www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> draft article on WTO
dteh on 12 Sep 2000 04:32:16 -0000


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> draft article on WTO


i must voice my hearty agreement with the views 
expressed by m. robbins.

the current misguided attack on corporate globalisation 
certainly seems to me to stem from a monumental mis-
characterisation of the 'corporation' itself.  as you 
say, there is certainly an overwhelming tendency 
amongst (particularly, and most disturbingly, the 
young) leftists to treat the face of corporate 
capitalism like a Human Face, that should wince at 
their many taunts, and that masks an ultimately human 
conscience.  this is the greatest failure, thus far, of 
the recent movements against 'Globalisation and 
Corporate Tyranny' - a thoughtless attribution of 
humanity to instruments of capital that are not only 
purely inhuman, but are obviously and explicitly so.  
this unthinking anthropomorphic approach is 
characterised by the common claim that it is "People 
that are working for these corporations at the end of 
the day".  this is true but immaterial. 

('people' also work for military organisations.  many 
go insane in the process, doing things they don't 
necessarily 'believe in', but it's an objection that 
can be subjugated to their need for 
survival/pay/acceptance/identity/whatever.)

corporations will simply never behave like humans, in 
the interests of humankind, or on the basis of human 
values.  from their very inception, they are created 
with the specific goal of defying/manipulating these 
values for profit.  

people arguing against corporatisation do not seem to 
understand the very nature of the corporate veil, which 
is cast over every such company at its creation and 
ensures, in practice and in law, that although the 
company enjoys the peculiar advantage of legal person-
hood (explicitly distinct and separate from any other 
(real) people's identities), it is furthermore granted 
the latitude to pursue its rights as though it were a 
person, at the expense of other 'persons', ALL without 
the set of moral and 'human' obligations attendant upon 
human beings at law. 

many legal countermeasures, particularly in the modern 
field of 'Equity' have set out to temper this weird 
machinic/economic franchise; but it's not much use when 
the constitutional foundations ensure its survival in 
all key jurisdictions.  this very imbalance is the core 
of the domination of society by 'faceless' corporations 
we seem intent on pinning faces to.  a waste of time 
and effort.

this personification problem also extends to group 
identities; take a simple example.  at recent anti-
corporatisation rallies here in Sydney, a crowd of 
protestors marched on the CBD's towers of capitalist 
inequality in order to disrupt the operations of some 
of the BigBadCorporations.  But the banner under which 
they marched, which is really the residual 
or 'catchment' platform of much of today's activism (at 
least in the 'West') was 'Stop Corporate Tyranny'/'Anti-
GLobalisation'.  In the best cases, this action 
involved making a scene on the steps of some 
skyscraper, and thus momentarily dragging the name and 
logo of some BigBaddie through the teflon-based mud of 
the Murdoch/Packer press.

but at worst, this was a poorly conceived general 
complaint leveled at the oft-invoked "Captains of 
Industry", as a group.  To expose and embarrass a 
corporation for its nefarious practices, even to the 
short-memoried media-sphere, is one thing; to call for 
the Death of all Corporations is another all together.

the problem with this, as i see it, is that 
corporations simply don't ASSOCIATE.  there is 
no 'body' that winces when you scream for the death of 
corporations.  scream !down with the Evil North Ltd! 
and North Ltd hurts momentarily.  scream !down with 
Evil Corporations! and nobody gives a shit. because 
nobody's listening.  insofar as these corporations do 
identify AS corporations, they do not identify with 
OTHER corporations, or with corporations GENERALLY.  
that sort of group identity is what humans do, not 
legal-economic instruments. and nor is the Business 
Council of Australia, which does bring together most of 
these BigBaddies, listening - simply because it 
represents their interests as employers and traders, 
not as politicians.  what's more, it has a full-time 
staff of LESS THAN FIVE actual people.

so the cries of this rally disappear like so much 
nostalgic, down-with-the-system, pseudo-anarchistic 
fluff into the background counter-cultural static - 
this is merely an aesthetic appeal now, not a political 
one.  none of which is intended to discount the value 
of symbolic protest; but it must be recognised that 
this is all it is.  

it is fundamentally important to understand now, (but 
is almost never understood here), that the current 
activist-m.o. is a pasty hangover of a 30 year-old 
model of dissent than ultimately dissolved from staring 
at its own reflection for too long.  attempts to revive 
the street-activism model of 1968 will fail as long as 
the movements are united by targetting the ethereal 
specter that is corporatisation/globalisation.

david teh
dteh {AT} arthist.usyd.edu.au





-----------------------------------------------------
This mail sent through the ArtsIT web email interface.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net