Fractals, a central concept of chaos theory, are said to display a pattern that repeats itself at
every level of magnification from the microscopic to the macrosopic. This physical concept, like many
others, can be regarded as having a social analog. One expression of the implications of this concept
can be found in Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man:
The original despotism · divides and subdivides itself into a thousandToday's victims of downsizing, re-engineering and structural adjustment will recognize the
shapes and forms, till at last the whole of it is acted by deputation ·
against this species of despotism, proceeding on through an endless
labyrinth of office till the source of it is scarcely perceptible, there is no
mode of redress. It strengthens itself by assuming the appearance of duty,
and tyrannizes under the pretence of obeying. (Paine, 1791: 20)
In addressing the question of "Level of Analysis: Global and/or Local",
one of the three subthemes
of this conference, the concept of social fractals is particularly instructive. To advance our
understanding and our actions, we must recognize the interdependence and mutual causation of social
phenomena and refrain from dichotomizing global and local perspectives. Moreover, we should be
speaking of levels of analysis with linkages extending multi-directionally from the local to sub-national
regions (which may include cross-national economic, social and/or ecological regions), to the national,
to supra-national regions and to the global.
This interdependence throughout the human hierarchy is clearly expressed
in the preceding
quote from Thomas Paine. Many of you will recognize a similar representation in André Gunder
Frank's 1965 analysis of the chain of surplus expropriation/appropriation running from the sub-sub
tenant in distant agricultural regions of Latin America to the firms occupying the commanding heights
of global capitalism. Riane Eisler offers an alternative perspective on the concept of social fractals in
her analysis of what she terms the dominator and the partnership models of human interaction. For
Eisler, the ideal societal norm that we should be striving to develop is that of the partnership model
where "social relations are primarily based on the principle of linking rather than ranking · [and]
diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority" (Eisler, 1987: xvii). In the still very
prevalent dominator model, in contrast, the emphasis is clearly on obedience, deference to authority,
and a rigid hierarchical ordering of society, "backed up by force or threat of force" (Eisler, 1987: xvii).
II. The Dominator Model: Neo-Liberalism
Neo-liberalism in all its manifestations is an embodiment of the dominator model. For all the
lip-service that is currently given to international cooperation (partnership), it is within a context of
unequal relationships (domination). Nations (and people) are expected to be competitive, to pay their
own way economically and to conform to norms strongly influenced by the most powerful "players"
that give little recognition to differing national (and individual) potentials.
Paul Krugman described national competitiveness as a dangerous obsession,
policy on a wide range of issues, many with little direct bearing on international trade. As Krugman
puts it: "if an economic doctrine is flatly, completely and demonstrably wrong, the insistence that
discussion adhere to that doctrine inevitably blurs the focus and diminishes the quality of policy
discussion across a broad range of issues" (Krugman, 1994: 42). Of course, the fact that an
approach is demonstrably wrong may not be evident to many observers. And those who do raise their
voices in opposition may either be written off as know-nothing malcontents, or, in what can only be
regarded as a Kafkaesque metamorphosis, as speaking for a special interest group.
As Krugman observes, policies aimed at national competitiveness are
confrontational, an unsuitable approach to the conduct of affairs in a rapidly globalizing society. The
focus on competitiveness carries with it a we-they approach to the world. In times of economic strife,
they -- the adversaries -- are the ones who are robbing our jobs. They are not only foreign
countries, but minorities or even majorities (women, to identify an obvious majority) in our midst.
Violence toward the other is not uncommon in circumstances in which jobs disappear and real
The doctrine of national competitiveness may manifest itself in either
a free market format --
an even more dangerous obsession in its pure, unmitigated form -- or an industrial policy format or an
admixture of the two: subsidies to capital and flexible markets for labor. This universal quest for an
external payments surplus is at the heart of many of our problems in a world of increasingly
integrated markets with largely uncoordinated national decision making. As competitiveness and the
downsizing of the public sector is the name of the game in both the north and the south, most
governments are today bent on policies which are intended to permit them to pay their own way
internationally. Indeed they have no choice but to do so as they are likely to find that economic
"realities" curb good intentions.
As simultaneous payments surpluses in all countries are a logical impossibility,
many must of
necessity "fail" and those who "win" do so at a cost. But nations don't "win" -- some people within
them win and some lose. Year after year the UNDP's Human Development Report has recorded a
widening gap between the 20% of the world's population living in the richest countries and the 20%
living in the poorest. At last count the ratio had expanded from 30/1 in 1960 to an estimated 86/1 by
the late 1990s (UNDP, 1999: 3). In an economist's static welfare model, my gain and your loss can be
simply tallied up and the matter is settled. In reality, monetary gainers who perceive threats to their
security may clamor for the state to take a hard line against those who dissent about the outcome of
the process. National strategies in an integrated world tend to generate an excess of losers over
winners in both the winning and the losing countries. The temper of the moment is one in which the
few winners are neither disposed to share with the community, be it local, national or global, nor are
compelled to do so to any appreciable extent.
III. Neo-Liberalism with a Human Face?
In the neo-liberal view, the losers are failed people and failed states. It is the responsibility of
those who fail to heal themselves. Few are the voices suggesting that what has failed are not countries,
but rather the world system. Robert Triffin, the real father of European monetary integration, spoke
in the 1980s of the scandal of a non-world system in the monetary arena (1986). In a like manner, we
should speak of the scandal of a non-world system in the human domain. Instead, the focus is placed
almost exclusively on local action. We have, for example, the obsession of the "North" with
corruption which, in the realm of binary logic, is regarded as a primarily Southern phenomenon. This
is but one element in a continuing denial of the interconnectedness of all parts of the global system.
We have also witnessed in the last decade or two the emergence of a
new vocabulary of
development. Indeed, one can speak of a new people-centered paradigm. Central to this new
paradigm are the concepts of community, voice, participation and even one notion that was long
marginalized from development discourse: democracy. When this language is adopted by the very
institutions that were regarded by many as global pariahs it should not be occasion for celebration, but
rather for careful reflection. And when the major global players speak with one tongue, it is
appropriate to ask what the adoption of "sheep's clothing" is being used to hide. Too much
agreement should always be cause for concern. Both as intellectuals and citizens we should be wary
when there are no off-key voices to be heard.
I will illustrate my point by referring to three publications; two of
which are official reports,
while the other is a scholarly monograph The theme of the World Bank's 1997 World Development
Report was "The State in a Changing World". The Report offers countless observations of what the
authors believe is required in virtually every area of potential state involvement, with market-based
policies clearly being privileged. While there is much that one can applaud, technical solutions play a
more central role throughout the Report than political processes. In the chapter devoted to "Bringing
the State Closer to the People," where decentralization is celebrated, we read that "the minimum size
of self-sufficient government has declined" and that "local and regional governments . . . can better
provide the infrastructure and skilled labor force that multinational businesses need" (World Bank,
1997: 120). To pretend that units of whatever size can be self-sufficient is an illusion. To pretend
that local governments, possibly strapped for funds, can bargain on an equal footing with
multinational firms is a delusion. The myth of self-sufficiency is a convenient construction for
keeping discussion of international and intra-national progressive redistribution of income and wealth
off the policy agenda, while regressive market-driven redistribution not only proceeds largely unabated,
but is consistently reinforced.
While the World Bank's 1997 Report gives ample attention to building
public opinion, client surveys, collective action, cooperation and NGOs, one is able to count easily on
one's fingers the explicit use of the word democracy. The Report does not hesitate in denouncing
"predatory states", but in the absence of a precise econometric relationship between growth and
democracy (World Bank, 1997: 149), it tends to even avoid the word. Voice is apparently to be
channeled into controlled, well-managed fora.
We witnessed the publication in June 2000 of A Better World for All,
a policy statement coissued
by the OECD, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations for
submission to the Okinawa meeting of the G-8 heads of state. The document sets out seven
development goals to be achieved through the joint efforts of the developed and developing countries
by 2015. Once again we find many worthy sentiments, but in a minimalist context. "Pro-poor" policy
is the new slogan, rather than more broadly-based considerations of global justice. Aid, however, is to
be directed primarily to those countries that use it effectively. There is the rhetoric of "country
ownership of development policies" (International Monetary Fund, OECD, United Nations and
World Bank, 2000: 23), yet the reality is one where the range of acceptable behavior is externally
circumscribed. Only on the subject of HIV/AIDS, does A Better World for All suggest any serious
global mobilization, referring to "massive international support." (International Monetary Fund,
OECD, United Nations and World Bank, 2000: 17) Nowhere else is a comparable commitment even
In one breath, the heads  of the four sponsoring
organizations of A Better World for All
emphasize that each country should "identify its own particular goals, its own path to development,
and make its own commitment through dialogue with its citizens" (International Monetary Fund,
OECD, United Nations and World Bank, 2000: 2). They go on to speak in the very next paragraph
of "partners in the development effort," but caution, in a paternalistic manner, that spending by the
developing countries should be done efficiently, effectively and wisely (International Monetary Fund,
OECD, United Nations and World Bank, 2000: 2). Then, oblivious to what consensus might emerge
from dialogue with citizens, they go on to insist that public resources not be committed to activities
that can best be undertaken by the private sector.
Thirty years after the goal of 0.7% of GNP for foreign aid was first
enunciated, we find this
very modest objective reiterated once again in A Better World For All. In 1998 the ratio of net official
development assistance to GNP for the 21 country members of the OECD's Development Assistance
Committee was only 0.24, with the ratio for the United States at a mere 0.10. The goal has been
regularly attained only by Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. In fact, even if that goal
had been reached in 1998 it would have amounted to only US$150 billion (in contrast to the actual
amount of US$52 billion) and had the money been allocated as unconditional grants in its entirety to
those countries identified in the World Development Report 2000-2001 as low income, it would have
amounted to a mere $63 per capita for each of the 2.4 billion people living in those countries, a sum
that would likely be insufficient to pay for one evening's dinner for two people, excluding wine and tip,
in an upscale restaurant in any of the high income countries of the world. Depending on largesse
from today's "dominant" countries with strings of conditionality attached seems hardly to be the
manner in which to construct a planet-wide human partnership. That four institutions that function as
would-be "maîtres du monde" have nothing fresh to offer in the realm of global public finance than
an obsolete formula for charity which is unequal to the tasks at hand belies their lack of serious
commitment to building a peaceful and just democratic global order.
Our age has been described as one characterized by "anti-politics",
a process by which
outcomes are removed from citizen influence and where, as a complement, citizen cynicism is
cultivated in order to encourage individuals to distance themselves from public policy formation.
Anti-politics is a highly suggestive term, but it misleads by intimating that the actions of those whose
voices and viewpoints strongly shape policy are not part of the political process -- a confusion that
may well be unique to the English language. In French, in contrast, "politique" means both politics
and policy. The feel-good participatory processes embedded in an updated neo-liberal framework are
part of the newly inclusive revised hegemonic discourse, which William I. Robinson referred to as
"low intensity democracy" in his 1996 study of US efforts to promote democracy throughout the
southern hemisphere. In the revised hegemonic discourse many familiar terms, even rallying cries,
have been appropriated by those whose intent is to radically circumscribe the impact of
Robinson argues that the objective of US foreign policy has not changed,
but the ãmeansä
have shifted from coercive domination to consensual domination. The consensus-generating foreign
policy strategy of choice is that of "democracy promotion." The US National Endowment for
Democracy (NED) was created in 1983 as an embodiment of the view that ostensibly overt political
aid could well replace in importance both military and economic aid, and as well be both more
effective and safer for the "operatives" over the long term than covert intelligence endeavors.
Robinson tells us that, despite the benevolent ring of its name, the NED "was created in the highest
echelons of the US national security state, as part of the same project that led to the illegal operations
of the Iran-Contra scandal·[and] has operated in tandem will all major interventionist undertakings in
the 1980s and 1990s." (Robinson, 1996: 89) Remarkably, the NED's private, non-profit status
conveniently permits the insulation of its operations from public scrutiny and accountability
(Robinson, 1996: 94). Surveying recent experience, Robinson sees "democracy promotion" in many
countries as having been "large-scale political operations in foreign policy, involving heavy doses of
political action, coercive diplomacy, covert political warfare, and psychological operations" (Robinson,
1996: 79). While this is hardly the "true partnership" proclaimed by A Better World for All, there is
sufficient cause to take heart, as the intentions of those who would control and the behavior of those
being manipulated "for their own good" often diverge.
IV. The Partnership Model: Global Democratic Federalism
Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of allWe are in the midst of a revolutionary-scale change which links us all in an extensive web of
social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the
bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with
their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept
away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All
that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last
compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his
relations with his kind.
-- Marx and Engels
Our sober senses should lead us to conclude that we have a common destiny
and that we are
part of a common humanity. That being the case, the relations with our kind can only be sustainable if
partnership replaces domination in both the individual and the institutional. The recent, continuing
flood of writing on global governance must be seen as evidence of the realization that there is but one
logical next step at the global level. In my view, that step should take the form of global democratic
federalism (Frankman, 1997), if we wish not only to head off global disasters, but also, more
sentimentally, to preserve those benign local idiosyncrasies (including languages) and historic
adaptations that we have come to cherish. If we don't build reciprocity and redistribution at a global
level, we will be unable to restore and preserve the bonds that have been eroded within nations and
As for the development discourse, a context of democratically controlled
opens options that are today subservient to "economic imperatives". The focus changes from failed
states to a failed system. Extending areas of stable peace (Boulding, 1978) to the global level should,
in principle, undermine the global arms trade and finally create a massive global peace dividend. A
commitment to partnership rather than domination would rewrite countless scenarios. Today our
survival requires that solidarity and Riane Eisler's notion of a partnership model must not merely be
writ large, but world-wide.
If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time · but if youThe establishment of the neo-liberal hegemony was not the product of the wave of a wizard's
have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work
-- Lillia Watson, Australian Aboriginal Woman, 1986 
Solidarity, community, acceptance and respect extending beyond the local
and the national to
the global are infectious sentiments and practices that cannot be contained once they begin to take
root. They are the keys to the fractal geometry of the partnership model that embraces the common
humanity of all. These sentiments have the potential, as in the quote from Thomas Paine, with which
I began, to divide and subdivide "into a thousand shapes and forms" in a virtuous profusion. That is
truly our millennial task: to displace despotism, benevolent or otherwise, with a partnership culture
that unleashes the creative, rather than the destructive, potential of all humanity.
1 While training in economics virtually starts with the principle that interpersonal comparisons of well-being
cannot be made, numerous common applications, ranging from the microeconomic analysis of the effects of a
tariff to national income accounting and cost-benefit analysis, effectively violate this principle.
2 Kofi A. Annan, Secretary-General of the UN; Donald
J. Johnson, Secretary-General of the OECD; Horst
Kohler, Managing Director of the IMF; and James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank Group.
3 If one were to change the dividing line between the
low and middle income countries from $755 to $800, then China
and Honduras would shift to the low income category. The average aid per capita in my hypothetical
scenario would fall to $42 for each of the 3.7 billion people.
4 This quote comes from the e-mail signature used for a time by Miranda Ortiz de la Cajiga.
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