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

By Daniel Drache | Go to book overview

15

Saving the social bond and recovering the public domain

Richard Devetak and Richard Higgott

The political problem of mankind is to combine these things: economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty.

(John Maynard Keynes noted in Essays in Persuasion, 1931)


Introduction

Globalization has become the most over-used and under-specified term in the international policy sciences since the passing of the Cold War. It is a term that is not going to go away. More recently globalization has come to be associated with financial collapse and economic turmoil. Our ability to satisfy Keynes' three requirements under conditions of globalization is as remote now as at the time he was writing. Neither markets nor the extant structures of governance appear capable of providing for all three conditions at once. Globalization has improved economic efficiency and it has provided enhanced individual liberty for many; but in its failure to ensure social justice on a global scale, it also inhibits liberty for many more.

Even leading globalizers - proponents of continued global economic liberalization occupying positions of influence in either the public or private domain - now concede that in the failure to deliver a more just global economic order, globalization may hold within it the seeds of its own demise. As James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, noted '[i]f we do not have greater equity and social justice, there will be no political stability and without political stability no amount of money put together in financial packages will give us financial stability'. 1 His words, even if they appear to invert justice and stability as 'means' and 'ends', are a sign of the times in the international financial institutions.

Conventional accounts of justice suppose the presence of a stable political society, community or state as the site where justice can be instituted or realized. Moreover, conventional accounts, whether domestic or global, have also assumed a Westphalian cartography of clear lines and stable identities and a settled, stable social bond. In so doing, conventional theories - essentially liberal individualist theory (and indeed liberal democracy more generally) - have limited our ability to think about political action beyond the territorial state. But what if the territorial boundaries of politics are coming unbundled and a stable social bond deteriorates? Must a conception of justice relinquish its Westphalian coordinates? These are not merely questions for the political philosopher. In a time when the very fabric of the social bond is constantly being re-woven by globalization, they cast massive policy shadows.

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