Counterhegemonic globalization transnational social movements in the contemporary political economy
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Counterhegemonic Globalization: Transnational Social Movements in the Contemporary Political Economy. Peter Evans, Ch. 54, pp. 444-450. Defining terms.

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Peter Evans, Ch. 54, pp. 444-450

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Counterhegemonic Globalization: Transnational Social Movements in the Contemporary Political Economy

Peter Evans, Ch. 54, pp. 444-450

Defining terms

  • When people invoke GL, they usually mean the prevailing system of transnational domination – or hegemony -which is more accurately called "neoliberal globalization“ or "corporate globalization"

Implicit in current discourse is idea that this kind of globalization is "natural," inevitable, determined by market logic

  • Such discourse has become hegemonic

  • hegemony: domination, influence, or authority over another, especially one political group over a society or by nation over others

    • when a discourse is hegemonic it conforms to the dominant ideology, which justifies the status quo

Counterhegemonic globalization

  • counterhegemonic globalization challenges the prevailing system of transnational domination – and the ideologies that justify it

Activists involved in this project are collectively referred to as the "global justice movement"

  • part of global civil society, but more critical wing

  • the formally organized participants in the movement work through transnational NGOs

  • the anti-globalization protests at the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle and the ongoing World Social Forum are key events in the movement

World Economic Forum vs World Social Forum

  • World Social Forum, which brings together transnational social activists, especially from the global south, was organized as a "counter-meeting" to the World Economic Forum, which is an annual gathering of leaders in business and politics held in Davos, Switzerland

New Organizational Foundations of Counterhegemonic Globalization(CHG)

  • 3 broad families of transnational social movements:

    • Labor movement

    • Women's movement

    • Environmental movement

Unique challenges of organizing transnationally?

  • dilemma of using transitional networks to magnify the power of local movements without redefining local interests

  • transcending the North-South divide

  • leveraging existing structures of global power without becoming complicit in them

WSF: quintessential example of CHG

  • World Social Forum: probably largest network of South-based organizations and activists began as a joint venture between ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens) and the Brazilian Workers Party (PT)

    • demonstrates how CHG has its roots in both everyday struggles for dignity and economic security in the workplace and classic agendas of social protection

    • CHG is NOT postmodern, but looks to rescue traditional social democratic agendas of social protection

Labor as a Global Social Movement

  • Neoliberal GL has effectively reconstructed employment as something more like a "spot market" in which labor is brought and sold like any other commodity

  • Across the world, jobs are being informalized, outsourced, and generally divorced from a social contract between employer and employee

The attack on the labor contract, since it's global, creates a powerful basis for global labor solidarity

  • Ex #1: mutual support between metalworkers in Brazil and Germany

    • the alliance exploits transnational corporate organizational structures for counterhegemonic purposes

  • Ex #2:1997 UPS strike

    • North-North example of how transitional social alliances can be built around idea of a social contract

  • Formal employment relationship with union representation is rare, so the success of labor as a global social movement depends on being able to complement "social contract" and “basic rights" with other strategies that have the potential for generating alliances

  • Building a feminist movement without borders

    • Disadvantages of allocating resources purely on basis of market logic will fall on women

      • “Care deficit": women spend most working hrs on unpaid care work…."market gives almost no rewards for care"

      • Structural adjustment and other neoliberal programs have built-in systematic gender bias

    • Feminist activists have advantage over labor in that they don't have to transcend the "zero-sum" logic equivalent to that of the "geography of jobs" (in the case of the labor movement)

    How to bridge political and cultural aspects of the North-South divide and how to avoid the potential dangers of "difference-erasing universalist agendas“?

    • Like labor movement, feminism is rooted in universalist discourse of human rights, but transnational feminism has long wrestled with contradictions of building politics around the universalistic language of rights

      • a one-size fits all approach will not work

    Global and local environmentalism

    • Advantage: The "environment" is inherently a transnational issue, which gives the transnational environmental movement advantages over labor and women's movement

    • Disadvantage: the gap separating South's environmentalism of the poor, which focuses on building sustainable livelihoods based on natural surroundings, and the conservationist agenda of the rich (protecting flora and fauna)

      • this is not as obviously zero-sum as the labor scenario, but this kind of division in interests appears more difficult to surmount than in the case of transnational feminism


    • Hegemonic ideological propositions are not simply instruments of domination, but also a toolkit that can be used for subversive ends

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