Regionalism, globalization, and ‘professional society’
Between state, law, and the market for professional services
Regionalism, globalization, and competition among national models of political economy remain largely misunderstood, and this problem is redoubled when it comes to our understanding of professional services. 1 If globalization has often had the effect of apparent deracination of traditional social groups, this phenomenon can certainly be observed as ongoing in the legal profession. As a result of the opening up of borders, the professional rules, institutions, and more generally the whole framework for economic activity in capitalist countries have become weapons, as well as stakes, in increased international competition. Law and the lawyers are constantly being remade by processes of market competition and global restructuring, even as they remain among the most important participants in these processes.
Yet we can hardly expect this global restructuring to be a homogeneous affair. The national, the regional and the global surely vie with each other. Indeed there is such diversity in the histories of national structures in which the field of professional power is continually being refashioned that such basic notions as the state, professions and the law typically cover quite different realities. In particular, the structures of the law and its place in both the field of the state and that of business are very dissimilar on either side of the Atlantic. Hence, to compare these two models of regulation without taking account of the fact that they do not relate to the same social reality would lead to multiple confusions. One could be forgiven for expecting the predominance of the national and regional, as opposed to the global, in a field as embedded in historical social structures as the legal professions.
Yet the global dimension cannot be ignored since this is precisely what has ‘dealt the new hand’ in these arenas of professional practices. These ‘palace wars’ between the elites of different legal traditions are an inseparable part of a geopolitical battle. The exporting of the neo-liberal market economy, as has been said, involves symbolic imperialism. The generalization of the American model of the lawyer as privileged operator of a ‘regulatory process’ defined in juridical terms is one of the stakes—and one of the supporting elements—in a process of ‘globalization’ which is also a battle for global domination. In exporting or imposing a mode of economic governance which it can dominate all the better for having been its inventor, the American ruling class is