Talking about old systems of power and corruption doesn't begin to capture new realities.Social anthropologist Janine Wedel, author, most recently, of Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt Our Finances, Freedom, and Security, has spent decades getting to the bottom of how powerful people wield influence. In her view, old ways of talking about formal systems of power and corruption don't begin to capture new realities. Truth and transparency, she warns, have devolved into performance art. The buck stops nowhere. Could women be particularly suited to disrupt the unaccountability structured into the DNA of many of today's financial, corporate and governmental organizations? Wedel weighs in. (Accountability is a key topic in a May 5-6 conference sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, " Finance and Society," which features Brooksley Born, Elizabeth Warren, and other influential women who have challenged corrupt systems of power.)
Lynn Parramore: You've discussed a fascinating new kind of power broker on the world stage—a nimble, opportunistic person who floats between private and public institutions. How has this figure operated in the financial arena? Are such players different from lobbyists and other traditional influence peddlers? Can you give some examples?
Janine Wedel: In the financial arena, a well-known duo is Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, both former treasury secretaries. Rubin reached the heights at Goldman Sachs. He then went to Treasury in the 1990s, then on to Citigroup. In the lead-up to the financial crash, both Goldman and Citigroup earned billions on the unregulated derivatives he and Summers (and others) championed while in public office.