Corporate Globalization

Table of Content

This book is an investigation into capitalism, democracy, imperialism,nationalism, and political change. These turn out to be intimately relatedthemes in a drama which has been unfolding for the past two centuries.

Corporate globalization, or what many call the neoliberal project,is acrisis turning point in this drama, with profound consequences for all ofour topics.

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Corporate globalization (I’ll just call it globalization) is indeed aproject — a coordinated, coherent suite of initiatives — and it isunfolding on a canvas much broader than is generally appreciated. Tightbudgets, competitive markets, downsized companies — these aspects ofglobalization are known to nearly everyone. Those who inform themselves –and there are many useful books available — learn that globalization alsobrings accelerating environmental damage, increased poverty, destabilizedsocieties, a house-of-cards global financial system, and a severe threat todemocracy.

But even that does not adequately capture the scope of the globalizationproject. I hope it will become clear, as this investigation unfolds, thatglobalization amounts to an overall restructuring of the world order, apolitical rebuilding project that goes very deep. The image that comes tomind is a block of small shops being bulldozed away to make room for ashopping center. Globalization is a revolutionary project, not anevolutionary one.

In globalization’s new world order, it is democratic governance andnational sovereignty which are to be bulldozed clean from the globalbuilding site. The system of strong national republics, which was theWest’s heritage from the Enlightenment era, is being systematicallydismantled. Political arrangements are being scraped way back, and oldpolitical strata, so to speak, are re-emerging.

In some ways, globalization scrapes us back to the robber-baron era of thelate nineteenth century, when laissez-faire capitalism reigned supreme,boom and bust cycles were frequent, and politicians were “in the pockets”of magnates such as John D. Rockefeller and the J. Pierpont Morgan. Todaythey call it deregulation instead of laissez-faire, and it is gianttransnational corporations (TNCs) that exert the political influenceinstead of colorful robber barons, but the game is the same, and theresults are identical.

In other dimensions, the globalization project is scraping back evenfurther, taking us back to the feudal era, with wealth and powerconcentrated in the hands of a super-rich elite, and with the rest of usreduced to a kind of disenfranchised serfdom. We are to haveno-entitlements employment, instead of fiefs, and the relationship of theperson to the TNC is becoming that of vassal to lord.

In still other aspects, globalization takes us all the way back to theRoman Empire, only this time on a global scale. Instead of an Emperor andRoman Legions, we have a World Trade Organization (and associated agencies)and a high-tech US/NATO strike force. And again the once-sovereigncitizens of republics are being reduced to consuming bread and circuses –and to unquestioned obedience to arbitrary imperial pronouncements, asKorea recently learned at the hands of the IMF (International MonetaryFund), and as Iraq learned under the barrage of Desert Storm.

Globalization also takes us forward in time, to the worst nightmares ofscience-fiction lore. ID-card technology, already being tested around theworld, and the rapidly developing global digital network, are ushering inan era when every person can be tracked from birth, and every activity canbe monitored in real time. Meanwhile, thousands of genetic experiments arebeing unleashed on the world, with utter disdain for the awesome risksinvolved, and with complete disregard for the ethical and spiritualquestions raised by playing God with the very fabric of life. Technology,under globalization, is being developed systematically and recklessly, withthe dual aims of defending corporate power and enhancing corporate profits.

US President Bill Clinton opened a recent speech to the UN in Geneva, onthe occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of GATT, the first of the globalfree-trade agreements, with the statement “Globalization is not a policychoice; it is a fact.” He is well aware that it is a policy choice, but inthe broader sense is he right? Is globalization politically inevitable?In every crisis, according at least to the Chinese ideogram for crisis,there is both danger and opportunity. The opportunity brought byglobalization is for people everywhere, from all walks of life, to wake upto the dire threat that faces them, and to do something about it.

The globalization regime is too thoroughly entrenched for meaningful reformto be accomplished through standard political channels. And the corporatesystem is too dependent on endless “growth” for economic reform to bepossible within the terms of that system. Only a radical restructuring ofeconomic arrangements can provide for livable, sustainable societies. Andonly a radical shift of political power — the dethroning of the corporateestablishment — can create a political environment in which such atransformation can be accomplished.

History shows that radical political change of this kind comes about onlyunder certain conditions. There must first be some constituency, or classif you prefer, that is aware of itself. Next, that constituency, in itscollective self-awareness, must be motivated: it must be faced byunacceptable conditions, and there must be a shared vision of a preferredalternative. Finally, there must be a means available, by which theconstituency can effectively achieve political power and implement itschanges.

The central thesis of this book is that these conditions are potentiallypresent today, latent in the circumstances of globalization. Theconstituency for radical change are ordinary people everywhere. In much ofthe Third World, people have already identified globalization as a sourceof dire danger, and are organizing themselves into peasant movements andother modes of mass resistance.

But the mechanisms by which the West dominates the Third World areformidable, having been perfected over centuries of colonialism. Only whenpeople in the leading Western nations wake up to the threat as well — andin their shared danger achieve collective self-awareness — can aconstituency arise that is sufficiently powerful to overcome theglobalization juggernaut.

The means available to such a constituency, to achieve radical change, is aglobal grass-roots political movement. The bulldozers have not yetcompleted their tasks — our democratic institutions still exist, for thetime being, and nations, the major ones, still have the power to undo theglobalization project — but only for a while, only until the institutionsof globalization have fully consolidated their absolute power. Until thena mass movement could achieve political power through peaceful elections,and implement programs of radical transformation before it is too late.

This investigation will take a critical look at various past movements,seeking to understand how they succeeded and how they failed. We willlearn that every movement has a predictable set of obstacles to overcome,ranging from internal divisiveness to co-option at the very gates ofwould-be triumph. The most serious obstacles, however, are to be foundfollowing victory. From the unlikely lips of George Bush was articulatedthe central principle of radical change, it’s “that vision thing.”Martin Luther King understood about vision. He said to millions “I have adream!” and he articulated the importance of keeping ones “eyes on theprize.” Gandhi’s vision was particularly deep and far-sighted, and he wasup against odds that could only be overcome with the help of suchoutstanding vision. A movement must have a sound vision, a vision thatinspires, and a vision that can be translated into workable policies andprograms.

Indeed the vision of a livable world is being articulated by peopleeverywhere. A wealth of useful published material is available, regardingsustainable systems, appropriate technologies, locally-based economies,electoral reform, financial stabilization, stronger civil societies,corporate reform, etc. ad infinitum. This investigation will develop anoverview of this emerging vision, and will provide references to furtherinformation. The basic elements of a societal vision have been developed,and the technical problems are solvable.

There is one primary area, in this author’s opinion, where an adequatevision has not been articulated, and that area is democracy. Thisinvestigation will look closely at the question of democracy, from a broadhistorical perspective. In particular the experience of the WesternDemocracies will be reviewed critically, and we will ask the unthinkablequestion: Have we been living under democracies or under plutocracies? Wewill also look beyond the standard democratic models, and dare to examinethe Cuban system, and systems used by indigenous societies. A vision ofgrass-roots democracy — genuine democracy — will be developed, groundedin successful precedents, as a contribution to the “vision thing.”In fact the question of genuine democracy arises when the movement is stillin its early stages. A massive global movement must find a way tocoordinate itself, to find a sense of common direction, and of solidarity.

This movement won’t be led by an existing aristocracy, as was the AmericanRevolution, nor does it come with a pre-packaged ideology, as did theRussian Revolution. It is rising from the people themselves, starting froma thousand places around the world, and a thousand circumstances, and witha thousand agendas.

As the movement evolves, one can hope that it develops democratic ways ofoperating, and finds ways to develop consensus agendas that originate fromthe grass roots. Such a movement, in fact, can become the vehicle ofgenuine democratic governance. Not a political party, such a movementwould be better characterized as an empowered civil society — a soundbasis, I will argue, for a robust and lasting democratic system, which isin turn a sound basis for a sustainable, humane, and livable world.Words/ Pages : 1,459 / 24

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