Globalisation and the Multi-Dimensional
* Editor Manager of Democracy & Nature. E-mail: email@example.com
Today, almost everybody talks about globalisation but few attempt to define it. However, carefully defining it is important because a lot of confusion on the matter, even among analysts, is created by the fact that different people attach different meanings to the term. The confusion arises not only because of the usual lack of clarity in defining globalisation but, mainly, because of fundamental differences concerning the nature of globalisation.
At the outset, it has to be stressed that although usually it is economic globalisation that many people have in mind when they talk about globalisation, economic globalisation is only one aspect, (or one component) -- though the main one-- of globalisation. In other words, one may also talk about technological, political, cultural and social globalisation.
Although these aspects (or components) of globalisation are very much interlinked, still, one may argue that it is the economic globalisation which conditions the other components of it. This is because, (as I attempted to show elsewhere)(1) in a market economy the economic element is the dominant element in societya fact, which does not of course preclude autonomy of the other elements. So, one may assume an interacting process in which economic globalisation is facilitated by technological globalisation but also enhances it, political globalisation is the necessary complement of economic globalisation, whereas social and cultural globalisation are the inevitable effects of economic globalisation.
I used so far the term globalisation out of convenience, as it is the commonly used term, although it is in fact a misnomer. Here, we have to draw a clear line between the case of economic globalisation and internationalisation of the market economy.
Globalisation refers to the case of a borderless global economy in which economic nationalism has been eradicated and production itself has been internationalised in the sense that the big corporations have become stateless bodies involved in an integrated internal division of labour which spans many countries. But, clearly this has not happened, or at least has not happened yet. Globalisation in this sense is still limited. What has already happened is what I call the Internationalisation of the market economy, Internationalisation refers to the case where markets have been internationalised, in the sense of open borders for the free movement of capital and commodities (and, within economic blocks like the European Union, of labour as well) but nation-states still exist and share power with the transnational corporations (TNCs). So, what we have today is a system in which the role of the state is being progressively reduced to that of securing a stable framework for the efficient functioning of the market but in which also the economic policies of national governments and the reproduction of the growth economy itself (2) are conditioned by the movement of commodities and capital across frontiers, while the international institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO nominally act under the instructions of the participating nation-states but effectively represent the interests of the transnational economic elites, which anyway play a decisive role in the process of electing the governing political elites in the major market economies.
However, this does not mean that the internationalised market economy is nothing new, as some in the Left suggest. As I will attempt to show, the new form of market economy that has been established in the last quarter of a century or so, represents a structural change, a move to a new form of modernity, i.e. a move from what I call the statist form of modernity that was dominant in the third quarter of the 20th century to the present neoliberal form of modernity,(3) rather than simply a change in economic policy. In this sense, todays globalisation is indeed a new phenomenon, although it is the outcome of the dynamics of the market economy that was established two centuries ago.
But, let us see briefly the main approaches on the matter(4) since the confusion about the nature of economic globalisation arises out of the conflicting answers given by the various theoretical approaches to globalisation on the crucial question of its nature and in particular on whether globalisation is a phenomenon of a systemic nature or not.
In the case in which one sees globalisation as a systemic phenomenon, this implies that globalisation is the result of changes in the economy which reflect its grow-or-die dynamic, either these changes have been institutionalised in the form of endogenous changes in economic policy, (i.e. changes reflecting existing trends) or not. In this case, globalisation is irreversible within the system of the market economy. I will therefore call systemic all those approaches to globalisation which, in order to interpret it, refer to the structural characteristics of the existing socio-economic system, either implicitly or explicitly.
On the other hand, in the case in which one sees globalisation as a non-systemic phenomenon, this implies that it is the result of an exogenous change in economic policy. In this case, globalisation is a reversible development, even within the system of the market economy. I will therefore call non-systemic all those approaches to globalisation which, in order to interpret it, refer to various exogenous factors that are not directly related to the structural characteristics and the dynamics of the market economy system. In the same category we may also classify all those views for which globalisation is just a myth or an ideology.
So, let us examine briefly the main approaches to globalisation and how we may classify them. This is not simply a theoretical exercise because the very explanation we give to the causes of the present multi-dimensional crisis, of which the ecological crisis is a major component, depends on the approach we adopt. And unless we have an interpretation of the causes of the crisis, obviously, we cannot proceed to discuss the way out of it.
The neoliberal approach
Neoliberals, which include most orthodox economists, conservative parties and the main international institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO et.c, adopt an unqualified positive stand towards globalisation.(5) According to the neoliberal approach, globalisation is the inevitable result of technological and economic changes which created the need for the opening of markets, free trade and free movement of capital, (though not labour), privatisations, flexible labour markets, as well as for the drastic restriction of the welfare state and the economic role of the state generally. Supporters of this approach maintain that globalisation is beneficial to everybody, as well as to the environment, because it supposedly allows healthy competition to develop and, consequently, it leads to improvements in efficiency and the spreading not only of knowledge, but also of the benefits of growth, through what they call the trickle-down effect.
However, the evidence of the past twenty-five years or so shows that the more open and flexible the markets become the greater the degree of concentration of income and wealth in a few hands, which is the main cause of the present economic crisis. The income gap for instance between the fifth of the worlds people living in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest increased has more than doubled since globalisation began(6) and as a result of these trends, the richest 20 percent of the worlds population control today 82 percent of world export markets, 68 percent of foreign direct investment and 86 percent of world income (GDP) versus 1 percent of the poorest 20 percent.(7) And not only the empirical evidence but economic theory as well, both radical and orthodox theory, can be used to show that the concentration of income, wealth and economic power is the inevitable outcome of the opening and liberalisation of markets, which constitutes the essence of present globalisation.
As regards the effects of globalisation on the environment, few doubt the negative nature of these effects. It is now widely accepted that the greenhouse effect, which is the main symptom of the ecological crisis today, is already leading to catastrophic climatic consequences(8). However, it is not simply the resistance of some powerful corporate interests that prevents the political elites from taking effective action to deal with the problem, as some suggest. In fact, I would argue instead that this is just a symptom of the political crisis today rather than the main cause of the ecological crisis. This means that effective action against the greenhouse effect would require a complete change in todays pattern of living, i.e. the pattern which has been determined by the dynamic of the market economy and, in particular, the concentration of income and wealth between and within countries, the consequent urban concentration, the car culture and so on. In fact, a by product of the same concentration process is industrial farming, which has already led not only to the elimination of small farmers and the need to industrialise farming further through genetic engineering (supposedly, in order to solve the looming food crisis due to the growth in population), but also to the spreading of diseases like the mad cows disease (with possible catastrophic implications on human life itself), the foot and mouth epidemic and so on. It is therefore clear that the environmental effects of globalisation are due to systemic causes that refer to the system of concentration of power, which is institutionalised by market economy and representative democracy, rather than to bad economic policies and practices.
The social-liberal approaches of the centre-left
Social-liberals, which include the centre-left governments in Europe and Australasia, as well as establishment sociologists and economists like Anthony Giddens, Amartya Sen, Paul Krugman and others, adopt the present globalisation with some minor qualifications, which amount to little more than a globalisation with a human face. There are several versions of this approach but the common element in all these versions is that they all adopt the thesis that globalisation is both new and irreversible a fact that implies the need to explore ways of making it more humane. The explicit--or sometimes implicit-- assumption social-liberals make is that any return to some form of statism, like the one characterising advanced market economies up to the mid seventies, is impossible.
It is therefore obvious that, unlike the non-systemic Left approaches that I will consider next, the social-liberal approach does not aim at any effective controls over the internationalised market economy to protect labour and the environment, as it takes for granted not only the system of the market economy and representative democracy but globalisation itself.
So, on the basis of the criterion I set before, both the neoliberal and social-liberal approaches to globalisation should be seen as systemic approaches since they see it as a phenomenon mainly due to changes in technology and particularly information technology. But, technology is neither neutral nor autonomous.(9) Thus, when neoliberals and social-liberals take the existing technology for granted, and therefore irreversible within the market system, they implicitly assign globalisation to systemic factors and, consequently, they also take it for granted and irreversible.
The non-systemic approaches of the reformist Left
Still, for most of the Left today, neoliberalism as well as globalisation, are, as Pierre Bourdieu calls them, simply utopias that the economic elites attempt to impose, in the context of a project that aims to create the conditions under which the neoliberal "theory" can be realised!(10) However, the very fact that there is a broad consensus between all major political parties in the major market economies to implement such policies is an obvious indication that the presently universal neoliberal policies, far from being a utopia, in fact, reflect the structural changes of late modernity.
But, Bourdieus thesis is in fact the one adopted by most in the Left today, in what I call the reformist Left, and by this I mean all those intellectuals, movements and political parties in the Left which adopt a non-systemic approach to globalisation according to which globalisation is due to exogenous changes in economic policy and, as such, is reversible even within the system of the market economy. Therefore, the reformist Left includes all those who either suggest various reforms to improve the functioning of the internationalised market economy (e.g. eliminating its corporate character, abolishing the neoliberal deregulation of markets and so on), or simply raise a variety of criticisms against it without proposing any alternative form of social organisation, adopting either a postmodern rejection of universalism,(11) or simply taking the present system of the market economy and representative democracy for granted. In this sense, the reformist Left includes neo-Marxists, socialdemocrats and others in the broad Left like Pierre Bourdieu I mentioned, Immanuel Wallerstein, Noam Chomsky, Samir Amin, John Gray, Leo Panitch and others who take a negative, but a non-systemic, stand towards globalisation.
Thus, although these analysts usually assume that globalisation is an old phenomenon, which was set in motion by the emergence of capitalisman assumption which prima facie gives the impression that they recognise the systemic character of the trends which have led to globalisationstill they assign an explicitly non-systemic character to it. The argument frequently used to overcome this blatant contradiction is that the capitalist system was always globalised and what changed recently was only the form of globalisation. However, this change in the form of globalisation is assumed to be not an endogenous to the system change, i.e. the outcome of its dynamics (as one would expect on the basis of the assumption that globalisation is an old phenomenon), but, instead, globalisation and neoliberalism are assumed to be the result of such non-systemic or exogenous developments as the rise of the Right and/or of the neoliberal movement, the historical defeat of the Left after the collapse of actually existing socialism, the degradation of social democracy and so on. Thus, on the basis of hopelessly contradictory arguments of this sort, the reformist Left sees globalisation as reversible and amenable to effective reform, even within the system of the market economy-- provided enough pressure is exercised from below so that the political and economic elites are forced to introduce effective measures to protect labour and the environment.
So, the approach of the reformist Left differs from the social-liberal approach not only in assuming that globalisation is not a new phenomenon but also in rejecting globalisation because of its adverse effects on labour and the environment and on democracy itself. The explicit--or sometimes implicit-- assumption shared by analysts in the reformist Left is that a return to some kind of statism is still possible, since the present globalisation of markets is simply seen as the product of neoliberal policies, (if not merely an ideology to justify neoliberalism), and not the outcome of a fundamental structural change. Thus, Bourdieu again, starting with the assumption that neoliberalism is a utopia, which was imposed mainly by the American elite, concludes that we have to turn to the nation-state, or better yet the supranational state - a European state on the way toward a world state - capable of effectively controlling and taxing the profits earned in the financial markets and, above all, of counteracting the destructive impact that the latter have on the labour market.(12) In the same problematique, globalisation is seen more as a political imperative than an economic fact,(13) a policy aiming to extend to the world as a whole the American economic model: (14)
Analogous is the position adopted by some writers in the reformist Left, like Leo Panitch,(15) Noam Chomsky,(16) and others, who also maintain that globalisation is nothing new, representing a kind of neoliberal conspiracy of US origin, whose aim is to promote the interests of US corporate capitalism. Their advice to the anti-globalisation movement is to exert maximum pressure on the elites, so that the nation-state is forced to resist the neoliberal globalisation. Similarly, Immanuel Wallerstein(17) explicitly adopts the exogenous (if not ideological) nature of present globalisation when he stresses that:
Finally, yet another version, supported by socialdemocrats like the LSE professor John Gray(18), declare the end of globalisation, following the example of Eric Hobsbawm, the doyen of Marxist historians, who, as late as 1998, was still proclaiming the end of neo-liberalism!(19) This time, the argument supporting the case for the supposed end of globalisation is based of the present slowdown in the US economy and the election of George Bush as US president.
The conclusion shared by everybody in the reformist Left (and also by the main body of the anti-globalisation movement), is that pressure from below could reverse neoliberal globalisation, or at least force the social-liberal governments to renegotiate its rules, and, in particular, the rules governing the operation of international organisations like the World Trade Organisation --as, for instance, Pierre Bourdieu(20), Samir Amin(21) and others suggest.
But, is the scenario suggested by the reformist Left plausible?. Let us see first what the state can do. If we take into account the significant increase in foreign penetration of stock exchange and bond markets(22) that has taken place in the last quarter of a century or so, it becomes obvious that no national government today may follow economic policies that are disapproved of by the capital markets, which have the power to create an intolerable economic pressure on the respective country's borrowing ability, currency value and investment flows. If we assume, for instance, that a social-democratic party adopts, against the trend, policies to reverse the flexibility of labour markets or, alternatively, more aggressive policies to slow down the greenhouse effect, it may easily be shown that under conditions of free capital mobility, this would lead to a capital flight and a pressure on the respective currency and stock exchange prices, i.e. to developments which could easily lead to a recessionary situation, if not to a full blown economic crisis. It is for these reasons that Mitteran and Jospin had to abandon any idea of resorting to the old social democratic policies, while Lafontaine had to be ousted from the German government.
But what about economic blocks? In fact, the situation is not much different with respect to economic blocks. If a block, like the EU, attempts to introduce the kind of policies that were dominant during the social democratic consensus, (e.g. policies to expand the welfare state irrespective of the impact of such policies on inflation) or, alternatively, if it attempts to introduce strict environmental controls, irrespective of their impact on profitability, then, this block faces the immediate risk of a serious capital flight towards the other blocks with severe repercussions on its currency, the Euro, versus the other major currencies. In fact, it may be argued that the main cause of the continuous weakness of Euro against the US dollar, even now that the growth prospects of the US economy are worse than those of Euroland, is exactly the fact that European elites face growing difficulties in further liberalising their markets (e.g. on social security) vis-à-vis the US elite than never faced any significant difficulties on this.
In other words, the process of internationalisation and the present degree of openness implies that social controls on the major market economies have to be homogenised. Since this homogenisation, in a competitive framework, is based on the principle of the least common denominator" and given the present disparity of social controls in the Triad countries, any idea that the introduction of effective social controls (initiated by the state or the "civil society") is still feasible becomes nonsensical. Therefore, the ideas currently adopted by some in the reformist Left that globalisation could be seen as a US attempt to impose its own version of free-market capitalism, which could be resisted by a EU based on a social market,(23) or, (even worse) by a new kind of good nationalism,(24) simply reflect the present demoralisation of the Left and its inclination to believe utopian myths.
One may ask at this point, what about the possibility of an international agreement by the Triad countries (the G7 for instance) to impose such effective controls? However, as anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the historical dynamic of the market economy and the political and economic power structures which resulted from this dynamic can assure, this is just a theoretical possibility. This is because such controls would violently contravene the logic and dynamic of the internationalised market economy and as such would come under the direct and indirect attack of the huge transnational corporations, which control not only the market economies but also the mass media, (on which the promotion of professional politicians crucially depends), and, of course, the sources of financing of their hugely expensive electoral campaigns. Therefore, to demand today the imposition of social controls on the economic elites in order to protect effectively labour and the environment (beyond regulatory or relatively painless controls on their activities) amounts to demanding to restrict the very dynamic of the system of the market economy itselfa dynamic which crucially depends on the economic health of the economic elites and particularly that of the transnational corporations. On this, liberal, neoliberal and social-liberal economists have always been right when they argued that any effective social controls on markets to protect labour and the environment would necessarily encroach upon economic efficiency (as presently defined) and therefore on the profitability and the incomes and wealth of the economic elites.
It is therefore obvious that the general shift to the Right, which has marked the neoliberal form of modernity, had induced many in the Left to move towards the position once occupied by the old socialdemocratswho have in turn moved to social-liberalism and realistically accepted the non-reversibility of present globalisation. This is not surprising if one takes into account the fact that an adoption of the systemic nature of present globalisation would have serious political implications. In other words, recognition by the Left of the systemic character of globalisation would put it in a serious dilemma: either to adopt the present globalisation with some qualifications (as social-liberals do) or reject it altogether and challenge the fundamental institution that led to it in the first place, the system of the market economy itself. It is obvious that todays demoralised and generally conformist (frequently by way of postmodernism) Left has chosen an intermediate way between these two extremes that involves significant reforms of the globalised economywhich, however, are improbable within the system of the market economy. What is ironic indeed is that the reformist Left justifies the abandonment of any visions for an alternative way of organising the economy (beyond the failed systems of the market economy and the central planning) by an appeal to realism when, in fact, its reformist proposals today are much more utopian than the visions of socialist statism it used to promote before the collapse of actually existing socialism!
But, let us now turn to three intermediate between systemic and non-systemic approaches to globalisation which have been recently developed, i.e. the Transnational Capitalist Class Approach, the Globalisation-as-empire approach and the Eco-feminist approaches.
The Transnational Capitalist Class Approach
This latest attempt to theorise globalisation from a Marxist viewpoint contains a mix of systemic and non-systemic elements and offers significantly different analytical insights on the matter from those adopted by the reformist Left. Starting point in this approach is its strong critique of the reformist Left on the grounds that not only it does not see the obvious fact of the various real processes of globalisation occurring at the moment(25) but it also characterises it, in a preposterous way, as a kind of ideology, if not a myth!
In this sense, the TCC approach takes an important step forward from the usual Marxist or Wallersteinian approaches, which conceive of capitalism as organized primarily through national economies and, as a result, cannot see anything new in todays internationalisation of the market economy. The TCC approach views globalisation as a new phenomenon, on account of a series of technological, economic, political, and culture-ideology innovations, which began to change the world in the second half of the twentieth century. The primary factor which motivated all these changesand on this the TCC approach comes close to the ID approachwas the emergence, in the second half of the 20th century, of the Transnational Corporations (TNCs), which differ radically from firms in the past.(26) It was this development which led to the present emergence of a transnational capitalist class which is composed of corporate executives, globalising bureaucrats and politicians, globalising professionals, and consumerist elites. This new class is beginning to act as a transnational dominant class in two important spheres in which it perceives two central crises to be developing:
In fact, these two spheres are also the ones identified by the Inclusive Democracy (ID) approach as the main components of the present multi-dimensional crisis(27), i.e. the growing concentration of income and wealth within and between societies that I mentioned and the ecological crisis a crisis, which has worsened significantly in the last half century or so given that the ideology binding together the new form of the market economy is consumerism (a derivative of the growth ideology).(28)
There are two basic criticisms that can be raised against the globalisation conception of the TCC approach.
The first criticism refers to the fact that this approach gives the impression that the new transnational capitalist class is the cause of the present globalisation whereas, in fact, it is only the effect of this process. In other words, as we shall see next, it was the dynamics of the market economy which had led to the emergence of TNCs and, consequently, to the emergence of a new transnational economic elite that institutionalised the present internationalised market economy and the neoliberal form of modernity and not vice versa. In exactly the same way, it was the dynamics of nationalising the markets and the parallel Industrial Revolution, which had led to the emergence of a new economic elite that institutionalised the market economy and the liberal form of modernity.(29)
The second criticism refers to the TCC approach s conception of class which is a contradictory hybrid of the Marxist class conception and Bourdieus taxonomy of various forms of capital: (30) money capital, political capital, organisational capital, cultural and knowledge capital. To my mind, although this taxonomy may be useful to those who do not wish to abandon the Marxist concepts altogether, (even if in the process they make them unrecognisable and therefore irrelevant to their original meaning), it leads to contradictory conclusions if it is used, as by this approach, in order to define, in effect, the various forms of power in todays society.
On the other hand, all these categories could easily be accommodated within the concept of a transnational elite that I would prefer. We may define the transnational elite as the elite which draws its power (economic, political or generally social power) by operating at the transnational level a fact which implies that it does not express, solely or even primarily, the interests of a particular nation-state. The transnational elite consists of :
It is an elite, because its members possess a dominant position within society because of their economic, political or broader social power.
It is a transnational elite, because its members, unlike the national elites, see that the best way to secure their privileged position in society is not by ensuring the reproduction of any real or imagined nation-state but, instead, by securing the worldwide reproduction of the system of market economy and representative democracy (rather than simply by promoting the interests of global capital as the TCC approach maintains). This is because this new transnational elite sees its interests in terms of the international markets rather than the national markets. Still, not only the transnational elites do not hesitate to utilise the power of particular states to achieve their aims (even more so when this state happens to be todays hegemonic power) but in fact they have to rely on the state machines of the major market economies to achieve their aims.
The existence of such a transnational elite is not simply theorised. In fact, the evidence is growing about the existence of such a transnational elite which expedites the globalisation process by facilitating the institutional arrangements required for its smooth functioning. Few, for instance, are aware of the European Round Table of industrialists (ERT), an alliance of the chief executives of Europe's largest companies, which has in fact formulated the main policies adopted by the European Commission that globalised the EU: the Single European Act, which opened and liberalised markets all over the EU, and the EU enlargement plan which required new entrants to deregulate and privatise their economies and invest massively in infrastructure designed for long-distance freight.(31) Furthermore, the European transnational economic elite, as expressed by ERT, in coordination with a similar American transnational elite, the Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP), have been preparing, since 1995, a single market that would include a greatly enlarged and liberalised European market and a similarly enlarged and liberalised American (North and South) market. An important step in this direction is the process, which aims to extend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the entire hemisphere, which has already led to the Declaration of Quebec (April 2001) that envisages the creation of the worlds largest free trade zone by 2005. Finally, the GATS process (which aims to extend the General Agreement on Trade in Services) that is currently under discussion in the World Trade Organisation) provides another opportunity for the transnational elite to institutionalise its role and a plan is being discussed at the moment to create an international agency with veto power over parliamentary decisions with a Gats Disputes Panel determining whether a law or regulation is more burdensome than necessary'.(32)
It seems therefore that the transnational elite is already in the process of institutionalising its transnational role. The immediate aim is to pull down the "regulatory barriers" impeding the free exchange of goods and services, initially between Europe and America, and then between this huge trading block and the rest of the world, which will be forced to accept the terms of trade of this block. The ultimate aim is the formation of a vast single deregulated market, controlled by multinational companies, in which social controls over markets to protect labour or the environment will be minimised. So, although it is true that no formal arrangements have yet been set in place to institutionalise political globalisation, it could be argued that an informal form of political globalisation has already been initiated by the transnational elite, a globalisation which is implemented at present through international economic institutions (e.g. WTO) and political/military ones (e.g. NATO). The cases I already mentioned, as regards the former, and the two wars which were induced by the new transnational elite in the 1990s (i.e. the Gulf war(33) and the war in Kosovo(34)) as regards the latter, are obvious examples.
It seems that the present informal system of political globalisation suits better the transnational elite for several reasons that may include:
However, although the policies promoted by the transnational elite express its general interest, this does not mean that there are no significant divisions within it as regards the way to tackle the effects of globalisation with respect to the worsening economic and ecological crises. This division is reflected by the clash of views between, on the one hand, its conservative elements (expressed mainly by the US economic elite and its representatives in the administration) and, on the other, its enlightened elements expressed by the European economic and political elites.
The former wish to vigorously pursue an agenda based on the philosophy that all state activity diminishes the liberty of the individual, on the assumption that all wealth is the result of individual effort. In this view, taxation is pernicious as it confiscates wealth that properly belongs to individuals and it intrudes into our financial privacy to calculate what is due, only to finance state action that diminishes liberty and, if spent on welfare, education or health, to undermine the incentive to take responsibility for ourselves.(35) This economic philosophy finds its counterpart in the US withdrawal from the minimal restrictions imposed by the Kyoto treaty and, as we have seen above, in an aggressive political and military strategy . Thus, despite the moderate and, in fact, utterly insufficient targets of the Kyoto treaty, the balance in it necessarily favoured those members of the transnational elite which express the interests of the insurance, tourist and agricultural industries (which, for obvious reasons, are particularly concerned about the effects of the greenhouse effect), at the expense of the oil industry members. It was this imbalance that prompted the Bush administration (induced by the oil industries which sponsored his election to Presidency)(36) to attempt to restore the balance, despite the obvious adverse effects on world environment.
On the other hand, the European economic elites, having to face stronger reactions against this sort of philosophy than their American counterparts (due to the stronger socialist/social-democratic tradition in Europe) although they adopt all the basic elements of the internationalised market economy, also suggest various measures to reduce extreme poverty, (but not inequality!), accept the minimal restrictions of the Kyoto treaty, and pursue a policy of fully integrating China, Russia and the rogue states into the internationalised market economy rather than alienating them through aggressive political and military strategies. In other words, the aim of the latter is to create a globalisation with a human face which does not affect it at all in its essentials.(37) As regards the ecological crisis in particular, the European elements of the transnational elite, recognising the enormous significance of this crisis but at the same time not wishing to antagonise those parts of it which thrive in eco-destructive activities (e.g. the oil industry) attempt to find a compromise in terms of a strategy for a sustainable development, like the one promoted by Green politicians and organisations (Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth etc), which are directly or indirectly sponsored by TNCs(38). All this, despite the obvious fact that a sustainable development, within the existing system of the internationalised market economy, is a contradiction in terms.(39)
Still, given the present unrivalled political, economic and military power at the disposal of the American elements within the transnational elite, one may expect that the consensus to be reached out of the clash between these two trends will mainly express the interests of the former. Particularly so today when the American elements within the economic elite have established a long-term superiority over the rest, not only at the military level, where the events of September 2001 gave them the opportunity to function formally as the policeman of the New World Order, but also at the economic level, given their unchallenged position in the information revolution that puts them well ahead of their rivals in the Far East and Europe, as well as the long-term decline of the Japanese elite. A clear indication of the American predominance within the transnational elite is the fact that whereas at the end of the 1980s eight of the 10 biggest multinationals in the world were Japanese, now they are all American.(40)
The Globalisation- as- an- empire approach
Very recently, apart from the transnational capitalist class approach which we saw above another Marxist approach on globalisation was developed which sees it as an empire.(41) This approach adopts a more sophisticated version of the capitalist plot theory according to which capital, faced with a crisis of its ability to master its conflictual relationship with labour through a social and political dialectic, resorted to a double attack against labour: first, a direct campaign against corporatism and collective bargaining and second a reorganisation of the workplace through automation and computerisation, thereby actually excluding labour itself from the side of production.(42) The hypothesis that Hardt and Negri make is that the neoliberalism of the 1980s constituted a revolution from above. This revolution, as they stress in their latest book,(43) was motivated by the accumulation of the proletarian struggles that functioned as the motor for the crisis of the 1970s, which in turn was part of the objective and inevitable cycles of capitalist accumulation. The conclusion that Hardt and Negri draw, which is also the main point of the Empire, is that contemporary globalisation (which they term Empire) establishes no territorial centre of power and does not rely on fixed boundaries and barriers. It is a decentered and deterritorializing apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm within its open, expanding frontiers. As such, it should be welcomed because it is capital's latest concession to the force of insurgent subjectivity and it contains the seeds of an alternative (communist) globalisation. Our political task, they argue, is not simply to resist these processes but to reorganize them and redirect them toward new ends.
The interesting aspect of this analysis --that is mainly based on unfounded assertions about the nature of the welfare state (which they assume still exists in neoliberal modernity ignoring the fact that it is being replaced everywhere by a safety net) and a confused as well as contradictory analysis of neoliberal globalisation -- is that, as I mentioned above, it also ends up (like the reformist Left approaches as well as the TCC approach) with reformist demands and no clear vision for a future society.
This observation notwithstanding, the fact that neoliberal globalisation is neither a plot nor irreversible within the market economy system does not of course mean that it should be welcome, as Hardt and Negri do, because it supposedly provides an objective basis on which an alternative globalisation could be builtreminding one of the usual objectivist type of analysis about the necessary evils supposedly created by the process of Progress. As I pointed out elsewhere,(44) the adoption of the idea of Progress (shared by very few nowadays) implies also the endorsement of such progressive conclusions as the Marxist one about the 'progressive' role of colonialism(45), or the corresponding anarchist one that the state is a 'socially necessary evil'.(46) On the other hand, if we adopt the view that there is no unilinear or dialectical process of Progress and a corresponding evolutionary process towards forms of social organisation grounded on autonomy and we assume, instead, that the historical attempts for autonomy/democracy represent a break with the past, then, forms of social change like colonialism and the institution of the state can be seen as just 'social evils', with nothing 'necessary' about them, either as regards their emergence in the past, or the form that social change has taken since, or will take in the future.
The same applies to neoliberal globalisation which has nothing necessary about it, as it is simply the inevitable outcome of an initial choice imposed on society by economic and political elites: the choice for a market economy and representative democracy.(47) Furthermore, neoliberal globalisation on no account can be the objective basis for a new democratic society. Such a society should, instead, unravel what passes for political and economic democracy today and create genuine democratic institutions that will hardly have any relationship to the present supposedly democratic institutions. In other words, if by a democratic society we mean a new society based on the equal distribution of power (and it can have no other meaning!), like the type of society envisaged by the ID project, then, the move towards such a society could only represent a break with the past and not an evolutionary process. In this sense, the present neoliberal globalisation is far from the objective basis for such a society!
The Eco-feminist approach to globalisation
Another intermediate approach is ecofeminism, supporters of which, like Maria Mies & Veronica Bennholdt-Thomsen,(48) have lately developed an analytical framework to interpret globalisation. Ecofeminists propose as a way out of the crisis a new system that would combine, in a highly utopian way, the fundamental institutions of the present system with subsistence economics and politics in a way that would reverse(49) the present state of affairs in which commodity production has priority over subsistence production,(50) and the market (money) economy is subsidised by subsistence production, Thus, for ecofeminists the market economy and subsistence economics are not contradictory, since, as they point out, there have been and still are countless different kinds of exchange relationship, both outside the market altogether and in conjunction with the modern market economy.(51) However, the fact is that many of the subsistence activities disappear all around the world today, with farmers becoming farm workers in agribusiness, or abandoning their farms altogether unable to survive as subsistence farmers in the hostile environment of the internationalised market economy whereas women enter the production process en masse and often hire the services of other women to do their work at home (bringing about, in the process, a corresponding increase in the GDP!).
The basic criticism that could be raised against this approach is that it fails to see the simple fact that the grow-or-die dynamics of the market economy would never allow the peaceful coexistence of subsistence and the market, as they imagine. Their strategy consists of an attempt to reform the present system through various subsistence activities i.e. life-style activities and communes in the North, or subsistence activities in the South, despite the fact the former are usually marginalised whereas the latter are mainly the remnants of the premodern society that are gradually being phased out under the pressure of the internationalised market economy). It is for this reason that, to my mind, such a strategy has neither the potential to change society in the way suggested by ecofeminists, nor is it possible to create an anti-systemic consciousness, as it does not challenge the main institutions of the present system.
The Inclusive Democracy approach
Finally, let us come to the Inclusive Democracy (ID) approach whose starting point is that the world, at the beginning of the new millennium, faces a multi-dimensional crisis (economic, ecological, social, cultural and political) which is caused by the concentration of power in the hands of various elites, as a result of the establishment, in the last couple of centuries, of the system of market economy, representative democracy and the related forms of hierarchical structures. If we accept this premise, then, an inclusive democracy,(52) which involves the equal distribution of power at all levels, is seen not as a utopia (in the negative sense of the word) but as perhaps the only way out of the present crisis.
The ID approach explicitly assumes that it is the grow-or-die dynamics of the market economy system that inevitably led to its present neoliberal globalised form. This means that globalisation is assumed to be irreversible, as no effective controls over markets to protect labour and the environment are feasible within the system of the internationalised market economy. Thus, according to the ID approach, the arrangements adopted in the post-war period in order to open and liberalise the markets, mostly, institutionalised (rather than created) the present form of the internationalised market economy. In other words, it was the market economys dynamic and, in particular, the emergence and continuous expansion(53) of transnational corporations (TNC) and the parallel development of the Euro-dollar market,(54) which led to its internationalised form today. In fact, the opening and liberalising of markets was simply part of a historical trend (which has been set in motion by the elites controlling the market economy since its establishment) to minimise social controls over markets and particularly those aiming to protect labour and the environment that interfered with economic efficiency and profitability.
Thus, as regards first the institutionalisation of the opening of markets, commodity markets were in a process of continuous opening throughout the period following the second world war both at the planetary level (GATT rounds of tariff reductions so that TNCs could easily move commodities among their subsidiaries) and the regional level (European Economic Community [EEC], European Free Trade Association [EFTA], North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA], Southern Cone Common Market [MERCOSUR], the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation [APEC] in Asia and the Pacific and so on). Also, capital markets, which were in a process of informal opening throughout the 1970s, were formally opened in Britain and the USA at the end of the decade when capital and exchange controls were abolished, followed by the rest of the world in the 1980s and the 1990s .
Second, once the opening of markets was institutionalised, the uninhibited flow of capital and commodities across frontiers required the parallel liberalisation of all markets, i.e. the minimisation of social controls that have been imposed in the past, particularly in the statist period, (as a result of the social struggle) in order to protect human labour and society itself from the market. Therefore, although the labour markets were not opened (so that the exploitation of cheap local labour, particularly in the South, could continue) their liberalisation was also necessary for the advantages of opening the commodity and capital markets to be fully utilised. The main changes introduced to liberalise the markets were the following ones:
The arrangements to liberalise the markets constitute the essence of what has been called neoliberalism/neoliberal policies--in effect, also a misnomer, since such policies have been introduced worldwide by governments of all persuasions, not only of the Right (Reagan, the Bush family, Thatcher et al) but also of the Left (what I call social-liberal) in Europe, Australasia etc. It is therefore clear that these policies reflect the structural changes of the market economy and the corresponding business requirements of late modernity; in this sense, they are systemic or endogenous policies necessitated by the dynamics of the market economy. In fact, the neoliberal policies initiated by the economic elites of late modernity to liberalise the newly opened international markets simply repeated a similar process that was initiated by the economic elites of early modernity, (at the beginning of the 19th century), to liberalise the national markets, which had emerged at the end of the 18th century.(57)
However, to see the systemic nature of todays internationalisation of the market economy we have to go back to the nineteenth century, when the first attempt for an internationalised market economy was made. As I attempted to show elsewhere,(58) the establishment of modern society involved the institutionalisation of the separation of society from the economy through the market economy system and the parallel institutionalisation of the separation of society from polity through representative democracy. Once the market economy system was established, a long social struggle began that raged for over a hundred and fifty years, from the Industrial Revolution up to the last quarter of the twentieth century, between those controlling the market economy, i.e. the capitalist elite controlling production and distribution, and the rest of society. Those controlling the market economy (with the support of other social groups which were benefiting by the new institutional framework) aimed at marketising labour and land as much as possible, that is, at minimising all social controls aiming at protecting labour and land, so that their free flow, at a minimal cost, could be secured. On the other hand, those at the other end, and particularly the working class that was growing during this period, aimed at maximising social controls on labour that is, at maximising society's self-protection against the perils of the market economy, especially unemployment and poverty.
Thus, the outcome of this social struggle led first to the liberal form of modernity(59) in the 19th century, which barely lasted half a century between the 1830s and the 1880s, and which, after a relatively brief intermission in the form of statist modernity in the twentieth century, was succeeded in the mid 1970s by todays neoliberal form of it. During the liberal form of modernity, the grow-or-die dynamic of the market economy led to an increasing internationalisation of the market economy, which was accompanied by the first systematic attempt of the economic elites to establish a purely liberal internationalised market economy in the sense of free trade, a flexible labour market and a fixed exchange rates system (Gold Standard). But, this first attempt for internationalisation inevitably failed given that the economic elites at that time were purely national, unlike the present situation in which a transnational economic elite has emerged -- a necessary condition for the development of a truly internationalised market economy.
So, after a transitional period of protectionism, the liberal form of modernity was succeeded, with the decisive help of the socialist movement, by the statist form of modernity, which took the form of social democracy in the West and Soviet statism in the East. The statist form of modernity was characterised by a systematic attempt to eliminate the market-based allocation of resources in the East, and a parallel attempt to introduce significant controls over markets to protect labour in the West. But, for reasons that I expanded elsewhere(60), both forms of statist modernity collapsed. The Western form of statist modernity in particular collapsed because of the fundamental incompatibility between the requirements of a growing statism and the parallel accelerating internationalisation of the market economy.(61) In particular, the growing openness of the commodity and capital markets and the corresponding change in business requirements, on the one hand, and the parallel decimation of the working class as a result of de-industrialisation and technological changes, on the other, led to the rise of the neoliberal movement and the parallel effective dissolution of the labour movement. These two events were the catalysts for the present structural change.
Therefore, in the ID problematique, the emergence of what I call the neoliberal form of modernity, i.e. the present internationalised market economy is basically the outcome of this dynamic process and not the result of conspiracies, or of the policies of evil neoliberal parties and/or degraded socialdemocratic parties, as non-systemic analysts in the Left assert. This monumental event, at the political level, implied the end of the social democratic consensus that marked the early post war period, which was replaced by the present neoliberal consensus, i.e. the consensus involving both centre-Left and centre-Right governments which are committed to follow the type of policies I described.
However, the present neoliberal form of modernity is not simply a return to liberal modernity. In fact, it represents fact a new synthesis between, on the one hand, the old liberal form of it and, on the other, the statist forma synthesis in which the essentially liberal self-regulated market is integrated into a system of statist controls to secure a minimum level of protection for labour and the environment. The role of the state with respect to the market today is therefore very different from both that of liberal modernity, when it restricted itself mainly to the role of the night-watchman, as well as that of statist modernity, when it played the role of the guardian angel of society over the markets. In the new synthesis, the state has to secure the stability of the market environment, the enhancement of the supply side of the economy (so that competitiveness and efficiencyi.e. profitsimprove) and the survival and control of the marginalized part of the population. All this involves an obvious loss of economic sovereignty that is also reflected in the creation of huge economic blocks (EU, NAFTA etc) , within the context of which the economic role of the individual nation-state is being progressively downgraded in favour of supra-national institutions.
A new Democratic World Order
The last question raised by globalisation is, assuming that it is a systemic problem, as I tried to show, is there any alternative internationalisation that we may envisage? In other words, an internationalisation that, being outside the present institutional framework that has created this crisis in the first place, will also constitute the way out of the present multi-dimensional crisis..
To my mind, an alternative globalisation involves nothing less than the creation of a New World Order, which is based on really democratic structures, on what I call an inclusive democracy. This New World Order should be a form of social organisation that re-integrates society with economy, polity and nature within an institutional framework that secures the necessary conditions for the equal distribution of all forms of power, i.e.
The creation of such a new democratic world order will lead to a globalisation which will not be based on the unequal distribution of power and the domination of human being over human being and Nature, as at present, but on the equal distribution of all forms of power between autonomous societies and human beings. It will also be founded on a sustainable economic system which meets the basic needs of the planets population, through a mechanism of allocation of resources, within a planetary confederal plan of allocation of resources, whereas meeting the non-basic needs would be determined at the local level, in a way that secures freedom of choice.
In this problematique, the activities of the present anti-globalisation movement have no chance of functioning as transitional strategies for systemic change, unless they become an integral part of a programmatic political mass movement for systemic change with its own long-term strategy and short-term programme.(62) At most, the present anti-globalisation movement can function as a kind of resistance movement to globalisation and bring about some sort of (easily reversible) reforms.(63) But, it could never bring about a systemic change, since it can not even create the anti-systemic consciousness required for systemic change, given its lack of any concrete vision about the form a future society will take and of a clear strategy and a short-term program to bring it about. In other words, as I see it, the present activities of the radical currents within the anti-globalisation movement can never become truly anti-systemic outside a comprehensive political program which includes a vision, a strategy and a short-term program that are consistent with it.
Such a new strategy would entail the gradual involvement of increasing numbers of people in a new kind of politics and the parallel shifting of economic resources (labour, capital, land) away from the market economy. The aim of such a strategy should be to create changes in the institutional framework, as well as to value systems, which, after a period of tension between the new institutions and the state, would, at some stage, replace the market economy, representative democracy, and the social paradigm "justifying" them, with an inclusive democracy and a new democratic paradigm respectively. The rationale behind this strategy is that, as systemic change requires a rupture with the past, which extends to both the institutional and the cultural level, such a rupture is only possible through the development of a new political organisation and a new comprehensive political program for systemic change that will create a clear anti-systemic consciousness at a massive scale --rather than at the level of avant gardes, (as in the case of the state socialist movement), or at the level of our neighbourhood or our commune, (as in the case of various libertarian groupuscules).
However, the creation of a new culture, which has to become hegemonic before an inclusive democracy could be launched, is only possible through the parallel building of new political and economic institutions at a significant social scale. In other words, it is only through action to build such institutions that a massive political movement with a new anti-systemic consciousness can be built. And this, to my mind, is the necessary condition for creating an alternative democratic and sustainable globalisation.-
1. See T. Fotopoulos, The Myth of Postmodernity, Democracy & Nature,
vol 6 no 3, pp. 27-75