In his presentation at Glover Cottages on 4 July, Dr Mikler subjected three premises about globalisation to re-conceptualisation.
First, he suggested that to speak of amorphous ‘market forces’ – that is, forces distinct from the state apparatus and predicated on neo-liberal notions of competition and minimal regulation – as dictating the spread and terms of globalisation is incorrect. Rather, global corporations are the entities that drive globalisation and project their power. Further, to suggest that the state sits at the opposite end of a spectrum to ‘market forces’, with interests and functions hostile the establishment of ‘free’ markets, is to misconceive the relationship between state and corporation. During negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the US government exclusively consulted 600 major corporate advisors across relevant industries; this move could only be understood as the state using global corporations to complement and project its own power, rather than state power being undermined by the ‘market’.
Second, he suggested that – contrary to the traditional Marxist concept of a ‘trans-national capitalist class’ of corporate executives – our perception of corporations must be ‘re-territorialised’. On the available evidence, the overwhelming majority of corporate executives come from the nation-states in which their corporations are geographically based. The distribution of corporate power tends to be ‘triadic’: centred in Western Europe, North America and East Asia. Even when the identity of corporate executives does change through mergers and acquisitions, it tends to occur between these three established hubs. Corporate power is becoming more centralised rather than diffuse.
Third, he suggested that corporations do not want competition in a ‘free market’, but control. In one-third of the world’s major industries, a single corporation has over 40% of the market share. This means that corporations tend to wield not only instrumental and structural power, but discursive power: they go to great lengths to present their monopolies as natural and desirable, in order to legitimise their anti-competitive inclinations.
He reached the conclusion that the twin notions of ‘market forces’ and a government to keep the market in check are defunct. The sooner we recognise that corporations are the powerbrokers of globalisation, and that they operate in tandem with the state, the better our chances are of minimising the negative externalities of globalisation and holding these corporations to their social, environmental and tax responsibilities.
Report by Rhys Carvosso