what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The perversities of modern power

Over the past year or so, I have been coming back to some questions I first posed a decade ago – namely how people of my age (disgusted as we are by the behaviour of our corporate and political elites) might best focus our energies and resources to help nudge the systems of which we are part to a more hopeful future - and who were the people we could support in that venture . 
My initial - if rather tentative - answers were contained in a 30 page paper Draft Guide for the Perplexed. (The link gives the pdf file of the Guide which, unfortunately, doesn't allow the access to the links in the body of the text (the footnote links are OK), You can find a word version linked at the end of the post Draft Guide for the Perplexed – its about 20 titles up from the end of the list which that website link gives)
Breaking Out from an Insane World was one important recent post in that series.
The last post in the series had a summary of my recent reflections about the subject which I’ve now amended to read -
  • The “mixed economy” which existed from 1950-1990 was a healthy and effective system for us in the West (The UK, as always, is an exception)  
  • It worked because power was diffused. Each type of power – economic (companies/banks etc), political (citizens and workers) and legal/admin/military (the state) – balanced the other. None was dominant.
  • Economic globalisation has, however, now undermined the power which working class people were able to exercise in that period through  votes and unions
  • Privatisation is a disaster – inflicting costs on the public and transferring wealth to the few
  • Neo-liberalism has supplied a thought system which justifies corporate greed and the privileging       (through tax breaks and favourable legislation) of the large international company
  • All political parties and most media have been captured by that thought system which now rules the world
  • People have, as a result, become cynical and apathetic
  • Two elements of the “balanced system” (Political and legal power) are therefore now supine before the third (corporate and media power). The balance is broken and the dominant power ruthless in its exploitation of its new freedom
  • It is very difficult to see a “countervailing power” which would make these corporate elites pull back from the disasters they are inflicting on us
  • Social protest is marginalised
  • Not least by the combination of the media and an Orwellian “security state” ready to act against “dissidence”
  • But the beliefs which lie at the dark heart of the neo-liberal project do need more detailed exposure
  • as well as its continued efforts to undermine what little is left of state power
  • We need to be willing to express more vehemently the arguments against privatisation - existing and proposed)
  • to feel less ashamed about arguing for “the commons” and for things like cooperatives and social enterprise (inasmuch as such endeavours are allowed)
But how do we go about re-establishing some sort of balance of power?

How can social forces be strengthened; and political and state systems of power reformed - so that the wings of corporate power can be properly clipped??

I’ve been encouraged to return to this theme by the summary of and papers from this very recent Conference on the Restructuring of the Corporation 

The papers are certainly fascinating – but suggest (with the exception of Henry Mintzberg) that change will come from within the system. Most people involved in these arguments about social and economic change focus on one or other of the three parts – political, legal or commercial ie stronger, more focussed protest; or different voting systems; or more social enterprise; or more corporate social responsibility; or stronger legislation against lobbying for example. Few so far seem to see Mintzberg’s point that we need a mixed cocktail!  

The illustration is a woodcut by the marvellous Hans Masserel

No comments:

Post a Comment