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Anti globalization social class and alternative global

From Reactive to Proactive: Employing a historical sociological analysis and examining the context of its emergence, I suggest that the Forum, in addressing some of the aforementioned limitations, marks a transition from anti- to alter- anti globalization social class and alternative global.

However, at the same time, one must acknowledge that such a distinction is far from clear-cut, linear, or mutually exclusive. The Forum has united anti globalization social class and alternative global expression of a multitude of opinions, perspectives, and most importantly, strategies, linking representatives embracing both radical revolutionary thought emblematic of anti-globalization, and moderate reformers representing alter-globalization.

This polycentric nature thus makes it difficult to posit with certainty the location of the World Social Forum. After a decade of neo-liberalist indoctrination that there is no feasible substitute to the capitalist system, a significant back-lash emerged in the 1990s. Activists representing the global civil society were intent on exposing the failures and internal contradictions inherent in a system which justified the exacerbation of global stratification.

The concepts elucidated by Antonio Gramsci contribute to a cogent understanding of the emerging anti-globalization movement, which can be seen as an effort to create a counter-hegemony to challenge the prevailing neo-liberal discourse.

In response, the alter-globalization movement is depicted as a reaction to address these limitations in terms of positing alternatives. Given the prevailing research interest on the transition from anti- to alter- globalization, this paper examines where the World Social Forum is situated in the spectrum of movements against neo-liberal globalization. Employing a historical sociological analysis and anti globalization social class and alternative global the context of its emergence, I suggest that the Forum, in addressing some of the aforementioned limitations, marks a transition from anti- to alter- globalization, with an emphasis on reforming rather than rejecting the current and predominant global economic system.

An overview of key concepts elucidated by theorist Antonio Gramsci will be first examined, followed by an explanation of the process of historical sociology. This theoretical perspective reinforces the importance of examining the context leading up to the emergence of the World Social Forum which will shed light on its proposed location in the trajectory of movements. I will also explore the profile of activists who have embodied the various facets of the movement throughout its development.

Such an examination is essential in order to study the evolving structure of the Forum and determine whether it has met its objectives of facilitating the inclusion of grassroots organizations, how its internal evolution has affected subsequent policies, goals, strategies of resistance and the very actors involved, and whether representation has been democratized since its inception. Of most relevance to the present paper are Gramscian concepts of counter-hegemony, the comparison between wars of movement and wars of position, the idea of transformismo, and his assertions on the transformatory potential of civil society.

His position as general secretary of the Communist Party evidences the influences of Marxist thought which permeate his work. Such hegemony pertained not only to pervasive inter-class strife, but also that of international power relations, such as British supremacy during the First World War Cox 1993: The concept of hegemony is here applied to understanding the inordinate emphasis placed on neo-liberalist trade policies and relations as well as the positing of feasible, necessary, and desirable alternatives manifested in the emergent transnational nature of the counter-hegemonic movement.

Indeed, divergent forms and strategies of resistance to hegemony and the perpetuation of inequities are subsumed under the rubric of counter-hegemony and can be divided into wars of movement and wars of position. The former, which is alternatively referred to as wars of maneuver, consists of direct assaults against the state which can take the form of labor strikes or military action Gramsci 1971: In contrast, wars of position constitute confrontations such as boycotts which disrupt and impede the everyday functioning of the state Mittelman and Chin 2000: A cursory glance can align the two strategies of the dichotomy of overtly disruptive wars of movement with its subtler counterpart of wars of position with the anti- and alter-globalization movements respectively; a distinction which will soon reveal its complexity in the context of the World Social Forum.

Transformismo refers to the cautioning against co-optation by those who are intent on preserving hegemonic forces. Similarly, the emphasis placed on the necessity of involving insurgence from below was a critical guiding principle for the organizers of the WSF to maximize representativeness and effectiveness of demands. Consequently, the first three Forums were situated in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This selection was predicated with the anticipation that a more democratic and inclusive roster of Southern activists would follow suite to voice their dissatisfaction and seek alternatives Cox 1999: Historical Sociology While scholars have effectively used Gramscian theories in the context of movements against globalization, a corresponding and complimentary theoretical stance which guides the thrust of this paper is the method of historical sociology.

The emphasis on diachronic analysis prioritized by this methodology points to the importance of recognizing how key societal phenomenon are grounded in the context of their emergence, and how their structure is shaped by complex social processes.

Indeed, a longitudinal study of key influential factors leading up to the conception of the World Social Forum in 2001 is critical in order to trace parallels, and recognize both inspirations and divergences from the original blueprints.

Given the parameters of the paper, the examination of case studies is limited to those which contributed to the emergence and development of the Forum. The historical sociology methodology is thus apt in contributing to the query of the position of the WSF in the transition of counter-hegemonic movements against globalization. Contextualization of the World Social Forum If the 1980s were characterized by the unquestioned adherence and imposition of neo-liberal ideology, a feature which dominated the 1990s was a backlash at the local and international levels against the overt inequalities justified by this method of economic development.

The two philosophies which guided the demands, critiques, and internal structure of the Forum were first a reaction against the seemingly solitary method of globalization aggressively promoted by the likes of Reagan and Thatcher; and second, the paucity of democratic inclusion in the decision-making practices of the predominant financial institutions.


Each of these will be examined in turn. However, radical global economic restructuring in the 1980s retracted almost fifty years of the welfare state, replacing the Keynesian era with neo-liberalist ideology embodied in the Washington Consensus Li 2008; Smith et al. Touted as the much-needed impetus to economic development, former US president Ronald Reagan and his British counterpart Margaret Thatcher were the two most vocal proponents of this system of financial austerity.

These recommendations were accompanied by drastic cut-backs to governmental involvement and the provision of services Ayres 2004: Skeptics assert that such policies only serve to reinforce the polarization of the world in what world systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein would characterize as the core and the exploited periphery.

  • Nor is it as unproblematic as Klein suggests;
  • Monthly Review 59 11;
  • This included the successful Indonesian demands for the resignation of President Suharto in 1997 in the aftermath of economic crises brought about by neo-liberal adherence McNally 2002;
  • The Mumbai WSF of 2004 might suggest this perception;
  • The World Social Forum is a process that encourages its participant organizations and movements to situate their actions, from the local level to the national level and seeking active participation in international contexts, as issues of planetary citizenship, and to introduce onto the global agenda the change-inducing practices that they are experimenting in building a new world in solidarity.

Financial liberalization provided attractive breeding ground for transnational corporations. Indeed, foreign debt is wielded as a political means of maintaining dependency through compelling developing nations to comply with the financial dictates in order to be eligible for continual monetary assistance Keet 2000: Many were beset by violent financial crises, starting with Mexico, which declared bankruptcy in 1982 Li 2008.

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However, the rapid economic growth was not sustainable. Investors fled at the first sight of a weakening economy Rupert 2000. Currencies drastically fell, and unemployment rates skyrocketed in countries lacking a state safety net McNally anti globalization social class and alternative global.

One could say that this served as the incubation grounds of the transnational counter-hegemony, capable of challenging and even reversing the trends of neo-liberalism Worth 2002. Another World is On Its Way Political economist Karl Polanyi was intrigued by the emergence of an increasingly unregulated market, documenting how it would spiral out of control and subordinate all in its path. However, one of his most important contributions was his assertion that such a situation contained the seeds for a double- or counter-movement which would restrict its unhindered acts Falk 1998; Polanyi 2001 [1944].

As his seminal book, The Great Transformation 1944was published at the end of the Second World War, Polanyi assumed that the state would be the actor taking the reins to lead this counter-movement in the form of protectionist state policies. However, in a context of Reagonomics and drastically reduced governmental presence and clout characterizing post-World War Two society, such responsibility fell on the shoulders of an increasingly transnational civil society.

Frustration of powerlessness, awareness of increasing inequalities, and exasperation with an impotent government coalesced into what Gramsci 1971 referred to as counter-hegemony in Mittelman and Chin 2000. Anti-globalization activists challenged assertions of the inevitable nature of an exploitative, top-down model of globalization. Taking to the streets, they voiced their dissatisfaction in an effort to create a counter-hegemony to the prevailing neo-liberalist discourse pervading economic ideology Worth and Kuhling 2004.

From Reactive to Proactive: The World Social Forum and the Anti-/Alter-Globalization Movement

The Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, and the so-called Battle of Seattle served as catalysts to this framework of counter-hegemony and opened the possibility for the World Social Forum to emerge as an alternative political body Smith et al.

Coinciding their protest with the signing of this trade agreement set a critical precedent which ensuing anti-globalization protests followed.

Namely, subsequent counter-events synchronized their protests with meetings of the global elite in order to both enhance their symbolism and relevance, as well as garner media attention.

The Zapatista uprising also significantly contributed to the framework and structure of the World Social Forum. Furthermore, the Zapatista insurgency contributed to the transnational nature of the World Social Forum.

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This distinction made such a struggle not nationalist, but one of a universal and even transnational nature 2002: This fact will be elaborated shortly, and evidences the complexity of pinpointing the proposed position and stance of the polycentric World Social Forum in the counter-hegemonic movements against globalization. The Battle in Seattle: Seattle Fisher and Ponniah 2003.

Beyond the more visible challenges to the tranquil atmosphere which hitherto surrounded such meetings of the global elite, the Seattle protest epitomized a counter-hegemony in the form of transformed consciousness and awareness in the Global South.

Southern delegates attending the World Trade Organization meeting seemed to internalize the condemnations which were loudly being vocalized by the activists in the streets. The year 2001 has gone down in social movement history as a year of prolific protests.

The reasoning behind this concentration is fourfold. Firstly, the progression of the protests coincided with September 11th; an event which shook the confidence of the neo-liberalist world.

  • It upholds respect for Human Rights, the practices of real democracy, participatory democracy, peaceful relations, in equality and solidarity, among people, ethnicities, genders and peoples, and condemns all forms of domination and all subjection of one person by another;
  • Finally, as mentioned previously, neo-liberal enthusiasts have dismissed many of the suggestions and demands articulated by representatives and activists of the World Social Forum by pointing to a weak publication record;
  • Of particular relevance here is Paul Virilio, who a quarter of a century ago already noted that the contraction of distances had become a strategic reality.

Thirdly, a focus on the protests from Seattle to Qatar is warranted, noting how each subsequent demonstration escalated in protest tactics. This is in light of the fact that many concessions made by Clinton and the World Economic Forum were dismissed as efforts to co-opt the enraged civil society by making neo-liberalist economic expansion more palatable.

Gramsciists would refer to the perceived attempts to dilute activist verve as transformismo or the absorption of potentially counter-hegemonic ideas, making them consistent with the hegemonic doctrine, in this case, neo-liberal ideology Cox 1993: Indeed, it was this recognition of waning governmental tolerance in ceding to the demands made by the increasingly aggressive activists that spurred the organizers of anti globalization social class and alternative global World Social Forum to restrict participation to non-violent protestors.

As alluded to earlier, this decision resulted in the exclusion of the avowedly revolutionary Zapatistas, in spite of the former having set many precedents that the WSF organizers would implement. The anti-violence stance can also be seen as indicating a transition from anti- to alter-globalization, suggesting where the Forum can be positioned in this spectrum of activism. Street demonstrations coincided with public forums for networking and discussion; a distinction that Ribeiro 2006 equates with anti-globalization and alter-globalization, respectively.

Similarly, adherents of Gramscian thought would attribute this dichotomy to the overtly disruptive wars of movement on the one hand, and its counterpart of the more subtle protests exhibited in wars of position, on the other Cox 1999; Ribeiro 2006: It was in response to allegations and criticisms such as this that the World Social Forum was conceived. Indeed, the inability to articulate a credible alternative to neo-liberalism has become a problem impeding the legitimacy of the anti-globalization movement Teivainen 2002: In addition to lacking a unified sentiment of shared goals and demands, negative and disabling labels have dismissed such activists as terrorists, anarchists, radicals and communists intent on overthrowing the dominant capitalist system Brooks 2004; McNally 2002.

While anti-globalization protestors, their affiliations, and preferred strategies of resistance do span across this spectrum, the dispersive nature and lack of appointed leaders has impeded the ability to speak on behalf of the divergent voices and multitude of views in this umbrella movement.

In response, noted Canadian activist Naomi Klein contested such a dismissive and overarching label. Klein 2002 contended that in light of this clarification, the World Social Forum gave much needed structure to a hitherto decentralized movement 160.

Such a sentiment led to the adoption of the French alter-mondialisation or alter-globalization, reflecting the recognition that in addition to organizing protest events, activists were increasingly being compelled to formulate alternatives to the currently dominant and exploitative form of globalization Curran 2007; Doucet 2008: The Emergence of the World Social Forum As aforementioned, one of the foremost criticisms that have undermined the credibility and potential effectiveness of the anti-globalization movement is the lack of proposed alternatives to the inequalities inherent in economic-driven globalization.

Such a concern makes propositions as to the location of the WSF in the continuum of movements an intriguing question. A microcosmic representation of the evolution of movements against globalization, albeit not a linear or mutually exclusive one, can be seen in the early development of the World Social Forum itself.

It was at this meeting whereupon the idea of the World Social Forum was conceived. The proposals created in such a global meeting would emphasize the need to go beyond the growing condemnation epitomized by protest activities against the neo-liberal model Hammond 2005 in Curran 2007.

The first Forum was projected to take place in 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Thus, it was in direct response to the criticisms impeding the anti-globalization movement Smith 2004: While the first World Social Forum would be in direct contrast to the WEF, subsequent gatherings reinforced its more autonomous development. Three overarching criteria would ultimately guide the philosophy and structure of the World Social Forum. The second principle followed the path forged by counter-events initiated by the Zapatista insurgency, in that the annual gathering would be organized on the same dates as the WEF to both maximize the symbolic potential and also attract media attention.

To reiterate, adherents of Gramscian thought emphasize the importance of this principle in order to truly engage and launch the transformatory potential of civil society Mittelman and Chin 2000. Such a decision anti globalization social class and alternative global not only in response to the frequent and intentional exclusion of Southern nations in trade talks, but also was in recognition of the fact that media coverage of events like the Seattle protests overshadowed other significant changes that were taking place in the South McNally 2002: Specifically, the founders decided that the Forum should take place in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.

This selection can be attributed to the Workers Party PT having an influential political presence in that city as well as the willingness of the government to cover the expenses of hosting such an event bringing together activists from around the world. The latter rationale provided a critical influence to the demands, critiques, and internal structure of the WSF. As was previously mentioned, this fact may have influenced the selection of Qatar as a meeting place for the WTO in 2001, specifically as a result of governmental intolerance for any form of dissent Brooks 2004.

Democracy is seen here as a process as well as an end, facilitating and encouraging open and participatory forms of representation Doucet 2008: