Corporate Globalisation in 2013

Or losing our religion

It seems we in the west no longer believe in ourselves, and our capacity to generate prosperity for all. Is this surprising given the dismal state of the European and American economies? In other words, since the 2008 financial crash people around the world but especially in Europe and America, don’t see the future as being any better for the next generation. There is a loss of trust in the system itself it seems. In this sense 2013 is the year Globalisation has gone bust.

According to an article in the Financial Times, world wide surveys were conducted which show many US and EU citizens to be very insecure about growing inequity or the income disparities which they are facing in the post-democratic, post-capitalist era.1 In other words, an era in which western “democratic and free market values” have been replaced by ruthless corporatism ,driven in turn by militarism operating on a global scale. In the US many in the middle class fear for the future as decades of foreign adventurism or “resource wars”, hugely disruptive cyclical booms and busts in the marketplace, endemic corruption, systemic government paralysis and an imminent prospect of the government defaulting on the nation’s debt, has dimmed or even blighted the erstwhile shining prospects for many, of ever achieving the once vaunted “American dream”. The FT article even asserts that the so called “Merkel miracle” has failed to deliver the goods in Germany or Europe’s powerhouse, for the average worker or pensioner as promised.

In other words, the income gap is growing at a dangerous pace, even there. The concentration of wealth in “old Europe” almost mirrors the on–going excesses and financial follies across the Atlantic. As on the eve of the First World War, or in 1913, Tweedle Dee (the US) and Tweedle Dum (the EU) dance a macabre Totentanz to the tune of the financial markets, the ruling elite and their corporate handmaidens. Will another global conflict ensue as it did a century ago? No one can be sure right now. However, growing tensions between a rapidly rising China, and a hesitant or even stumbling American superpower in Asia, have not been tempered by Globalisation’s prophesies for a more peaceful and prosperous world. On the contrary the sabre rattling in the far and also the Middle East is deafening to the ears right now.

A global religion has gone morally bankrupt

In 2013, Globalisation has apparently triumphed nearly a quarter of a century after the end of the cold war. But paradoxically at the same time it is now in decline. The promises of this doctrine (modelled on an almost biblical like premise of providing salvation for the world’s poor and starving masses) claims the columnist has “dragged hundreds of million of people out of poverty”. If this is an undeniable fact, then why are so many leaving Africa, Eurasia, and the Middle East in ever greater numbers in search of a better life in the “rich west”? In developing countries prosperity is also elusive. Mass protests this year in Brazil one of “brat pack” or BRICS of rising economic powers, attests to growing the unease about wealth re-distribution in these places. The same is true of Turkey, were the secularist and moderate Islamist tug of war which resulted in violent street protests against the neo-liberal policies of the “Sultan” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, conceals a much bigger cleft: the growing divide between an emerging yet fragile middle class, and the country’s monopolistic mega rich clans which control the country’s riches.

Europe’s new great divide

For over forty decades or since 1945 Europe was split by an ideological divided which was entrenched by the Yalta treaty and then brutally enforced by two rival military blocs. Today Europe is no longer divided by an “iron curtain” along east-west lines. The new rift is based not on ideological difference, but upon socio-economic ones. But it is just as, if not more, pernicious.

Italy, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Cyprus and Portugal (and Slovenia seems to be the next ‘target country” or recipient of an EU “bail-out” or “bail –in”), have all this year been subjected to unprecedented draconian austerity measure prescribed by the EU-IMF-ECB troika. The result of this transfer of economic policy to a cluster of cabal like, supra national and highly technocratic entities, has been dramatically falling standards of living, rising unemployment, lower wages, massive cuts in pensions, health and education. These relatively senior EU member states have all seen sustained popular unrest. Moreover, the newer members of the EU such as Bulgaria, the Baltics, and Romania, are also no strangers to foreign imposed economic measures, which have also sparked social unrest. Again the blame falls flatly on the failings of Globalisation. Meanwhile, new and radical, far right parties are gaining ground all over the EU due to the rising class divisions and social tensions. Racist rhetoric has become the norm in some smaller EU member states (witness Hungary, Slovakia or instance).

2013: Globalisation has met its dead end in Detroit

The world’s corporate bosses cheered the conclusion of a new WTO mega trade deal in Bali recently. But this development will prove to be a Pyrrhic victory for all concerned, with more losers than winners. More ominously, in the US, 2013 marked the year Detroit after decades of relative decline was proposed financially deceased, by both municipal and federal officials. A former mega-city once synonymous with world-wide success, or the symbol of an industrial power’s former prowess and engineering ingenuity, has finally gone belly-up in America. In Europe, states like Greece and Cyprus have technically or de facto, defaulted or gone bankrupt altogether as well this year. In view of these current debacles, the stage has been set in 2013 for a global year of strife and upheaval in 2014. In other words unless new believers in the doctrine of neo-liberalism and its merits come to the fore, troubled times seem to lie ahead for the faithless western world.

  1. “The west is losing faith in its own future” by Gideon Rachman, Financial Times (12-10-2013). []

Michael Werbowski is a graduate of post communist studies from the University of Leeds, UK. Read other articles by Michael.