Multinational Corporations and Global Justice: Human Rights Obligations of a Quasi-Governmental Institution

By Florian Wettstein | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

Multinational Corporations Between
Depoliticization of the Economy and
Economization of Politics
Unfolding the Neoliberal Paradox

IN HIS FAMOUS POLITICAL ANALYSIS in Concept of the Corporation, Peter Drucker (1993, 6) described the large American corporation as an “institution which sets the standard for the way of life and the mode of living of our citizens.” The large American corporation, in Drucker's eyes, is representative of “big business” in general; “it leads, molds and directs,” and it “determines our perspective on our own society.” It is the institution “around which crystallize our social problems and to which we look for their solutions.” Hence as early as 1946, when the book first appeared, Drucker attributed all the characteristics we would commonly associate with primary agents of justice to big business. It is not society with its values and principles that deliberates on and determines the role and responsibilities of the corporation, but the corporation that largely shapes and determines the values to which our society adheres. Nearly 40 years later Peter French (1984, viii) was still convinced that “corporate entities […] define and maintain human existence within the industrialized world.” Today, more than six decades after Drucker and two and a half decades after French's statement, the social and societal influence of big business has become even more pervasive. Corporations have grown larger and become more influential economically, politically, and socially. Many of them are now said to be bigger than entire economies of small and medium-sized nations. The sales of General Motors, for example, exceed the GDP of Denmark, Poland, or Norway. By this measure, General Motors was the 23rd biggest economy on this planet in the year 2000, and 51 of the largest 100 economies in the world were corporations (Anderson and Cavanagh 2000).

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