Anti-Globalisation Movement

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Globalization is the buzzword of today’s life. Almost everything is getting global – business corporations, markets, investors and the elites. The concept emulates beautiful catchwords like ‘global village’, ‘internationalism’, ‘interdependence’, ‘interconnectedness’, ‘free trade’, ‘competitive economies’, ‘transfer of technology to the poor’, etc. This is one side of the story.

On the other hand, globalization also creates discontents1. It is argued, for instance, that the globalization theory favours corporate capitalism and transnational corporations, i.e. those corporations that have grown so big that they have superseded governments2. The top-down neo liberal economics globalization agenda, set forth by the international institutions like World Bank, IMF, WTO, World Economic Forum etc, involves the exploitation of the environment, access to virgin resources in the remote and inaccessible parts of the world, access to cheap labour, and exploitation of weaker and cheaper markets. The antagonists have concerns regarding the rights of poor classes, peasants and labour rights, consumer rights, ecology and environment; and, gender and human rights issues.

The critics propose a counter-hegemonic globalization agenda, meaning globalization from below3, as they think that its corporate driven top-down strategy has failed to yield the desired results. Globalization from above, as it is seen, has provoked a worldwide movement of resistance. Known as “anti-Globalization Movement”, its more nuanced terms include ‘anti-capitalist’, ‘anti-corporate’, ‘alternative globalization’, and, its proponents may use the positive terms like ‘global justice’, or ‘fair trade movement’, or Movement of Movements, or simply The Movement4.

This movement is seen as a worldwide social movement that advocates globalization from below – a movement of resistance to the globalization from above. As Brecher and Costello note, “this movement has been gathering for years, many people first became aware of it in late 1999, when tens of thousands of protestors brought the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to a halt.”5 The WTO meeting was a place where people burst into the scene to record their reservations against the globalization process. Brecher and Costello quote from the New York Times :

“The surprisingly large protests in Seattle by critics of the World Trade Organization point to the emergence of a new and vocal coalition…[that included] not just steel workers and auto workers, but anti-sweatshop protesters from colleges across the nation and members of church groups, consumer groups, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and the Human Society”6.

The anti-globalization movement, or movements, are obviously a type of global social movements. Global social movements refer to a type of movements that operate at the local, national as well as international level.7 This definition of global social movements is consistent with the notion of transnational social movements characterized as an emergent coalition of local, national and international affiliates.8 There are a plethora of activities that transnational social movements engage in.9 The most notable forms of this interaction are the transnational advocacy networks. These networks focus on three central areas: human rights, the environment and women’s rights10, among others. The transnational advocacy networks play a vital role in the anti-Globalisation Social Movement and it is often described as a movement of the networks or ‘meshworks’11.

In this dissertation, I focus on the anti-Globalization Movement from the standpoints of anti-Globalization Social Movements (AGSMs) and the character and composition of Transnational Advocacy Networks(TANs). The first part, deals with the theory and conceptual framework. The second part, explains the way the anti-globalization advocacy networks operate. The third part, looks into two case studies of anti-globalization social movememnts – the Zapatistas Movement, Mexico and the American Militia Movement in 1990s. This part draws on the empirical evidence with a view to analyse the nature and scope of the social movments.


Social Movements and Transnational Advocacy Networks:

Genesis and Evolution of the Anti-Globalization

Social Movements – A conceptual Framework

In this part, I look at the types and nature of the Global Social Movements (GSMs), i.e. the broader conceptual framework in which the debate can be understood. My focus here will essentially be on the nature, type and genesis of the Anti-Globalization Social Movements (AGSMs) and Transnational Advocacy Networks (TANs). This part evolves around three aspects of the debate: a) the literature, definitions and, history and development of AGSMs, b) their linkage and relationship with the TANs, and c) the composition and organization of the anti-globalization movement.

Global Social Movements – Contentious Collective Action

And the Rationality of Protest:

The Global Social Movements operate at the interface of culture, politics and development. As such, they are heterogeneous in their nature, scale, structure and focus areas. The GSMs refer to a type of movement or movements that operate at the local, national as well as international level12. This definition of GSMs is consistent with the notion of transnational social movements characterized as an emergent coalition of local, national, and international affiliates13.

These movements, especially the ones of the last four decades, have been challenging both the established structures of power and dominant visions of society. They are also changing the very nature of the civil society and its traditional relationship with the state, thereby altering socio-economic and cultural relations in everyday lives of the people. In that respect, social movements pose a variety of challenges to the societies. As Melucci argues, “social movements play a vital role in contemporary or complex systems. Without the challenges posed by these movements, complex societies would be incapable of asking questions about meaning; they would entrap themselves in the apparently neutral logic of institutional procedure”14.

These GSMs are thought of having replaced the class struggle, and acting as “key oppositional force”15 to the status-quo structures. They envisage collective action as their most useful form. “Collective action affects the dominant institutions by modernizing their cultural outlook and procedures”16, Melucci notes. Collective action is also seen, sometimes, as a form of contentious politics and, referred as contentious collective action – the way by which those who consider themselves secluded and marginalized rise up against the states and institutions17. Examples include, the old movements about anti-slavery and the woman suffrage, or more recent ones focussing on human rights, environment, labour and women rights. In all cases, the social movements are a reflection of contentious collective action. Their activities are based on the ‘rationality of protest’ and these normally act outside the legal channels18.

The rationality of protest and collective action in the GSMs is sometimes seen as the only recourse available to people. As Tarrow adds, contentious collective action is the basis of social movements, not because movements are always violent or extreme, but because it is the main and often the only recourse against better-equipped opponents or powerful states. It can take many forms – brief or sustained, institutionalised or disruptive, humdrum or dramatic19.

Though the movements result from and contribute to social change, these are also the instances of spontaneous outbursts of frustration by those who feel disadvantaged by rapid social change. They have been a recurrent feature of the last few hundred years, the period since 1960s, however, represents the latest phase. These focus on a new middle class that thrives on political opportunity structures. The movements are not formally organized as networks, yet they are close to the networks and engage in cultural as well as political issues.

These networks create structures of opportunity both at national and international levels. Motivated by values and norms, rather than material or professional concerns, they reach beyond policy changes in the institutional and principle bases of international interactions20. Another way to understand the GSMs involves the resource mobilization approach that explains the emergence, success or failure in terms of access to resources such as time, money people, and leadership and organizational skills.21

Anti-Globalization Movements (AGSMs) and

Transnational Advocacy Networks:

The Anti-Globalization Social Movements are a type of Global Social Movements. The way AGSMs operate can be summarized with four characteristics: a) they operate at various scales (from local to the global); b) they operate without a centralized structure, command centre, or even a shared set of demands even if at some level the can be said to have common enemy – which in this case is neo-liberal globalization; c) they are pluralistic – seen by some as their strength and as a weakness by others; and, d) the most appropriate metaphor to describe them is that of networks22.

The metaphor – the ‘networks’ used by Escobar is close to the Keck and Sikkink framework according to which social movements draw heavily on ‘transnational advocacy networks’. For instance, “the world politics involves many non-state actors, alongside states, that interact with each other, with states and, with international organizations. These interactions are structured in terms of networks of economic actors and firms, scientists and professional experts and, the networks of activists – the International Advocacy Networks.”23

The AGSMs rely upon these networks to “tailor a vision to the circumstances and values of a specific audience”24, which is vital to explain and guide a collective action. It is very important for a movement to explain to its potential supporters and others that, what is wrong, who or what is to blame, and what can be done. That can be very aptly achieved through international advocacy networks. Moreover, movements also need innovative and appropriate strategies and tactics. “All the methods of protesting we now take for granted were all new and unexpected at one stage. Often, such innovation occurs in the heat of conflict with authority and it may be an eminently practical response to a certain situation. A prime example is the imaginative tree-climbing and tunnel-digging adopted by anti-roads protesters in the UK in the early 1990s”.25 The anti-globalization advocacy networks are proliferating and they aim to change the behaviour of actors in the international system – peoples, states and international organizations. This has traditionally been the overriding aim of the AGSMs. These networks “attract attention” and “encourage action” bringing in “new ideas, norms and discourses into policy debates”.26

For the purpose of further discussion, hereafter, I use the phrases Anti Globalization Social Movements and, the Transnational Advocacy Networks to complement and explain each other with the same intended meaning. This adaptation helps facilitate a better view of the contextual framework I employ to understand the question of the anti-globalization movement. Like the GSMs, the AGSMs and TANs also depends upon the political opportunity structures and resource mobilization capability in order to project and promote their causes. (A detailed discussion follows in the next part.)

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