Transnational Class

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Kanishka Jayasuriya:

"It seems to me that the basic point here is that there is no monolith transnational capitalist class; rather, we have different fractions within it. What is clear is that the idea of ‘national capital’, or indeed, national developmentalism, is simply not viable in the current circumstances. It is interesting, though, that these nationalist ideas have wide currency within much of the developing world and I think this is a retrograde step in political terms.

It is clear that in East Asia statist forms of capital are becoming much more important. The really imperative question here lies in the way these ‘statist’ forms of capital are transforming the state in critical ways. In some respects it is commodifying the state, which has become a player on international financial markets. See for example the role of the Chinese state as a bondholder in the US. But to give a short answer to your question: We need to be much more cognizant of the differences within forms of transnationalised capital and the way this plays out in political and policy-making institutions." (

The Transnational Bourgeoisie

William Carroll, summarized by Samir Amin:

"n his work on the emergence of a ‘transnational bourgeoisie’ (transatlantic in fact), Carroll does not rely solely on the argument (which is both limited and fragile in my opinion) regarding the exchanged representations between various boards of directors; he strengthens his argument by highlighting the institutionalised political instruments that this newly forming class have given themselves. His analyses of the functions carried out by nine of these institutions are worth recalling:

(i) While the International Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1919, its role has become new and considerably more decisive since the recent creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

(ii) The Bilderberg Conference in 1952 (Society of Mount Pèlerin), led by Hayek –; the mentor of liberalism without borders or boundaries – managed to popularise discourse on neoliberalism amongst politicians, media heavyweights and the high-grade militaries of the countries within the triad. The Trilateral Commission, established in 1973, gave the discourse a quasi-official tone, to which governments and major political parties in the triad – from the right and the left – have joined. The World Economic Forum (Davos) then took over by continuing to promote the discourse from 1982 onwards.

(iii) More recently the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, created in 1995, aimed ‘to dress in green’ the strategies for expansion of capitalist monopolies in order to rally together high-riding environmental opinions.

(iv) On the European level, from 1984 the European Round Table of Industrialists took on an important role, becoming the major source of influence for decisions made in Brussels concerning the European Union.

(v) Parallel to this, in 1995 the partners of the triad put in place two instruments to facilitate their long-term dialogues; the Transatlantic Business Dialogue and the European Union/Japan Round Table; meanwhile in 2006, NAFTA established the North American Competitiveness Council.


From these observations, Carroll draws all too easily the conclusion that there is an emerging ‘transatlantic bourgeoisie’. I will not say much more about this, except that the convergence of representation styles is not sufficient evidence of the above. The European royal courts of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were equally populated by characters that shared the same ways of thinking, and this did not preclude any conflict. Today, in the same vein, I claim that the bourgeoisie of the triad share the same way of thinking, yet this does not mean that they are any less ‘national’ – even in Europe. Moreover, they are simply aware that it is necessary for them to put on a united front in the face of their common enemy – the global South and more particularly China. Therefore, they constitute the foundations of what I have labelled the collective imperialism of the Triad.


Faced with the institutions created by the transnational bourgeoisie, Carroll proposes a counter-strategy, in which four promising new institutions emerge. These are: (i) the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC); (ii) the Transnational Institute Amsterdam, itself a branch of the Institute for Policy Studies based in Washington; (iii) Friends of the Earth International (FoEI); and (iv) the World Social Forum (WSF), which was first held in Porto Alegre in 2001.

Beyond the differing nuances and concerns specific to each of these institutions, a single common denominator unifies them as a coherent group. First, these institutions are largely ‘reformist’, sometimes to the extreme, like the ITUC, who no longer even defends the ‘old-style’ social democratic programmes – a compromise between capital and labour worthy of the name – and is satisfied with minor proposals aimed at alleviating the most dramatic social consequences of the policies dictated by the monopolies. The FoEI is not interested in examining the fundamental relationship between capitalist logic and ecological disaster and as such is able to act as a viable interlocutor for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The WSF charter forbids the research of credible alternative policies and is satisfied with simply recording the spontaneous societal changes that are produced by the ‘resistance’." (


see also:

Robinson, W. I. & Harris, J. 2000. Toward a Global Ruling Class? Globalization and the Transnational Capitalist Class. Science & Society , 64(1): pp. 11–54.

Sklair, L. 2001. The Transnational Capitalist Class . Oxford: Blackwell.