On the Organizing of Global Political Parties


The various globalization processes influence most aspects of our lives. An increasing number of matters are regulated by a complex system of international institutions, networks, and groups, or what we call “global governance.” Global governance operates in multiple and diffused ways and sites and it is within this system, consisting of a dense web of contracts, agreements, and understandings, that political parties define their operating space. This affects political organization in many ways, at least two of which must be singled out. First, networks and organizations lobby and gain influence over the decision-making in issue-specific matters. At times, these decisions take place in forums that lie outside democratic control. Second, globalization has provided people with new skills, and people are increasingly able not only technologically, but also legally, linguistically, culturally, and psychologically to have direct interaction regardless of their physical location (Scholte 2007: 14). And while these new developments have brought along risks for democratic decision-making, they simultaneously provide new possibilities for interaction, and for formulating political agendas in new ways. The new skills also cater for a new kind of interest in global issues.

These developments bring with them that the concepts of time and space regarding political decision-making are changing. One factor regarding time is that the big problems of the world, such as world poverty and global warming, require vision and political action over a time frame longer than the electoral cycle. Another factor is that as the electoral cycles in various nations differ, and this does not facilitate the forming of a space for creating concerted action even if such a vision existed. A third factor is that, in contrast to what a longer term vision would require, the political horizon for action seems to be drawing closer over time, expecting immediate results with a close eye on the stock markets, thus copying the horizon of the business world. At times, politicians cultivate their own career and may therefore have less interest in furthering issues for the long-term. In addition, if their country is, say, benefitting from oil production, then they also have little interest in regulating this business. The focus on the short-term is also a result of polls and instant reactions via social media. A fourth factor worth listing is that the political space of national parties is framed by contracts agreed upon in multiple transnational forums, and importantly, these contracts tie the hands of future governments and thus limit the current as well as the future political space.

On the issue of space, the fact that many systems in the world become increasingly integrated challenges the basic democratic principle that those affected by decisions should have a say in such decisions. This includes the observation that production and manufacturing take place not necessarily close to the planning and decision-making site of the corporation. This means that regulatory decisions, for instance, may not carry any effect in sites far away from the company’s headquarters. For instance, environmental effects of production in areas with cheap labour are not necessarily bound by the law in the jurisdiction of the corporate headquarters. Such systems raise questions not only with respect to labour laws and responsive action as they concern the environment, but also with respect to taxation and international capital flows. The spatial change in political decision-making also applies to the rule-making that takes place in the web of transnational organizations. Arguably, treaty-based organizations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Union (EU), are more than merely cooperative arrangements among members. They are also permanent institutions whose on-going authority does not require continuing consent from member states (Dunoff and Trachman 2009). The decision-makers in these organizations are not democratically elected, and this means that they are not accountable to electorates.

The geography and dynamics of formulating the required political responses to current problems are thus changing. Increasingly, politics takes place elsewhere. Yet, this “elsewhere” cannot be pinpointed to any particular electorate. At the same time though, the political decision powers remain with governments. This confusion may help to explain why, over the last 40 years, voter turnout has been steadily declining in most established democracies. Given this, it is therefore not surprising that one of the failures of the modern political party is precisely in educating publics (Scholte 2007: 23). To take it from here, one way is to ask: What are the questions that political parties seek to answer? The argument of this article is that pressing global issues, such as world poverty and climate change, cannot be successfully addressed on national scales alone. The blind focus on national economic competitiveness is blurring the global vision. The argument is constructed by way of four subquestions: What are the main challenges of political parties today? What is their connection to global civil society? What are the new movements? And finally, do we need global political parties?


On the Organizing of Global Political Parties

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Numero 09 POLITICAL PARTIES novembre, 2013 - Autore:  Condividi


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