Alter-Globalization: Becoming Actors in a Global Age

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Polity, 2010 - Political Science - 316 pages
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Contrary to the common view that globalization undermines social agency, 'alter-globalization activists' or have contested globalization in its neo-liberal form and have developed new ways to become actors in the global age. They propose alternatives to Washington Consensus policies, implement horizontal and participatory organization models and promote a nascent global public space.

These activists have built a truly global movement that has gathered citizens, committed intellectuals, indigenous, farmers, dalits and NGOs against neoliberal policies in street demonstrations and Social Forums all over the world, from Bangalore and Seattle to Copenhagen and from Porto Alegre to Dakar. This book analyses this worldwide movement on the bases of extensive field research conducted since 1999 and until the aftermath of the global crisis.

Alter-Globalization provides a comprehensive account of these critical global forces and their attempts to answer one of the major challenges of our time: How can citizens and civil society contribute to the building of a fairer, sustainable and more democratic co-existence of human beings in a global world?

 

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This book conceptualises the Alter-Globalization Movement within a sophisticated framework that helps shed some light on social and historical processes of neoliberal globalisation and its dialectical counterpart. Geoffrey Pleyers, 2010. Alter-Globalization: Becoming Actors in the Global Age. Cambridge, Polity Press. The World Social Forum (WSF), a convergence of social movements and civil society organisations, will host its 9th global event in Dakar, Senegal, from the coming 6th to the 11th of February. Organised since 2001 in opposition to the World Economic Forum (WEF), it aims at representing values and imaginations of the future which are alternative to those of the wealthy capitalists, their ideologues and political supporters who meet for the WEF in the Swiss resort of Davos.
Social and political activists meet in the WSF global, regional and local events to exchange experiences and plan for actions, to devise campaigns and strengthen their lobbying influence and political clout. Its global gatherings have seen a growing support of participants. From the initial ten thousand who joined the organisers of the first WSF in Porto Alegre Brazil, to the 130,000 in the Indian edition, held in Mumbai in 2004, to the over 170,000 convened in 2009 the Amazonian city of Belem do Para, Brazil. Global events were organised in Nairobi Kenya, Karachi Pakistan, Bamako Mali and Caracas Venezuela. Regional Forums gathered participants by the tens of thousands in, among others, Hyderabad, India, in 2003, Florence 2002 and, recently in 2010, Detroit United States.
The WSF's main innovation is the development of a horizontal "open space" in which the role of leadership is consciously limited to extol the creative potentialities of un-mediated relationships between different actors unconstrained by rigid political manifestos. The open space developed forms of political organisations introduced by the Alter-globalization movement since the mid 90s. Its networked, horizontal and open logics allow for the engagement of diverse social and political activists in unprecedented ways: trade union and environmental activists, alternative sexualities and religious activists, gender and indigenous activists to mention just a few.
The next WSF in Dakar, promises to be one more memorable event. Its focus will be on the design of "A New Universality". Such inspirational call aims at articulating a vision towards "rebuilding relations between humans, the environment and living beings on the basis of justice, solidarity and diversity, by giving precedence to groups and social categories which have suffered most from the dominant hegemonic model during the last five centuries, that they may have a voice. The people involved are in particular workers, peasants, diasporas, migrants, women, `native/autochthonous' peoples, peoples struggling for independence and groups struggling for economic, social and cultural rights and for gender equality" (WSF 2011).
Its sheer size, its geographical reach and the design of an innovative institutional architecture to contribute to the consolidation of the Alter-Globalisation movement have contributed not only to inspire activists but to interest commentators and researchers. Some of those researchers, close to the foci of the Alter-globalisation movement and its several instantiations, developed groundbreaking scholarly work from a privileged "field" position. Some researchers indeed transgressed the boundaries between research and engagement and while contributing to robust theorization on the nature of global societies and their transformations have also participated in the movements they study and worked to influence those processes in so doing challenging the alleged separation between theorising and acting for change. Researchers have reported the global movement since its inception and worked with it to develop theories that reflect the innovative social practices articulated by it. The multiplicity of the embodiments of such movement may be daunting
 

Contents

The Way of Subjectivity
33
The Way of Reason
107
Confluence of the Two Paths
179
Conclusion
258
Notes
264
Bibliography
280
Index
302
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About the author (2010)

Geoffrey Pleyers is Research Fellow at the University of Louvain.

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