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<eyebeam><blast> TNCs

TNCs (transnational corporations) are obviously no agents of progress
for humanity.  First, since the raison d'etre of TNCs is in the
maximization of profits, the welfare of the people they leave behind, or
even the people in the area where they operate, is of little or no
concern to them.  The host governments that are eager to invite TNCs
cannot be expected to be particular about the worker's employment
conditions or the general citizens' public welfare.  The framework of
the nation-state is deteriorating also in the host nations that are
often controlled by dictators and oligarchs.  All TNCs are finally in
alliance, though competitive in several basic aspects.  The
transnational class is self-concerned, though aggressively extroverted
in cross-border movement.  Labor unions, which might be expected to
offer assistance to workers, on the other hand, still operate within the
framework of a national economy.  It is at present simply unthinkable
that transnational labor unions will take joint actions across national
borders, equalizing their wages and working conditions with their
cross-border brothers and sisters.  Imagine UAW officials meeting with
Mexican union representatives to negotiate together a contract with the
GM management in a maquila plant.  TNCs might raise GNP or even per
capita income, but such a raise does not guarantee a better living for
all citizens.  So who finally protects the workers inside the U.S. or
outside?  The TNCs are far more transnational than the labor unions,
generating the unemployed and underemployed everywhere, from Detroit to
Manila, from Tapei to San Diego.  There is little to be expected of now
from the residual nation-state or its alternatives in the way of
protecting these people.  As Sklair summarizes, "The choice is more
likely to be between more or less efficient foreign exploitative
transnational corporations and highly protected and perhaps corrupt
local, state, parastatal or private firms."

Second, the rapid formation of the transnational class is likely to
develop a certain homogeneity among its members.  Even without the
formation of TNCs, the world has been turning toward all-powerful
consumerism in which brand names command recognition and attraction. 
Everywhere commodities are invented, transported, promoted, daydreamed
over, sold, purchased, consumed, and discarded.  And they are the
cultural products of the transnational class.  The members of such a
class are the leaders, the role models, of the 1990s and beyond; their
one gift is, needs to be, an ability to converse and communicate with
each other.  Cultural eccentricities are to be avoided, if not banned
altogether.  National history and culture are not to intrude or not to
be asserted oppositionally or even dialectically.  They are merely
variants of one "universal"--as in a giant theme park or shopping mall. 
Culture will be kept to museums, and the museums, exhibitions, and
theatrical performances will be swiftly appropriated by tourism and
other forms of commercialism.  No matter how subversive at the
beginning, variants will be appropriated aggressively by branches of
consumerism such as entertainment and tourism, as were rap music,
graffiti art, or even classical music or high arts.  Cable TV and MTV
dominate the world absolutely.  Entertainment and tourism are huge
transnational industries by themselves.  The return to "authenticity" is
a closed route.  There is nothing of the sort extant any longer in much
of the world.  How then to balance the transnationalization of economy
and politics with the survival of local culture and history--without
mummifying them with tourism and in museums--is the crucial question,
for which, however, no answer has yet been found.  

Third, workers in search of jobs all over the world are changing global
demography in this third industrial revolution.  They come, legally or
illegally, from everywhere to every industrial center either in
industrialized or developing nations.  TNCs are in need of them, though
they are unwilling to provide them with adequate pay or care.  Cut off
from their homes, migrant workers disappear into huge urban slums
without the protection of a traditional rural mutual dependence system. 
The struggle for survival does not allow any leisure in which to enjoy
their pastoral memory.  For those exploited alien workers in inner
cities, consumerism alone seems to offer solace, if they are fortunate
enough to have money for paltry pleasures.  In Mexico City or Seoul, in
Berlin or Chicago, migrants mix and compromise alongside other aliens
from other regions.  Neither nativism nor pluralism are in their
thought, only survival.  "Multiculturalism" is a luxury largely
irrelevant to those who live under the most wretched conditions.  It is
merely an "import strategy" of the TNC managers, as Mike Davis calls
it.  In fact, it may well turn out to be the other side of the coin of
neoethnicism and neoracism.

Fourth, environmental destruction is a major consequence of the
development of TNCs.  Because TNCs often move across borders to escape
from stringent environmental regulations, the host government is not
likely to enforce the pollution control rules.  The effects of the
damage caused in the industrialized areas as well as NIEs and Third
World regions, however, is not confined to these specific localities. 
The proposal made by Lawrence Summers of Harvard and the World Bank to
shift polluting industries from developed countries to "underpolluted"
Third World is as foolish as it is invidious.  The effects of
environmental violence inescapably visit everyone, everywhere.  Air
pollution, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, the greenhouse effect,
ocean contamination, and a disrupted ecosystem are finally unavoidable
no matter where the damage originates.  The TNCs might escape from the
regulators, but we are all--with no exception--victims.  Who is there to
control the environmental performance of TNCs globally?  Are we to rely
on the good sense of corporate planners to fight off catastrophe?  Can
we trust the fugitives from law to protect the law?

Finally, academia, the institution that might play the principal role in
investigating transnational corporatism and its implications for
humanity, seems all to ready to cooperate rather than deliberate.  The
technical complexity of the TNC mechanism requires academic expertise in
sophisticated research, explanation, and management of immense
information data.  Those in economics, political science, sociology, and
anthropology as well as business administration and international
relations, are not expected to be harsh critics of the TNC practice,
being compliant enough to be its explicators and apologists.  Critics
and theorists in the humanities, too, are not unsusceptible to the
attraction of global exchange.

Masao Miyoshi

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