Power without Representation in a Transnational Governance Network: The Coherence and Closeness of the Trilateral Commission

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:05
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Matilde LUNA, UNAM, Mexico
Jose VELASCO, UNAM, Mexico
Transnational governance networks usually claim to represent at least an important part of the global public opinion. In the absence of institutions that sustain and guarantee this claim, they must constitute themselves and act in accordance with two opposing principles: coherence and openness. Both their legitimacy and efficacy depend on their ability to strike an appropriate balance between those principles. To analyze the practical challenges that derive from this need, this paper focuses on the Trilateral Commission (TC). A network-like think tank, bringing together leaders of several influential think tanks and outstanding personalities from business corporations, political organizations, academic institutions and media firms, the Trilateral Commission has been an important player in the transnational arena. Focusing on its membership and the agenda of its annual meetings, our analysis shows that the TC is highly coherent but excessively endogamous: rather than reflecting the diversity of the global public opinion, it only reunites an exclusive group of pro-US leaders, members of transnational corporations and partisans of free trade.  Thus, the TC is a coherent but closed network, very powerful but scarcely representative. Ironically, a network that promotes the use of “soft power” in the international arena—a power founded on opinion, rather than on force and material interests— heavily depends on the hard power of established hierarchies.