environment. They should be abolished if they have
become fundamentally dysfunctional. Can we really say that the IMF
can be reformed to bring about global financial stability, the World
Bank to reduce poverty, and the WTO to bring about fair trade? Are
they not, in fact, imprisoned within paradigms and structures that
create outcomes that contradict these objectives? Can we truly say
that these institutions can be reengineered to handle the multiple
problems that have been thrown up by the process of corporate-led

Perhaps we can best appreciate the current situation by borrowing
from Thomas Kuhn’s classic Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (21)
Scientific paradigms, says Kuhn, enter into crisis when they can no
longer explain or handle dissonant data after dissonant data thrown up
by observation. At this point, the community of science diverges in its
responses. Some try to salvage the dominant paradigm with endless
minute adjustments that merely prolong its inevitable demise. A brave
few try to cut cleanly from it in favor of a simpler, more elegant, and
more useful paradigmin a manner similar to the way the founders of
early modern science simply junked the old, hopelessly complex
Ptolemaic paradigm for explaining the cosmos (the sun and other
celestial bodies moving around the earth) in favor of the simpler
Copernican paradigm (the earth moving around the sun).

Like scientific paradigms in crisis, the dominant institutions of
globalization can no longer handle the multiple problems thrown up by
the process of corporate-led globalization. Instead of trying to reform
the multilateral institutions, would it in fact be more realistic and “cost-
effective,” to use a horrid neo-liberal term, to move to disempower, if
not abolish them, and create totally new institutions that do not have
the baggage of illegitimacy, institutional failure, and Jurassic mindsets
that attach to the IMF, World Bank, and WTO?

Disabling the Corporation
Indeed, I would contend that the focus of our efforts these days is not
to try to reform the multilateral agencies but to deepen the crisis of
legitimacy of the whole system. Gramsci once described the
bureaucracy as but an “outer trench behind which lay a powerful
system of fortresses and earthworks.” We must no longer think
simply in terms of neutralizing the multilateral agencies that form the
outer trenches of the system but of disabling the transnational
corporations that are fortresses and the earthworks that constitute the
core of the global economic system. I am talking about disabling not
just the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank but the transnational
corporation itself. And I am not talking about a process of
“reregulating” the TNCs but of eventually disabling or dismantling
them as fundamental hazards to people, society, the environment, to
everything we hold dear.

Is this off the wall? Only if we think that the shocking irresponsibility
and secrecy with which the Monsantos and Novartises have foisted
biotechnology on us is a departure from the corporate norm. Only if
we also see as deviations from the normal Shell’s systematic
devastation of Ogoniland in Nigeria, the Seven Sisters’ conspiracy to
prevent the development of renewable energy sources in order to
keep us slaves to a petroleum civilization, Rio Tinto and the mining
giants’ practice of poisoning rivers and communities, and Mitsubishi’s
recently exposed 20-year-cover up of a myriad of product-safety
violations to prevent a recall that would cut into profitability. Only if
we think that it is acceptable business practice and ethics to pull up
stakes, lay off people, and destroy long-established communities in
order to pursue ever-cheaper labor around the globea process that
most TNCs now engage in.

No, these are not departures from normal corporate behavior. They
are normal corporate behavior. And corporate crime against people
and the environment has, like the Mafia, become a way of life
because, as the British philosopher John Gray tells us, “Global market
competition and technological innovation have interacted to give us an
anarchic world economy.” To such a world of anarchy, scarcity, and
conflict created by global laissez-faire, Gray continues, “Thomas
Hobbes and Thomas Malthus are better guides than Adam Smith or
Friedrich von Hayek, with their Utopian vision of a humanity united by
“the benevolent harmonies of competition.” (22) Smith’s world of
peacefully competing enterprises has, in the age of the TNC,
degenerated into Hobbes’ “war of all against all.”

Gray goes on to say that “as it is presently organized, global capitalism
is supremely ill-suited to cope with the risks of geo-political conflict
that are endemic in a world of worsening scarcities. Yet a regulatory
framework for coexistence and cooperation among the world’s
diverse economies figures on no historical or political agenda.” (23)
Recent events underline his point. When the ice cap on the North
Pole is melting at an unprecedented rate and the ozone layer above
the South Pole has declined by 30 per cent, owing precisely to the
dynamics of this corporate civilization’s insatiable desire for growth
and profits, the need for cooperation among peoples and societies is
more stark than ever. We must do better than entrust production and
exchange to entities that systematically and fundamentally work to
erode solidarity, discourage cooperation, oppose regulation except
profit-enhancing and monopoly-creating regulation, all in the name of
the Market and Efficiency.

It is said that in the age of globalization, nation-states have become
obsolete forms of social organization. I disagree. It is the corporation
that has become obsolete. It is the corporation that serves as a fetter
to humanity’s movement to new and necessary social arrangements to
achieve the most quintessentially human values of justice, equity,
democracy, and to achieve a new equilibrium between our species
and the rest of the planet. Disabling, disempowering, or dismantling
the transnational corporation should be high on our agenda as a
strategic end. And when we say this, we do not equate the TNC
with private enterprise, for there are benevolent and malevolent
expressions of private enterprise. We must seek to disable or
eliminate the malevolent ones, like the Mafia and the TNC. (24)

The Struggle for the Future I: Deglobalization
It is often said that we must not only know what we are against but
what we are for. I agreethough it is very important to know very
clearly what we want to terminate so that we do not end up
unwittingly fortifying it so that, like a WTO fortified with social and
environmental clauses, it is given a new leash on life.

Let me end, therefore, by giving you my idea of an alternative. It is,
however, one that has been formulated for a Third World, and
specifically Southeast Asian, context. Let me call this alternative route
to the future “deglobalization.”

What is deglobalization?

I am not talking about withdrawing from the international economy.
I am speaking about reorienting our economies from production for
export to production for the local market;
about drawing most of our financial resources for development from
within rather than becoming dependent on foreign investment and
foreign financial markets;
about carrying out the long-postponed measures of income
redistribution and land redistribution to create a vibrant internal market
that would be the anchor of the economy;
about deemphasizing growth and maximizing equity in order to
radically reduce environmental disequilibrium;
about not leaving strategic economic decisions to the market but
making them subject to democratic choice;
about subjecting the private sector and the state to constant
monitoring by civil society;
about creating a new production and exchange complex that includes
community cooperatives, private enterprises, and state enterprises,
and excludes TNCs;
about enshrining the principle of subsidiarity in economic life by
encouraging production of goods to take place at the community and
national level if it can be done so at reasonable cost in order to
preserve community.

We are talking, moreover, about a strategy that consciously
subordinates the logic of the market, the pursuit of cost efficiency to
the values of security, equity, and social solidarity. We are speaking,
in short, about reembedding the economy in society, rather than
having society driven by the economy.

The Struggle for the Future II: A Plural World
Deglobalization or the reempowerment of the local and national,
however, can only succeed if it takes place within an alternative
system of global economic governance. What are the contours of
such a world economic order? The answer to this is contained in our
critique of the Bretton Woods cum WTO system as a monolithic
system of universal rules imposed by highly centralized institutions to
further the interests of corporationsand, in particular, US
corporations. To try to supplant this with another centralized global
system of rules and institutions, though these may be premised on
different principles, is likely to reproduce the same Jurassic trap that
ensnared organizations as different as IBM, the IMF, and the Soviet
state, and this is the inability to tolerate and profit from diversity.

Today's need is not another centralized global institution but the
deconcentration and decentralization of institutional power and the
creation of a pluralistic system of institutions and organizations
interacting with one another, guided by broad and flexible agreements
and understandings.

We are not talking about something completely new. For it was
under such a more pluralistic system of global economic governance,
where hegemonic power was still far from institutionalized in a set of
all-encompassing and powerful multilateral organizations and
institutions that a number of Latin American and Asian countries were
able to achieve a modicum of industrial development in the period
from 1950 to 1970. It was under such a pluralistic system, under a
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that was limited in
its power, flexible, and more sympathetic to the special status of
developing countries, that the East and Southeast Asian countries
were able to become newly industrializing countries through activist
state trade and industrial policies that departed significantly from the
free-market biases enshrined in the WTO.

Of course, economic relations among countries prior to the attempt to
institutionalize one global free market system beginning in the early
1980's were not ideal, nor were the Third World economies that
resulted ideal. But these conditions and structures underline the fact
that the alternative to an economic Pax Romana built around the
World Bank-IMF-WTO system is not a Hobbesian state of nature.
The reality of international relations in a world marked by a multiplicity
of international and regional institutions that check one another is a far
cry from the propaganda image of a "nasty" and "brutish" world. Of
course, the threat of unilateral action by the powerful is ever present in
such a system, but it is one that even the most powerful hesitate to
take for fear of its consequences on their legitimacy as well as the
reaction it would provoke in the form of opposing coalitions.

In other words, what developing countries and international civil
society should aim at is not to reform the TNC-driven WTO and
BrettonWoods institutions, but, through a combination of passive and
active measures, to radically reduce their powers and to turn them into
just another set of actors coexisting with and being checked by other
international organizations, agreements, and regional groupings. These
would include such diverse actors and institutions as UNCTAD,
multilateral environmental agreements, the International Labor
Organization, the European Union, and evolving trade blocs such as
Mercosur in Latin America, SAARC in South Asia, SADCC in
Southern Africa, and a revitalized ASEAN in Southeast Asia.

More space, more flexibility, more compromise--these should be the
goals of the Southern agenda and the civil society effort to build a new
system of global economic governance. It is in such a more fluid, less
structured, more pluralistic world, with multiple checks and balances,
that the nations and communities of the Southand the North--will
be able to carve out the space to develop based on their values, their
rhythms, and the strategies of their choice.

Let me quote John Gray one last time. “It is legitimate and indeed
imperative,” he says, “that we seek a form of rootedness which is
sheltered from overthrow by technologies and market processes
which in achieving a global reach that is disembedded from any
community or culture, cannot avoid desolating the earth’s human
settlements and its non-human environments.” The role of
international arrangements in a world where toleration of diversity is a
central principle of economic organization would be “to express and
protect local and national cultures by embodying and sheltering their
distinctive practices.” (25)

Let us put an end to this arrogant globalist project of making the
world a synthetic unity of individual atoms shorn of culture and
community. Let us herald, instead, an internationalism that is built on,
tolerates, respects, and enhances the diversity of human communities
and the diversity of life.

*Executive Director of Focus on the Global South, a program of
research, analysis, and advocacy of the Chulalongkorn University
Social Research Institute (CUSRI) in Bangkok, Thailand; and
Professor of Sociology and Public Administration at the University of
the Philippines. Author or co-author of 11 books on Asian economic
and political issues, including A Siamese Tragedy: Development and
Disintegration in Modern Thailand (London: Zed Press, 1998) and
Dragons in Distress: Asia’s Miracle Economies in Crisis (London:
Penguin, 1992)

1. C. Fred Bergsten, “The Backlash against Globalization,” Speech
delivered at the 2000 Meeting of the Trilateral Commission, Tokyo,
April 2000. Downloaded from Internet.
2. Cited in Giovanni Andrea Cornia, “Inequality and Poverty Trends
in the Era of Liberalization and Globalization,” Paper delivered at the
“United Nations Millenium Conference,” Tokyo, January 19-20,
3. Ibid.; see also, “Number of World’s Poor Unchanged in the
1990’s,” Reuters, August 3, 2000.
4. Cornia.
5. Quoted in Associated Press, reproduced in Business World, Nov.
15, 1999.
6. Op-ed column, Washington Post, reproduced in Today (Manila),
Nov. 15, 1999.
7. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York:
Vintage Books, 1989).
8. Ralph Nader, speech at International Forum on Globalization
Teach-in on “The Social, Ecological, Cultural, and Political Costs of
Economic Globalization,” Riverside Church, New York, Nov. 10,
1995; quoted in Joshua Karliner, The Corporate Planet (San
Francisco: Sierra Club, 1997), p. 207.
9. Press briefing, Seattle, Washington, Dec. 2, 1999.
10. Quoted in “Deadline Set for WTO Reforms,” Guardian News
Service, Jan. 10, 2000.
11. Bergsten.
12. James Wolfensohn, Memo on “Disruptions at Spring Meetings,”
World Bank, Washington, DC, April 13, 2000.
13. Bergsten.
14. Ibid.
15. Prime Minister Anthony Blair, Speech at the World Economic
Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 28, 2000.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid.
18. Bergsten.
19. Letter of International Coalition against Global Compact, July 26,
20. The Wolfensohn memo, above, is an interesting exercise in this
branding or categorization of NGOs.
21. Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1971).
22. John Gray, False Dawn (New York: New Press, 1998), p. 207.
23. Ibid.
24. For excellent recent critiques of the corporation, see David
Korten, When Corporations Rule the World (San Francisco:
Kumarian Press/Beret-Koehler, 1995), Joshua Karliner, The
Corporate Planet (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1997), and
Richard Barnet and John Cavanagh, Global Dreams: Imperial
Corporations and the New World Order (New York: Simon and
Shuster, 1994).
25. John Gray, Enlightenment’s Wake (London: Routledge, 1995), p.

Neil Watkins <>
World Bank bonds boycott campaign
Center for Economic Justice
1830 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20009
phone: (202) 299-0020   fax: (202) 299-0021

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