The Transnational Capitalist Class: Now Ruling a Country Near You… Or It Will Soon

And Goldman Sachs is its favorite organization from which to extend its power. Case in point: three former GS men now rule the European Central Bank, Italy and Greece:

“Qu’ont en commun Mario Draghi, Mario Monti et Lucas Papadémos ? Le nouveau président de la Banque centrale européenne, le président désigné du conseil italien et le nouveau premier ministre grec appartiennent à des degrés divers au “gouvernement Sachs” européen. La banque d’affaires américaine a en effet tissé en Europe un réseau d’influence unique sédimenté depuis des lustres grâce à un maillage serré, souterrain comme public.

A tout concours, il faut une hiérarchie. Le premier prix revient bien sûr à Mario Draghi, vice-président de Goldman Sachs pour l’Europe entre 2002 et 2005. Nommé associé, il est chargé des “entreprises et pays souverains”. A ce titre, l’une des missions est de vendre le produit financier “swap” permettant de dissimuler une partie de la dette souveraine, qui a permis de maquiller les comptes grecs. Vient ensuite Mario Monti, conseiller international depuis 2005. Arrive en troisième position Lucas Papadémos, qui vient d’être nommé premier ministre de la Grèce, qui fut gouverneur de la Banque centrale hellénique entre 1994 et 2002, qui a participé à ce titre à l’opération de trucage des comptes perpétré par GS. Le gestionnaire de la dette grecque est d’ailleurs un certain Petros Christodoulos, un ex-trader de la firme.

Deux autres poids lourds tiennent le haut du pavé dans la défenestration de l’euro, Otmar Issing, ex-président de la Bundesbank et Jim O’Neill, l’inventeur du concept des BRICS, l’acronyme désignant les marchés émergents à fort potentiel de croissance (Brésil, Russie, Inde, Chine et Afrique du Sud). Ex-président de Goldman Sachs International dont il est resté l’un des administrateurs, l’Irlandais Peter Sutherland a joué un rôle-clé dans le sauvetage de l’Irlande. Enfin, Paul Deighton, qui a passé 22 ans chez Goldman Sachs, est directeur général du comité organisateur des Jeux olympiques de Londres en 2012. La lanterne rouge car chacun sait que le sport comme l’amitié est hors concours.”

This is a global power elite that is beyond accountability and democratic governance. sociologist Leslie Sklair calls it the Transnational Capitalist Class. Sklair uses the term transnational to indicate that this class does not derive its power from any particular state or country but precisely from its cross-border capacity to mobilize different forms of capital (economic capital, such as financial assets; political and social capital such as power, influence and connections; technical and organizational capital such program design skills, drafting of trade treaties; cultural capital such as the production of content to promote the consumerist ideology, advertising).

The TCC is composed of four different groups. The corporate fraction is the dominant category in the TCC. It is composed of corporate executives of the major transnational corporations as well as major owners. This fraction’s power derives from its enormous economic and financial power. It is profit-driven and seeks to extend its dominance globally. The other fractions (state, technical and consumerist) are akin to a supporting cast and provide other forms of capital necessary for the global reach of the global capitalist system on top of which the corporate fraction sits.

Leslie Sklair’s Four Fractions of the Transnational Capitalist Class and their Types of Capital
Corporate Fraction Executives from transnational corporations and their local affiliates Economic / Financial
State Fraction Globalizing bureaucrats and politicians Political / Social
Technical Fraction Globalizing professionals Technical / Organizational
Consumerist Fraction Merchants and media

The combination of economic, political, technical and ideological powers translates into the creation of a global system with global capitalism as dominant force. Based on this, Sklair outlines four basic propositions that define the actions of the TCC.

Leslie Sklair’s Four Propositions on the Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC)
“A transnationalist capitalist class based on the transnational corporations (TNCs) is emerging that is more or less in control of the processes of globalization.”
“The TCC is beginning to act as a transnational dominant class in some spheres.”
“The globalization of the capitalist system reproduces itself through the profit-driven culture-ideology of consumerism.”
“The transnational capitalist class is working consciously to resolves two central crises: (i) the simultaneous creation of poverty and increasing wealth within and between communities and societies (the class polarization crisis) and (ii) the unsustainability of the system (the ecological crisis).”

The existence and power of the TCC is made particularly visible every year when the World Economic Forum (WEF) meets at the exclusive ski resort in Davos, Switzerland. The WEF is an organization based in Geneva (Switzerland) that comprises business leaders (such as Bill Gates and the CEOs of the largest transnational corporations), past and present political leaders (such as presidents, prime ministers and other government officials), select intellectuals (Chancellors and professors from the most prestigious universities), journalists, and, sometimes, members of non-governmental organizations, in other words, it is a gathering of the TCC.

At the annual meeting in Davos, under very tight security, this elite discusses the economic and political issues of the world but it is also an opportunity to network and cultivate social capital as well as conduct business and shape policy on a global scale. The membership of the WEF clearly shows its exclusive nature: the vast majority of the membership is from the North America and Europe, with some representatives from developing Asia. One thousand companies, earning over one billion dollars are also invited, as long as they pay a $250,000 fee. Until 2001, there were no women represented to the board. Panels may be public but meetings are held behind closed doors.

The Davos meeting clearly illustrates that the TCC is indeed a class: a category of people who may come different parts of the world but think alike and share a common view of what the world should look like and what economic policies should be implemented. They all share a neo-liberal or globalist ideology.

Apart from the World Economic Forum, the TCC also exercises power through its membership in think tanks (such as the American Enterprise Institute) or corporate associations (such as the World Petroleum Council for the oil industry), and its control of the mass media (very large media conglomerate own most television channels, radio stations, internet service providers as well as book publishing companies), and countless charities and foundations as well as University boards.

And Goldman Sachs rules them all. It extends its power into transnational corporation, functions thanks to the transnational capitalist class, and obviously is thoroughly networked into the transnational state (to use William I. Robinson’s typology).

Michael Watts on the Oil Complex

Via Africa is a Country, do yourself a favor and watch this lecture of UC Berkeley geographer Michael Watts:

Keep in mind the petro-state as rentier state in the oil complex as state-owned companies make Exxon and others, as Watts say, look like little start-ups. And who says rent-based means corruption, bloated and inefficient operations dedicated to managing surplus.

Social Reproduction of The Elites

American meritocracy = myth:

Having the right name opens doors and gives access irrespective (and sometimes in spite of) merit and qualification. This is not exactly something new. It is classical social reproduction of class position and privileges. But, as I have mentioned before, the American society does not have a discourse of class except to reject the very notion in the name of a mythological meritocracy. Anyone who dares to bring up the issue is quickly accused of fomenting class warfare from the privileged (whoc have a clear interest in keeping the illusion of classlessness alive and kicking).

But as Chris Floyd demonstrates, lack of class analysis and awareness is something found on the liberal and progressive side of the spectrum as well, using an article from Walter Benn Michaels as support for his argument. Says WBM:

In other words, the switch from class analysis to identity politics as basis for progressive policy reveals something equally well-known: the New Left was never left at all. It was always the nice and cool side of neo-liberalism. Greater tolerance (and some legal rights) may give the illusion of greater social justice while discreetly (or not so discreetly) eating away at class conditions. It is a distraction from economic hegemony. Indeed, WBM uses the arrest of Henry Louis Gates as an example of how class analysis is absent in the accounts of the incident. Race is the almost exclusive focus of any narrative.

And in case one still does not think class matters, guess who is not really been hurt by the massive recession? The Transnational Capitalist Class and the representative of the Transnational State.

Actually, it has given them more vacation time.

The Contracting Society? (Pun Maybe Intended… or Maybe Not)

I am reading this as an extension of privatization:

Todd Krohn provides further examples of this trend:

In addition to privatization, I would also associate this as an additional layer of the network society where it becomes more and more difficult to trace back who does what and works for whom. This contributes to not only chipping away at, but also blurring, the domain of action of the states.

This trend in contracting seems to me to be a perfect illustration of what Saskia Sassen calls the denationalization of the state where the institutions of the state contribute to their own erosion of sovereignty to further global integration into the global economy but also into  the transnational institutions of global governance (thereby contributing to the emergence what William Robinson call the transnational state).

Note that the increased used of contractor always benefit transnational corporations and often play a part in repression in various forms (prisons, torture and rendition). What this always amounts to is a loss of transparency in the inner workings of the state. So is excluded from this? Well, mostly the ever elusive global civil society, along with national civil society and social movement organizations.

Consolidating The Transnational State

Consider this:

William I. Robinson (2004), A Theory of Global Capitalism – Production, Class and State in a Transnational World , Baltimore (MD): Johns Hopkins University Press.

"Governments are undertaking restructuring and serve the needs of transnational capital not simply because they are ‘powerless’ om the face of globalization, as the ‘weak state’ thesis would suggest, but because a particular historical constellation of social forces now exists that presents an organic social base for this global restructuring of capitalism. (…) Hence it is not that nation-states become irrelevant or powerless vis-à-vis transnational capital and its global institutions. Rather, power as the ability to issue commands and have them obeyed, or more precisely, the ability to shape social structures, shifts from social groups and classes with interests in national accumulation to those whose interests lie in new global circuits of accumulation. These latter groups realize their power and institutionalize it in emerging TNS [Transnational State] apparatuses that include supranational organizations and also existing states of nation-states that are captured and reorganized by transnational groups and become, conceptually, part of an emergent TNS apparatus. (…)

Far from the ‘global’ and ‘national’ being mutually exclusive fields, the global becomes incarnated in local social structures and processes. The disciplinary power of global capitalism shifts actual policymaking power within national states to the global capitalist bloc, which is represented by local social forces tied to the global economy. The new managers of the neoliberal national states are part of a new global ruling class and represent some of the more charismatic executive functionaries of a TNS." (109-110)

And now consider this (via Lambert):

“Emergent TNS apparatus” indeed.