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<nettime> Anti-globalisation movements
Ian andrews on Thu, 11 Oct 2001 22:46:23 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Anti-globalisation movements

The following text came out of a question/comment raised at the TILT
seminar "Tactical Media: how to make trouble and influence people" held
in Sydney on the 8/10/01.The question was well answered by the panel:
Geert Lovink, Rachel Baker, Sam de Silva, Gabrielle Kuiper and Ian

But I felt that all of the responses somehow slightly missed the mark.
This, most probably, was due to my failure to articulate the question
properly. So here I have made an attempt to reinscribe and elaborate on
it (the original question and the panel's responses are not included).

The suppression of the anti-globalisation movements has so far not come
so much from direct police repression but rather from the inability to
disseminate, via the mass media, a clear and concise statement of
purpose. This has been complicated by composition of the movements
themselves: a diverse collection of ideologies, causes and networks,
none of which share a common goal (or at least one which can be clearly
communicated). While this drift away from the grand emancipatory
discourses, towards a more fragmented micropolitics is a necessary
step, in my opinion, it must also be crucial to reach a consensus on
what it is that constitutes the dominant ideology of globalisation and
the institutions which enable its power.  In other words, it is
necessary to know one's enemy.

Too often, issues pertaining to globalisation, or free trade agenda,
become entangled with issues related to capitalism in general. Very
often it is the symptoms, or certain instances, of globalisation which
are attacked without addressing the underlying ideology, nor the
discourses that support them, resulting in, what the general public
sees as a "lining up of the usual suspects," (McDonalds, Nike, Shell),
or as a series of gripes rather than a coherent political argument. 
Consequently, the media is able to successfully portray the
anti-globalisation movements as a cynical gathering of independent
causes, each clamouring for publicity under the spotlight of an event
(such as a conference), in order to push their own agenda rather than
present a sustained argument against the event itself (at least this
has been the case in Australia).

One of the most visible of the micro-protests is the protest against
Nike.  Nike is often attacked as the symbolic embodiment of the diffuse
and abstract movement that is globalisation. It is often used as a tool
to illustrate the problems of globalisation. But it's not really a good
example. Nike is really an old fashioned transnational which indulges
in a kind of primitive Taylorism, and peripheral Fordism, which
exploits the international division of labour. While Nike is
detestable, it represents nothing new.  It can be seen rather as part
of the movement of transnationalisation of capital that began in the
1960s.  There is nothing unique about Nike that would allow it to be
categorised as an example of post-coldwar globalisation
implementations, except, perhaps, its contribution to a global
monoculture, by way of a peculiar brand fetishism.  But even that
phenomenon began much earlier, with the proliferation of

In an attempt to dismiss the anti-globalisation movement journalists
and economists often argue that the economy _is_ global, and as such,
it would be stupid, to try and make it unglobal. They are right, in one
respect; the economies of the world have been globally interlinked
since the Second World War, but they miss the point of the
anti-globalisation argument. No one wants the economy to become
un-global and "globalisation" (for want of a better term) does not
simply refer to the global economy. It is something new and different.

Globalisation is much more than an economic system, or strategy. It is
also a political and cultural ideology.  Globalisation can perhaps be
summed up as an ideology which seeks to impose a global regime (of
accumulation), through rule of law, which guarantees free trade at any
cost (social, cultural, environmental). This end is to be achieved by
the systematic granting of unilateral powers, over and above those of
nation states, bypassing democratic processes, in the interests of a
group of corporate entities who are unaccountable to public interests,
and bear no responsibility for the ensuing social (or environmental)
consequences (in this sense it should be stressed that globalisation is
an assault on democracy as much as the 911 attacks were).  In exchange
for the granting of theses powers, which put an end to protectionism,
as well as controls over local economies, indigenous landrights claims,
and ecological protection measures.  Globalisation promises to generate
huge profits for a few with trickle down benefits to the rest.  This
free trade ideology is deeply suspicious of governments.  It believes
that the market, if left to its own devices, can automatically correct
itself and determine its own progress towards unlimited growth.  Yet,
paradoxically, it depends on recourse to some kind of global
legislative authority to ensure that state or public interference does
not occur.

Perhaps the most disturbing and objectionable aspect of globalisation
is a move towards the denial of responsibility, or obligation, to the
world's population. This can be seen as a move retrogressive move
toward the first stage of capitalism - what some describe as "The
Gilded Age" (cf Twain and Warner's description of the ruthless
laissez-faire capitalism of post-Civil War America).  It is this
large-scale abandonment of social responsibility that characterises the
movement of globalisation as a distinct ideology of late capitalism. An
evangelistic belief in the infallibility of the market to provide a
rational solution to the needs of the world's population. A neo-puritan
ethic that values the plight of the interiorised and privatised
individual as opposed to communities.

This ideology needs to be opposed with something of greater substance.
The slogan "people before profits" is a good start. It articulates a
desire to place social concerns above economic concerns. It carries
with it, what Jacques Derrida calls "a certain spirit  of Marx."

An affirmation of the spirit of Enlightenment - a certain idea of
justice dissociated from law, which is ultimately undeconstructible -
which, at the same time, resists the hegemony of Marxist dogma - which
does not necessarily renounce the ideal of democracy but, rather,
attempts to reconfigure it.  Derrida calls for a "new international."

"Instead of singing the advent of the ideal of liberal democracy and of
the capitalist market in the euphoria of the end of history, instead of
celebrating the "end of ideologies" and the end of the great
emancipatory discourses, let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic
fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of
progress allows one to ignore that never befoe, in absolute figures,
never have so many men, women, and children been subjugated, starved,
or exterminated on the earth...."

(Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx)

The unilateral policies of globalisation (Fasttrack, NAFTA, MAI, etc.)
need to be opposed with other international treaties, guaranteeing, not
only basic human rights, but the rights of workers, indigenous peoples,
minority groups, and protection of the environment, over and above the
rights for the free flow of capital.

On an optimistic note, I believe that there is some truth in Malcolm
Bull's comment included in Kermit Snelson's excellent post:

<excerpt>    "But the debate about social control prompted by the
hijackings is one that others on the Left should hurry to join. The 
issue here is not American hypocrisy (Nagasaki, not Pearl Harbor, 
is the relevant comparison): let the Swiss cast the first stone - 
London has statues of war criminals all over the place. It is rather 
that, without yet realising it, the world's only superpower wants to 
achieve something that presupposes greater economic and social 
justice.  Current US policy may be unacceptable, but the long-term
project holds an unexpected promise."

The shift away from the post Cold War era of neglect and abandonment
may have already begun (even before 911). As George Bataille argues in
"The Accursed Share," It is only the US that is capable of the massive
expenditure needed to kickstart the general (as oppossed to the
restricted) economy (Bataille was discussing the Marshall Plan but
perhaps the same still holds today). A good start would be for the US
to begin the huge potlatch of amortising world debt.  Or am I simply

Ian Andrews

Metro Screen


Email: i.andrews {AT} metroscreen.com.au


1981 - 2001 Metro Screen is a celebrating 20 years of access and 

innovation in independent screen production.

Metro Screen

Sydney Film Centre

Paddington Town Hall

P.O. Box 299

Paddington NSW 2021

Ph : 612 9361 5318

Fax: 612 9361 5320

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