World Bank opposes Shell?

Chris Burford cburford at
Wed Sep 6 22:36:31 MDT 1995

Subject: Re: World Bank opposes Shell?

Chris B:

> There is a global civil society emerging and the World Bank cannot
> ignore issues of pollution without losing credibility.
> Actually Ben Fine (author of "Rereading Capital") says some of their more
> recent reports have progressive aspects to them although the main position
> is still neo-classical monetarist.
> It *is* an attainable goal ideologically to capture the World Bank and the
> IMF from hard line neo-classical positions within 10 years. And it is
> urgent.

Bryan Wed 30:

Whoa! Chris, what an idea!  Have the left seized the WB? ideologically?
This needs explication, or at least a laugh track.  Please go ahead.

Chris B:

I have just confirmed with my colleague in the Southern Africa Economic
Research Unit who was on Ben Fine's course this year at the School Oriental
and African Studies, that Ben has indeed dropped such a remark. My
understanding is that nowadays the World Bank will for example write a
glowing report on the Little Dragons of far eastern capitalism. On the
surface this will be a stirring tale of neo-classical monetarism and
deregulation. But a subtext is creeping in: these countries have in common-

1. land reform

2. high investment in education under state sponsorship

3. relatively narrow range of income

On a world stage the skids are on under simple monetarist de-regulationist
neo-classicism.  After all capitalism does seem to have one or two
insoluble problems on a global scale, like almost one third of the work
force under/un-employed, like pollution reaching the global rate-limiting

The incoming concept is apparently

"human capital"

i.e it is not enough to invest in constant capital and work the workers
to the bone; sophisticated and competitive modern large scale capital
knows that it requires a social infrastructure to get the right labour
force who can be exploited through new technology, and to whom new
sophisticated commodities can be sold.

[One example - In England several leading companies including Shell,
British Airports Authority and I think Rover, have just supported a call
by the Trades Union Council and the Confederation of British Industry for
better nationally coordinated child-nursery provision - and having
attended many Annual General Meetings of Shell when we were trying to
get them to boycott apartheid, I can assure you that feminist viewpoints
are not massively represented on its Board of Directors ]

A coalition of economic thinking could cohere around the view that
an enhanced role must be given to "human capital". Marxists should be
well-placed to contribute to that potentially radical review of

Laugh track?

Why not? The future could be more enjoyable than the past.

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