Originally published on About.com on July 14, 2014
In a recent post, we reviewed what makes global capitalism distinct from previous versions of the economic system. The five key elements that make capitalism “global” are: 1. the fully globalized nature of the production and distribution of goods; 2. the flexible nature of a global pool of labor that corporations can choose from; 3. globalized circuits of accumulation and investment among wealthy corporations and individuals; 4. the existence of a global class of elite who set the agenda for production, trade, finance, and development; and, 5. a globalized form of governance, known as the transnational state, run by these elite via institutions like the WTO, World Bank, and IMF, among others.
Now, let’s do what sociologists do best, and take a critical look at the implications of these particular arrangements of capitalist relations of production. The following ten critiques are drawn from the work of sociologists William I. Robinson and Saskia Sassen, the research of urban scholar Mike Davis, and on the philosophy and writing of Indian physicist and activist, Vandana Shiva.
1. Global capitalism is, to quote Robinson, “profoundly anti-democratic.” A tiny group of global elite decide the rules of the game, and control the vast majority of the world’s resources. In 2011, Swiss researchers found thatjust 147 of the world’s corporations and investment groups controlled 40 percent of corporate wealth, and just over 700 control nearly all of it (80 percent). This puts the vast majority of the world’s resources under control of a tiny fraction of the world’s population. Because political power follows economic power, democracy in the context of global capitalism is nothing but a dream.