...rebellion is one of man's essential dimensions. It is our historical
reality. Unless we ignore reality, we must find our values in it...Man's
solidarity is founded upon rebellion, and rebellion can only be justified
by this solidarity...In order to exist, man must rebel...Rebellion is the
common ground on which every man bases his first values. I rebel - therefore
Albert Camus The Rebel (L'Homme revolte), 1951.
The paradox of neoliberal economic globalization is that it both weakens
and activates the social forces of resistance to it. As the ‘global crisis’
of 1998/9 demonstrated to all of the world, the on-going debate on 'globalization'
is strategic for the coming era. The shape of the future depends on its
outcome. This book sets out to alter the intellectual and political terms
of the globalization debate, and thus its strategic direction. Firstly,
this goal is to be accomplished by asserting the centrality of 'the political'
and repudiating narrow economic determinism and the ‘teleology’ of neoliberal
The key political tension in the coming era will be between the forces
of neoliberal economic globalisation, seeking to expand the freedom of
capital, and the forces of social resistance, seeking to preserve and to
redefine community and solidarity. It is by acts of resistance that
we will establish our solidarities and our identities in
the 'era’ of globalization.
The analytical focus of the study of the globalization phenomena must
therefore shift from the technical to the political. It is no longer sufficient
for critics of globalization simply to 'document transnational neo-liberalism'.
(1) There is a profound need for re-thinking the question of what social
practices now constitute viable political strategies in the world economy.
(2) This implies a direct relationship between new practice and new theory,
which can be best accomplished in conscious alignment with the dissenting
social forces of resistance.
A new 'politics of resistance' to neoliberal economic globalisation
invokes an analogy with the resistance movements of the Second World War.
(3) While the world may currently seem to be dominated by an entrenched
ideology there is yet the necessity (and the possibility) of purposeful
resistance. Thus, the politics of resistance is not merely reactive or
defensive, or representing a minority interest. Rather, it is a form of
political action which should represent the general or societal interest
and with the potential to transform the political situation and produce
a real alternative.
What does the new politics of resistance seek to resist? 'Globalization'
has become an extremely broad concept that can encompass everything, thus
rendering the term either meaningless, confusing, or seductive to the unwary.
(4) However, when the concept is expressed as 'neoliberal economic globalization'
its meaning becomes clearer. I suggest that neoliberal economic globalisation
has four defining characteristics: i.) to protect the interests of capital
and expand the process of capital accumulation on world scale; ii.) a tendency
towards homogenisation of state policies and state forms to render them
instrumental to the protection of capital and the process of capital accumulation
on world scale, via a new 'market ideology'; iii.) the formation and expansion
of a new tier of transnationalized institutional authority above the states
which has the aim and purpose of re-articulating states to the purposes
of facilitating global capital accumulation; and iv.) the political exclusion
of dissident social forces from the arena of state policy making, in order
to de socialize the subject and insulate the neoliberal state form against
the societies over which they preside, thus facilitating the socialization
of risk on behalf of capital. (5)
The main historical thrust of neoliberal economic globalisation is to
bring about a situation in which private capital and 'the market' alone
determine the restructuring of economic, political and cultural life, making
alternative values or institutions subordinate. Rather than capital and
'the economy' being embedded in society and harnessed to serve social ends,
'the economy' becomes the master of society and of all within it, and society
exists to serve the ends of capital and its need for self-expansion. (6)
It is a necessary aspect of this process that 'politics' itself, and 'democracy'
in particular, should become increasingly formalistic, stripped of substantive
radical, revolutionary, or even reformist content, any of which might challenge
the consolidation of the hegemony of capital over society.
Rather than a historical triumph of democracy and capitalist market
ideology via globalization, (7) we face a danger of slipping ever deeper
into a 'historic malaise' of capitalism engendered by globalization.
(8) Existing democracies, and the complex social compromises on which they
rest, confront a lingering death accompanied by growing social polarization
and conflict, while new or 'low intensity democracies' are marked
by the limited degree of progressive change they allow, rather than by
their transformative capacity. (9) The democratic gains of the past, and
potential gains of the future, are re-interpreted as being 'fetters' on
the capital accumulation process, which the economy, we are told, can no
longer afford. The claims of social justice are submerged beneath claims
for 'natural justice' via the marketplace. Compete or die! Competition
is life! These are the new slogans of ascendant capital over moribund society.
However, as every school boy knows, wherever there is competition, only
the few will be winners, and many will be losers.
Thus, the real impetus of neoliberal economic globalization is more
likely to be socially and politically retrogressive than progressive. An
historical retrogression of capitalist civilization would be a period
characterized by greater social polarization between rich and poor, increasing
inequality, growing concentration of wealth, intensified competition for
market shares, crippling debt service payments for weaker economies, and
an unstable political order both domestically and internationally. Many
are so mesmerised by the idea of linear progress and the putative role
of scientific rationality and technology within it, that they may be unaware
even of the possibility of historical retrogression, though many societies
have suffered such processes in the past.
By advocating a doctrine of the inescapable technological determination
of the future, neoliberal economic globalization defines a single mode
of reorganization of social practices. This teleology of capital, being
both ahistorical and above all apolitical, attempts to inculcate the mythological
notion that the political process is now merely a 'transmission mechanism'
from 'capital logic' to society. Globalization discourse invalidates its
critics as 'unrealistic' because they recognize neither the validity nor
the inevitability of this single and 'mythological' mode of thought.
But we must begin our critique of globalization precisely by challenging
its 'myth' , and by recognizing that it is an abstraction deliberately
cast in the mythological mode. As such, it is wielded as a power concept
over society, endowed with emotive resonance drawing upon a heightening
of the sense of compulsion, fear, and the imperative of speed. (10)
I begin our critique, therefore, by challenging the idea that neoliberal
economic globalization is either historically necessary or inevitable.
Globalization is a contested concept, not a received theory. There is no
single determinant economic logic external to society, to the state, and
to political processes. Methodologically, it is necessary to insist upon
the socially contested and historically open nature of all forms of political
economy, 'globalization' foremost among them. Having made a 'historicist
turn' we must begin by making the effort to 'bring people back in' to international
political economy as the agents at the centre of historical change. (11)
Otherwise, we are left with socially barren formulations that strip people
and agency from history, leaving only 'structure' as the over-determining
'reality'. When 'globalization' implies 'the death of politics', it feeds
on political cynicism, defeatism, and immobilism.
But 'wild capitalism' or 'savage capitalism' is as unacceptable as the
boom and bust cycle and the extremes of exploitation and conflict with
which it is so clearly historically associated. As the pendulum of history
is urged to swing back to the norms and forms of pre-unionised, pre-welfare
state, and pre-democratic capitalism, history teaches us that people will
resist. They will not passively accept 'an open ended and long
term challenge to the majority's quality of life'. Indeed, 'Once that majority
also understands that the obstacles standing in the way of a reversal of
these trends are not immutable historical laws or technological inevitabilities,
but political choices imposed on them by a venal and short-sighted minority,
the time will be ripe for change.' (12)
To begin to reconstruct the politics of resistance in the 'era of globalization'
we must first insist on the right to rebel, that is on the inalienable
right of society and social forces to protect themselves from the destructive
vagaries of the unregulated (or 'self-regulating') market and to choose
their own meaningful ways of constituting their solidarities, their collectivities,
and their identities to this end. Among the 'manifesto of social rights'
vis a vis 'globalization', I would suggest the following:
1) the right of individuals, families and communities to employment,
welfare, social stability and social justice;
2) the right of labour, whether in the formal or informal sectors, unionised
or non-unionised, to resist unemployment, austerity measures, reduced life
chances, increased insecurity, atomisation, alienation, dislocation and
3) the right of the poor, dispossessed and marginalized, wherever they
exist, to resist the imposition of poverty and the intensification of social
4) the right of the people to reclaim and deploy government (state power)
in their own self-defence, at all levels from local, national, and regional
to global, and whether through radical, revolutionary or reformist forms;
5) the right of all people to establish social solidarities and autonomous
forms of social organization outside the state and the market; and finally
6) the right to imagine 'post-globalization' and realise alternative
modes of human development.
As John Kenneth Galbraith argues, in the present era many elites seem
increasingly preoccupied by the pursuit of 'socially barren trade policy'.
(13) The weakening of society and the state in terms of their organizational
capacity to resist globalization threatens national welfare systems, privileging
tighter international economic integration at the expense of some of the
social gains of the past century. This 'mindless course' marches under
the banner of the new market ideology. (14) As states compete for the favours
of transnationally mobile capital, the 'race to the bottom' threatens to
increase the rate of exploitation of labour at global scale. The deregulation
of finance and decentering of production contribute to the de stabilization
of national societies and their political frameworks. As state capacity
decreases the structural power of capital increases, as do social and class
conflicts. All states and societies seem under pressure to make ever greater
concessions to capital, including greater capital mobility, flexibilization
of labour, lower social burdens and higher (indirect) social subsidies
for capital., the upshot of which is a redistribution of wealth from labour
to capital. All states are potentially vulnerable to sudden capital movement,
whether by productive or 'speculative' capital.
What is needed is the political will to develop an alternative global
political agenda of social and economic restructuring. This agenda should
involve the building of new coalitions of social forces working directly
with each other and where possible through governments to bring about a
new diplomacy of co-ordination. This co-ordination should encompass improving
social, welfare, and employment standards, aligning fiscal and monetary
policies, international labour standards (especially in transnational firms),
universal and binding corporate 'codes of conduct', and tighter controls
on cross-border capital movement, especially short-term speculative capital
As Richard Falk argues, elitist 'globalization-from-above' must be met
by an assertive and effective 'globalization-from-below'. (15) The countervailing
forces include labour, social movements, and the state. All three forces
are needed, but with the necessity to transcend exclusionist practices
of the past and avoid retreat into narrow localism or traditional nationalism.
'Globalization-from-below' should also mean establishing new roles for
leadership from the global 'South', and by labour and women from the South
in particular, in constructing the new practices of global civil society.
As Jan Nederveen Pieterse and Peter Waterman point out, the re-articulation
of 'global solidarity' requires networking and new communicative and organizational
modes of practice linking local, national, regional, and global level strategies
for reform. (16) The internal flaws of past movements, including racism,
sexism, xenophobia and 'protectionism' vis a vis other groups, imply the
need for a significant attitudinal change among the social forces of resistance
in order to enhance the effectiveness of new attempts to achieve broader
social and international solidarity.(17) In the labour movement, a legacy
of exclusionist practices, native prejudice, bureaucratic organization
and corporatist structures still hampers international solidarity efforts,
but the possibility of overcoming some of these problems does exist and
is made imperative by the new conditions of the world economy. (18) Cultural
prejudices that stereotype rather than illuminate the nature of social
movements must be transcended, and this is particularly the case at present
in the attitude of Western observers to Islamic social movements. (19)
It is only by seizing the opportunities of global communication that emancipatory
movements can create via new practice a new human consciousness, aimed
directly at the civilising of global society. (20) It is thus that by acts
of resistance that the necessary connection between new practice and
new theory is to be established, from which may flow an alternative global
There is a need for 'unifying strategies' by resistance and emancipatory
movements in order to confront globalizing capitalism with commensurate
organizational capacity. However, this should certainly not take the form
of the homogenizing imperialist modernization which constituted the dominant
universalism of the past era. What is needed is perhaps an ‘indigenization’
of universalism, by which I mean that any new form of universalism must
flow, in the first instance, from the 'bottom' upward, that is from the
people to their organizations and not the other way around. It is by confronting
common experiences, derived from the common impetus of neoliberal economic
globalization and its effects on the majority, that such a common consciousness
can emerge. 'Global solidarity' will not replace local and national society,
nor the privileging of these sites of social action, but it will become
an ever more necessary and useful supplement to them. We seem to be moving
beyond the era of the religious universalist, the liberal cosmopolitan,
and even the socialist internationalist. Nor can we make a universal prescription
to turn or return to either the liberal /Keynesian democratic welfare state
nor to the national social democratic state of the past era. Both have
been criticized for having done much to disarm civil society, thus preparing
the way for the onset of neoliberal economic globalization. (21)
The issues on which the new resistance movements campaign may seem diverse,
ranging from indigenous peoples' land rights, national land reform and
social justice, resistance to structural adjustment programmes, opposition
to 'corporate welfare' subsidies, women's empowerment, environmental protection,
to the struggle for national and international labour rights (22), but
all are part of a societal response to market-driven globalization . There
can be no new grand strategy or grand narrative across such a diversity
of struggles, nor need there be such. These movements and the new practices
of global solidarity will form new sources of democratic and progressive
change at local, national and global scales, as well as constituting new
sources of knowledge and epistemology for 'global civilization.'
The 'guiding ideology' of these new global practices of solidarity need
not entail the grand strategies of the past. It can consist of a small
core of values, which can be interpreted through a variety of cultural
understandings. I would suggest the following credo:
Neither the market nor capital logic ever create equality or social
justice automatically. The creation of a just and prosperous society always
requires conscious normatively committed human action, recognizing our
moral duty to fellow humanity. Wealth and prosperity are socially determined
outcomes and are achieved through a fair distribution of resources and
social product. Human progress is measured by the achievement of social
justice and the elimination of poverty and oppression, not by the unbridled
accumulation of private wealth or the naked exercise of power.
It is time to overturn neoliberal economic globalization, and
by doing so to create a new world.
1. The original version of this argument was made in the opening Editorial
'Globalisation and the Politics of Resistance' in New Political Economy,
Vol. 2, No. 1 (March 1997), in the Special Issue on 'Globalisation and
the Politics of Resistance' , edited by Barry Gills. See also: Andre C.
Drainville, 'International Political Economy in the Age of Open Marxsim',
Review of International Political Economy, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1994)
pp. 105-32, p. 425.
2. See the chapter by James H. Mittleman and Christine Chin in this
3. I am indebted to Susan George for this analogy, made at a Fellows
meeting of the Transnational Institute, Amsterdam.
4. For discussion of the exaggerated claims of 'globalization' and the
comparison to other concepts, such as 'interdependence' see the chapter
by R.J. Barry Jones in this volume.
5. See the chapter by Louise Amoore, Richard Dodgson, Barry K. Gills,
Paul Langley, Don Marshall, and Iain Watson in this volume.
6. For further discussion of the Polanyian perspective on the relations
between society, the state and the market see the chapter by Robert Latham
in this volume.
7. Examples of the triumphalist perspectives on globalization can be
found in Foreign Policy (Summer 1997), 'The Globalization Debate'.
For a discussion of populist interpretation in North America see the chapter
by Mark Rupert in this volume.
8. See: Barry Gills, 'Whither Democracy? Globalization and the "New
Hellenism"', in Caroline Thomas and Peter Wilkin (Eds), Globalization
and the South, (Macmillan, 1996)
9. See; Barry Gills, Joel Rocamora, and Richard Wilson (Eds) Low
Intensity Democracy: Political Power in the New World Order, (Pluto,
1993); and Steve Smith, ‘US Democracy Promotion: Theoretical Reflections’,
in Michael Cox, Takashi Inoguchi and John Ikenberry (eds) US Democracy
Promotion, Oxford University Press, 1999; and Barry Gills ‘American
Power, Neoliberal Globalization, and Low Intensity Democracy: An Unstable
Trinity?’, in Michael Cox, Takashi Inoguchi and John Ikenberry (eds) US
Democracy Promotion, Oxford University Press, 1999.
10. See the chapter by Ian Douglas in this volume.
11. See: 'Historical Paths to International Political Economy', by Louise
Amoore, Richard Dodgson, Randall Germain, Barry Gills, Paul Langley, and
Iain Watson, in Review of International Political Economy, forthcoming.
12. Manfred Bienefeld, 'Capitalism and the nation state in the dog days
of the twentieth century', in Ralph Miliband and Leo Panitch (Eds) The
Socialist Register, (Merlin Press, 1995) p. 103.
13. See the foreword by John Kenneth Galbraith in this volume and his
, 'Preface' to the Special Issue on 'Globalisation and the Politics of
Resistance', New Political Economy, Vol. 2, No. 1 (March 1997),
15. See the chapter by Richard Falk in this volume.
16. See the chapters by Peter Waterman and Jan Nederveen Pieterse in
17. See the chapter by Adam David Morten on the Zapatista movement in
this volume. For an example of the consequences of failure to build sufficient
social alliances at national and regional level see the chapter by Cyril
I. Obi in this volume.
18. See the chapters by Dimitris Stevis and Terry Boswell, and Johannes
D. Schmidt in this volume.
19. See the chapter by Mustapha Kemal Pasha in this volume.
20. See the chapters by Peter Waterman and Jan Nederveen Pieterse in
21. See the chapters by Jeffrey A. Hart and Aseem Prakash, by Robert
Latham, and by R.J. Barry Jones in this volume.
22. See the chapters by Sandra J. Maclean, Fahimul Quadir and Timothy
Shaw; Kenneth Thomas; Dimitris Stevis and Terry Boswell; Johannes D. Schmidt;
Cyril I. Obi; Adam David Morten; and Mustapha Kemal Pasha; and Louise Amoore,
et. al. in this volume.
GLOBALIZATION AND THE POLITICS OF RESISTANCE
Table of Contents
John Kenneth Galbraith
The Social Left and the Market System
Part I: Globalization and Resistance: Thinking Through Politics
Chapter One: Introduction: Barry K. Gills
Globalization and the Politics of Resistance
Chapter Two: Louise Amoore, Richard Dodgson, Barry Gills, Paul Langley,
Don Marshall and Iain Watson
Overturning ‘Globalization’: Resisting Teleology, Reclaiming Politics
Chapter Three: James Mittelman and Christine Chin
Conceptualizing Resistance to Globalization
Chapter Four: Richard Falk
Resisting ‘Globalization-From-Above’ Through ‘Globalization-From-Below’
Chapter Five: R.J. Barry Jones
Globalization versus Community: Stakeholding, Communitarianism and
the Challenge of Globalization
Chapter Six: Robert Latham
Globalization and Democratic Provisionism
Chapter Seven: Jeffrey A. Hart and Aseem Prakash
Rearticulation of the State in a Globalizing World Economy
Chapter Eight: Ian R. Douglas
False Prophets and the Politics of the Retreat of the State
Part II: Strategies of Resistance: From the Local to the Global
Chapter Nine: Peter Waterman
Social Movements, Local Places and Globalized Spaces: Implications
for ‘globalization from below’
Chapter Ten: Dimitris Stevis and Terry Boswell
From National Resistance to International Labor Politics
Chapter Eleven: Mark Rupert
Globalization and American Common Sense: Struggling to Make Sense
of a Post-Hegemonic World
Chapter Twelve: Jan Nederveen Pieterse
Globalization and Emancipation: From local empowerment to global
Chapter Thirteen: Kenneth P. Thomas
‘Corporate Welfare’ Campaigns in North America
Chapter Fourteen: Johannes Dragsbaek Schmidt
Neoliberal Globalization, Social Welfare and Trade Unions in Southeast
Chapter Fifteen: Mustapha Kamal Pasha
Globalization, Islam, and Resistance
Chapter Sixteen: Adam David Morton
Mexico, Neoliberal Restructuring and the EZLN: A Neo-Gramscian Analysis
Chapter Seventeen: Cyril I. Obi
Globalization and Local Resistance: The Case of Shell Versus the
Chapter Eighteen: Sandra J. MacLean, Fahimul Quadir, and Timothy M.
Structural Adjustment and the Response of Civil Society in Bangladesh
and Zimbabwe: A Comparative Analysis.