Globalisation and governance
Posted by egovindia on August 5, 2006
Globalisation and governance
— Debabrata Mukherjee
In a wider sense, the notion of “globalisation” comprises all those processes by which the people of the world are incorporated in a single world society, opine M Albrow and E King in their book Globalisation, Knowledge and Society.
In this sense, one may distinguish at least three historic processes or stages or phases of globalisation. The first phase of globalisation accomplished colonial imperialism, over long stretches of time and space throughout the world.
The second phase of globalisation is marked by international concern and declaration of human rights and international standards of justice which will chasten the arrogance of sovereign power everywhere. This phase is still continuing.
The third phase of globalisation, running concurrently with the second phase, is marked by the following features: a steady rise of forces of capitalism, where the whole world becomes an endless chain of shopping arcades or chains of departmental stores, where consumption needs of the industrialised society enjoys ontological priority over the basic needs of the wretched of the earth in the third world, burgeoning consumerist and hedonistic middle class, near-universalisation of Mc Carthy-ism, obscene sycophancy of a uni-polar world where collective interdependence became collective dependence of poor countries on international financial institutions which have become superstatal centre of authorities, and above all, co-habitation of ‘epistemic recruits’ with the super power aiming at continuous deification of free market and reduction in the role of the State in poor countries.
We may cite the intellectual discourse relating to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) adopted by the world’s governments in 2000. The goals include fighting poverty, disease, hunger, reduction of undernourished population, child mortality, material death in child birth, safe drinking water and eradication of killer diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS by 2015 AD.
Obviously, the goals have been lawfully adopted by the governments. Therefore, the governments are duty-bound to take immediate measures in this regard, at least on two counts. Firstly, the issues are related to human rights to development and the government are duty-bound to protect and promote human rights. Secondly, governments should keep their promises to maintain moral superiority.
Unfortunately, world-famous intellectual of the stature of Jeffrey D Sachs, professor of Economics at Columbia University, has recently made the following observations: ‘The time has arrived for a massive effort by voluntary organisation to take up the MDGs through private action. We need not wait for the politicians. In a short period of time, the world’s citizens can make deep inroads in the fight against disease, hunger and poverty. Then the politicians may follow.”
Professor Sachs could have impressed upon the governments to take immediate measures for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. However, professor Sachs has encouraged abdication of duties by the governments and emphasised the controversial charity principle of social welfare, avoiding the trusteeship or stewardship principle and without taking human rights seriously. Voluntary organisations or NGOs play important roles in the field of human rights activism. However, the primary responsibility of promotion and protection of human rights rests with the governments who may just take assistance of NGOs and not the other way round.
Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is imperative for the developing countries where the governments have extraordinary responsibilities towards the denizens. Government which in the formulation of their policies do not take the wishes of the people into account, are bound to lose the support of their people. Any segment of population which feels itself deprived of its developmental rights will tend to be less patriotic.
On the otherhand, supporters of free-market economy insist on ‘minimal government’. The concept of economic liberty is grounded in wealth-maximisation which can only be achieved in free-market.
Even the existing legal system is inadequate to bring about drastic changes in the developmental process immediately. The second phase of globalisation gave us the impression that there would be a spread of legal culture of human rights and equality of opportunity for human beings in the underdeveloped countries. However, presently the theorists are convinced that the panglossia of statutes, delegated legislations, administrative adjudication, judicial and quasi-judicial decision-making, the multiform institutions and personnel and plural non-formal methods of dispute avoidance and resolution can no longer be coherent, closed ensemble of rules or values. In this individualistic fragmented society, law and rights have become weapons of small scale conflicts. There is repeated recourse to highly inefficient case-by-case fire fighting.
Theorists are also convinced that large parts of the law, at least in common law countries, are based on the concept of wealth-maximisation within a free market, since that is the eco-political environment within which law operates and which the law facilitates.
While law is a means of securing the conditions of social life, it is not the only means. Weakness in legal system may be made up by strength in extra-legal pressure in morals, custom, public opinion and the like. In a traditional society there is gradual transformation of social morality into usage or custom. Such custom or usage metamorphoses into legislative prescription or is merged into the law of the land by judicial law-making. Therefore social morality plays a vital role in the growth or development of legal systems. Only in highly advanced societies, the law becomes increasingly a major factor in the formation of social morality.
Unfortunately, the process of globalisation with its incantation of wealth-maximisation or “Enrich thyself” endeavours to promote the non-altruism that in advancing one’s own interest no consideration need be shown to the plight of others. In other words, the society has been transformed into a pure “survival society” where the only goal worth pursuing in life is that of maximising one’s own welfare, without caring for others. In the process of globalisation, the traditional structures breakdown, settled moral norms dissolve, social bonds become less effective and the individual is thrown upon himself.
In absence of altruism and in view of the inadequacy of existing moral or legal norms, there is need for a new style of benevolent governance in the developing countries.
(The writer teaches in University Law College, Gauhati University)