| Abstract: The global - level, process, epoch, ideology
and episteme - provides an increasingly central terrain for the women's
movement. This flies in the face of the idea that whilst capitalism is
increasingly global, (women's) social movements are inevitably national,
or even more local. The international women's movement needs to be reconceived
in terms of globalisation. A theoretically-critical and socially-committed
understanding of globalisation can provide the basis for such a reconceptualisation.
Globalisation processes imply for women and women's movements threats,
promises and seductions. Success here requires not only a new worldview
(in both senses of this term), but a new understanding of (women's) global
citizenship, of (women's) global solidarity, and of (women's) global communication/culture.
The series of propositions and proposals here presented is intended to
provoke both theoretical discussion and research. Starting with the First-Wave
women's movement in Latin America, we find one that was international before
it was generally national. Ending with International Women's Day in a Dutch
institute of development studies, we see how the global and local are increasingly
part of each other's meaning.
The `global' must bend to the local, since the local exists with
nature, while the `global' exists only in offices of the World Bank and
the IMF and the headquarters of multinational corporations. (Shiva 1993:59)
[T]he capacity of most social movements to command place better than
space puts a strong emphasis upon the potential connection between place
and social identity. This is manifest in political action...The consequent
dilemmas of social or working-class movements in the face of a universalising
capitalism are shared by other oppositional groups - racial minorities,
colonised peoples, women, etc. - who are relatively empowered to organise
in place but disempowered when it comes to organising over space. In clinging,
often of necessity, to a place-bound identity, however, such oppositional
movements become a part of the very fragmentation which a mobile capitalism
and flexible accumulation can feed upon. `Think globally and act locally'
was the revolutionary slogan of the 1960s. It bears repeating. (Harvey
The global - level, process, epoch, ideology and episteme - provides
an increasingly central terrain for the women's movement. This flies in
the face of the idea that whilst capitalism is increasingly global, (women's)
social movements are inevitably national, or even more local. The international
women's movement needs to be reconceived in terms of globalisation. A theoretically-critical
and socially-committed understanding of globalisation can provide the basis
for such a reconceptualisation. Globalisation processes imply for women
and women's movements threats, promises and seductions. Success here requires
not only a new worldview (in both senses of this term), but a new understanding
of (women's) global citizenship, of (women's) global solidarity, and of
(women's) global communication/culture. The series of propositions and
proposals here presented is intended to provoke both theoretical discussion
and research. Starting with the First-Wave women's movement in Latin America,
we find one that was international before it was generally national. Ending
with International Women's Day in a Dutch institute of development studies,
we see how the global and local are increasingly part of each other's meaning.
1. Women's movements: national, inter-national, supra-territorial
[T]he transnational arena held a particular appeal for Latin American
feminists. There are a number of reasons this was so. Within their national
communities, they were disfranchised; and, as elsewhere, the national social
and political arenas were characterised by androcracy. Moreover, Latin
American female intellectuals were particularly alienated from politics
as practised within their countries, excluded from leadership positions
by the forces of opposition as well as by their governments. The inter-American
arena in the first half of this century proved to be an important domain
for feminist activity, one in which women activists from throughout the
Americas pursued a number of the longstanding goals of international feminism.
Two of the themes that emerge in the examination of women's concerns in
this period are...legal and civil reform and the search for international
peace. (Miller 1990:10)
I believe it is important to move...into the discussion of what the
Beijing experience and other [international UN] conferences meant: what
they meant to us as feminists; what they meant to the other expressions
of the movement, including those sectors that remained on the margins or
were opposed; what paths or risks the criticisms may raise for us; what
purpose they served or will serve to modify at least some aspects of the
multiple subordinations women are subjected to; and, above all, what...they
mean to a long-term feminist agenda.[...] We need to analyse the practices,
as well as the tendency of the [Latin American feminist] movement to look
inward...and not to confront [or] share its feminist developments with
what is happening in other regions and on other continents[...] Only in
these terms can we see the national, regional and global as increasingly
interdependent. If the processes of domination operate at all levels then
an effective struggle for emancipation has to articulate the struggles
happening at all these different levels. (Gina Vargas, NGO Coordinator
for the Beijing Conference, in an e-mail letter to the movement, prior
to the 7th Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encounter, late-1996).
It seems that First-Wave feminism in Latin America, which began almost
100 years ago, was transnational or inter-American (including North America)
long before it was generally national - established in all, or even most,
countries of the sub-continent. This is also true of the early labour movement
and for similar reasons. Even at that time the national was penetrated
and informed by the international, and a positive dialectic between the
national and transnational movement appears to have existed. This should
subvert assumptions that movements grow or evolve from the local, or at
least national, toward the international.
It does not automatically follow from this that the appeal, or freedom,
of the international sphere grew incrementally over time. Nor that it was
necessarily reproduced, or increased, during the Second Wave. Nor that
the dialectic was, is, necessarily be, a positive one. Between - say -
the 1860s and the 1960s came the international replication of the state-nation,
in all cases providing an at-least imagined community (Anderson 1983).
In many cases the nation-state provided space for both women's movements
and worker ones, for feminists and socialists. The international organisations
of the state-nation era tended to be literally international ones
(institutionalising relations between nations, nationalities, nationalisms,
nationalists), whether created by congeries of state-nations or by the
movements themselves. In the case of labour, one can consider the International
Labour Organisation, in which state-approved national union organisations
still `represent' nationally-defined workers, alongside `their' governments
and `their' employers. Or the Communist International, in which a single
national party was recognised by Moscow, and subject to either public or
clandestine intervention by Comintern directives and agents (Semprun 1979).
Or one could consider the social-reformist International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), traditionally resistant to recognition of
more than one member organisation per state. The privilege provided by
formalised, hierarchical inter-state, representative democratic or vanguardist
organisations was one of prestige, power or money, and was often at the
cost of the autonomy of the social movements concerned. Although there
was no International Gender Organisation at this time, women within national-cum-international
parties and unions were under similar constraints (Reinalda and Verhaaren
1990). Thus, the Federation of Cuban Women has been constrained by subordination
to the Cuban Communist Party/State, and loyalty to the (ex-)Communist Women's
International Democratic Federation (Miller 1992).
The Second Wave of feminism coincides with globalisation, which began
to take shape before the word itself became widespread. Globalisation,
as we will see below, does not only imply the increasing centrality of
an inter-national level (transnational companies, financial transactions,
the UN or the World Bank). It also implies experience of the world as a
single place, and recognition of global problems, needing
holistic solutions. And, in so far as capitalist globalisation is
both produced by and producer of computerised means of communication and
electronic cultural artifacts, it creates a new kind of non-, supra- or
transterritorial space - a space which is not a place. The current crisis
of inter-national organisations, like the UN or the ICFTU, is due in large
part to the difficulties of dealing with global problems in inter-national
fora. They are challenged, in their slippery grasp of the intangible global,
by capital, by neo-authoritarian/particularist movements and by radical-democratic
ones. The latter are either implicitly or explicitly conscious of the world
as a single place, of global problems, of the necessity of global solutions,
and of a new kind of global solidarity as necessary for this. Globalisation,
finally, is not only a matter of a certain level or extension but of a
dramatic compression of space-time, with this informing every locale, including
the most local. This has at least two implications: 1) that one can
have as intimate and effective relationships globally as locally, and 2)
that effective action locally has to have its global sense of place,
the sense that women's places in localised spaces are increasingly globalised
too (Eisenstein 1996, Massey 1991).
Women's movements, globally conscious and acting globally, are not confined
to inter-state organisations or conferences. They can and do create their
own at international or regional level (such as the Latin American and
Caribbean Feminist Encounters, for which see Sternbach et. al. 1992, Gobbi
1996, Waterman 1997). And they are present within global cultural and communicational
space (Banks et. al., 1997, Kole 1997, Mujer a Mujer Collective 1991).
The privilege they enjoy here is not necessarily of the early-20th century
Latin American kind since 1) many of them now have much more space in `their
own' countries (though many do not), and 2) inter-national and global fora
are no longer outside the panoptic vision of capital and state. It seems
to me, however, that the non-territorial space of electronic audio-visual
media and the internet (which are expanding infinitely and merging rapidly)
provide an equivalent space of freedom and creativity to that of the First
Wave Latin American feminist one. But this space is now global rather than
inter-national. Moreover, the networking form and coalition/alliance strategy
of these movements allows them, at least potentially, to subvert and exploit
space provided by transnationals, inter-state or other inter-national organisations.
The possibility of such subversion and exploitation, however, depends in
large part on how globalisation is understood (for Latin American understandings
see Alvarez 1996, Vargas 1996).
2. Globalisation, its discontents and alternatives: a gender-open
Both liberalism and Marxism, in their different ways, implied that
the attachment to the local and the particular would gradually give way
to the more universalistic and cosmopolitan or international values and
identities; that nationalism and ethnicity were archaic forms of attachment
- the sorts of thing which would be `melted away' by the revolutionising
force of modernity. According to these `metanarratives' of modernity, the
irrational attachments to the local and the particular, to tradition and
roots, to national myths and `imagined communities' would gradually be
replaced by more rational and universalistic identities. Yet globalisation
seems to be producing neither simply the triumph of `the global' nor the
persistence, in its old nationalistic form, of `the local'. The displacements
or distractions of globalisation turn out to be more varied and more contradictory
than either its protagonists or opponents suggest. However, this also suggests
that, though powered in many ways by the West, globalisation may turn out
to be part of that slow and uneven but continuing story of the de-centering
of the West. (Hall 1992:314)
Previous worldviews - Christian, Liberal, Marxist, Developmentalist, Thirdworldist,
World Systemic - have, of course, been gender-blind. They have also, and
not-coincidentally, been in different ways people-blind. They have suggested
that relations-across-borders (to put this as blandly and broadly as possible)
are those of or between belief-systems, nations, economies, states, cultures,
blocs. Even when inspired or energised by ideals of peace, emancipation,
plenty, justice and democracy, they have delivered - at best - advances
incorporating old barbarisms and resulting in new contradictions and conflicts,
on ever-increasing scales and with ever-more-dangerous consequences (Melchiori
Globalisation, however, makes it possible, for the first time in human
history, for emancipatory forces to at least begin to see the world both
whole and holistically (Charlotte Bunch in Hartmann et.al. 1996), to understand
the interlocking of civilisation/barbarism and to propose understandings
and strategies aimed directly at the civilising of global society. The
propositions offered below represent just one of a number of attempts to
do this (e.g. Castells 1997, Giddens 1990, Scholte 1996, Sousa Santos 1996).
Firstly, then, our present period is one of a complex, globalised,
high-risk, networked, information and service capitalism - a condition
or moment not of post-modernity but of a high or radicalised modernity.
Old social, economic, political, military, cultural and other conflicts
are raised to higher levels (in terms of both intensity and sites), these
being supplemented by new and truly global ones. The decentering of capitalist
and statist power implies a dramatic increase in the number, type, complexity,
sites and levels of social tension, conflict and negotiation. An informatised
capitalism is one in which society - or societies - are subjected simultaneously
to increased scope or stretch and to increased intensity or deepening.
This in turn implies increased interdependency, globalised localities and
localised globalities, subjected to the simultaneous, complex and uneven
effects of homogenisation and heterogenisation. This is, consequently,
a world in which we are increasingly condemned to think both dialectically
and ethically: dialectically because of the complexity and contradictions;
ethically because our choices have sharply increasing socio-geographic
and historical stretch and effect.
Secondly, globalisation and globalism, particularly in their neo-liberal
form, provoke new political, social and cultural responses that are increasingly
globalised. We can here identify three ideal-type responses: that of
celebration (accepting the role of serialised global consumer, individualised
voter), that of rejection (on particularistic, essentialist or fundamentalist
grounds, whether religious, national, socialist or cultural) and that of
critique/surpassal (coming primarily from the new alternative social,
or radical-democratic, movements). This is represented in Figure 1.
Figure 1a also suggests how the `alternative', local-to-global,
response overlaps with/is penetrated by celebratory or rejectionist elements.
Figure 1b reveals the tension between `engagement' and `autonomy'
in alternative social movements/spaces, suggesting the necessity to move
or balance between an excess of engagement with capital/state (incorporation)
or of autonomy in civil society (self-isolation). Any `alternative' social
movement, or related non-governmental organisation (NGO), can thus find
itself in multiple positions, in local-to-global space, or at particular
times. It is, for example, possible for a feminist movement, organisation
or tendency (local-to-global) to be simultaneously 1) self-isolated - within
civil society, from other feminists or women, from men, and 2) incorporated
- into reform strategies or intermediating roles promoted by capital or
state (for the Latin American case, see Alvarez 1996, Waterman 1997). A
complex, interdependent, yet uneven and unbalanced global order, requires
complex, interdependent global alternatives, which the alternative movements
are beginning to offer. In so far as it is globalised contemporary capitalism
promotes communication and culture to increasing pre-eminence, this providing
an eminently disputable terrain for such new emancipatory movements. Cultural
globalisation makes an alternative global solidarity culture both necessary
and possible. The form of the new global solidarity movements is, thus,
increasingly that of `information internationalisms'.
Thirdly, globalisation implies the increasing centrality of the trans-,
supra- or non-territorial terrain, as well as of global institutions, processes
and instances, and therefore the possibility and necessity for the civilising
of global society. Global civil society, understood as one created
out of conflict with the capitalist and (inter-)state spheres, is a privileged
terrain (not the sole one) for the construction of liberty, equality, solidarity,
ecological care and cultural tolerance/creation. This is, however, not
a paradise to be announced, discovered or inhabited, it is a habitat to
be jointly constructed by autonomous, democratic and pluralist forces.
This requires engagement with/in existing inter-state and transnational
capitalist instances and processes. It also requires engagement with/in
churches, religions, and within and between international NGOs/social movements
that often reproduce the structures and behaviours they claim to surpass
(Alvarez 1996, Sen 1997, Sogge 1996). NGOs, as earlier suggested, can be
found in any autonomous or ambiguous position within the alternative
circle of Figure la and the civil society one of Figure
1b. The development of a global civil society both depends on and stimulates
the democratisation, deconcentration and decentralisation of inter-state
Figure 1a: Responses to globalisation:
local, national, regional, global
Figure 1b: Social movement engagement/autonomy,
local, national, regional, global
transnational capitalist companies and religious institutions. A new
concept of world citizenship is required to simultaneously synthesise and
surpass those of the past. This would have as its utopian imaginary a citizenship
without borders, classes or genders.
Fourthly, globalisation raises the question of transforming inter-nationalism
(etymologically and historically a relation between nations, nationals
and nationalities) into global solidarity. The latter is a movement
and ethic identifying and addressing global social issues, identities and
movements - including the national and ethnic. This means replacing the
rhetorical internationalism of the nation-state period (when mass real-life
experience was not universal and the universal was therefore unreal to
masses) by one addressable and addressed to a world increasingly experienced
by such masses of people - though differentially and unevenly - as both
real and universal (Collier 1992). A new universalism, both recognising
and promoting plurality, must be based on a relational ontology, in which
relating to others is not so much what we do as who we are. A monological
ethic - in which universalistic principles dominate procedures - requires
surpassing with a dialogical ethic, in which procedures allow for the possibility
of developing a common discourse between different and unequal partners
Fifthly, globalisation, and the related collapse of both Communist
and Radical-Nationalist alternatives to capitalism, helps us to understand
that history does not consist of evolutionary stages (the higher the better),
even less of binarilly-opposed phases (civilised v. barbaric, modern v.
traditional, post-modern v. modern) (Calderon 1994, Latour 1994). It
is becoming increasingly possible to recognise that we are living mixed
times (for those who prefer this language: simultaneously pre-modern, modern,
and post-modern). It is this that allows the `primitive', `traditional',
`barbarian', `pre-modern' Huarani indigenes of Amazonian Ecuador to pass
messages to `modern' Netherlanders about a `post-modern' future.
In case the address of all this to women and feminism remains obscure,
Figure 2 may make explicit how the `global woman question' is addressed
and placed. It also suggests related addresses for `women's global questions'.
Thus, Line F shows gender and sexuality as one of several crucial spheres
of high capitalist modernity. Columns 1-4 suggest the others that women's
movements and feminists are recognising interdependence with and increasingly
addressing themselves to - as they did at the 4th World Conference on Women,
Beijing/Huariou, 1995 (see, e.g. Feminist Studies 1996).
Figure 2: Globalisation, its discontents, movements and alternatives
|Increasingly rapid movement,
of war via
|Commoditisation & manipulation
of gender, sexuality
commoditisation & programming
The rest of this paper spells out in more detail the implications of
such an understanding for (women's) global solidarity, communications/culture,
citizenship, and the inter-relationship of the local and global in the
era of globalisation.
3. Looking at solidarity through global lenses
Solidarity is a specific form of knowing that has won over colonialism.
Colonialism consists in the ignorance of reciprocity, in the incapacity
to conceive of the other as other than an object. Solidarity is the knowing
obtained in the ever-unfinished process of one's becoming capable of reciprocity
through the construction and recognition of intersubjectivity. The emphasis
on solidarity converts community into the privileged sphere of emancipatory
knowledge. After two centuries of the deterritorialisation of social relations,
the community cannot limit itself to being the territoriality of the contiguous
space (the local), and the temporality of the small time (the immediate).
We live in an era of opaque, local-global, immediate-final nexus... The
neocommunity transforms the local in a way of seeing the global, and the
immediate in a way of seeing the future. It is the symbolic sphere, in
which the specific territorialities and temporalities are developed, which
allows us to conceive of the other in an intersubjective web of reciprocities.
Since the new subjectivity does not depend on self-identity but, rather,
on reciprocity, it is free of androcentrism: the other may be nature, or
may be the beast of which Saint Francis of Assisi considers himself a brother.
(Sousa Santos 1995:27)
Simply put, solidarity can be modeled as an interaction involving
at least three persons: I ask you to stand by me over and against a third.
But rather than presuming the exclusion and opposition of the third, the
idea of reflective solidarity thematises the voice of the third to reconstruct
solidarity as an inclusionary ideal for contemporary politics and societies.
On the one hand, the third is always situated and particular, signifying
the other who is excluded and marking the space of identity. On the other,
including the third, seeing from her perspective, remains the precondition
for any claim to universality and any appeal to solidarity. Conjoined with
a discursively achieved `we', the perspective of the situated, hypothetical
third articulates an ideal of solidarity atuned both to the vulnerability
of contingent identities and to the universalist claims of democratic societies.
Globalisation, as I have suggested, creates a world that can increasingly
be experienced as both real and universal, thus allowing for a universalism
that is more than faith or obligation, a global solidarity that is more
than a merely imagined community. The new global solidarity projects descend
from, selectively re-articulate, allow for, but surpass,religious, liberal
and socialist universalisms. Proposing neither a return to an unchanging
golden past nor a leap into a perfect future - in the here or hereafter
- they allow for and require a dialogue of civilisations and ages, a solidarity
with both past and future.
Here I will suggest an understanding of international solidarity that
goes beyond both the poetic and philosophical mode (Dean 1969), and any
attempt at a one-word qualifier, such as `reciprocal', `transversal' or
`reflective' (compare Dean 1996, Helie-Lucas 1996, Yuval-Davis 1995), but
by building on rather than dismissing such. The understanding offered is
a more political and a more complex one. It is also, I think, one that
could aid research. Solidarity is here assumed to be: 1) informed by and
positively articulated with equality, liberty, peace, tolerance, and more-recent
emancipatory/life-protective ideals; 2) primarily a relationship between
people and peoples, even where mediated by state, market and bureaucratic/hierarchical
organisations; 3) an active process of negotiating differences, or creating
identity (as distinguished from traditional notions of `solidarity as community'
which may assume the latter). International solidarity - old or new, local
or global, is here understood in terms of the acronym ISCRAR.
This spells out as Identity, Substitution, Complementarity, Reciprocity,
Affinity and Restitution (compare Vos 1976). In terms of Definition, General
Example, Feminist Case, and Problem/Danger this delivers Figure 3.
In more detail, these aspects and dimensions can be specified as follows.
Identity or identity creation is what commonly underlies socialist
calls for international solidarity, usually in reference to oppressed and
divided classes or categories in opposition to powerful and united oppressors
(capitalists, imperialists). By itself, however, an Identity Solidarity
can be reductionist and self-isolating, excluding unalikes. In so far,
moreover, as the identity is oppositional, it is a negative quality, often
determined by the nature and project of the enemy or opponent (as with
much traditional socialist internationalism).
Substitution implies standing up, or in, for a weaker or poorer
other. This is how international solidarity has been usually understood
amongst Development Cooperators and `First-World Third-Worldists'. By itself,
however, a Substitution Solidarity can lead to substitutionism (acting
and speaking for the other), and it can permit the reproduction of existing
inequalities. This is a criticism of Development Cooperation, which may
function to create a single community of guilt and moral superiority within
`donor countries', whilst creating or reproducing further feelings of dependency
and/or resentment in countries where social crises have evidently been
Figure 3: The meanings of international solidarity
common interest and identity
of the world unite!
You have nothing
to lose but your
chains. You have a world to win'
|`Sisterhood is Global'
exclusion of the non-identical; limitation to the
||Standing in for those incapable
standing up for
|Gender and Development programmes
||Exchange of different needed/desired
||Exchange of different emancipatory
experiences, ideas, cultural products
||To-and-fro exchanges between movements,
feminists on any axis
||Decision on needs,
desires; value of qualities, goods exchanged
||Exchange over time of identical
||Mutual support between London
and Australian dockers, late-C19
||Mutual support between differently
confronted women's rights activists
||Allows for instrumental rationality,
empty of emotion/ethics
||Shared cross-border values, feelings,
||Solidarity of pacifists, socialists,
||Lesbian, socialist, ecofeminist
||Inevitably particular/istic: friendship?
||Acceptance of responsibility for
||Swiss compensation for victims
of complicity with Nazis
WW2 victims of Japanese
|Buying-off guilt? Reproduction
Complementarity suggests the provision of that which is missing,
and therefore an exchange of different desired qualities. A Complementary
Solidarity would mean that what was moving in each direction could differ
but be equally valued by participants in the transaction. In so far as
it meant that some kind of physical goods (cash, equipment, political support)
were mostly moving in one direction and that some kind of moral or emotional
goods (expressions of appreciation and gratitude) were mostly being received,
we could be involved in an `unequal exchange' of a problematic character.
Reciprocity suggests mutual interchange, care, protection and
support. It could be taken as the definition of the new global solidarity.
Global Reciprocity Solidarity, however, could be understood as a principle
of equal exchange, in which (as with states) one is trading political equivalents,
or (as with capitalists) on the basis of calculated economic advantage.
And it could therefore imply that one would defend the rights of others
only if, or in expectation of, reciprocation by the other.
Affinity suggests appreciation or attraction, and therefore a
relationship of mutual respect and support, in which what is sought, appreciated
or valued by each party is shared. Affinity would seem to have more to
do with values, feelings and friendship. An Affinity Solidarity would seem
to allow for global linkages within or between ideologies or movements,
including between people without contact but acting in the same spirit.
In so far as it approximates friendship, it would seem to be inevitably
particular, if not particularistic.
Restitution suggests a solidarity across time rather than space,
the putting right of an old wrong, the recognition of historical responsibility,
a `solidarity with the past'. This relates to inter-governmental war reparations,
with the consequent danger of buying off guilt.
The value of such an understanding would seem to be the following: 1)
that it is multi-faceted and complex; 2) that each type holds part of the
meaning and that each is only part of the meaning; 3) that it is subversive
of simple binary or (r)evolutionary oppositions between bad and good, old
and new, material and moral solidarity; 4) that it enables critique of
partial or one-sided solidarities; 5) that it could be developed into a
research instrument, permitting, for example, surveys of the meaning(s)
of solidarity for those involved.
4. Global solidarity as communication: from aspect to essence
Feminism, as export, is beamed across the globe. So it exists even
where it has no local roots. Anyone can see it if they have a t.v., watch
hollywood films, listen to worldwide news, or use e-mail. The feminism
they see is affluent and consumerist. But in spite of this capture by the
western/global networks, feminism is not entirely contained by its advertisers.
Feminism makes women as `female' visible, even if is partial viewing makes
women in `the' south and east less visible than those in `the' north and
west. [...] Local feminism and women's oppositions can emerge through and
in dialogue with this transnational communications network. The telecommunications
global web potentially allows communication across the very divides that
transnational capital constructs. Women can `see' themselves across the
globe, in ways that were just not possible before. (Eisenstein 1996)
[W]hen it is a matter of demanding rights, or of designing strategies
to gain spaces of power, the area of communication is usually forgotten;
or, in the better cases, it is considered an area of concern only to the
communicators. [...] Nonetheless, as an issue that crosses all spheres
of action, it ought to concern the movement as a whole. If, additionally,
communication today is a space of power contestation, of control, of influence,
we women should be present in this contest, with our proposals, our practices,
and in defence of our rights; in the absence of this we can surpass our
condition of marginalisation only with difficulty. [...] This is one of
the great challenges confronting the women's movement at the dawn of the
new millennium, since we can anticipate that the right to communicate will
be, for the next century, what the right of education was in this century.
Like the other alternative social movements operating under the conditions
of an informatised and globalised capitalism, that of women is, at least
implicitly, a communications internationalism. This has several different
but interconnected meanings. The first is that it operates on the terrain
of ideas, information and images, revealing that which is globally concealed,
suggesting new meanings for that which is globally revealed (compare Melucci
1989). The second and consequent one is that, like other such, it is particularly
active and effective on the terrain of communication, media, culture (Riano
1994). The third is that, again like other such, its basic relational principle
is that of the network rather than the organisation (Castells 1997, Guzman
and Mauro 1996). The fourth, and consequent, one is that the movement needs
to be primarily understood in communicational/cultural rather than in the
traditional political/organisational terms. These interconnected ideas,
incidentally, have been implicit in international feminism for at least
10 years (Bernard 1987) but they still require working out.
The global sphere of ideas, information and images. There is
nothing immaterial, superstructural or derivative about this sphere, although
in the industrial phase of capitalism it may have appeared as all three.
We do not, at the other extreme, need to become discourse-determinists
to recognise both the increasing centrality of this sphere and the potential
for emancipatory movement and radical democracy it contains (Castells 1996).
That this sphere is created and dominated by the logic of capital cannot
conceal its contradictory nature: capital, capitalists, capitalisms, cannot
simply control this sphere in the way they have the factory, the state,
the school and the gun. This is also a non-territorial sphere, meaning
one increasingly capable of that expanding growth, flexibility and democratisation
that the capitalism of industry and the state-nation has promised/denied.
It is growth here that will make an ecological steady-state possible globally,
without such conservatism implying stagnation or reaction. The problem
to be overcome is that of the invisibility of this sphere: that it is either
transparent to emancipatory movements, or else handled with concepts and
understandings borrowed from, for example, politics. The practice of global
feminism, fortunately, is much more advanced than its theory, universalising
subversive/infectious ideas, information and images even through the capitalist
CNN and the statist BBC World radio and TV services (Eisenstein 1996).
The global terrain of communication, media, culture. At national
level, or within a nation-state-dominated discourse, we can recognise as
distinct, overlapping and mutually-informing cultural spheres, the Dominant,
the Popular and the Alternative. The Feminist-Alternative interacts with
the Dominant and Popular ones, on the same model as the circles of Figure
1. But, it seems to me that the Popular (in so far as this implies
places actively and intensively lived in and culturally shaped by poorer
population sectors) can hardly be said to have much place or space at global
level. The Popular is here carried, shaped and articulated by either the
immensely powerful Dominant global means or the still tiny and marginal
Alternative ones - which are in mutual dispute for hegemony over the Popular.
For the new alternative social movements, awareness of the marginality
of the Alternative should be less important than their recognition of:
1) the creative freedom permitted by such marginality; 2) the name, and
increasing centrality, of this terrain; 3) the necessity and possibility
of disputing it. It has been argued, in relation to its democratic potential,
that cyberspace is less like a hammer (a means, a tool, for doing something
to something) than Germany (a place, space, culture) (Poster 1995). It
is, actually, simultaneously a hammer and Germany and Utopia
(`nowhere', `a good place', a community yet to be imagined and created).
Globally it is a space of increasingly public dispute, as the radical-democratic
social movements mobilise for the People's Communication Charter (Hamelink
1994) and related political transformations. Amongst these, national and
international feminist projects take a significant place (Allen, Rush and
Kaufman 1996). These, and other such projects, both require and are creating
democratic and pluralist global communication networks that are increasingly
specialised and professional (for Latin America, see Huesca and Dervin
Networking as a principle of global inter-relationship. Networking
is both the oldest and the most common form of human social relationship.
It was only with the development of industrial and state-national capitalism
that the formal, hierarchical organisation (authoritarian, representative-democratic,
participatory-democratic) came to impose itself, to suck power and meaning
out of such networks, to concentrate all decision-making power within itself,
to project itself as both the real and ideal relational form. The transformation
to a globalised and informatised capitalism brings back the networking
principle with a vengeance - primarily vengeance against those subaltern
strata now locked into and dependent on the traditional hierarchical organisation!
There is, thus, nothing essentially virtuous about networking either now
or in the recent - or pre-capitalist - past (Castells 1997).
In talking of networking however, we are considering human inter-relationships,
including those within and between organisations, in communication
terms. In so far as networks are conceived of as horizontal, flexible,
incorporating participation and feedback, we can also value these over
the rigid hierarchical organisation, and attempt to thus distinguish `our'
networks from `their' networks. We have, however, also to recognise that
within any particular political domain - geographical, social, professional
- networking does not only mean an informal and flexible horizontal relationship
between equals and alikes, but also informal vertical relationships
between equals and alikes, and informal horizontal relations between unequals
Networks also have different architectures, such as the star, the wheel
and the web (including a World Wide Web increasingly used by women's movements
and feminist activists and academics: Burch 1994, Spender 1995) implying
differential influence and control. Network-babble therefore needs, today,
to be replaced by network analysis, including consideration of roles within,
or in relation to, them, of the cost of individual/group involvement, of
the extent of their connectivity, of their density, and of the role of
opinion leaders (who can evidently convert a network into a following).
Internationalist feminists are beginning to develop such ideas conceptually
so as to analyse, for example, Latin-American/Caribbean preparations for
Beijing (Guzman and Mauro 1996).
All these complexities and qualifications notwithstanding, the idea,
value and practice of networking opens wide perspectives to emancipatory
global movements, previously (self-)condemned to reproduce the pyramidical
and hierarchical structure of the corporation, factory, state, army, prison,
church or (Godess forbid!) university. Indeed, the archetypical political
party of liberal democracy was invented by the German labour and socialist
movement, in its early emancipatory moment: it was criticised almost
one century ago for its creation and reproduction of oligarchy (Michels
1915). If the extreme form of emancipatory internationalism was at one
time represented by the Comintern (combining characteristics of early Islam,
the Jesuit Order, the illegal insurrectionary movement, the spy ring and
the police state), the new ideal must be the Italian one of the `biodegradable
organisation' (an ideal feminists are more likely to welcome in general
theory than in particular effect or as promoted practice.
5. From national subjects to global citizens: insiders without
If citizenship is defined as a `full membership in a community',
then usually people are members in more than one community, sub-, supra-
and cross-states. Very often people's rights and obligations to a specific
state are mediated and largely dependent on their membership in a specific
ethnic, racial, religious or regional collectivity, although very rarely
they are completely contained by them. At the same time, the development
of ideologies and institutions of `human rights' means that ideologically,
at least, the state does not always have full control of the construction
of citizenship's rights... (Yuval-Davis 1996: 61-62)
[E]cological citizenship emphasises the importance of the planet
as breeding ground, as habitat and as lifeworld. In that sense we could
call this type of citizen an earth citizen who is aware of his [sic]
organic process of birth and growth out of the earth as a living organism.
This is based on the notion of care, as distinct from the notion of control.
The development of citizenship from the city, via the nation-state and
the region to the globe is here not just a matter of an increase in scale.
With the notion of the `earth citizen' a full circle is made. The citizen
is back to his roots; the earth as Gaia, as one's habitat. (Steenbergen
The notion of global citizenship has at least two inter-related problems
attached to it. The first is that of the social, territorial inclusion/exclusion
anchored historically in the concept of rights/responsibilities within
a city (later state-nation). The second is its relationship to a sovereign
power, whether aristocratic, monarchical or republican). A global citizenship
would be one without outsiders, unless we are thinking of extra-terrestrial
territories or beings. It would also be one recognising that, today more
than ever, `sovereign power' at global level is complex and dispersed.
Yet, given globalisation, some such notion seems not only inescapable but
The idea of women's global citizenship is an implication of feminist
discussion of multi-tiered citizenship, itself a result of the creation
of such regional polities as the European Union, and of a relativisation
of state-nation centrality (Yuval-Davis 1996). It is attractive for numerous
reasons. One is shown by the way in which women have been able to successfully
appeal to the European Court of Justice against the British state-nation.
Another of these is of `embodying' universal rights and responsibilities
in people and peoples rather than the state-nation. A third is that, for
the first time, a notion of citizenship and its institutions could be co-invented
by feminists and fought for by the women's movement.
The non-existence of a recognisable global sovereign is less an obstacle
than a challenge to emancipatory global movements. That there is no single
address for the People's Communication Charter (Hamelink 1994) or the Cultural
Environment Movement (Hellinger 1996), does not prevent them from seeking
for and identifying the places where power is concentrated, nor from pressing
for citizen-like rights - and responsibilities - in this sphere. In this
case, perhaps, global-citizens-in-the-making might be also creating
a global sovereignty (subject to both perestroika and glasnost)
over an increasingly privatised sphere that is monopolistic in tendency,
anarchic in behaviour, intrusive and destructive of human sociality and
creativity. Alternatively, or simultaneously, they might be demanding decentralisation
of ownership, generalisation of access, subsidiarity as a principle of
governance (Rush 1996).
The concept of the world citizen appropriate to the era of globalisation
can no longer be that of the religious universalist, the liberal cosmopolitan
or the socialist internationalist. Ecological theory has already begun
to conceptualise the matter, identifying as hypothetical global citizens
1) the global capitalist, 2) the global reformer, 3) the environmental
manager and 4) the earth citizen (Steenbergen 1992). If it is difficult
to conceive of a female equivalent to the first type, the second and third
are recognisable enough in global feminist reformers and femocrats. It
should not be difficult to reconceptualise the fourth in gender-sensitive
terms, and to incorporate within it the necessary dynamic between universalism
Discussion around global institutions in terms of democracy has already
extended the notion of `double democratisation' - of both state and civil
society - to the global level (Held 1995). If such discussion often makes
a simple identification of global civil society with NGOs, critical reflection
on the NGO form suggests the necessity for a third democratisation
- of full citizenship within the sphere of NGOs and social movement organisations,
that often reproduce the hierarchy, secrecy and competitivity of capital,
state (and of those old social movements over which superiority is claimed
or simply assumed).
Conclusion: from a room of one's own to the world as one's country
Global consciousness is not just an additional insight but a frame
for broader synthesis. For instance, when feminism's relevance to the whole
of society encompasses the globe, it becomes possible to see that what
have been defined as `development' issues in the South are called `social'
issues in the North. The distinction is revealed as a false one that hides
common struggles and marks potentially common activist self-definitions
behind unequal donor and recipient relations. (Miles 1996:107)
`The future is no longer what it issued to be', says a graffito on
a wall in Buenos Aires[...] What is to be done, then? The only route, it
seems to me, is utopia. By utopia I mean the exploration by imagination
of new modes of human possibility and new styles of will, and the confrontation
by imagination of the the necessity of whatever exists - just because it
exists - on behalf of something radically better that is worth fighting
for and to which humanity is fully entitled. My version of utopia...calls
attention to what does not exist as being the integral, if silenced (counter)part
of what does exist... Utopia requires...deep and comprehensive knowledge
or reality as a way of preventing imagination's radicalism from clashing
with its realism. (Sousa Santos 1995:480-481)
This paper is about the increasing possibility of and necessity for virtuous
spirals (compare Ryan 1991 on movements and media), between the local and
the global, the global and the local. I have, I hope, also allowed for
the possibility that these can also become vicious circles or even downward
spirals (see, again, for the feminist movement in Latin America after Beijing,
Alvarez 1996, Waterman 1997). So this is a plea for working on virtuous
spirals between the global and local - however these are conceived - and
for virtuous circles within globalised space.
It was Virginia Wolfe, as a woman writer, who insisted on the need of
a room of her own, and who, as a politically-aware woman, insisted that
she had no country other than the world. The notion of a separate space/place
for the development of autonomy is familiar to feminist literature. So
is that of women as homeless within the nation and sharing this homelessness
with those everywhere. I have put the ideas together in a manner that might
suggest not only a single thought but the primacy of the global over the
local. In fact the movement must go both ways and they provide a dialectical
combination. The First Wave Latin American feminists mentioned earlier
may, indeed, have felt more at home at an inter-American feminist gathering
than within the national or domestic sphere. From this inter-national room
of their own, in any case, they launched messages and re-launched themselves
into national and domestic spaces from which they felt, to one degree or
If, at the beginning of the century, it was more or less clear which
space was national and which international, which local and which global,
at the end this is no longer so. If I reflect on International Women's
Day (IWD) 1997 at my own institute, it is difficult, if not impossible,
to distinguish the global and the local. Convened by students from the
Women and Development Programme (W&D), a group of women converted this
global event into a locally-relevant one on sexual harassment. An open
meeting made apparent that the institute was, in its procedures, failing
to fully and effectively recognise the structured inequality between harassers
(male) and harassed (female). Further revealed was a locally-, nationally-
or regionally-specific combination of patriarchal assumption and liberal-democratic
intention. This institute is a Dutch, state-dependent, internationally-staffed
and Third-World-oriented institute of Westernised development studies.
The students are primarily from the Third World (i.e. two-thirds all globalised
people or peoples). A number of them are feminists, formed not only by
local struggles and feminists but also by First-World and even First-Worldist
feminisms - as well as by such global feminism as was articulated at Beijing/Huariou
(where 30-40 past W&D graduates met each other, and where violence
against women was a major agenda item). Where, in this case, is the global
and where the local? Which is influencing which? And, in this struggle
for a citizenship recognising and allowing for difference, where does feminist
power and initiative originate or lie?
The institute is not, of course, local in the way of...Chiapas in the
Deep South of Mexico (Castells, Yazawa, Kiselyova 1995-6)? Nor is it localised...like
the dockers of Liverpool in the North-West of England (Lavalette and Kennedy
1996)? Both of these communities are (conscious of being) involved in globalised
struggles, and one can learn about their womenfolk and women's movements
from internationally accessible alternative media and the Internet: through
the World Wide Web they are increasingly part of a worldwide web. It therefore
occurs to me, that as global and local movements increasingly interpenetrate
and inform each other, we possibly need to concentrate less on places or
levels than processes and flows.
Let us return to our opening quotations, the first by an internationally-known
Indian eco-feminist, the second by a pioneering Marxist theorist of modernity
and postmodernism. It is quite possible that Vandana Shiva's global-in-quotes
refers solely to the hegemonic global, or to the dominant globalisation
discourse: in other words to `globalism'. But there is a danger here not
only of hypostatisation of the global and local but also of their binary
opposition, and the investment of the first with vice, the second with
virtue. There is also an allied danger of abandoning the global arena to
the forces that are only trying to hegemonise something they do
not fully control. The dangers of localism are revealed in the quote from
David Harvey, who would see this as simply reinforcing the fragmenting
impact of capitalist globalisation. His solution, however, is apparently
the same as that of Shiva: think globally, act locally.
I do not think we should today repeat the slogans of the 1960s or 1970s,
when internationalisation was understood primarily in political-economic
terms, when globalisation was a problem without a name and global solidarity
was still called internationalism. Another orientation to that of Harvey
and Shiva is suggested in the other introductory quotes.
Emancipatory and even reformist movements are today confronted with
the option between globalisation, stagnation or self-annihilation (many
socialists and socialisms still seem to prefer the third option). If they
do not like, or cannot express themselves, or are ineffective, within the
existing global spaces, they can create their own - using the infinitely-expanding
cyberspace created by capitalist globalisation. The revolutionary slogan
for the next century was already invented in the 1970s, if not the 1960s.
It is: `Think globally, act locally; think locally, act globally'. But
`local' and `global' should now be also understood as `specifically' and
`holistically'. That means that the principles I have argued for above
should be valid also for relations between and within women's movements,
between women's and other alternative social movements, and, consequently,
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