New Social Movements resisting Globalization

Previously a concept only taught to business students, the use of the word globalization has grown in line with the extraordinary boom in the use of the internet. Communities throughout the globe are now linked to an interconnecting web via computer. Academia is hot on the trial of globalisation, debates wrangle, as it emerges as a central topic of debate amongst social scientists.

This essay will seek to introduce the concept of New Social Movements (N.S.M's) in relation to globalisation. With the aid of the Internet and literature from Agnew, Knox, Giddens to name some of the many key writers in this field the essay shall be divided into two sections. Firstly it shall examine N.S.M's using the case studies of the Peoples' Global Action (P.G.A) against "free" trade and the World Trade Organization (W.T.O) and of the Zapatista rebels, Mexico, highlighting issues involved in the implementation of global opposition.

The second section shall define globalisation, explaining why globalisation is protested against over issues such as racism or sexism for example. This section will then site examples of corporate greed and exploitation in China and the rise, to a lesser extent, of cultural homogenisation. 

Integration, exploitation and homogenization characterise globalization, inspiring a fresh wave of anti global fervour, consequently the explosive growth of New Social Movements (N.S.M's) can bee seen. Dellaporta and Diana (Social Movements 1999:13) site the works of Melucci. Melucci states:

'New Social Movements oppose the intrusion of the state and the market into social life, reclaiming the individual's identity and the right to determine his or her private and affective life against the omnipresent and comprehensive manipulation of the society'.

Critically N.S.M's do not limit their activities to seeking material gain, but challenge the diffuse notions of politics and society themselves. Social movements do not invite state intervention; rather they endeavour to resist the expansion of political administration. (Social movements an introduction-Dellaporta and Diana, Blackwell 1999:12) 

February 1998 saw peoples' movements from all corners of the globe meet in Geneva, launching a worldwide resistance against the global market. A new alliance, the Peoples' Global Action (P.G.A) against "free" trade and the W.T. OI was born. The P.G.A promotes a clear rejection of the W.T.O, rebuffing it and other trade liberalising agreements that promote social and environmental destructive globalization. A confrontational yet non-violent approach is expected as lobbying frequently has no major impact upon such biased and undemocratic organisations where trans-national capital is the true policy maker. The P.G.A is an instrument of co-ordination, not an organisation; seeking the greatest numbers of participants and organisations to take part through non-violent civil disobedience and people orientated actions.

The P.G.A ranks alongside the largest social movements; however the actions of N.S.M's can be viewed at a number of levels. The Zapatista rebels of Mexico are a perfect example. Chiapas, Mexico, is the most resource rich nation state in the country. It is home to a wealth of agriculture, cocoa, coffee, timber and cattle ranching industries. Importantly, Chiapas has some of the richest oil reserves in Central America. Systematic brutalisation of indigenous communities and tight control of political machinery provided the environment from which the Zapatistas emerged. Taking up arms was the only way to be heard and part of a larger strategy for the expansion of the space for democratic struggle (http://www.utexas.edu/students/nave/zaps). 

Just as N.A.F.T.A celebrated in the development zones along Northern border regions and among affluent districts of Mexico City, Zapatista rebels in southern states forcibly reminded their country that the national economy lacked the flexible political, social and economic framework to encourage the nation's entirety in the development process.

Zapatistas countered their powerful enemies, challenging society to participate, producing a radical shift in culture and social relations. (http://www.utexas.edu/students/nave/zaps). In the original declaration of war and in subsequent communiqus, Zapatistas have explained that their struggle is for: work, land housing, food, health care, education, independence, liberty, democracy, justice and peace. The Zapatista movement refuses a vanguard role, calling to different sectors of Mexican civil society.

'We think the revolutionary change in Mexico will not be a product of action in just one direction' Put simply it will not be in the sense and armed revolution, or a peaceful revolution, it shall be a revolution that is the result of struggle on various social fronts, with many methods, under many social forms, with varying degrees of commitment and participation. Zapatistas are an almost entirely indigenous organization without ties to other movements in Latin America. They follow a model of direct democracy that grants voice to and seeks consensus among all members of the community.

The situation in Mexico is further exacerbated by the involvement of the U.S in Mexican affairs, which includes increased military 'cooperation' by the state and donation of equipment designed for the 'drug war' but used to kill peasants and Indians. Yet the Zapatistas have countered their powerful enemies by challenging civil society to participate in the process of producing a radical shift in political culture and social relations. 

So, why has the late 1990's seen a rise in the growth of these N.S.M's? University politics was previously about discrimination, identity, race, gender and sexuality, "the political correctness wars" now I see banners advertising anti-capitalist movements, World trade demonstrations and N.SM's. Simply put, anti corporatism is the brand of politics capturing the imagination of the next generation of troublemakers. We need only look to the student radicals of the 1960's and the I.D warriors of the eighties and nineties to see the transformative impact N.S.M's can have. (N.Klein, No Logo, Flamingo, 2000)