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Framing the Global Future by Ignoring Alternatives

Unfreezing categories as a vital necessity (Part #1)

Produced on the occasion of the G20 Summit (London, April 2009)

Images as indicators
Failure to consider a spectrum of alternatives
Unfreezing categories ?
Opening possibilities for maneuver in seemingly blocked contexts

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Images as indicators

In preparation for the much-heralded, key meeting of the G20 Group in London (March 2009), two striking images were produced. The negatives are reproduced below:

Fifty who will frame a way forward
Financial Times, 11 March 2009
G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors
Horsham, 15 March 2009
Fifty who will frame a way forward G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors

What is so striking about these images? Both have the traditional predominance of "white males". But to clarify further, of the 50 identified by the Financial Times, 5 are women (blurred out in white). Of the 46 present at the G20 Finance Meeting, 2 are women (blurred out in black). This treatment might have been rendered even more striking by blurring out the women using white, and the "non-whites" using black.

Despite the confusion and obfuscation over who actually had any responsibility for the financial crisis and the management of its evolution, there is a significant consensus that a failure of regulatory overview has been a key factor. It is therefore reasonable to ask:

  • what proportion of those identified in either image were complicit in some way in this regulatory failure?
  • with what capacities and new insights will those so involved be responding to the challenge of the crisis of the financial system -- and the credibility crunch with which it is now associated?
  • what proportion of the global population are not "white males" -- but have had their livelihoods and future security rendered highly problematic by the those who have failed in their regulatory capacity?
  • how is it that the insights of non-males -- presumably some 50% of the world population -- are represented by only 7% of those identified in the above images?

The focus of the argument here is not on the questionable representation of "non-whites" and "women" -- old issues as yet unresolved -- as with the proportion of women in national parliaments, of which the above situation is a reflection (Inter-Parliamentary Union, Women in National Parliaments, 2009).">Women in National Parliaments, 2009).

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