At the start of this project, I participated in two events that offered contrasting narratives about the regulation of the global economy. This book has been, in part, an attempt to reconcile these opposing parables.
In April 2002, I attended a Salzburg Seminar on global economic institutions. Most of the participants spoke bitterly about economic globalization and its supporting global governance structures. The resentment was genuinely multicultural; heated rhetoric came from a Filipino activist, a Brazilian academic, a Burundian minister, a Russian economist, an American journalist, an Ecuadorian expatriate, and a South African union organizer. The common denominator to their complaints was that they saw global governance as a battle between capitalists and democrats—with the capitalists winning. On one side were the transnational corporations capable of buying and selling governments and international economic institutions. On the other side were nongovernmental organizations and local social movements that represented the suffering classes, the people most likely to lose out in a world of untrammeled economic globalization.
These activists' vision of change was an arena for global civil society to engage their corporate antagonists. From their perspective, acting through home governments was pointless, since these governments were bought and paid for by global capital. Walden Bello, director of Focus on the Global South, argued that the protestors' agenda “can only succeed if it takes place within an alternative system of global economic governance.” For these activists the sources of political power were clear; multinational corporations make the rules now, and with a lot of discipline and a little luck, global civil society would be the rule-makers of the future. Governments are either obsolete or a creature of business, and therefore left out of the equation. The UN Global Compact is the epitome of this sort of global governance.
Thirteen months earlier, I witnessed an entirely different answer to the question of who writes the rules of the global economy. I was sitting in a conference
Support for the globalization phenomenon was equally multicultural, coming from a Viet
namese trade official, a Romanian academic, a Taiwanese economist, Italian and Spanish bureau
crats, a Ugandan lecturer, American policy analysts, and a Latvian nonprofit director.
Walden Bello, “The Global Conjuncture: Characteristics and Challenges.” Keynote speech at
the National Convention against Globalization, New Delhi, India, March 21, 2001. Accessed at
http://www.focusweb.org/publications/2001/The%20Global%20Conjuncture.htm, July 1, 2002.
Information about the Global Compact can be accessed at its Web site, http://www.unglobal