Derrida and the WTO

Now, hang on. Surely one doesn’t have to be a postmodernist to have some doubts about the WTO. Well no, one doesn’t, because I do and I’m not. QED. But there seems to be some confusion on the matter.

This week in Montreal, there was an anti-globalization riot in which windows were broken in protest against a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting. But the Habermas-Derrida declaration praises the WTO and even the International Monetary Fund as part of Weltinnenpolitik…Yet it is not much of a stretch to claim the young anti-globalists as disciples of postmodernism and Derrida, who has hitherto been a foe of “logocentrism” (putting reason at the centre), “phallologocentrism” (reason is an erect male organ and, as such, damnably central) and Eurocentrism (the old, old West is the homeland of all of the above).

Well I think it is indeed much of a stretch. Not only does one not have to be a postmodernist, one also does not have to be either young or an ‘anti-globalist’ (whatever that means) to be a WTO skeptic. There are real, concrete, specific, non-woolly problems with the WTO and how it operates, but you’d never know it from about 95% (rough estimate, to be sure) of the media coverage. It’s not all about staying as sweet as you are and nostalgia for tiny farms with little plumes of smoke rising over the old farmhouse, it’s not about hating Starbucks, it’s not about anti-Eurocentrism or primitivism. It’s really rather simple. The tribunal is made up of appointed, unelected, unaccountable trade representatives who have the power to overturn (or at least penalize) any legislation that they claim interferes with trade. Environmental legislation, labour legislation, consumer safety legislation, truth in advertising legislation. This is not some kind of fuzzy-headed made-up grievance, it’s a very dangerous system. It’s ludicrous to lump doubts about the WTO in with postmodernism. Apples and oranges, Starbucks and Burger King.

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