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G8 under fire

by Anke Schwarzer
Henning Melber and Cornelia Wilss (Ed.): G8 Macht Politik. Wie die Welt beherrscht wird. [ G8 power and policy. How the world is run. ] Brandes und Apsel, Frankfurt am Main 2007, 192 p., €14.90, ISBN 3-86099-723-8

The subtitle “How the world is run ” sounds like a conspiracy theory. And the book cover, which shows heads of state and government waving cheerily, confirms the impression that a handful of men (and one woman) are pulling the strings. However, the individual articles in this book, published shortly before the G8 summit in Heiligendamm last year, tell a different story. Academics and activists, including Walden Bello, Susan George and Vandana Shiva, explain why they hold the G8 responsible for world poverty. They repeatedly refer to the close links between G8 policy and the institutions they control – the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and, to a lesser extent, the World Trade Organisation. They also criticise neoliberal free-market strategies for development, as well as the assumption that growth is synonymous with reducing poverty.

Other contributors, such as Uwe Hoering and Nicola Bullard, however, argue that the G8, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are all in a deep crisis. Franz Nuscheler describes the G8 as a “surrogate world government without legitimacy” and claims that it belongs to the past. In his view, the increasing importance of emerging powers like Brazil, China and India is severely restricting the ability of the G8 to control the world economy. Nuscheler makes a case for broader global governance, which should include both governments and private-sector actors.

The book doesn’t have a good word to say for G8 policymaking. All authors agree that the annual summit of the world’s richest nations will continue to do nothing to change the relationship between the haves and the powerful on the one hand, and the have-nots and the powerless on the other – unless it is in the interests of the G8. At the end of the book, Patrick Bond and Peter Waterman comment on anti-G8 campaigns. Both articles contain a (self-)critical analysis of the pitfalls of protest movements and of non-governmental get-togethers like the World Social Forum. Despite all the difficulties of mobilising socio-political dissent, however, Bond argues in favour of building democratic mass movements informed by internationalism, which should campaign for what he calls the “deglobalisation of capital” and the promotion of public goods.

Anke Schwarzer