cj#728.2> I.A. Globalization as a world system


Richard Moore

I hope you find this article of interest.  It is the first in a series
which will flesh out the previously published outline, although the outline
itself will evolve in the process (see below).  Feedback, rebuttal, style
suggestions, and additional points would be most welcome.  Where you see
[?] there is a statement I'm shaky about and I'm seeking evidence one way
or the other.  I'm including wsn on this first mailing on an experimental
basis, to see how it's received there, and because there are specific
question asked of the wsn audience.


                Globalization and the New World Order
                    -- democracy at a crossroads

I.  Introduction
        A.  Globalization as a world system
        B.  Introduction of threads to be developed in book
        C.  Positioning of this material in context of other available works
            and perspectives
        D.  Statement of scope

[3179 words]

I.A. Globalization as a world system

        system: n. 1. A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent
        elements forming a complete whole. ... 5. A social, economic, or
        political organizational form.
                American Heritage Dictionary, 1985 edition

        anarchic system: A system without a system-wide centralized control

        globalization: the process whose foundations were laid in the years
        following AD 1945, which became an overt political agenda following
        1980, and which is aimed at creating a new world order based on the
        hegemony of corporate interests.
                rkm's own dictionary, 1997

>>From the perspective of modern ecology the world has always been organized
into various global-scale systems.  Water, for example, participates in a
global transport system: it evaporates from the sea, travels long distances
as vapor, condenses back to the earth, and eventually returns to the sea --
perhaps on the other side of the globe.

Even primitive human societies can be seen as parts of a global social
system -- but a very loose system indeed, characterized mainly by the high
degree of independence of the various parts.  It is more useful to restrict
our study of human-created systems to ones that are more closely bound,
where the parts are _significantly_ effected by their role in the larger

>>From this more practical perspective "world human-created systems" (of the
economic, political, or social variety) are relatively recent, certainly
not existing prior to AD 1492.  Up until that time the largest systems were
regional -- as with the Roman, Chinese, or Aztec Empires -- and
interactions among the various regions were negligible from a system
perspective, excepting only minor perturbations caused by trade and warfare
between neighboring societies.

After 1492, when Columbus demonstrated (with entrepreneurial intent) that
sea travel need respect no boundaries other than the globally connected
oceans, societies for the first time began to plan and act on a scale that
could be called global.  European powers competed to exploit this new-found
global mobility, setting up trading and colonial networks that became the
first examples of human-engineered systems on a world scale.

With the help of this far-flung trading network, together with
industrialization, precious metals taken from the New World -- and an
aggressive imperialist attitude -- European powers eventually achieved a
globally dominant position.  Their world-system became _the_ world-system,
and it is thus the structures developed during the Euro-expansionist period
that form the foundation for modern globalization.  This period lasted from
1492 to 1945.

The Euro world system was an anarchic system of sovereign nation states:
there was no central global authority and very little in the way of
reliable international law -- especially when "national interests" were
deemed to be at stake.  Some states had their sovereignty taken away due to
imperial domination, but this was part of the constantly shifting anarchic
competitive game.

The leading Euro nations (later including the USA) competed with one
another not so much through warfare among themselves (although such did
occur), but more through the expansion of their empires.  Indeed most
European wars [?] can be characterized as "empire expansion by other means"
-- "court battles" as it were.  Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, for
example, all began and ended the era as independent realms [?] --
intra-European conquest just wasn't the name of the Euro-expansionist game.

This 500-year old world-system dynamic changed abruptly in 1945, with the
end of World War II and the emergence of the USA in a dramatically dominant
global position -- militarily, industrially, economically, and

It may be difficult today to appreciate the full extent of Uncle Sam's
global hegemony in the immediate postwar years.  With all other first-rank
economies and infrastructures decimated, with the U.S. military and
industrial base fully intact, with a nuclear monopoly, a fantastic
financial bottom line, unchallenged mastery of all oceans, and worldwide
admiration as the heroic champion of democracy -- the USA was in a
position, if motivated, to decisively influence the structure of the
post-war world system.

The U.S. _was_ so motivated, and with Uncle Sam as lead architect the world
has subsequently been experiencing a rapid and profound sequence of
world-system changes -- changes which this author has not seen adequately
understood and articulated in their full dimensionality.  This book will
endeavor to fill that gap.

The U.S. _could_ have carried on with the old world system by using its
dominant position to set up a powerful empire of its own -- establishing
subservient governments, grabbing the spots with the most strategically
valuable resources, and granting special privileges to U.S.-based operators
to exploit the various trading and investment opportunities.  Thus the
leader-of-the-pack mantle so long held by Britain would have passed to
Uncle Sam, and the old system wheels would have kept turning.  In such a
scenario the U.S. would have had the problem of maintaining global
stability in the face of jealous rivals.

Such wasn't Uncle Sam's chosen path.  Instead the U.S. launched a coherent
array of world-system architectural programs -- programs which have have
been carried through successfully, and which have led inexorably toward the
current penultimate historical stage, just prior to full globalization.

The first program in this array was the division of the world into three
distinct partitions: the socialist (demarcated by the "Iron Curtain"), the
core (Western Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan [?]) and
the periphery (ie, the Third World). [wsn readers: exactly how should I
attribute the core-periphery terminology?  And need I apologize for my
usage/ interpretation?]

The second program was the recruitment of the rest of the designated core
members to collaborate in the construction of this tripartite world system,
under the de facto leadership of Uncle Sam.  This was accomplished by
perseverance in leadership, generosity with recovery aid, the sharing of
the spoils in the new system -- and to no small degree by relief that the
U.S. was not demanding more for itself [evidence of such sentiment?].  The
U.S. has skillfully managed to retain and even strengthen its position as
de facto core leader, and U.S. and NATO military forces today increasingly
operate as a combined globally hegemonous force, with the U.S. having the
decisive voice in all strategic and most tactical decisions.

The third postwar program was the systematic "containment" of the socialist
partition, accompanied by an ongoing low-intensity war of attrition --
involving economic warfare, an expensive arms race, brushfire wars, and
covert destabilization programs [examples?].  The Soviet Union was
maneuvered into taking a great-power seat at the geopolitical poker game,
but lacked the chips to avoid eventual bankruptcy.  The endgame in the case
of China is still unclear (See chapter four), but apart from China there is
no longer any near-term geopolitical threat (by any combination of other
powers) to the dominance of the core powers in today's world system.

The fourth program was the creation of the "Free World" system: a world
system (minus the socialist camp) in which traditional competitive Euro
imperialism was replaced by collaborative core-group imperialism, and in
which prototype- versions of centralized control mechanisms were introduced
for the first time in a world-scale system.

European empires were dismantled so that the periphery could serve as a
non-partitioned investment realm for core-enriching capital development.
This dismantlement was heralded in the Western media with glowing rhetoric,
as a flowering of newly liberated democracies -- but the reality was the
continuation of imperial domination, albeit under a less well-defined
regime, and repressive and compliant governments were commonly installed
(starting with Greece [?] in 194x [?]) when deemed necessary to maintain
nations in their assigned system roles.  Interventionism by core powers had
became "pro bono system maintenance" instead of "jockeying for position".

The core-periphery system (the "Free World"), from its very beginning,
could not be characterized as an anarchic system.  The UN was certainly not
a world control center, and the U.S. did not have absolute control, but by
various means, and under an umbrella of continued U.S. military and
economic dominance, the functioning of the system exhibited a coherence and
collaborative harmony that can only be described as "centrally controlled".

The core-periphery system could with justice be thought of as _the_ world
system in the postwar period.  The "contained" socialist partition could be
fairly characterized as a "foreign infection" in the world system, against
which antibodies were continually in operation, and with which interaction
was intentionally minimized while the infection was being cured.  In fact
the antibodies turned out to accomplish their task, and the core-periphery
system has achieved overall global dominance.

The means of coherent centralized management include: determined and
surprisingly competent U.S. leadership, absence of significant leadership
challenges from other core powers (excepting perhaps only De Gaulle), the
ongoing benefits enjoyed by core powers from the operation of the system,
and the U.S.-dominated functioning of international institutions such as
the World Bank, the IMF, and the UN.

>>From a traditional geopolitical perspective this thumbnail world-system
overview is now complete up to about 1980.  But a geopolitical perspective
alone is woefully inadequate -- even when further elaborated -- to fully
explain the nature of today's world system, and it fails even more in
explaining the meaning of globalization.

To understand what globalization is about, and to understand more
accurately the inner functioning of the core-periphery system, we need to
examine the postwar rise of megacorps (a term I prefer to transnational
corporation or TNC).  The non-partitioned periphery, open as it was to
at-large core exploitation, became the breeding ground for megacorps.
Instead of corporations focusing their operations in their home-nation's
sphere of influence -- the more or less pre-1945 model -- the wide world
(for the first time in history) became the natural scope of corporate

This larger, consolidated economic playing field naturally led to the
development of larger corporations.  In addition, now that economic
operations where no longer partitioned, the possibility was opened for
mergers and shakeouts among corporations that were formerly, to a large
extent, protected from one another's encroachments.  Such shakeouts have
indeed occurred, and world commerce, in each market segment, is now
dominated by a handful of megacorps whose home-nations are distributed
somewhat unevenly among primarily the core states.  The classic
seven-sisters global petroleum oligarchy -- far ahead of its time -- has
gradually become the paradigm of the global economy in the period since

This system has led to a momentous allegiance shift on the part of these
large corporations.  Prior to 1945, most corporations -- even with
extensive foreign operations -- identified rather closely with their
respective home nations: their home nations needed to be strong and
healthy, because it was national power and influence that maintained the
spheres of influence, brokered the international alliances, and thereby
provided the investment opportunities.

But in the postwar core-collaborative system, this dependency link between
megacorps and their "home" nations was broken.  As long as the stability of
the overall world system was not in danger, the national strength and
prosperity of the individual home nation was no longer of primary concern
to the typical megacorp.  Thus -- from the perspective of board-room
strategy -- the allegiance of the typical megacorp became global: megacorps
became citizens of the world; they outgrew their home town countries of
origin; their focus was now on global opportunities, not the fate of their
alma maters; the very concept of "home nation" was becoming antiquated; to
megacorps, all flags became flags of convenience.

The overview is now complete, in primary essentials, up to 1980.  Prior to
1980, globalization referred to the gradual evolutionary process by which
global commerce was concentrating in the hands of megacorps operators,
integrated global infrastructures were evolving, and economics was
increasingly perceived as a single global system.

In 1980, a sea change occurred in the leadership rhetoric of the U.S., with
Ronald Reagan acting as standard bearer for the launch of what has become
known as the neoliberal revolution.  With the UK acting as co-sponsor of
the initiative, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher and the counsel
of Milton Friedman, an agenda of free trade, privatization, deregulation,
and reduced corporate taxes was heavily promoted internationally and
rapidly became the dominant political paradigm among core nations and much
of the periphery as well.

Neither the motivation nor the consequences of this revolution can be
understood in terms of traditional geopolitics.  Only by taking into
account the increasing power of megacorps, and their fundamental shift of
allegiance from singular nation states to the centrally managed world
system, does the meaning of the neoliberal revolution begin to fall into
clear perspective.

To clarify this perspective further, it helps to examine what neoliberal
"free trade" is really about, as embodied in such agreements as GATT and
NAFTA.  These agreements do not themselves lay down comprehensive rules for
international trade -- rather they establish supra-national bureaucracies
which are empowered to do the actual rule setting on an ongoing basis.
These bureaucracies, as well as the IMF and World Bank, are dominated by
representatives of the megacorp community.  Thus economic sovereignty is
being systematically transferred from nation states -- both core and
periphery -- to the megacorp community.

_Privatization_ transfers control and ownership of national infrastructures
from public to corporate hands in the short term, and provides corporate
profit opportunities for the long term.  _Deregulation_ amounts to a
"certificate of independence" for corporations, granting them -- to varying
degrees -- autonomy from interference by nation states.  _Reduced corporate
taxes_ represents a direct transfer of wealth from nations to corporations,
as well as causing the disempowerment of nations through drastically
shrunken budgets and in some cases bankruptcy.

Thus the neoliberal revolution has amounted to a significant transfer of
assets, power, and sovereignty from their centuries old home in nation
states to supra-national, megacorp-aligned bureaucracies.  The centralized
world-system, given geopolitical substance by the U.S.-led core alliance,
backed up by the potent U.S.-NATO military force, was by neoliberalism
given administrative substance as well, under the control not of core
nations, but of the megacorp community.

Megacorps evolved and grew to prominence in the 1945-1980 postwar
non-partitioned world system (minus the socialist camp), developed an
allegiance to the world system as a whole, and in 1980 entered collectively
into a competition with nation states for control of the reins of power of
the world system.  This competition was not a matter of confrontation, but
of infiltration and subversion.  With the help of propaganda from the
corporate-dominated mass-media industry, and the funding of
state-of-the-art political campaigns, the leadership of the core states
became dominated by corporate-serving politicians, and the neoliberal
revolution was thereby accomplished.

It should be pointed out that this pro-corporate core-state political
leadership also insures that the agenda of the U.S.-NATO geopolitical
machinery remains in harmony with corporate objectives.

So far in this overview, an effort has been made to present arguments,
albeit sketchy, for most of the observations offered: the attempt has been
made to present a complete if skeletal thesis, to be fleshed out by later
chapters.  The remaining paragraphs project forward the trajectory of
globalization according to the analysis to be developed in the book, and a
further attempt to offer supporting argumentation is simply beyond the
scope of this chapter.  The conclusions will nonetheless be presented so as
to complete the story of world-system evolution, as seen from this
observers perspective.

To sum up the post-neoliberal world system-structure: there is a
megacorp-dominated bureaucracy which is rapidly developing into the role of
legislative and executive branch of a centralized world government.  In
addition, there is a globally hegemonous military force -- U.S.-NATO --
which is also dominated indirectly but no less surely by megacorp
interests, which has the assigned role of preserving the stability of the
megacorp-dominated world system, and solving, if necessary, the "China

Globalization, in the post-1980 context, is the consolidation and extension
of this restructuring process -- leading  to a world system where formal
sovereignty is vested officially in a centralized megacorp-appointed
bureaucracy, and nation states, with minimal power and resources, are left
to deal somehow with an increasingly dissatisfied and disempowered
citizenry -- perhaps by trying to maintain the fiction of democratic
sovereignty.  Devolution will be encouraged, as it reduces states to a more
easily managed size.

In this fully globalist world system, megacorps will have replaced nation
states as the dominant system part.  Global rules, issued by the megacorp
community, will define the scope of permitted national activity (much as
with the IMF and the periphery today).  Wealth and property will continue
to accumulate into fewer and fewer corporate hands, as the world economy
becomes dominated by a small clique of global corporations, reminding one
of the sci-fi images in such films as Blade Runner.  Maintenance of public
order is very likely to become increasingly problematic -- even with
ongoing sophisticated propaganda -- and increasingly repressive regimes
will become the norm, even in the core states -- reminding one of images
from Judge Dredd.

Large corporations have long dominated the politics of core nation states,
while using them as a safe home base, and have treated the periphery as
little more than colonial plantations, with maintenance of civil order
being left to puppet regimes and occasional core intervention.  It was
always really corporations (such as the British East India Company or Shell
Oil) that carried out the business of imperialism, not nations themselves.
This paragraph is a fair characterization of the evolving world system
from, let us say, 1800 [?] up to about 1980.

The consequence of globalization is that _all_ states (core and periphery)
are to be treated by megacorps as colonial plantations.  Privileged core
states are no longer needed by megacorps as safe-base homes; all states can
now be periphery states; megacorps alone can make up the core sub-system.
As in the periphery today, the major role of formerly core governments will
be to maintain public order and to seek to be "competitive" in attracting
corporate favors.

The centralized military force, highly automated and needing only an elite
corps to man it, will be wrested from the influence of the vagaries of even
U.S. politics, and placed under the control of yet another
megacorp-dominated bureaucracy, no doubt to be dubbed something like the
"World Peace Organization".

Thus the first fully centralized and fully global world political system in
history -- the one already inherent in today's globalization process --
will also be the first political system which is controlled not by humans
but by artificial entities called megacorps, intelligent and adaptive
entities which exhibit the equivalent of will and motivation, but of a
demented character, driven by greed alone.  Even human boards of directors
and management do not infuse a human element into the power mix -- these
high-level employees and advisors will have long since in their careers
conditioned themselves to the corporate ethic -- pursuit of the maximum
possible growth of corporate valuation without any emotional,
unprofessional reservations.

Richard Moore
12 November 1997

Posted by Richard K. Moore - •••@••.••• -  PO Box 26, Wexford, Ireland
         www.iol.ie/~rkmoore/cyberjournal                   (USA Citizen)
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