The Market or the Public Domain? Global Governance and the Asymmetry of Power

By Daniel Drache | Go to book overview

1

The return of the public domain after the triumph of markets

Revisiting the most basic of fundamentals

Daniel Drache1

In the public domain belonging to the public as a whole, esp. not subject to copyright.

In public, 1 in a place or state open to public view or access; openly. Formerly also, in a published form, in print. § 2 Organized society, the body politic; a nation, a State: the interest of welfare of the community. b Sociol. A collective group regarded as sharing a common cultural, social, or political interest but who as individuals do not necessarily come into contact with one another.

General Public= People collectively; the members of the community. Treated as sing. or pl.

(The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)


Rethinking governance

It appears that not only the state, as an organizing entity, but the public domain - the non-tradable social goods sector that exists in every society - is ready to make a come-back (Albert 1993). The current crisis of neo-liberalism has put on the agenda the need to move beyond the Washington consensus and its belief in the frictionless operation of markets. What needs specification and development is the modern notion of the public as an instrument of governance. Even if governments in the past have been reluctant to share decision-making with the public, at the present time government needs to find ways to empower citizens in order to improve public services, reduce public bads and introduce new regulatory instruments to act as a counterweight to global instability.

It is now apparent that in a post-Seattle world the new message from international organizations, such as the World Bank, is that public authority needs a more realistic view of governance, one not premised on simplistic ideas about the power of markets. International organizations are calling on governments everywhere to revisit the fundamentals of neo-liberalism and to rethink the 'public interest'. What public authority is being told is that it needs to relearn how to promote collective goals and revitalize public institutions (World Bank 1997; OECD 1994).

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