Networks in International Economic Integration: Fragmented States and the Dilemmas of Neo-Liberalism

Picciotto, Sol | January 1, 1997

Current discussions of “globalization” afford an opportunity to. reflect on the development of the modern international system and its governance as well as to evaluate prospects and strategies for the fu- ture. However, the term “globalization” is ambiguous. It conceals di- verse and sometimes conflicting trends and strategies; it appears to project a post-Cold War optimism of increasing global unity and pros- pects for a new world order based on a strengthened framework of international institutions. Nonetheless, tendencies towards fragmen- tation exist, in addition to an increasing awareness of diversity and, perhaps, global disorder. Certainly, efforts are being made to produce blueprints for a re- formed global organizational framework. Perhaps the most compre- hensive effort was last year’s Report of the Commission on Global Governance (the Report). It combines wide-ranging and detailed proposals for reform of intergovernmental organizations, including greater involvement of multiple non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Report calls for a commitment to common “neighbourhood values,” such as respect for life, liberty, justice and equity, mutual respect, caring, and integrity, and it calls for the articu-lation of a “global civic ethic.” Underpinning many of the proposals and much of the rhetoric was the concept of the emergence of a “global civil society,” mainly expressed in the growth of NGOs and their increasing involvement in decision-making by international orga- nizations.1 Yet, while the Report was undoubtedly based on a sound evaluation of many global institutional problems, its proposals com- bined realist minimalism with liberal rhetoric in a way which indicated an awareness of the utopianism, in the present conjuncture, of any attempt at a comprehensive redesign of global governance. If globalization stands for anything, it represents changes in the competitive dynamic of the world market, involving strategic conflicts to reorganize the institutions through which it is structured. Thus, transforming the international system is a key issue; the basic unit of that system is the national state. The existence of a world market is hardly new; neither is the realization that states are interdependent.2