MECHANISMS OF CORPORATE RULETony Clark
The men who run global corporations are the first in history with the organisation, technology, money, and ideology to make a credible try at managing the world as an integrated economic unit.
Richard J. Barnett and Ronald E. Mueller, Global Reach
In the twenty-odd years since these words were penned, transnational corporations (TNCs) have consolidated their power and control over the world. Today, 47 of the top 100 economies are actually transnational corporations, 70 percent of global trade is controlled by a just 500 corporations, and a mere one per cent of the TNCs on this planet own half the total stock of foreign direct investment. At the same time, the new free market and free trade regimes (eg. GATT, NAFTA) have created global conditions in which transnational corporations and banks can move their capital, technology, goods, services – freely throughout the world unfettered by the regulations of nation states or democratically elected governments.
In effect, what has taken place is a massive shift in power, out of the hands of nation states and democratic governments and into the hands of transnational corporations and banks. It is now the TNCs that effectively rule and govern the lives of the vast majority of the people on earth. Yet, these new world realities are seldom reflected in the strategies of citizen movements for democratic social change. All too often, strategies are primarily aimed at changing government policies while the real power being exercised by the TNCs behind the scenes is rarely challenged, let alone dismantled. And when the operations of TNCs become the prime target for citizen action campaigns, there is a tendency to employ a more or less piecemeal approach to what is a deeply systemic problem.
As we approach the 21st century, it is imperative that social movements in both the North and the South develop a new politics for challenging the dominant global rule of transnational enterprises.
The following are some of the salient ingredients of the new powers that now give corporations effective control over the lives of peoples and nations in this age of globalisation, and then some suggestions as to changing the situation.