ASEM4People Conference, Copenhagen, 19 September 2002

Johan Galtung, Director TRANSCEND: A Peace and Development Network


                      We are meeting under the signs of globalization, in principle a process

whereby all genders, generations (also future), races, classes, nations

and countries and regions pull together

and cooperate, in a participatory and equitable way, to produce a world

with better livelihood for all.  In Europe, Asia, all over.

                      The problem is that no such project exists in the world of today. We

have a male-middleaged-white-upper class-Western project particularly

from the OECD countries, and then even more particularly from the USA,

running the world. A more descriptive term than

"globalization" would be "Americanization"; a somewhat more generous

term would be "Westernization".  But even those terms only locate the

process nationally/geographically; they do not touch the other

dimensions, of gender/generation/race/class. The whole process is

dominated by a small group of people, in a small group of countries,

using the term "globalization" as a cover-up. Uncritical use of the term

a part of that cover-up.

                      Nor is there any neo-liberalism.  Liberalism connotes liber, free,

freedom, freedom of choice. That choice, of course, will include choice

of economic system.  But what happens in the world is the promotion of

only one of the many economic systems: the free, meaning unfettered,

unregulated by anything, market system. There is no denial that this

system offers an enormous range of choice for those with the purchasing

power to enter the market. And never in history have so many had that


                      But never in history have so many been excluded in a world economy

where the 20/20 gap in purchasing power is increasing 3.10% annually,

while the world economic growth is only 2.8%. Increasing misery at the

bottom, and at the very bottom: death.

                      We live in a world where half of humanity has less than $2 per day, 1.7

billion people have less than $1, and 100,000 die every day because they

cannot buy the minimum needed for survival.

And there is no alternative. To refer to this in the rarefied air of the

academe as "neo-liberal", mindless of how "the other half" lives,

insults not only that half, but also the superb English philosophers

behind the idea of liberalism. But that cynical neglect of life at the

bottom of a killing economy is not the only reason to prefer the term

"neo-fascism" to "neo-liberalism".

                      In the real world globalization is run by an axis World Bank-IMF-WTO

these days.  But to that has to be added a US State

Department-Pentagon-CIA solid political and military power

axis, to enforce that single economic system all over the world. 

Supporting "free market"-oriented parties till they win the elections

(Bulgaria); bombing state, not private factories (Serbia);

using NATO forces to conquer and privatize (to foreign capital) state

mines (Trebca in Kosovo),promising enough aid to overcome the problems

of excessive rain and land-slides if they change the system (North

Korea)--all of this goes far beyond the presumed automatism of the free

market.  And to that add the keynesian use of the military economic

sector as force motrice.

                      This is the use of political/military force for political ends, killing

human beings and letting them be killed by a cruel structure for

political purposes.  That is called "fascism"; not the

fascism that springs from faith in a superior race or a nation with a

strong state, but a fascism that flows from the faith in an economic

system to end all systems and run the world.  Hence "neo-fascism". like

in neo-liberalism. Or "geo-fascism", democratic on the inside, fascist

on the outside;like UK colonialism used to be.


                      There is also much talk about "democracy" these days.     Under

globalization this means world rule, with the rulers ruling with the

consent of the ruled, according to generally accepted rules.  A world

system against the will of the majority is undemocratic. But if the key

system actors are World Bank/IMF/WTO backed by State

Department/Pentagon/CIA, then the problem of their democratization

arises.  Of these six actors three are major intergovernmental

organizations in the field of banking, financing and trade; and three

are the fists of "the only superpower", not even controlled by US

voters, let alone by a world electorate.  On the other hand, if the USA

is "a global nation with global interests" (former head of the JCS John

Shilakasvhili) then the key to democratization would be a world

electorate participating in US elections. But that project is evidently

not on; nor for the three global economic actors run by a

priesthood of "economists".

                      A market is an expression of zillions buyer-seller deals;  in the

market, not of, about the market.  In principle all the three could

develop NGO fora for the governmental meetings, and inside the buildings

rather than on the streets outside fighting the police in encounters

reminiscent of the Bastille day.  Those fora could then gradually become

more representative, even based on direct elections (not on selected

parliamentarians).  They could learn from the UN,

and chances are that they would need less police to protect their

secluded, non-dialogical "politicians".

                      But the USA is dead against any such development. The market forces

should not be tampered with, as if the market is an articulation of

transhuman, divine will, properly understood only by

neo-classical/liberal economist priests.  And only in their language,

the modern Latin, mathematics.


                      Such arguments reveal severe deficits in the understanding of

democracy.  The essence of democracy is linked to the concept of

decision-making, and amounts to this: anybody affected should have a

say.  But decision-makers have always jealously protected their

decision-making monopolies, with arguments ranging from the incompetence

of common people, to the delicate nature of the market and security

negotiations behind their closed doors.

                      Few decisions affect so many so deeply as those of the major economic

organizations.  Opaque to the public eye, inaccessible to articulations

of the volonté générale, they are  not only

authoritarian, but totalitarian. That they fit into what has been

referred to as "neo-fascism" above is obvious. It does not help that

governmental delegations may pretend to be accountable to national

assemblies at home.  The system does not work the democratic way at the

national level either, domestically by the logic of state more than

capital divinity.

                      This system of self-proclaimed "globalization" is too absurd to stand

the test of time.  In a Sarkar cycle with power running

Military-Intellectuals-Merchants-People-Military we are now in

the Age of the Merchant. The Age of the Military was the Second world

war-Cold War and of the Intellectuals the 1970s till Thatcher-Reagan

identified a merchant wave on which they could ride. Widespread revolts

point to an Age of the People, of types the two iron fists cannot

handle, soon dwarfing the November 30 and April 15 demonstrations

against WTO and World Bank/IMF. Nonviolently.

                      But state reactions to such struggles may also easily be highly

autocratic military state- centered regimes ushering in a new Sarkar

cycle.  Revolts against autocracy do not necessarily lead to democracy;

they could also lead to a different autocracy.


                      What we have seen so far can certainly be referred to as globalization

from above; economically, militarily, politically, and also culturally. 

The culture of the West, and particularly

of the USA is found all over.  The flow of counter-culture from below is

minuscule, and mainly limited to music and food.  With that extreme

top-heaviness small wonder there are reactions, however misguided they

may be in the details.  Almost all meetings of the World Bank/IMF/WHO

have been accompanied by demonstrations, in some of them violence has

evidently gotten out of hands.

                      But that demonstration violence is so triflish relative to decisions by

a small number of non-elected government officials! For such monumental

decisions affecting so many, more direct links to the world's population

are needed. As mentioned, the UN, not the Washington-based caricatures,

have managed this much better.  The three should learn, like the World

Economic Forum, Davos may be learning something from the World Social

Forum, Porto Alegre.

                      In a world (UNDP) where 358 billionaires have more assets than half of

humanity, the metaphor "market" as something all-embracing is

ridiculous.  The billionaires (and others) are not

only buying and selling.  They also decide products and factor profiles,

changing the life of billions of people (like downsizing through

automation). They are no only operating in the market, they have power

over the parameters of the market.

                      Globalization means global sharing of the positive and negative

externalities, side-effects, of economic growth. Not only the wealth

generated but also the side-effects are very unevenly

distributed, with most positive side-effects landing high up and the

negative side-effects low down. At the feet of the poor. The "science"

of economics is blind to side-effects.  Unintended?


                      With increasing disappearance of national markets, and more

importantly, local markets; with increasing world-wide disparity and

above all increasing displacement of people as ecological, economic,

political, military and cultural refugees (1 billion on the move by the

year 2030?) with hardened borders around rich countries and security

villages for rich people this will all become increasingly visible .

With the mobility (out-placing) of entire companies in search of cheap

labor, and lower or negative taxes (incentives), state and local

revenues will decrease in many countries. Privatization takes this even

further, depriving the state of revenue-creating companies.

Ever-increasing productivity leads to downsizing (unemployment) or

reduction of working hours (contract). If 1.7 billion earn less than $1

per day and 3 billion less than $2 we get

oversupply-overproduction relative to demand-consumption (80 million

cars chasing 60 million buyers). Ever-increasing top-bottom disparity

then leads to more short-term portfolio investment in search of profit

on the top, and more basic needs in search of satisfaction at the

bottom, in turn leading to underconsumption for basic needs, misery. 

And death.    

The IMF functions like physicians with only one medicine: increase

company autonomy, of the state (privatization, lower taxes,

devaluation), of the workers (labor flexibility, contract work), of

the country (repatriation of profit), of the public (no subsidies for

basic needs, no taxes on luxury products). Credit is made available to

such unscrupulous companies, leading to more disparity, misery, free

speculation capital and dependence. The net result is not a "war on

poverty", but a war on poor people. The problem to be explained in this

sad picture is not that people demonstrate, but that the reactions are

not even stronger.  Still.


                      As a result of this the crises become self-sustaining.  The system

will move from one crisis to the other, showing up where the system is

weakest, with attention to symptom therapy: preventing crashes on the

stock exchanges by building in delays to prevent panics, by bailing out

foreign firms.  A major crash, with recession and even depression is

indeed highly likely.

                      So much for globalization from above; except for a personal remark

from this particular author.  I love it, from a purely egocentric

cost-benefit point of view.  I move like a strong fish in

globalized waters without any borders.  I am globalized and also

privatized and do my thing, mediation, education, training and research

for peace and development accountable to nobody but

to the users of my skills. But I know that billions are not that

privileged.  And I find the smithian idea, the basis of neo-liberal

economics, that one zillion egoisms adds up to altruism, one of the

most poisonous lies ever invented by the human mind.  In the name of

solidarity with humans all over I extend my cost-benefit analysis to

humankind, and the disaster becomes visible.

                      What, then, would globalization from below look like?

                      The 1990s saw the demise of the Soviet style economic system. Localized

traditional systems with production and consumption within the

perimeters of the horizon, contradicting the material and mental

mobility of the transportation/communication revolution were also badly

hit. But maybe historians will argue that this was also the beginning of

the end of globalized capitalism?  Anyone who can tolerate its

consequences without feeling revolt in the heart may be

accused of having none.  The capitalist system contradicts the basic

material needs of the most needy like the Soviet system the spiritual

needs for freedom and for identity.


                      Massive failures call for massive innovation, and massive conflicts

call for massive remedies.  Here are some crucial possibilities to be

included in a globalization from below:

                      The reinvention of local authorities: a major task of a local authority

would be to coordinate production for basic needs on a local basis (or

in a confederation of LAs), to see to it that they are met, internalize

externalities (side-effects), and reduce pollution due to transportation

and other factors, all of this accountable to local democracy;

                      The reinvention of the state: a major task of the state is to

coordinate the production of normal goods on a state basis (or in a

confederation of states), to internalize externalities, to

reduce pollution and to be a redistributive agent.  But this has to be

accessible to all, with good quality at affordable prices,

efficient/effective, and accountable to national democracy;

                      The reinvention of the company: companies have to assume ecological and

social responsibility, and be rewarded and punished accordingly by their

customers.  This presupposes accurate information about all major

companies to know which companies to punish through boycott.  And which

companies to prefer, probably not because the side-effects of the

production, distribution and consumption of their goods and services are

perfect, but because they are better than the average.  In imperfect


                      Nobody will force anyone not to buy from blacklisted companies.  Market

behavior should be free.  But freedom will have to based on relevant

information.  Nobody in a democratic information society can possibly

want to withhold information relevant for informed opinion about

anything so important as buying and selling. Company-customer dialogues

are badly needed.


                      The idea, cherished by mainstream economists, that the only relevant

information is quality to you as an individual, and the price, also to

you as an individual, is sickening in its egocentric limitation.  Other

types of economists are needed.

                      The reinvention of civil society: consumer consciousness must lead to

collection of data as a basis for the organized preference for, and

organized boycott of, companies, as argued above. This means more power

to the LAs over the country's finances, a ecentralization, devolution

downwards with the LAs deciding over, say, at least 50% of public

budgets.  They know better where the shoes (plural) are pinching.  But

the may also engage in localist "municipocentrism" -

so don't given them 100%!  And strong NGOs, among them the political

parties, must be there to supervise the resource allocation from a basic

needs angle.

                      But these are mainly tasks in the field of economics.  Then there is

the political task of exercising political pressure on the national

governments, from below - and of relating to other NGOs in other

countries--like the LAs which also will have to internationalize and

cooperate--in order to gradually eliminate inter-governmental

organizations like the three suspects above.

                      But they should aim higher than a life as pressure groups and lobbies. 

The global civil society, LA-rooted, NGO-rooted, is already today in a

position to take matters in their own hand rather than waiting for slow,

lazy, semi-conscious governments. The general experience is that where

the civil society leads the way after thorough work and negotiation,

governments will sooner or later follow, if for no other reason not to

be left behind. Recent examples--land mine, debt forgiveness and

international criminal court treaties--are numerous and compelling.

                      The reinvention of the media: liberating the media from corporate and

state interests, and direct and indirect censorship. The national and

world civil societies would be better at running

decent media being closer to real people and their real needs, not only

"life-styles".  Media should make State, Capital and Civil Society, and

the elites and people in all three transparent to each

other.  All of this at the local, national and global levels. A tall

bill indeed. A fine challenge for journalists to take on!

                      The invention of global governance would include massive taxation of

speculation, and basic needs guarantees for humankind as global human

rights for global citizens.  Two ideas dear to the "globalization from

above"-discourse, "globalization" itself, and "democracy", combine into

global democracy: more than the sum of countries calling themselves

democracies regardless of disrespect for people outside their own

borders (and often inside, too).

                      To get there takes some time. But the image will as usual precede

reality: a United Nations immensely strengthened by having a UN Peoples

Assembly in addition to, and gradually over and above the General

Assembly, of course with that feudal institution of veto power for big

powers abolished.  Democracy is such a good idea that it is worth

practicing, at all levels!  So, do it!

                      Like in the European Union and the Indian Union (the Soviet Union might

even have survived had they added democracy). And with dialogues between

companies and consumers practicing the power of "to buy or not to buy". 

And with media living up to these tasks.

                      The civil society will have to be the driving force. European and Asian

governments meeting behind closed doors and driven by corporate

interests will not do it.  People will have to lead the way for anything

basic.  They always did.  They will do so again.

                      But let me add to this some non-economic themes.

                      The European Union, particularly in its early phase as a six states

European Community, and ASEAN, have a very positive achievement to their

credit:  peace among the member countries.  A very troubled part of the

world, the Middle East, could learn from this.  Five neighbors

accommodated Germany after 1945 as a member of a family; how about

Syria-Lebanon-(fully recognized) Palestine-Jordan-Egypt doing the same

to a peaceful Israel?  EU and ASEAN have important experience to share. 

Material support in building a Middle East Community(MEC) would also be


                      Europe-Asia stretches from the Atlantic way into the Pacific.  Soon

there will be a train running, from Japan, then on a ferry to Pusan in

South Korea, then across the terrible divide

splitting the Korean nation caused by Japanese colonialism and

superpower, mainly US dictate, and through the vastness of Russia into

any part of Western Europe. There will also be a southern link through

South and West Asia.  Make it a peace train with thousands of youth

traveling at affordable fares, weaving the world together.

                      And let us overcome the colonial pattern of taking it for granted that

Asian youth has to learn European languages and not vice versa. That

train could also be a rolling language laboratory. Let command not only

of a foreign language, but of a language from another

continent, become a sign of culture!

                      Human rights: Europeans see them as individual, in a cultural tradition

Europeans think is universal; Asians add such collective rights as the

right of villages not to be swallowed by expanding cities, of

traditional crafts not to be killed by "modernization" and of extended

families to be juridical persons.  Fascinating themes, as key topics in

an evolving dialogue of civilizations.


1)Moderates All Over The World, Unite!

2) “Another World Is Possible”, But Only If We Act Together!


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