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January 23, 2009

Saskia Sassen on monarchism; me on good books

Saskia Sassen has a fascinating piece on how the current era of globalization has increased executive power at the expense of Congress and democratic deliberation more generally. What will this mean for Obama?

The development of a global corporate economy has further strengthened the executive branch and weakened the legislative. This process started long before the second Bush administration and cuts across political parties. It began in the 1980s, when the current globalization phase took off, and has continued since...

A question appropriate for this week In fact, economic globalization has had its own autonomous effect in sharpening executive power and in weakening the legislature. This is separate from questions of national security and abuses of executive privilege. It will take more to stop this consolidation of power than having an administration that does not abuse its executive power and that would eliminate the Patriot Act, though this would certainly make a difference...

A new president genuinely willing to respect the balance of power and willing to cancel the Patriot Act will still be in a structural position of growing power in today’s liberal state. A hollowed-out Congress confined to domestic matters weakens the political capacity of citizens to demand accountability from an increasingly powerful and globally oriented executive. Today, the liberal state produces its own democratic deficit.

There is an ironic possibility in all of this. Can a president intent on fighting for a better and more just democracy actually use that expanded executive power to do this?


Also, for those of you interested in some good book recommendations, check out my essay on David Rothkopf, Ha-Joon Chang and Mark Engler's latest over at the Dissent website. The conclusion seems appropriate for this week of change:

THIS OCTOBER, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings came to Washington, and, as they do every year, an impassioned bunch of activists mounted protests, decrying the neoliberal agenda that has deregulated markets, pitted worker against worker, and devastated local communities and the environment.

The difference this time around was that, in the wake of the most significant financial meltdown of our times, the bankers were echoing the protestors’ calls for re-regulation. Indeed, as the number of people protesting the global institutions has shrunk since September 11, 2001, the mainstream acceptance of their basic critiques has swelled...

As economic conditions worsen, there will be a bevy of rich individuals and governments attempting to claim the reform mantle as their own. The WTO, IMF, and World Bank are already attempting to reposition themselves as the ideal brokers for solutions to the climate, finance, and food-price crises—despite their role in creating or exacerbating them. Decades of political marginalization have left too many progressives too timid to lay out their alternative visions in a meaningful policy form. If they fail to do so now, the current “told you so” moment will be sweet but short.

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