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ajnabi ([personal profile] ajnabi) wrote2010-04-26 11:57 pm

Philosophy of Civilizations: assignment 5 [blahly written]

Response to When Corporations Rule the World, by David C. Korten

In this book, David Korten exposes the exploitative nature of corporate colonialism. He elaborates on the visions, policies and practices of corporate giants and institutions that "regulate" them, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). He talks about how the vision of this contemporary brand of capitalism, economic globalization, exploits those nations, societies and peoples who are disadvantaged in terms of historical systemic power.

Korten offers the idea of a people-centered development politics in lieu of corporate colonialist capitalism. He defines the people-centered vision as aiming to pursue "policies that create opportunities for people who are experiencing deprivation to produce the things that they need to have a better life" (165). Although his analysis of the oppression so insidiously inherent in the corporate/economic globalist vision is important and useful, this solution (people-centered economics) may not really change the system of capitalism that gives rise to current corporate economics.

It is perhaps more problematic that Korten lists countries such as Japan, (South) Korea and Taiwan as more or less successfully carrying out people-centered development policies. These countries are often listed as economic "successes" in several respects, but their successes are measured in terms of how much they are able to assimilate into the first-world (western, capitalist, privileged bloc of nations).

I would prefer to see Korten recognize the links between the development of liberal democracy, imperialism and capitalism, and how these processes have given rise to corporate hegemony. He does recognize the links between corporate hegemony and colonialism, but does not seem to fully grasp the manner in which liberalism allows for the perhaps more directly assaultive consumerist, corporate culture to exist, or how, similarly, liberalism and its ensuing notions (and impositions) of the model of the nation-state and democracy reinforces and creates imperialism.

Korten does seem to be trying to find a "practical" way to help less privileged (third world, non-western) countries "progress," hopefully more on their terms than on the first-world terms. However, oppressive power dynamics are perpetuated by the rat-race to accumulate more power. So long as the ideas of progress and development, in themselves such exploitative ways of seeing human life, continue to be upheld, I am not sure that global economics can function any way other than oppressively. Of course, the underprivileged (whether cultures, communities, individuals, etc) are justified in wresting power away from the privileged. However, any move on the part of the privileged to "help" the underprivileged "progress" will only be a continued exercise in privilege. It seems like Korten could very easily fall into this trap.

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