World in Disorder
"De-globalization", the Vision for a New World Order is Still in its Infancy
by Hannes Koch
[This article originally published in: die tageszeitung, February 6, 2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.taz.de/pt/.nf/spText,Name,neoliberalismus,idx,4.]
Porto Alegre. If there is a visionary initiative that can be distilled from the abundance of discussions, ideas and proposals at the World Social Forum, it is the concept of "de-globalization". On Monday, the next to the last day of the World Social Forum, Philippine sociologist Walden Bello offered his project for discussion. In the sports stadium of Porto Alegre, he discussed with Susan George and Peter Wahl of Attac before several hundred hearers. The scholar is one of the gurus of the movement on account of his radicalism and rhetorical sharpness.
Bello, professor at the University of the Philippines, entered the discussion around "global governance", the way and necessity of a different political control of events in the world. The starting point is the dwindling influence of nation states in the process of globalization while transnational investors gain active possibilities. How can the political institutions be changed? How can democratic participation of citizens still function in the new world order?
Walden Bello gtives a provocative answer: "We must do everything to weaken central constellations of power." Bello would abolish the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. If that isn't possible, he urges making life difficult for these transnational organizations. Globalization critics should not cooperate with them since they are the spearheads of neoliberalism who subordinate culture, politics and life to the dictates of the market. This logic of rule must be broken and "space created" for development models oriented primarily in production for the needs of the South's population, not primarily in the world market.
Bello stresses that he is not an opponent of globalization but hopes to redirect globalization. Individual nation states should find mutual support in regional alliances. The sociologist wants to enfeeble the highest plane of transnational organizations and upgrade the second plane that includes the European Union, Latin America's Mercosur and the Asian economic community Asean. Bello's picture of the future also highlights the good international organizations, for example the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the UN development organization (Unctad).
In the podium discussion, the two other main speakers, Susan George and Peter Wahl of Attac, first shared Bello's perspective. However Wahl distanced himself from models aiming at a "world government". "That is a negative utopia", said the globalization critic from Bonn. Wahl also regards a global parliament, directly elected according to the principle "One person, one vote", as unworkable. "Size matters." Democracy is only practical when citizens have information relevant for decisions. That can hardly be assumed on the world plane, Peter Wahl warned. The conclusion is less centralization above and more decentralization below. Susan George agreed: "I do not want a world parliament."
The situation was tricky when Wahl argued that the International Monetary Fund could change its policy. "With all respect", Bello moaned, waiting for that would be a sheer waste of time. The radical sociologist also disagreed with Wahl's proposal to organize the United Nations more democratically by giving a seat and vote to civil organizations like Attac.
Disregarding these conflicts, the organization of a possible new world order remained unclear. Susan George emphasized a "global Marshall plan" to advance development in Asia, Africa and Latin America. However who should collect, manage and spend the money if the transnational actors refuse? How can Attac's demand to levy taxes on currency transactions, incomes and investments be realized? The International Labor Organization is hardly capable of levying taxes.