Autors com Joseph Stiglitz parlen de l’existència d’un doble procés de globalització. En primer lloc, parlaríem d’un mecanisme participat per determinades elits financeres i empresarials així com diversos sectors polítics adreçat a promoure la des-regulació dels fluxos de capital i dels mercats financers. En segon lloc, existeix una altre procés referent als moviments de mercaderies i persones. En aquesta dinàmica han emergit tot un seguit de desequilibris que han permès al capital com “actor apart” circular a discreció arreu del globus, gairebé sense cap mena de control ni restriccions. Per contra, el trànsit de persones i mercaderies xoca sovint amb limitacions les quals, ara com ara, semblen molt difícils de superar. Aquests mecanismes de circulació, distribució i acumulació de capital han dibuixat una nova geografia de la globalització sense que en cap cas s’hagin pogut superar, en relació a la distribució de la riquesa, les ja clàssiques desigualtats nord-sud. En aquest nou mapa de la globalització hi destaquen el que Saskia Sassen anomena ciutats globals; en si mateixes, una mostra concentrada en determinats punts o regions de les desigualtats que es perfilen a nivell planetari. Una desigualtat de rentes de capital i de salaris que, segons Thomas Piketty, en referència a les informacions disponibles fins l’actualitat, només té precedents si s’observen les dades de distribució de riquesa (rendes de capital i salaris) a la Belle Epoque, és a dir, al període anterior a les dues grans guerres mundials. Tanmateix, es tracta de desigualtats les quals no només afecten als països menys desenvolupats sinó també i, sobretot d’ençà de principis del segle XXI, a les democràcies occidentals més desenvolupades.
Societat de la informació, poder, elits, neoliberalisme, capitalisme, economia, social, innovació, tecnologia, informació, mitjans de comunicació de masses, desigualtat, desequilibris, ciutats globals, capital, mercats, fluxos de capital, treball, canvi climàtic, democràcia, moral, finances, mitjans de comunicació, noves tecnologies, pensée unique, propaganda, desinformació, manipulació
Authors such as Joseph Stiglitz mention the existence of a dual process of globalization. They discuss an economic-mechanism relation to business and financial elites and various political sectors aimed at promoting the deregulation of capital flows and financial markets. And secondly, another process regarding the movement of goods and people. This dynamic has ed to the emergence of a series of imbalances that again have led to capital as „actor apart“ circular spreading over the globe, almost without any control or restrictions. By contrast, the transit of people and goods often collides with constraints which, for now, seem very difficult to overcome. These mechanisms of circulation, distribution and accumulation of capital have drawn a new geography of globalization. These obstacles, the unfair distribution of wealth and the stablished inequalities between the Northern and Southern hemisphere can not be easily overcome. On the newly drawn map of globalization emphasize lies on what Saskia Sassen calls “global cities”; they are systematic and concentrated in themselves in certain regions or pointing of inequalities that are emerging at the global level. Inequality of wages and money laundering, according Thomas Piketty, referring to the information available to the present, only if previous data observed distribution of wealth (capital income and wages) in the so called Belle Epoque – the period before the two world wars. Contrary to common opinion these inequalities affect not only the least developed countries but also, and increasingly so since the beginning of the century, the more developed Western democracies.
Information society , power elites , neoliberalism , capitalism , economics , social, innovation, technology , information, mass media , inequality, imbalances , global cities , capital markets , capital flows , employment , climate change, democracy , moral , finance , media , new technologies, pensée unique , propaganda , disinformation , manipulation
The general hypothesis or thesis of this article comes from a statement by J. M. Castells in which the author says „does not want to pretend to restore the idea of the existence of an elite“ (Castells, p. 77)1. What I try to show in this article is precisely the existence of an elite and thus the existence of a set of pre-established mechanisms of power and domination of an economic base, which are being strengthened further day by day by the direction taken by neoliberal capitalism in recent decades. In the process, these processes not only contributed to the new information technologies with the export of capitalism, but also globally and in parallel to a number of mechanisms, such as the mass media and also to what has been called by some authors the “cultural mean stream” (Chomsky2, 2003, Castells, 2009). All that has been forging a kind of pensée unique also called “consensus”, which hinders increasingly broad sectors of the population and consider reasonable alternatives to a system which is increasingly‘ proving, both ecological and social untenable, not to say destructive.
The system is to instill in us the believe in the existence of an alleged regulatory in the form an invisible hand of the market, so that the public is unaware of the deregulation and privatization which is carried out globally on a mass-level. This is repeatedly leading not only to a gradual loss of social and economic influence of the middle classes, but also to the gradual dismantling of the welfare state. Indeed, a welfare state which since World War II had been maintained and funded through the efforts and work of the latter. Moreover, we also try to analyze how these various mechanisms appear to start having effects on democratic processes. In this sense, authors like G. Mayos and J. Campàs3 begin to denounce what they consider a private retreat on the part of broad social sectors, as well as a progressive establishment of a society of ignorance or cultural illiteracy. In part, all of theses processes are caused by a lack of confidence and expectations of the population with respect to democratic elected representatives. Aspects such as the ultra-specialization, manipulation and information overload, misinformation, conceptual relativism, the progressive loss of ethical values and cultural trivialization of the same culture as well as the continued self staging of the society (“Society of the Spectacle”) and its actors become factors that may endanger not only themselves, but ultimately also the future democratic foundations of social stability in the whole. In this frame of transformations excels again that old-new „ghost of capital“ (Joseph Vogl, 2011)4 and with it the elites (new or old) and the different interests that are hidden behind.
With the help of empirical data (Thomas Piketty, 2014)5 we will try to substantiate the various imbalances and processes of accumulation of power and wealth which, now in a global perspective and in the field of information society, affect us all. The materials that were used are entirely original bibliographic sources either in paper or electronic format. That is, we proceeded to a bibliographic analysis of different authors chosen both for their reputation and recognized interests and originality that their works may produce. We have further taken into account qualitative methods, based on a more consistent reliability of the information which contains quantitative methods in the form of numerical data and graphs. This justifies the need to consider, in its complexity, a number of references which very useful in understanding the diversity of mechanisms that determine the new social and economic realities. We are talking about a society in constant transformation, accelerated and permanently connected to information flows, which in the words of Zigmunt Bauman6 seem to feed into a „liquefaction process“ not only economically but also regarding the social and political spheres. Processes, as a whole, seem to have generated new therapies of indoctrination and manipulation of the population, so that they fits in the best possible way corresponding to the newly established social and economic orders which, in time, strengthens and causes a self-referencing feedback.
A NEW SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ORDER
Within what we understand as the information society and media, a process of creation of new elites and the concentration of power is swiftly developing. This lies within a few hands. Markets, banks and financial institutions of all kinds seem to determine the future of millions of people without them even being aware of it; but they have virtually no power capability. The current economic, political and cultural developments, Greece7, for example, is paradigmatic in this regard, however, it is not far from an isolated case. For example, it is a fact that public and private debts of the states and therefore also of the public (here we consider what is meant by advanced Western democracies) have soared dramatically. Moreover, similar inequalities have also increased all aver the world:
[In the graph you can see how the curve of inequality has already exceeded the values of the „pre-war world.“]8
However, the purpose of this article is to take the drive out a detailed and thorough analysis of all aspects of social, economic, political, etc., order that determine these new processes of accumulation of power, which, moreover is impossible given the limited space. However we can try to introduce some aspects and mechanisms which can be considered to have a more direct relationship with these processes and that, somehow, we wanted to be considered as determinant:
[THE NEW ECONOMY] the progressive increase in both public and private debt of the states and neoliberal policies since the eighties due to a deregulation international financial markets;
[GLOBALIZATION] globalization (of information, capital and labor market) economy with the emergence of „global cities“ as new paradigms of inequality (s);
[COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION] misinformation, propaganda and manipulation of information. The new “golden” era of digital multinationalism.
THE NEW ECONOMY
Starting with the debt, it is needless to say that capitalism itself would not exist if the debt9 and the generated interest did not exist. Authors such as Michael Maier begin to speak of a true current process of „looting or pillaging the world,“ to the extent that states and their systems of debt-based, artificial money production have accelerated the concentration of wealth within a few hands „10.
[Source: OECD. National Accounts at a Glance, 2014: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/economics/national-accounts-at-a-glance-2014_na_glance-2014-en ]
To return the debt, states must resort to equity and private capital. The fact that states are seen increasingly conditioned to rely on international financial markets also predetermines many aspects of their margins of maneuver. Colin Crouch11 has described the current situation as „post-democracy.“ Meanwhile, M. Maier discusses how „the support of organizations such as the IMF and central banks want to own the states that do not belong; democracy, rule of law and morality have become luxury items“12. This whole process has been accelerated – not necessarily conditioning – the use of new ICTs and allows exporting in the same way the logic of global capital. This results in a globalization based on neoliberal policies since the eighties, according to the theories of as Joseph Stiglitz.13 Moreover, Stiglitz convinced himself of the advantages and progress that globalization can lead to by not following the right path; in fact he acknowledges that globalization now offers two very different faces. The problem is not globalization itself, but the way this is being carried out. Stiglitz defines a „globalization driven by economic factors, the rules of which have been set by rich countries and, therefore, are aimed to satisfy their interests. Therefore unsurprisingly hardly anyone has considered rules for fair trade or benefits and measures to improve the situation of the least developed countries „14. Also, one should not neglect problems and limitations of any kind that the heavily indebted poor countries have to bear (Stiglitz, 2006). Countries are forced to spend much of their income to repay any debt in the form of cuts in education, health, infrastructure, etc., which, in turn, represents a serious obstacle for the their future developments15.
[Piketty described in the first two chapters of his book the operation of the distribution of national income, or income with respect to wages and capital following the changes that have occurred in the distribution since the eighteenth century. He distinguishes between labor income (that of workers, engineers, managers, etc.) and capital income (small, medium and large investors in the stock market and owners)].
J. Manuel Castells (2009)16 speaks, on the other hand, of the existence of a network, coupled with global network nodes. However, within these nodes exist or may arise categories according to their role which develop according to their potential domain. Furthermore, we also need to consider hierarchies and elites, or, to be more precise, a „small elite“ that Maier describes as „controlling most of the wealth around the globe“17. In fact, a computer simulation experiment of the complex network of global financial systems came to the result that a very small group of actors dominate the total global wealth: 0.143% of the owners of 43,000 multinational companies control 80% of these business wealht18. Piketty19 confirms with the data obtained in their analysis this trend of gradual accumulation of wealth within few hands: now almost more than half of all global wealth belongs to a small economic elite20 (with the remaining 99% being controlled by the great mass of population as movements, such as “Occupy Wall Street Wall” try to raise awareness of21). For example, in the United States in 2010 the wealthiest 10% of people were in possession of about 50% of total revenue income and working capital.
[Source Piketty, 2014: „Das Kapital im 21. Jahrhundert“. [En línea] capital21cen. Retreived: http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/en/capital21c2 ]
In their conclusions Piketty also warns that, in view of the data and the results that come off, it would be necessary to avoid any kind of „economic determinism.“ According to this author: „the story of the distribution of wealth can not be determined or predicted only from pure economic mechanisms“.
It is true that in the most developed countries there is a reduction of inequality in the first half of the twentieth century (1900-1960). Large part of this reduction was the result of the two World Wars and the political strategies that were followed after these two shocks. Also the further increase in inequality after 1970 can be attributed to a change of direction of fiscal and financial policies that have been taken by the states in recent decades.
And the author concludes that „the history of inequality depends both of social as economic and political actors”22.
From another perspective and respect for the process of globalization, Stiglitz already contemplated the existence of a series of dominant centers or points of intersection, which would become determined by business interests of multinationals and are largely supported by policies implemented in order to favor state nature national interests. Dominant nodes or points of intersection which could be considered following Saskia Sassen23 as „global cities“. It is precisely in these global cities where inequality is currently increasing and here also the information society leads to an increase of the social and economic imbalances. This makes them the perfect geographical scenarios in which we can, for example, observe more closely and better understand the current processes and mechanisms that form this increasing global inequality. Sassen24 „observes that the dynamics of globalization contains both a“ dynamic scattering “ and a“ dynamic of concentration“ together with the coexistence of various global networks with their centralizations of control25. While these hubs differ much from those of the past, as there is no simple relationship between central and geographical unity as a „center“ (which could be considered a „new“ dynamic centralization). The current business centers, which we could call the “down town”, have been substantially altered by the impacts that have ICT (Graham, 2002 and Garcia, 2002)26. The cities in this context of globalization begin to operate processes that go beyond the regional and national (dynamic scattering); they constitute centers or nodes interconnected within a global network of flows, which in return have been greatly increased with the de-regulation of economies nationwide (Ferguson and Mansbach, 1999).
These economics centers have become global nodes organizers and distributors of cross-border flows of capital in strategic places with a hyper-concentration of resources, which can meet all their service needs, whether electronic origin, communications and infrastructure of all kinds, with highly skilled workers, as well as a long list of unskilled workers (many migrants) who represent the other side of the coin: the diminishing job security and wages. Cities like New York, London, Tokyo, Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Sydney, Hong Kong, to which we add Sao Paulo and Mexico City, among others, have become paradigms of this dynamic. So according to Sassen, these new global financial centers „require a lot of labor both generic and specialized,“ „centers also depend on how much cross-border networks of large concentrations of land resources“ (Sassen 2003), which typically operate using the new international deregulations. Around all this development that some authors call the “new economy” (Benkler, 2006 Beck, 2006) have emerged a number of shortcomings and inequalities in addition to a proportional increase in the risk of formation all kinds of economic „bubbles“27. Around this environment, almost virtual capital markets and speeding cyberspace in search of a speculative investment objective or to dodge taxes, has emerged a new paradigm of exclusion and job insecurity. The new geography of globalization and their intersections must constitute around 40 global cities that make up today’s economy and organizational directive of almost the whole global economy (Sassen, 2008)28. According U. Khotari29, one of the consequences of these new global geographies „is the emergence of new circuits that cross the North-South divide in the form of labor and trafficking of human beings.“
When we are talking about other „work“ and „labor generic“ we refer to the factory workers in zones of Asia, exploited workers in the textile industry in Los Angeles or the cleaning staff buildings of the City of London and Wall Street. Immigration is a component of one of the main processes that have helped build the new economy of cross-border „both macro and global labor markets at the micro level of the survival strategies of trans-local households“30 (Sassen, 2008). Together with the operation of highly technical and specialized services coexist a large number of manual labor, underpaid, often performed by immigrants and women. In this sense, there are mechanisms for assessing their work, which generates a growing inequality between these two economic spheres, being able to draw parallels between this dynamic and growing inequality at global level31. Alongside extraordinarily high wages for skilled workers, we can also observe an income reduction of less skilled workers (Gounari, 2015 Boltansky and Chiapello, 2003). The same could be said of the financial industry’s extraordinary profits compared to those of many small and medium enterprises in the industrial sector which, right now, just struggling to survive. These determining factors condition a new labor panorama, almost international, with a multiplicity of work fields and an increasingly pronounced segmentation and employment inequality. Phenomena which, as Sassen described32: “do not exclude a racial categorization as well as a progressive segmentation of the labor market” (Inci and Lenz, 2015).
However, have reached a situation of imbalance and inequality? Granted to only blame the technology is in any case a partial solution, and of course, false. Because, ultimately, we are humans who decide how to use the technologies we develop. As the astrophysics theoretical professor Dr. Harald Lesch explained: „all technology is likely to have a dark side.“ This could be the case of Einstein’s famous equation E = mc2, somehow considered the central formula of the twentieth century, with all its positive and negative consequences33. The scientific and technical content can be exceptional, however, the use we make of them may also have chilling consequences. In fact, there has always been a certain tendency for humans to demonize any new type of technology. We could mention just the appearance of printing, film or television, no further; Theodor Adorno or the speculations of Martin Heidegger34 about technology have provided us with interesting contributions in this regard. The appeal of simple technological determinism alone is inconsistent, it needs to be accompanied by other items to form what we could call a rough explanation of reality. From the studies of science and technology, in particular, from the program SCOT35, the figure of the user is not interpreted as a passive element, but also as an active agent. It is from this point that we should to consider other factors such as politics and propaganda.
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION
Noam Chomsky36 recounts:
„The political program of President Ronald Reagan became increasingly unpopular. Before the 1984 elections believed three-fifths of the electorate that the president would not bring forward his program of domestic policy. In fact, points such as reducing social benefits and increased armament budget were rejected by the majority of the population. Although polls showed that a majority preferred to increase social budgets to weapons, this did not prevent that Reagan won the next election in a landslide.“
Chomsky attributed this victory to the great work done by the american PR industry, especially manipulation by means of the mass media. It seems that virtually the unique resistance that the program found came from the church, led in part to the already very small number of labor unions and that the political activity of these was almost null.
Moreover and returning strictly to the economic environment, authors as Ulrich Beck37 speak of a new „world of labor“ and a „brasilination“ of the West. Others, such as Philip Theer38, use descriptions like „new order“ or, in the case of Colin Crouch39, terms like „post-democracy.” Anyway, they almost unanimously agree to categorize the current model of society as a “risk society” – hence of fear. Risk and fear that, somehow, also contribute to undermine and obstruct the proper, normal functioning of democratic processes. For example, let us consider an expression that lately has become quite popular and has his origin on the massive amount of money that it has cost the taxpayers: too big to fail too big to go bankrupt (Taylor, 2014 Hudson Chavkin , 2014), although, it comes from quite far.
Adam Smith40 warned about the processes of monopolization and massive accumulation of power by only a few. Capitalism as a system and as we know it is neither moral nor democratic (Comte-Sponville, 2004 Ryan, 2015 Nicoll, 2013, Kamm, 2014)41. A central problem is that certain social sectors have wanted to persuade the masses that the capitalist system in itself represents a kind of guarantee of democracy and freedom. One poignant example for this, going back to the days of the Cold War, was the famous „Kuznets-curve“42. This theory suggests that the evolution of inequality everywhere (universal) is represented by a bell-shaped curve, also called Gauss curve, approaching a normal distribution, which means that in the process of industrialization first increases the economic inequality and finally leads to descends. It is pointless to show the little consistency of this theory; instead let us consider, as we wanted to show before, that nowadays global inequality is advancing by leaps (Piketty, 2014, Sassen 2007, Schumann, 2015 Schreiner, 2013). We have seen how the new economy focuses on specialized services and generates huge differences between employees who in many cases can no longer count on the support of the unions. The German weekly Die Zeit43 recently published an article entitled Tal der Egomanen (Valley of egomaniacs) explaining not only the change of mentality that is taking place in a generation („Y“) of skilled workers in the field of new information technologies, but also the impact that the presence of Silicon Valley has on a regional level. Prices of almost everything have soared and all social inequalities, also by gender and ethnicity, become more obvious than ever. Needless to say the least beneficiaries are the great masses of unskilled workers. This demonstrates not only the emergence of a new spatial organization of the economy and the urban population (gentrification) but also the existence of a social segmentation which Sassen also described44.
One of the main factors that determine the non-validity of the equation: Capitalism = Freedom & Democracy is intended to transform strictly economic system in a social and political system. Surely these concepts are frequently confused and/or mixed up. The neoliberal sectors wanted us to believe that liberalization and de-regulation of markets and also capitalism would offer a way of ensuring first and then cultivating and promoting freedom and democracy (Schreiner, 2013, Nowak, 2013 , Nicoll, 2013). One of the main consequences and probably the most important is that paradoxically since the eighties they wanted to implement an undemocratic economic system into a democratic political system without any limitation or regulatory basis. Considered alone, this shows an inconsistency. Another thing would be, what we tried to carry out during the postwar period in Western Europe and partly in the United States; to „tame“, regulate and transforming the “wild“ economic system in another, more moral one. In democratic societies the option to choose one way or another falls into the hand of the majority of voters. What is the case and therefore a fact, is that now the majority of states at any given time of crisis may have to face a huge problem while on the other hand it continues to accumulate debt45. And with this debt could start another vicious circle of debt putting it on sale by states; public debt in its many facets will be acquired by investment banks and speculators. It is in this sense that Wolgang Streeck46 discusses „bought time“ or the principle to gain time in order to avoid delaying the inevitable as possible and perhaps the final major crisis of capitalism in Western democratic societies.
We have entered the multinational (global) and digital era. Nobody knows exactly where and how these circulating capital flows or exactly how they work; these are generally described by the media simply as “the markets”. Surely not even known experts are dedicated to it because of the irrationality of these mechanisms and because we must not forget that behind every decision there always is, at least at the moment, a human being. Indeed, the programmer of algorithms is human. Despite having entered a “control society” similar to that described by Deleuze47, of big data, surveillance and electronic monitoring mass, however, and as recognized A. Wilkens48 in his latest book “Analogue is the New Bio“, human beings are analog, and therefore we commit mistakes while we extract of this knowledge. At this point it is essential to look at issues relating to the power; understanding the power as a human expression of domain, is an inevitable issue if you consider that money also means power. Very successfully Castells49 connects the term power with that of communication in the network society. We know that power is not located in an specific area or specific social institution. Although, power is relational (relationships with multi-scale and multi-level Castells, 2009), so that there are concentrations of power in certain specific social sectors that can influence institutions (such as governments) which are effective and which can exercise dominion. Castells almost inevitably ends up in the second chapter of his book whit the issue of concentration of ownership, in this case referring to the concentration of mass media in a few multinational corporations (digital) globally50. Therefore, we should not ignore a small section on this subject which establishes a direct relationship with one aspect that we have already explained: the functioning of propaganda.
In fact, today the states are overwhelmed by social and special financial liquidity. Civil society is acting against the power of the financial elites51 (Stiglitz, 2010, Streeck, 2013), and the state could “react by” facing a process of globalization“ which, right now, only seems to follow neoliberal guidelines (Stiglitz, 2010) à la Hayek with all the social injustices that it entails. There are in this sense a large number of organizations in the form of lobbies52, think tanks53 and related media which seem very interested in ensuring that things continue to follow the course they currently follow. It encompasses disinformation and ignorance within a society (Mayos, 2011)), the illiterate society and crisis of meaning (Campàs, 2011), an-uneducated society (Innerarity, 2011), the society of spectacle (Debord, 1996), etc. Whatever the tactics of distraction, confusion or misinformation designed to awaken the population that bit of fear of any revolutionary adventure, seem in the sectors concerned to give good results. Let us simply remember one of the main players with a load more power and influence in Europe, such as the presidency of the European Central Bank, is now a former director of Goldman Sachs54. Surely a variety of factors interact here: bulimia, saturation and informative intoxication, and probably also the excesses of our consumer society. Timelessness, time fleeting, non-materiality, worldwide network immediacy means that we often lose sight of reality. Selfishness reaches new heights of power in democratic societies that translates into individualism and lack of solidarity. In a sense, Mayos regrets that freedom in the information society “has reduced the possibility of withdrawing into the private sphere in the profession, entertainment and fun.“55
However, not everything seems to be lost.56 Benkler57 meanwhile observes that part of what he calls “networked information economy”, are a self-improving individuals. Indeed, „these seem to use their freedom and practical capacity to act and cooperate with others to improve the democratic exercise in general“ (Benkler 2006). According to the author the improvement of the practical ability and cooperative of individuals is determined by three things:
an increase in its production capacity not only individually but also in the face of public space;
an enhancement of the ability to cooperate with others without feeling we urged to the necessity of organizing production through a mercantilist system or having to submit to a hierarchical model of economic and social organization;
there is an increase in the ability to do things by the individual in formal organizations which operate outside the sphere of traditional market.58
Benkler’s ideas are based on the thesis that the advanced democracies since the 90s are entailed with the raising Internet revolution. This has produced a gradual change towards a new economic model of information whit production substantially different from the previous model of industrial economy (Taylorism) only targeted to the markets and with the single goal of obtaining material benefits. A society, in short, much too limited by the availability of capital. Therefore, it is interesting to follow studies such as Benkler’s and be aware of the new possibilities that ICT’s action, in the sense of considering the possibilities opened up with this new model of society to improve, not only with regards to the exercise of democracy, but also in view of the relationships and respect between different communities and the improvement and reestablishment of social justice.
NOTES A PEU DE PÀGINA