Kelleher, A, 2005, Corporations and Global Governance: a multi-cultural futures perspective, Journal of Futures Studies 10(1):49-62.


Destruction of ecosystems, human rights violations, theft of indigenous intellectual property, fraud and deception, and recently, war. Some of the world’s most intractable problems have been attributed to the irresponsible and unethical business practices of a relatively small number of financially and politically powerful corporations. The potential for such practices was foreseen by several members of the U.K Mercantile Law Commission in the mid 19th century who, whilst debating the proposed introduction of limited liability, expressed concerns at the possible increase in moral hazard and risk of fraud.

In view of the current debate on future global governance systems that includes proposals for the admission of businesses as a “house” of representatives(Inayatullah 1999), the role of corporations in society locally and globally is again under the spotlight. This paper examines the history of the modern-day corporation, focusing largely on the Anglo/American model that has influenced its counterparts in Europe and Japan both structurally and ideologically, and considers the possible futures that may emerge if corporations were to play a pivotal role in a future global governance system.

Since current literature and debates on global governance are dominated by a relatively small number of Westernised, developed nations, the study from which this article is taken provided an opportunity for people from a number of different cultural backgrounds to express their views. Based on the input provided, and set within the context of proposed alternative models of global governance, four future worlds are described. These scenarios depict a range of possible futures and can be used to trigger discussion and debate about the role of corporations in global society.

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