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Class on a global scale: the emerging transnational capitalists

The Conversation is running a series, Class in Australia, to identify, illuminate and debate its many manifestations. Here, Andrew Self examines how class operates on a global scale, and whether or not…

The World Economic Forum is one meeting place where the hyper-elite, transnational capitalists can get together and become a class without a country. EPA/Jean-Christophe Bott

The Conversation is running a series, Class in Australia, to identify, illuminate and debate its many manifestations. Here, Andrew Self examines how class operates on a global scale, and whether or not it is a cross-border phenomenon.


Economist Adam Smith wrote famously in 1776 that:

A merchant, it has been said very properly, is not necessarily a citizen of any particular country.

Over 200 years later, the head of Gillette, Al Zeien, espoused a similar view.

A global company views the world as a single country. We know that Argentina and France are different, but we treat them the same.

These quotes both highlight the global capitalist drive to accumulate profit in any market. But there is a difference between the two. Smith focuses on an economy in which capital flows between nations. Zeien alludes to an internationalism of capitalism into a singular global system that has occurred since the 1970s.

It is this very shift in capitalist accumulation that has created a new, transnational capitalist class. The formation of this class has evolved from the opening up of national economies and global integration since the Thatcher and Reagan era. Capital has become more mobile. This means that class formation is less and less tied to a particular nation-state or territory.

The transnational capitalist class is a global ruling class. It is a ruling class because it controls the levers of an emergent transnational apparatus and global decision-making. It is a new hegemonic bloc of various economic and political actors from both the global North and South, which has come out of the new conditions of global capitalism.

The ties that bind

Members of this new class have connections to each other that have become more significant than their ties to their home nations and governments. Forums such as the annual World Economic Forum at Davos are where these hyper-elites can get together and become a class without a country: the new global leadership.

This bloc is composed of the transnational corporations and financial institutions, the elites that manage the supranational economic planning agencies, major forces in the dominant political parties, media conglomerates and technocratic elites and state managers in both North and South.

Bono: a neoliberal in sunglasses? EPA/Jean-Christophe Bott

These 7000 or so people include heads of state, religious and military leaders – even the neoliberal in sunglasses, Bono – but the core membership is businessmen: hedge fund managers, technology entrepreneurs and private equity investors.

What makes this class different from the traditional ruling class in previous epochs is that the interests of its members are increasingly globally linked, rather than exclusively local and national in origin. This is due to the increased mobility of capital, and technology has shifted to create an environment that is beneficial to members of this particularly modern class.

They are also ideologues, expressing the interests of global rather than local capital through free market neoliberal ideologies and the culture-ideology of consumerism. This follows directly from the shareholder-driven growth economy that lies behind the globalisation of the world economy.

This is not to say that the world is still not organised in terms of discrete national economies. The transnational capitalist class ideologically constructs the best interests of the world in terms of markets, which may or may not coincide with a specific nation-state.

How does it manifest?

This class' economic and ideological power has a discourse of national competiveness and turning most spheres of social life into business. It strives to make schools, universities, prisons, hospitals and welfare more business-like.

In addition to the World Economic Forum, the transnational capital class also exercises power through its membership in thinktanks (such as the American Enterprise Institute, or Institute of Public Affairs in Australia) or corporate associations (such as the World Petroleum Council for the oil industry), and its control of the mass media, countless charities and foundations as well as university boards.

Their development of global, interconnected industries and businesses make them drivers of world capitalism. The program reaffirms the set of macroeconomic fiscal and monetary policies associated with neoliberalism: the withdrawal of the state from economic issues.

But these aspects are combined with a new emphasis on social issues and a quite liberal stance on these matters, emphasising, in the best bourgeois tradition, equality of opportunity, a new political culture of market individualism, and local political decentralisation along with a flexible labour market.

If, in cultural theorist Frederic Jameson’s assessment, postmodernism is the “cultural logic” of late capitalism, what we may be seeing is the emerging “political logic” of global capitalism, with its attendant forms of flexible accumulation.

As a result, the whole global production process is broken down into smaller parts and moved to different countries where investment and profit are the highest. Yet, at the same time, this worldwide decentralisation and fragmentation of the production process has taken place alongside the centralisation of command and control of the global economy by this class.

In a recent Oxfam report, it was noted that in the past 20 years, the richest 1% had increased their incomes by 60%. Barbara Stocking, an Oxfam executive, said unequivocally that this is:

… economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive … We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true.

The new global capitalism opens up a large rift between the global rich and the global poor, not just on a national scale. EPA/Stephen Morrison

The top 147 transnational corporations control roughly 40% of the entire economic value of the world’s transnational corporations.

This form of globalisation unifies the world into a single production system. But this also means that the new global capitalism opens up a large rift between the global rich and the global poor, not just on a national scale. Therefore, the 21st century is going to see conflicts and disputes for control between the new transnational ruling group and the expanding ranks of the poor and the marginalised.

In developing countries such as Turkey, there has been the downward mobility – or proletarianisation – of older middle classes and professional strata. Peasants and artisans, and the working class itself, has become flexible and informal.

A growing global working class has emerged that runs the factories, offices and farms of the global economy. It is a stratified and heterogeneous class, to be sure, but an expanding one. It is this new proletariat created in Latin America since the 1980s that is largely responsible for the “left turn” in the region.

And although the first world working class does not realise it, being dependent on first world surplus profit, these are our allies in creating a better, fairer, sustainable world.

It is not clear in the new epoch how the contradictions of global capitalism will be played out, in particular those of overaccumulation and worldwide social polarisation. An expanding transnational proletariat is the alter ego of the transnational capitalist class. Struggle between the two will shape the dynamics of emerging global society.


See the other instalments of the series Class in Australia here.

Join the conversation

96 Comments sorted by

  1. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    'The first world working class does not realise it'

    In other words, the entire working class has been duped, They're not as smart as the transnational ruling class, They therefore need direction from middle-class intellectuals,

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    1. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to James Jenkin

      That could be true James, I have heard this idea that it is the middle class being the force that drives revolutions, not the working class who are too busy being industrious and working hard making wealth for the ruling class, to notice how they are being duped.

      But it's not because the working class are stupid, perhaps they are the 'meek' that Jesus said would inherit the earth?

      And look at the graphs of the distribution of wealth in the US; is there a middle class?

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    2. Craig Read

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      I think for a lot of the working class, they simply have to spend way too much of their time just getting food on the table to even consider wider issues like this. If you're working 10-12 hours a day, and commute 2+ hours a day, you don't really have time for anything beyond "maintenance".

      Then when it comes to election time, they have too little capacity (time or capability) to properly research what policies would actually make their lives better. With nothing else to rely on, they turn to the media for guidance. Unfortunately, most of our main stream media is run by a champion of the "ruling class" (Rupert Murdoch).

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    3. Rosemary O'Grady

      Lawyer

      In reply to Craig Read

      Too easy to blame Murdoch.
      Have you ever read a ( now out of print I'd guess) book by George Dangerfield- The Strange Death of Liberal England? Worth a thought.

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    4. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Craig Read

      I think you make a good point Craig.

      However, there is a certain snobbery in progressive circles,. For example, a lot of commentators suggested Thatcher and Howard sucked in the workers by appealing to their crass materialism.

      (Not defending Thatcher or Howard by the way.)

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    5. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Well, sections of the working class have been and it is uncontroversial to argue that the long post war boom of peace and prosperity gave the working classes reason to acquiesce.

      Round where I live, though, the working classes in so called 'good' jobs, full time with permanency, tend to be working in and around the mines. Where they are contractors they're on a good whack. They live well, brand new 4wd's, a/c McMansions with pools, multiplesf kids, annual holidays o/s.

      Not bought off, just living according to their own lights, at everyone else's expense.

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    6. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Rosemary O'Grady

      "How do you mean: 'working class'?"
      Indeed, when we are talking global capitalism, NO Australian is a member of what used to be called "the proletariat." 10% of Australians are among the globe's Top 1% of wealth-holders. 75% of Australians are among the globe's Top10% of wealth-holders. The income and wealth of our lowest quintile are upper middle class in global terms.
      https://publications.credit-suisse.com/tasks/render/file/?fileID=1949208D-E59A-F2D9-6D0361266E44A2F8

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    7. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      "Well, sections of the working class have been and it is uncontroversial to argue that the long post war boom of peace and prosperity gave the working classes reason to acquiesce."
      That sounds a bit odd to me Anthony. I would argue that the real death of proletarian revolutionary sympathy occurred much later, with my generation. After all, it was only after WWII that the UK turned Socialist. And membership of the Communist Party of Australia, similar organisations, and radical trade unions peaked…

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    8. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I think we're on the same page although not word for word. Cheers.

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    9. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Gosh, when did this happen? "The triumph of Neoliberalism over Socialism is what really underlies modern "working class" peace and prosperity."

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    10. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Anthony my different words also contain a dilemma. I've pawed over the data, and it is pretty clear that income and wealth INEQUALITY decreased between the end of WWI and Neoliberalsim, especially during the post-WWII period. However, real living standards for working class people really didn't move all that spectacularly. It is only after the 1980s that we see a real movement in real (and thus absolute) income, living standards, education, and life-expectancy. The issue is, do we reject that real and absolute improvement, because the top one percent grew even more? In other words, from the 1980s, the rising tide did lift ALL boats (at least in Australia), it just lifted the yachts hire than the tinnies.

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    11. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I think that you've presented reasonable short hand analysis of the period. The rising tide of wealth, however, can only rise so far on a finite planet. In other words we can't rely on the idea of a bigger cake to share with all because finite ecological resources limit the size of the cake. Myself, I lose my appetite when invited to dine while sitting in a sea of blood and misery. Global justice is what we need.

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    12. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      My take would be that it also sucked in average Australians to ride the gravy train and be both mortgaged and in debt to the hilt.

      And it's not ALL about the West.

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    13. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to James Jenkin

      i heard a great quote "the rich, employing the rich to tell the middle class that it is all the poors fault".

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    14. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      "The triumph of Neoliberalism over Socialism is what really underlies modern "working class" peace and prosperity."
      Yep.
      "Gosh, when did this happen?"
      Started in the 1980s, but was incontrovertible by about 2000.

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    15. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      "My take would be that it also sucked in average Australians to ride the gravy train and be both mortgaged and in debt to the hilt."
      Stephen, Australia has been an outlier in valuing home ownership - especially a house on a single block of land - for generations. I would argue it goes right back to convicts being given land and provisions once their sentence was finished. So modern-day Australians have hardly been "sucked in". My own personal values are that it is each of, an individual, a family, and a social good, that we have the security of knowing the little patch on earth, and buildings on top, in which we raise our family, is not only our's - and not the States or anybody else - but is also an asset worth value that we can either draw on in our old age, or leave to our children.

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    16. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I'll mark that in my diary Andy, 2000 the year Andy Cameron proclaims was when everyone in the US, UK and Australia finally accepted the fantasy of a free market, the desirability of at least a constant 5% unemployed, the uselessness of unions, the needlessness of equality, the sacredness of privatisation, and the absolute necessity for self regulation of private industry and the triumph of fascism.

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    17. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      "i alwas thought that Neoliberalism was code for "bugger you jack, i'm al'right""
      Robert it might well be. It's not really a word I use myself (given I've never encountered anybody who describes themselves as a "neoliberal"). I use it to be neighbourly when in the company of those who do you use the word. And so my use of the word, reflects the meaning of that company.

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    18. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      "We really need more of those entrepreneurial heroes who will thrive"
      Er, was that meant for me? I haven't said anything about entrepreneurs, let alone "heroes"?

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    19. David Pearn

      Follower

      In reply to Rosemary O'Grady

      Nobody would blame Murdoch editors if they were evenhanded in their exposure of the hypocritical behaviour of The Speaker, the PM, the House Manager of Business and their fellow duplicitous opportunists.
      Menzies' once great party is now just front for corporate interests as demonstrated by Environment minister Hunt's 'belief' (realy?) that the government can do a more efficient job of tackling global warming than the once touted 'market forces'.
      Where is the exposure of such a double standard?
      Certainly not in the 'shockjock' media we have.
      Do the member of the 'not liberal' party have any standards that they are prepared to stand by when moneyed interests are lobbying?
      A good way to asses a Murdoch article, is to read the last section first as that's where you find the 'balance' and tends to undermine the simplistic headline..........how many, I wonder, get that far.

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    20. Greg Wood

      Energy Consultant

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      You seem to have completely missed, or avoided, the point of Stephen's comment.

      With respect to the basic human need of tenancy mortgage or rental, the cost of it is being systematically inflated beyond the reach of incomes derivable from reasonable working hours. Hence slavery is a real notion arising from the relentless requisite regime of double incomes and long job hours that too often involve bullying and morbid lack of satisfaction.

      More-over, free-hold title holds no real security in return for this debt slavery. It can be compulsorily acquired without owner recourse to provide for the accumulating, congestion-driven 'public' needs of the growth economy - freeways, tunnels, dams etc.

      When you measure the progression of 'real' income figures, are th figuresy standardised for an 8 hour day or do they include the escalating emergence of 'flexible' contract tenures?

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    21. harry oblong

      tree surgeon

      In reply to David Pearn

      there are so many news services out there ,why even bother with blatant biased trash ?

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  2. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    Globalisation is simply greedy capitalists using the world as do greedy pigs at a trough.

    James J is correct in that the whole idea of "globalisation" is a con to create a global plutocracy at the expense of ordinary citizens.

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    1. Rosemary O'Grady

      Lawyer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Global plutocracy is not new. Perhaps we need a new vocabulary of class - for communicating on this topic?

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  3. Jack Ruffin
    Jack Ruffin is a Friend of The Conversation.

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Interesting food for thought Andrew. Though "international" these people are still also tied to national institutions and use these as a bolt hold in times of trouble and to bury the spoils. Are national entities still in control or has it already past that point?
    It will be interesting to see if our international "regulation" of this trend will keep up or will it be the new Wild West with (bitcom?) fortunes for some and poverty for many?
    I'd like to hear your take on the common ground between workers world wide.

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    1. Andrew Self

      Postgraduate Associate at the Institute of Latin American Studies at La Trobe University

      In reply to Jack Ruffin

      Thanks Jack.

      Yes, you're right that these people are tied to national institutions, and much of the 'bricks and mortar' of these groups has to reside somewhere. But since the 1970s because the relaxation of restrictions on capital, not only can their capital flow freely, but their ideological influence also. It is not to take away from the power of the nation state, simply to highlight the creation of a new form of hyper elite capitalist that at times has more power than the nation state and…

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    2. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Andrew Self

      So what is so critically important about "the nation state", Andrew?

      What we have seen of it over the past 150 years is grand failure, globally destructive world wars, tyranny and oppression, poverty and suffering on a scale unprecedented in the history of the planet.

      For what? For post-colonial political theory? For an idea?

      The reason the world community is now asserting itself with so many different people happy to work together regardless of race, nationality, all that stuff, is because the ideology is seen today for what it is; global catastrophic failure.

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  4. John Doyle

    architect

    The trouble with transnational organisations is that whereas Governments have a moral imperative to look out for the interests of the citizenry, rich and poor, in what I call the grand bargain, transnationals have no such imperative. Only their shareholders can call them to account and then it's usually about profit.
    While some do show moral awareness, it's not mandatory.
    Adam Smith's quote above did not make the distinction, and it would seem nobody else since has either. Now we see them touting…

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    1. Jane Bringolf

      Liveable Communities Project Manager

      In reply to John Doyle

      The trouble is, we citizens are only viewed as consumers. Our rights as citizens are being eroded while our rights as consumers are considered more important. From a Marxist viewpoint, it is said that he is still right about revolution - we just haven't had the conditions for a revolution yet. And as pointed out by another contributor - the working class are too busy just surviving to give any consideration as to why their plight is as it is. Economics used to be a social science, now it is just graphs and maths.

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    2. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to John Doyle

      The "moral imperative" of the coercive nation state looks after its own, and stuff everyone else.

      We have all witnessed the consequences, with the rise of the party hacks, the faction and union bosses, the backroom deals and rorts and corruption, while NOTHING gets done out here in the real world because unless it's politically correct, conforms with the idea; with the moral imperative, it will not only be rejected it will be ruthlessly crushed.

      We saw ALL of that happen specifically in the context of this thread under Rudd and Gillard.

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    3. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Jane Bringolf

      The "working class" are too busy being told what to do and how to do it by the faction and union bosses, instead of showing a bit of initiative and turning their back on them, walking away from them, getting their own brain into gear, thinking for themself, and getting a life finally.

      As many many have indeed done, to their lasting prosperity, restoration of their personal substance and integrity, and their contribution to the general good.

      Call me a cult buster if you like, but I've spent my life helping bright young kids from poor areas off the assembly lines and into electronics, for example, and into business start-ups and into university.

      And taught them how to avoid getting "into trouble" for asserting themself as a human being, asserting their rights, and choosing prosperity over poverty.

      And faced down the local bosses while doing it. They can get stuffed.

      We know very well who we have on side these days.

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    4. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      That's a gross failure on the part of governments to honour their side of the Bargain!
      It's quite indefensible, and applies to all the major parties. It doesn't excuse the other side of the argument.
      It just means we are seriously subject to poor governance on both sides.
      Anyway not to worry, much worse is due before too long!

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    5. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Jane Bringolf

      Too true Jane - we are a commodity for commodities.

      A demographic in a pie chart on the walls of corporations.
      Corporations don't give a toss about "people" - we are either consumers or non. "homo nullius".

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    6. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to John Doyle

      does anyone know how a country would go about reprealing/revoking a free trad agreement?

      as in if T A does sign that piece of bastardry, would we be able to "un-sign" it?

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  5. Don Aitkin

    writer, speaker and teacher

    I was fascinated to learn that 'the transnational capital class also exercises power through its membership in thinktanks (such as the American Enterprise Institute, or Institute of Public Affairs in Australia)'.

    I'm sure that the IPA is equally fascinated. How exactly does this exercise of power operate? It's a long time since I went to an AEI seminar, but I find it a bit hard to see how this transnational ruling class uses the AEI, too. Surely there are easier levers to operate!

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    1. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Good to see you are picking up some useful information about the way we are being manipulated by these 'think tanks' that think of their own self-interest and use that as a proxy for the well-being of all people.

      But I am surprised that you seem a bit dubious about the idea that the IPA would be surprised by the idea that they are there to influence policy and the exercise of power.

      Here is a quote that might show that you do need to update your opinions about what is happening under your nose without you apparently being aware of it;

      "Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in a speech to the IPA justifying the 2003 Iraq War, commented that "the Institute has played a role in shaping, as well as articulating, our nation’s values."

      http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Institute_of_Public_Affairs

      Many many other sources of more information about these think tanks and their agenda.

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      These "think tanks" are lobby groups by another name.

      Their ideals either appeal to the government of the day, or do not.
      It would seem that these groups are more or less conservative, and have appealed over the years to Liberal values.

      Howard was and Abbott is very cosy with these groups and is swayed by their thinking.

      In the same way that perhaps that Labor has been influenced by union values over the years.

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    3. Dirk Baltzly

      Professor of Philosophy -- University of Tasmania

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      To speak of the transnational capitalists 'exercising power' through such think-tanks suggests a more directed conspiracy than I take to be the case. The truth, I think, is more like a comfortable confluence of interests.

      AEI and IPA are (presumably) funded largely by corporate sources. (It's hard to know exactly. Certainly articles from their members don't appear on The Conversation because they can't or won't give the disclosure that appears on pieces published here: "Prof. Joe Bloggs does…

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    4. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Dirk Baltzly

      I prefer to think it's more sinister than we perceive.

      I don't believe in conspiracy, I just believe in groups wanting to and being able to manipulate "sovereign" nations.

      e.g. USA & Israel - why the softly softly approach by America.

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    5. Rosemary O'Grady

      Lawyer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      'I don't believe in conspiracy...' Why not? If the evidence is there... I don't believe in conspiracy is a mantra for self-delusion. It reminds me of: I'm not a feminist but.... or: I don't know much about art but...
      Conspiracies abound - take it from one who has studied mergers and acquisitions and global finance... Cheers!

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    6. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Their agenda?

      What, you mean asserting their right to speak on issues they find relevant and important.

      And the prime minister thanking them for the contribution, in public, I mean, suddenly there's some dark conspiracy?

      Get a grip. We live in a parliamentary democracy. 'Parliament' means people talking to one another in open public forum, on issues of mutual concern.

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    7. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Dirk Baltzly

      The single most powerful player in markets is the buyer and consumer, not the seller.

      Stand in a supermarket aisle for a few hours and witness the action for yourself.

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    8. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Aha, yes, I'm not paranoid I just can't handle all those people hiding behind closed doors, plotting against me.

      And by the way, Australia is no longer a sovereign nation. Since Mabo and Wik it is a co-sovereign nation.

      Here it is not the US or the Israelis plotting its downfall, just a few blackfellas slowly and steadily working their way out from under the oppressive yoke of nationalist White Australia, operating globally in the process, buying shares in mining companies, all that stuff.

      HELLO?

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    9. Jane Bringolf

      Liveable Communities Project Manager

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      You can only buy what they make - if it is not made, you can't get it. Not all needs are covered by the market. The market is not infallible.

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    10. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Rosemary O'Grady

      Conspiracies? Why not simply call them negotiations, which is what people trying to work out a mutually agreeable deal do in fact?

      Except, the Chinese are past masters at it; very difficult to get them to agree on anything.

      Except, unlike the US who habitually act in haste and repent at leisure, once they have agreed they are the last to break the agreement.

      So, because Australians generally are hopeless at it, imperatively moral and without a shred of nouse persistently lose, suddenly they are being conspired against.

      Pathetic.

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    11. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      mm.. given the links between the heartland institute and the IPA, "the Institute has played a role in shaping, as well as articulating, our nation’s values." becomes "the Koch Brothers have played a role in shaping our nations values and policies"

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    12. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      yes, but when the Abbott Government seems to be ticking off the IPA wish list in those organisations they want destroyed, corrupted or weakened, it is easy to percieve the government as being in the pockets of these organisations, particularly when you have Tony Abbott, Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rineheart all at a table together at an IPA function.

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    13. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Robert are you criticising those wonderful wealth creators who worked so hard for their money? Fair go mate, Gina said it right, we poors spend to much time in the pub and having a social life rather than inheriting a mine and working hard to make sure that there are lots of jobs for people who only want $2 a day.

      Really we should not be socialising like this either, such a waste of time when there is wealth to be created. We 'should' be grateful that they let any of their money trickle down to the likes of us.

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    14. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Calm down Tom, if you read the whole comment thread you would see that I was 'proving' a point to someone who foolishly asserted that there was no connection. Get it? He said there was no connection and I quoted that to show him that there was and that nobody actually denied this connection except for the person who did.

      You can find that person's name if scroll around. Just in case you wanted to check that you were not going off half cocked or anything like that.

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    15. Dirk Baltzly

      Professor of Philosophy -- University of Tasmania

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Yeah Tom. That's surely true -- but only up to a point. Stand in the same commercial spaces and see how well your consumer desire for products that are environmentally sustainable or produced in the absence of exploitative labor conditions is met. As Henry Ford famously said, Customers can have the Model A Ford in any colour they want as long as its black.

      My point is that consumer choice is a powerful weapon only within the range of choices that sellers want consumers to have. And there are limits -- defined by their common interests -- to the range of choices they want buyers to have. So we should certainly use our collective consumer power to choose the better alternatives. But we should also not pretend that this form of power alone will get the job done.

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  6. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    To thwart the power of the transnational ruling class, the individuals under their control must in turn take control of the needs in Abraham Maslow's famous "Hierarchy of Needs" he published in 1933.
    Food, Shelter, Society and the Family life.
    These needs must not be controlled by anyone other that those whose needs they are; transnationals can not be trusted with the provision of the needs.
    Food: see the SPC debacle, international food trade threatening local food production.
    Shelter: International Banking controls the shelter of Australians to the tune of $1.75 Trillion in mortgages.
    Society: an almost complete media monopoly by a transnational controls the conversation and consequently the election of governments.
    Family Life? how can the next generation establish itself when the above needs are controlled by other people?

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to James Hill

      This "other" world of global cartels has probably been operating for centuries and been ever-growing.

      Perhaps it's too late to slaughter the beast.

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    2. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      For sure these types of people who are motivated by a desire for power over others or whatever it is that motivates them, have always been around. But it is clear that there have been times in Western history that these entrepreneurs who create wealth - well one sort of wealth - have been allowed free reign to take advantage of the gullible this has created a dysfunctional level of inequality that does 'cause' human dysfunction - possibly because we evolved in more equal society and our psychology works best in that sort of environment.

      I don't think that we need to slaughter the beasts; revolution has never really worked out well for anyone so maybe if we could somehow come together to starve the beast by not participating in their economy and creating a society for ourselves?

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    3. Rosemary O'Grady

      Lawyer

      In reply to James Hill

      ...'other people'? They are part of society! Get on top of them!
      Hyper-'elites' don't care about power and control in public life/government - they just want all the wealth for them - selves - under their control. The people (excuse an archaicism) simply don't register in the equation.

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    4. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to James Hill

      SPC? International food trade?

      SPC Ardmona came under the control of international tobacco, alcohol, and lolly water.

      Lesson there on who you chose to get into bed with.

      Shelter? Stand outside any bank branch and watch the punters line up for a mortgage. I don't see anyone with guns, or dogs, forcing them.

      Society (and the media)? Choose to not watch television, or read papers, and instead get yourself an education and learn to write.

      Family life? Go bush, and take the kids with you like we did.

      One thing we do still have in this country is plenty of space.

      Except, you'll be on your own. You'll have to rely on yourself, and you'll have nothing to whinge about beyond looking at yourself in the mirror every other day.

      Very healing, that. Extraordinarily illuminating.

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    5. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Hanseatic League.

      Some of them still call themselves Hansa, or affiliated in some way.

      Equivalent to invention of the wheel in enabling things to get rolling finally.

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    6. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      SPC versus cheap Chinese canned fruit.
      Young Australians with jobs, and trying to start a family aren't getting mortgages, serial speculators are, and the young renters are paying those mortgages off.
      "Choose" not to be brainwashed, while surrounded by those who are?
      So young Aussies, abandon your jobs, stop reading newspapers, done the swags, and go bush in the middle of a drought, not forgetting your mirrors.
      Extraordinarily illuminating?
      Please explain.

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    7. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Rosemary O'Grady

      The "transnational ruling class" of the article are the "other people" who are in control.
      Are they really part of society?
      Or are they human equivalent of tapeworms?
      "Tony the Tapeworm" being their "chosen" PM for Australia?
      If, in that famous example, a simple fungus can control the behaviour of an infected ant to the benefit of the fungus, what is controlling the behaviour of our "infected" Coalition of political mercenaries now ruling Australia?
      The "Greed is Good" virus?
      Are political mercenaries "transnational"?

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    8. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      With the exception that the Empire of Knut, which was the precursor of the Hanseatic League, was not transnational, the participants essentially, all being related.

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    9. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to James Hill

      I don't think too many Australian politicians are smart enough to be transnational.

      They seem to keep their focus very narrow, and with limited vision.

      There is a tragic myopia about taking the big leaps in to the future with renewable energy, pollution, deterioration of the oceans etc etc.

      This is probably as much about the business/political collusion, as simple stupidity.

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    10. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      And I heard - but can't find the link - that Mr Abbott thinks he can 'horse trade' his way through or around, the restrictions that the TPP would impose on our country. This man who only just passed his Rhodes scholarship studies, thinks he can outwit the transnational's!

      This is real example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

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    11. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Perhaps Abbott thinks that his special relationship with Murdoch who still calls Australia home - apparently - and Murdoch's knowledge of the transnationals will provide him with what he needs to do this 'horse trading' and win? This sort of 'conspiracy of the great men/leaders with ideas' would fit with both personality styles, it seems to me.

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    12. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      In some ways TA is not a leader but a follower.
      He seems enamoured of powerful men.

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    13. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      "Corgi" Bernardi spends a lot of time in The States, and he and the "Tapeworm" are muscular members of that modern iteration of the original transnational corporation of two thousand years ago whose soldiers nailed "The Man" to the cross, basically for throwing their "bankers" out of the Temple.
      Never much in favour of any national independence, no salvation outside their original "One World Government".
      The US has as their transnational "traitor" Paul Ryan, from the same stable as Cory and Tony…

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    14. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to James Hill

      Nature will ruin their party, James. Mind you it won't be fun for the rest of us. Yes the Romans invaded Britannia because it was plunder worthy, Hibernia wasn't so got left out. But Rome collapsed, like all societies that rely on plunder. The 0.1% today will also collapse and with their heads in the sand attitude to growth and climate change their collapse is getting closer every day. The USA is already in decline and it should be obvious to all by now.

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    15. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to John Doyle

      Thanks, John, for that reassuring lesson of history.
      As always, the much put upon paysanos will survive, "inheriting the earth" as those you describe fight it out for their fake prizes.
      Those "country people" gave us Italian cooking, no starvation for them.
      The individual states of the US would probably flourish once the "Owner" class starves to death.
      I am told that Attila The Hun was a "Christian", and when he entered Rome assured the poor people that they were safe, he was only looking for the "Rich" to "Be as a sword" for his leader, as it were.
      Yes, Hibernia and Caledonia, not enough rich pickings for the Romans, but real, "national" Celtic Christianity flourished there, still does?

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  7. R. Ambrose Raven

    none

    Business Spectator posters would ferociously reject any notion of class - as with Alan Kohler's remarkable claim that there is no politics in BS (a Murdoch Empire publication). It is articles such as this article that write the truth.

    Transnational capitalism is the logical successor to the imperialism and mercantilism of the 19th Century.

    Our “alliance” with the United States is because a treaty with the most powerful capitalist hegemonist is in the interests of Australia's local comprador…

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  8. David Wolf

    logged in via Facebook

    For years I've been listening to the mantra, "Capitalism works" even while three quarters of the planet were starving or close to it. What we weren't taught in schools is that from early times capitalism never existed without plunder brought about by wars and colonialism but all that is over, And if anyone still thinks unregulated capitalism is a good thing perhaps we should take a closer look at the USA beyond what Murdock and his clones are telling us.

    Hello TPP. Bad luck New Orleans. Bye…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to David Wolf

      Couldn't agree more...

      sad thing is the truth is there before us, but we see the meretricious objects, rather than the blunt instruments that are destroying the joint.

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  9. Rosemary O'Grady

    Lawyer

    R.H. Tawney used say that capitalism only works if it operates within a strong ethical framework. The absence of same - eg the unchecked tendency towards monopoly, amongst other aspects - is evident in world 'markets' today - and shows how this 'global' 'economy' shall destroy itself. Debt is A key.
    Mr Sharpe's comments about Qantas and competition - refer.
    Implicit in all this is the need for proper regulation. Lazy Australia has never been diligent about corporate regulation, notwithstanding the whining lobby of so-called elites and, eg, the IPA - type of 'think-tank' - and we are seeing the whirlwind harvest we have sown. It's all our own work.
    Meanwhile, in the 'national capital', our representatives continue to display bad behaviour in Parliament, presumably to distract attention from their abysmal history of 'economic management'. Excuse my English.

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    1. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Rosemary O'Grady

      It's worse than that Rosemary. The LNP government don't feel the need to hide anything, they are just having fun sledging.

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Rosemary O'Grady

      My opinion is that capitalism has never operated in an ethical framework. In fact it is most often the antithesis of ethical.

      It's not only Australia, every capitalist country has a sorry history of hypocrisy and deceit. Deals done at the expense of the "common" man.

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    3. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Government does have a moral obligation to govern for all it's citizens, the whole population Otherwise they have no legitimacy.
      That the grand bargain. when they betray it they end up on the scrapheap, as happened in 1789 with the Ancien Regime and many other governments. They have no Divine Right only the divine obligation.
      Capitalism as represented by companies, vested interests etc has no inbuilt moral obligation except to the shareholders, so don't expect that of them. Their"deceits" happen because the government lets it occur.

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  10. Tom Fisher

    Editor and Proofreader

    Sorry, people, but my family have lived on this continent for nigh on 200 years, and in all that time we have never subscribed to the nationalist agenda, most especially in it's White Australia manifestation and sad pretext of "protecting the workers" or "the poor", or some such excuse for corruption, tyranny and ignorance.

    We have contributed mightily to this country, including the constitutional conventions of the 1890s, in the formation of local government and the building of infrastructure…

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    1. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Wow, that's quite a distortion of what's going on with this thread.
      As to ancestry, mine started here in 1797 and I have lots of relos who farmed the land, plus a few professionals.
      The corporate world so dear to you has sped up the end of time for our civilization. Energy input has made life very pleasant for our generation but the corporate juggernaut is ostrich like head in the sand about the coming crunch. Your attitude to the future if relying on the corporate world's spin is seriously deluded.
      You haven't been paying attention!

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    2. Jason Begg
      Jason Begg is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Perpetually Baffled Lawnmower Man

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Umm... gee... hate to burst your bubble but National Socialism in Germany was actually Fascism and was intended for the benefit of the Capitalists & the Corporations.
      An article available on J-stor you might want to check out is "The Legacy of Friedrich von Hayek: Fascism didn't die with Hitler."
      Indeed, much of the non-sense claims of Hitler being anti-capital have their origins in von Hayek's immediate post WW2 writings. It suited von Hayek's agenda to portray German National Socialism as one…

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    3. R. Ambrose Raven

      none

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      I don't think any of us should take "Tom Fisher's" drivel seriously.

      It is standard denialist practice to manufacture as comprehensive and persuasive a fable as can be in order to block or at least blunt discussion of the real issue, with the fabrication of "facts" as required to make the story read better. Truth for denialists and haters is whatever serves the needs of the moment. It is unlikely that any of the personal "facts" "Tom Fisher" cites are true. More relevantly, whether they are true or not is irrelevant to the issue under discussion.

      Let us close with a quote from Warren Buffet, presumably "Tom Fisher's" hero: “Actually, there’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years, and my class has won. We’re the ones that have gotten our tax rates reduced dramatically.”

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  11. Michael Field

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Really good article Andrew. I'd add that this is part of an ongoing unfolding of history and that there is good and bad in this process. My interpretation of the meaning of the process is probably politically different from yours but you have given me cause to think and I'll get the book you recommend. Your tone implies that you see globalisation as intrinsically negative for the bottom 99%. I'm more optimistic that globalisation can improve world poverty but only because I think there are a range…

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  12. Liam J

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    That there exists a class of transnational hyperwealthy elites is not news, and Mr Self is right in asserting that they are a distinct class worth naming as such. But their importance is overstated, i belive.

    Yes they are significant parasites on national economies via their amoral taxdodging, and yes their autistic focus on financial return on their capital is a powerful corrosive of useful economic activity. But they are also ridiculous victims of their own PR, and merely temporary phenomena…

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  13. Pat Moore

    gardener

    Great overview thanks Andrew and great links.

    Thinktanks are a deliberate body politic-embedded seeding mechanism, a means of spreading political infection, more insidious and surreptitiously organised than mere "lobbying" which is also foreign to the Australian political system.

    At last we seem to be getting to the stage of being able to see and identify the forest, instead of being lost in the trees; to name the beast. And though this mass-perpetrated organised crime against humanity has…

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Actually Pat, Neoliberalism put the final nails in the coffin of Communism. Marx lost. YOU lost.

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    2. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Actually Andy socialism and a more 'reasonable' and less 'hysterical' analysis of Marx and his ideas is happening. The nails of neo-liberalism are made of selfishness and greed that will disappear when the masses do get educated via this medium of communication - the internet - and properly understand the ephemeral and ultimately barren attraction of self-interest most improperly understood.

      You do like the war metaphor Andy. It is all about winners and losers for you. Why do you think this is…

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    3. Pat Moore

      gardener

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Yes we have lost so much AC since the highly inequitable neoliberal system of exploitation and oppression has been in globalised operation. And that includes the majority of people, the environment and the integrity of our occupied system of political representation. Perhaps if you substitute the word communalism for communism it will help you to overcome your brainwashed prejudice against an expression of the 'fair go' and of social justice. You are confusing the need for a fair and balanced…

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  14. harry oblong

    tree surgeon

    bono is no neoliberal, he is a tax dodging hypocritical neo capitalist..

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  15. Patrick Brownlee

    Research Manager

    A good article.
    However, as a matter of principle, I think the author should in fact cite William I. Robinson's A Theory of Global Capitalism p.33. The juxtaposition of the quotes from Smith and Zeien at the beginning of this article are almost identical to that in Robinson's book. I note that the author is a Latin American studies scholar. So too is Robinson; some cross-fertilisation and recasting of ideas is great. But important to cite appropriately if that is indeed the case here.

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