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

By Florian Wettstein | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Political Power and Authority of
Multinational Corporations

THE BRIEF ELABORATIONS on the depoliticization of the economy and the economization of politics in the previous chapter built the train of thought that implies the transformation of the multinational corporation into a quasi-governmental institution today. Polanyi's observation that in the classical liberal era societal life became increasingly subordinated to the requirements of the market holds true even more today. The crucial difference, however, is that today it is the requirements of the global competitive market that shape and dictate the political agenda and organization of our society.

It is under these circumstances that the multinational corporation has acquired vast amounts of power and influence over social and societal life in general. In a market-controlled society the institutions that shape and dominate the global economic sphere inevitably turn into major political forces that affect the organization of society as a whole. While the business of governments seems more than ever to be business, as Noreena Hertz (2001, 169) eloquently stated, the business of business, in contrast, is increasingly turning into that of governments.

An inquiry in to the quasi-governmental role of multinational corporations must start with an analysis of corporate power. More specifically, I will start with an inquiry into the public nature of corporate power, which will then lead to an assessment of its historical foundations. In the logical next step, I will examine the sources of corporate power in the global political economy. I will argue that corporate (political) power to day is essentially structural. This argument will be supported by showing not only that the structural transformations in the global market have put multinational cor-

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