When Corporations Rule the World

Excerpts from the Introduction

Debates, dialogues, and street protests addressing the issues of corporate globalization have brought into sharp focus a deepening struggle grounded in two sharply divergent world views.

Global Corporations

On one side are the forces of corporate globalization advanced by an alliance between the world's largest corporations and most powerful governments. This alliance is backed by the power of money, and its defining project is to integrate the world's national economies into a single, borderless global economy in which the world's mega-corporations are free to move goods and money anywhere in the world that affords an opportunity for profit, without governmental interference. In the name of increased efficiency the alliance seeks to privatize public services and assets and strengthen safeguards for investors and private property. In the eyes of its proponents, corporate globalization is the result of inevitable and irreversible historical forces driving a powerful engine of technological innovation and economic growth that is strengthening human freedom, spreading democracy, and creating the wealth needed to end poverty and save the environment.

Global Civil Society

On the other side are the forces of a newly emerging global movement advanced by a planetary citizen alliance of civil society organizations. This alliance is bringing together the most important social movements of our time in common cause, is self-organizing, depends largely on voluntary social energy, and is driven by a deep value commitment to democracy, community, equity, and the web of planetary life. It is a movement of a million leaders, each contributing ideas and initiatives toward shaping the whole. In the eyes of its members, corporate globalization is neither inevitable nor beneficial, but rather the product of intentional decisions and policies promoted by the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the IMF, global corporations, and politicians who depend on corporate money. They believe corporate globalization is enriching the few at the expense of the many, replacing democracy with rule by corporations and financial elites, destroying the real wealth of the planet and society to make money for the already wealthy, and eroding the relationships of trust and caring that are the essential foundation of a civilized society.

A Defining Moment

Whether out of ignorance or intent to discredit, pundits of the corporate press portrayed the Seattle demonstrators as selfish, ill-informed, and disheveled malcontents who sought to close national borders, end trade, and consign the poor to perpetual misery. In other words the pundits completely missed the real story, a troubling reminder of the sorry state of the corporate news media in the United States.

The Seattle demonstrations announced the birth of perhaps the most truly international movement in human history

The Seattle demonstrations announced the birth of perhaps the most truly international movement in human history--a movement with a well developed analysis, a deep commitment to economic justice, and an informed and articulate membership for whom concern for issues relating to trade is incidental to their concerns for human and planetary life and their commitment to the democratic ideal that every person has the right to a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.

In public, members of the establishment echoed the press in dismissing the demonstrations as the work of hooligans. In private they expressed shock at the protestors' ability to stall the plans of the world's most powerful nations and corporations. They soon mobilized to suppress, contain, or co-opt the dissenters through a combination of police repression and invitations to multistakeholder dialogues and partnerships. The tide of public opinion seems increasingly to align with the protestors and even a few establishment voices are beginning to call for more substantive reform.