Attack on the International Monetary Fund
Interview with Sociologist Ulrich Beck
[The sociologist Ulrich Beck urges voting rights for globalization critics in transnational organizations. This interview originally published in: die tageszeitung, January 31, 2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.taz.de.]
Ten thousand people (and 60,000 supporters) from all parts of the world came to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. Discussions, celebrations and challenges abounded at the summit of critics of neoliberal globalization. What was the purpose of the event?
Ulrich Beck: These events are important politically and morally. Base groups, lobbying associations and non-governmental organizations have a considerable influence on national policy and supranational organizations. They act as a humane world conscience. National governments depend on the information given them by the NGOs. Only 50 percent of all politically relevant decisions are made by governments or bureaucracies. The other half are made in transnational organizations and international corporations.
Last year the World Social Forum was frequently criticized as mere babble. How can this multi-voiced choir make far-reaching decisions?
Ulrich Beck: In Porto Alegre and elsewhere, a justice horizon appeared that emphasized certain values. Base groups thematicized questions of worldwide poverty and social justice that must be answered by national governments. The crucial achievement of such events is in opening national frameworks.
To what extent are the people of Porto Alegre transnational pioneers?
Ulrich Beck: First, the fundamental questions must be raised. Political movements and institutions can arise from these questions. NGOs are both moral entrepreneurs and conceptual entrepreneurs creating new terms and focusing political attention.
You write that the state is completely changed in the impetus of globalization. NGOs could assume quasi-state responsibilities. What are these tasks?
Ulrich Beck: NGOs formulate and represent the interests of those ignored by the old institutions. They could play a role as advisors of governments and corporations or voting members in the existing institutions.
Should Attac, an organization critical of globalization, have a voting right at the International Monetary Fund (IMF)?
Ulrich Beck: This should be spelled out. In the past the IMF and the World Bank had no true public or true legitimation. Seemingly they derived their justification from the will of national governments. However many countries - and the people living there - could not join in decisions.
What is the first step in guiding the process of globalization in the right direction?
Ulrich Beck: An act of conscientization is essential. Globalization does not exist outside or over there. The earlier distinction in inner and outer survives on nearly all planes of politics. Consider September 11. Suddenly the inner security of the US depends on the police strategy in Hamburg or Italy. There is no sovereign domestic policy of sovereign states any more. Globalization forces transnational cooperation. Concerning immigration, the nation states are mainly worried about their citizens. What is happening with refugees, migrants and transnationals?
Globalization produces a feeling of homelessness and fear of new risks. How can this fear be reduced?
Ulrich Beck: Perhaps by urging the orientation of a grounded cosmopolitanism. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this debate was already conducted by Kant, Fichte, Schiller and the great minds of that time. In particular Heine warned of a closed or self-contained nationalism. Still people may not be forded to a world citizen identity. Opening regional and national spaces for transnational influences is central, not abandoning those spaces.