the Disillusioned kid: Keeping up with Jones
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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Keeping up with Jones

Apparently Digby Jones isn't so pleased about the tone of the World Economic Forum, which has just taken place in Davos, Switzerland:
The head of Britain's leading employers' organisation launched an outspoken attack last night on the "hijacking" of the World Economic Forum in Davos by NGOs which wanted business to apologise for itself.


"Too many of the sessions have been an excuse to beat up on business, to say that business must do better," he said. "The pendulum is swinging too far in favour of the NGOs. The World Economic Forum is caving in to them. Davos has been hijacked by those who want business to apologise for itself."
Aw diddums.

For anyone who doesn't know, Digby Jones is the big cheese in the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which is essentially a bosses union and much more confident about fighting the class war than it's proletarian counterparts. As such I don't attach a great deal of credence to his views, but I do think they illustrate an important point on the debate about the merits (or otherwise) of "globalisation". (Parenthetical aside: I don't think globalisation is actually a very useful term, hence the quotation marks, but I use it here for simplicity's sake on the assumption that readers are capable of discerning what the hell I'm going on about.)

Prior to the "Battle of Seattle" in November 1999, when activists laid siege to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in the city, marking the emergence onto the world stage of the "anti-globalisation" movement (again a term of limited use, but of some propaganda value to those seeking to defend the institutions such activists oppose, a point to which I may return in the future), the discourse around "globalisation" was largely positive. There was a widely-held assumption (at least amongst elites) that "globalisation" was obviously a good thing, even inevitable. Since Seattle, the discourse has changed radically. The debate is now framed by those seeking to defend "globalisation" in terms of why it isn't bad, or why the activists are wrong.

To be sure, the "anti-globalisation" movement acheived only limited institutional changes, most of them almost entirely superficial. The shift in the debate, less understood and barely noticed, is by contrast a major victory. Jones' views demonstrate that there are efforts underway to reclaim the territory that has been lost, with some success, but the fact that poverty, climate change and the like have been moved to the top of the agenda at elite events like the WEF demonstrate the degree to which this shift has taken hold.

And if it pisses off the likes of Digby Jones, that's just a bonus!

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