The word globalisation has a double meaning. It has to do on the one hand with the overcoming of the national economy through world economy, which is actually nothing bad in itself. Yet the mightier national economies are threatening to overcome the weaker ones and thus to prolong the present nationalism under the banner of other names.
On the other hand globalisation also means treating the world only in terms of economy - the world as a product. The world has been reduced down to economy, to the playing ball of giant combines. When governments try to defend themselves against the interests of the combines, these threaten to go abroad.
These two aspects of globalisation have brought up in the last years a strong protest movement.
An international protest movement managed at the end of the nineties fairly unexpectedly to jeopardize a WTO meeting. Since then one hears over and again of the globalisation opponents who want to call attention to the international economy summits, which they increasingly manage to do. The media is of course, as always, interested in the first place in street fights. They also let filter through from time to time, despite the dependance on governments and big combines, the comments of imaginative protesters. However it happens rarely that, instead of the world economy itself, the economical domination of the industrial countries and the hegemony of economy get criticized.
It was to be feared that after the shooting of a demonstrator in Genua in summer 2001 a part of the protest movement would turn to terrorism. Luckily this didn't happen. Instead september 11 came (once again fairly unexpected), an attack of islamic fundamentalists on a symbol of globalisation: the world trade center. Because of the world hysteria that has since spread around it has become more and more difficult for globalisation critics to bring their concern to the world public.
Globalisation and social threefolding
The worth of a world economy lies in the reciprocal help that is made possible through it. Globalisation in the sense of a world wide economical web is from the point of view of social threefolding only to be greeted. On the other hand it must be possible to prevent stronger economies being privileged and to take protective measures for instance to the benefit of developing countries. However this is not the task of a state government but rather of the world economy itself, that shouldn't be confused as it usually is nowadays with free trade. It must organise itself instead of letting the prices be shaped accidentally by the market.
A cherished idea among the globalisations opponants is the Tobin tax, wheras foreign currency exchange would be taxed to the benefit of developping countries. However selfless this idea may be, it is still to be hoped for that other alternative will be favored. Currency speculations point namely to a fundamental problem of todays money politic that would carry on existing also when particular states would benefit from it.
It would be more meaningful to look for a tax form that is world economy neutral. This would lead to abandoning all forms of income tax (for individuals as well as for industry) in favour of a single - graded- tax on expenditure. Tax rates have then no influence on exportprices since only the imported and local products would be taxed. The same idea must naturally be applied to the social costs. It wouldn't make sense anymore to reduce social state services and social security in order to try to win in international competition. Income tax on the contrary make every social system - especially in developing countries - appear as luxury that cannot be afforded as soon as one wants to export in order to obtain foreign currency.
Nevertheless, it is quite incomprehensive to make a one-issue-program on the basis of expenditure tax. This would otherwise strengthen the big combines who would take advantage of such tax freedom in order to consolidate their power. The direction must in this case be clear: the state is no product.
The globalisation opponents have understood this and are trying to protect the state against the economy. Globalisation as an economising of the world doesn't only threaten the state but also the spiritual life, which should also be brought into the market. In particular education and the health system are to be liberalised in the coming years. This would then bring about a double patronising threat: not only from the state as in the present but also from the economy.
Unfortunatly unions tend towards the nationalisation of the spiritual life. In regards to this question some globalisation opponents make a great error. They don't realise that such a nationalising weakens the spiritual life to such an extend that it is then all the more threatened to be commercialised. Not only because it will be unpayable and ineffective but also because the spiritual life will then be too weak to oppose the interests of the big companies.
In order to stand their own ground in times of globalisation the states need the support of the civil society. However if one remains caught in the dualistic world view, which only recognises state and economy, one ends up sooner or later in the clenches of the overpowering economy. The only possibility to fight the tumor-like growth of globalisation lies in allowing the spiritual life -including schools and media- an autonomous management, independant of politic and economy. This central request of a social threefolding would give civil society the necessary impact and help it in finding alternatives to globalisation, that are no more imbued with old thinking. This aspect was still absent in the discussions throughout the last years.
From this point of view every globalisation critic should also be a state critic. The spirit is no paragraph.
Author: Sylvain Coiplet