Despite causing the worst financial crisis in decades, the financial sector emerged even stronger. TNI's eighth flagship State of Power report examines through essays and infographics the varied dimensions and dynamics of financial power, and how popular movements might regain control over money and finance.
Popular movements everywhere are on the rise at the same time as we face ever-greater corporate impunity and increasing state violence. In TNI's seventh flagship State of Power report, we examine today's social movements, their potential to build counter-power, and how we can best resist injustice as well as lay grounds for long-term transformation.
This sixth annual State of Power report examines the cultural processes that are used by corporations, military and privileged elites to make their power seem 'natural' and 'irreversible'. It also explores how social movements can harness creativity, art and cultural forces to resist and to build lasting social and ecological transformation.
The UN Charter begins with “We the peoples” and affirms the “equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”. Today the defense of those principles, though never robust, seems weaker than ever. The camel of private interests, having made itself at home in the tents of domestic political life, has today pushed its nose and much more into the rickety tents of international governance. Helping it has been a shrewd camel-trader, a broker of corporate ideas and networks, the World Economic Forum (WEF). Its annual invitation-only gatherings in Davos, Switzerland, have given rise to the half-mocking term “Davos Man”. That archetype represents a global elite who “have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations.”
How much change in the existing patterns of geo-political and geo-economic relations will the rise of the global South countries bring? And just how should this ‘rise up’ be measured? Furthermore, does the selective rise of some countries mean that the weight and power of the South as a whole will rise up?
Our inability to grapple with and adapt to our current ecological crisis has its roots in the world’s social and economic systems that concentrate power and authority in the hands of a few. We currently live in the “Corpocene Epoch,” due to the disproportionate role certain arthropods — directors of large corporations and Wall Street banks — play in the ecological transformations under way. Financial institutions, corporate powers and complicit governments have formed a “fateful triangle” accelerating the effects of climate change and preventing mitigation and adaptation strategies that could plug the gap between our volatile present and future planetary stability.
The convergence of corporate, financial, intellectual, political and ideological elites interconnected through board memberships of companies, banks, policy groups, think tanks, foundations, advisory groups and forums has led to what billionaire Warren Buffet referred to as a ‘class war” in which “my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” In the European Union, it is their choices that are largely reflected in the merciless austerity measures spreading poverty and unemployment as healthcare, education, social services, welfare and social housing are dismantled; as resources and assets are privatized, workers fired, pensions and social security are cut, workers have their rights and benefits dismantled, and the population is pushed into desperation. It is why the struggle for a different Europe must start first with tackling and undermining the power of those waging this war.
In recent years Africa has experienced waves of new investment, particularly in mining, energy and agriculture, and has seen elevated commodity exports. These flows are tantamount to a new scramble, creating wealth for foreign direct investors, some local entrepreneurs and a growing comprador class. Resources are typically exploited without raising the living standards of the people and at significant environmental cost. On the ground this has engendered significant resistance. The new scramble is a modification of traditional imperialist relationships which Africa experienced with former occupying colonial powers. But how do we understand the differences between the old and new scrambles? Who ultimately holds the power?
"[E]ven if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer..."
Illegitimate authority is on the rise and democracy is gradually succumbing to the disease of neoliberal ideology. More and more functions of legitimate government are being assumed by illegitimate, unelected, opaque agents and organisations. Illegitimate, corporate rule now occupies greater and greater space at every level of government including the international sphere, which is gravely damaging democracy and that has an impact on our countries and our lives.
When the New York Times dubbed the global anti-war protesters of February 15, 2003, “the second super-power,” it challenged the decade-plus view of undisputed U.S. global reach that followed the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The surging protests that brought 12–14 million people in 665 cities around the world were not enough to stop the U.S.-British wars against Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. But in the decade since that extraordinary mobilisation, the U.S. empire’s reach is showing the effects of rising people’s movements, increasing multi-polarity in the world of nations and governments, declining influence in all international spheres other than military, stubbornly lasting economic crisis, and an extraordinary loss of legitimacy both at home and abroad.
There is mounting evidence that neoliberal policies are losing legitimacy. The translation of such disaffection into positive commitment to an alternative, however, requires deeper disengagement from the dominant order and practical participation in creating alternatives. A social order built on escaping the pressures of democracy while at the same time depending on the capacities of many desiring democracy is unlikely to be stable. Thus the opaque and indirect forms of power typical of neoliberal rule are simultaneously sources of vulnerability and dependence, and breeding grounds for the power to subvert and transform.
The State is Dead! Long live the State! At the turn of the century, many commentators from the right and left seemed united in their analysis that the state as an economic player was dead or at least no longer relevant. The combined pressures of globalisation, liberalisation and marketisation unleashed by the market-driven dogmas of Thatcherism and Reaganomics had massively expanded the private sector and concurrently downsized the public sector. Corporate power was in the ascendancy and many state-owned companies had become little more than second-rate government departments, and the underlying assumption was that, as the economy evolved, the government would close or sell them to private investors.
Who gets how much and what kinds of land, how, and for what purposes? These are the basic questions around the politics of land. The question of land politics has been resurrected in a big way recently, worldwide, and in ways significantly different from the past.