Navigation – Plan du site
Rubriques électroniques
Roland Bleiker

Politics After Seattle: Dilemmas of the Anti-Globalisation Movement

20 juin 2002

Texte intégral

  • 1  An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Institute of Social Studies in The HagueThan (...)

1Introduction1

  • 1

2"It was just like May 1968," said José Bové, sheep-farmer and French anti-globalisation hero, about the events in Seattle of December 19992 four days of massive street protests against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) turned the city into a battle ground - literally and metaphorically. Bové joined some 700 nongovernmental organisations and an estimated 40,000 demonstrators, including steelworkers, environmentalists, AIDS-activists, farmers, anti-capitalists, anarchists, students and concerned local citizens. What began as a peaceful protest march ended in a violent confrontation with the Seattle police. The authorities called in the National Guard and declared a state of emergency. Global television networks were delivering hourly updates on the situation, turning the protests into a major media event.

  • 3  Margaret Levi and David Olson, "The Battles for Seattle," in Politics and Society, Vol28, No3, Sep (...)
  • 4  See Vandana Shiva, "This Round to the Citizens" in The Guardian, 8.12.1999, http://www.guardianunl (...)
  • 5  Mary Kaldor, "'Civilising' Globalisation : The Implications of the 'Battle' for Seattle," in Mille (...)

3For some, the Battle for Seattle was a "turning point,"3an event that symbolised the world's discontent with the spread of globalisation, with policies that promoted free trade and corporate greed over the interests of average people and the environment.4 Others stress that Seattle "was the first time that the political presence of a range of new actors was taken seriously."5 Similar interventions and protests, some nonviolent, others less so, followed in the subsequent months : thousands of demonstrators interfered with gatherings of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne and Davos, or with meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington and Prague. Indeed, major popular protests against international political and economic meetings soon became a common feature of key political meetings, from Quebec Summit Discussions on Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (April 2001) to the European Union gathering in Gothenburg (June 2001) and the G8 summit in Genoa (July 2001). All this is taking place in the wake of several years of less visible but nevertheless sustained protests in many parts of the developing world, from Argentina to Zambia, against the severe social consequences of IMF-imposed structural adjustment programs.

  • 6  Joan VBondurant, Conquest of Violence : The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, Berkeley : University (...)

4This world-wide wave of popular dissent expresses more than mere discontent with the effects of globalisation. The fact that countless people around the globe see street protests as the only means to voice their opinions symbolises a much more systemic and alarming crisis of legitimacy, one that has to do with the lack of democratic accountability of the major multilateral institutions that shape the world economy. In some sense the events of Seattle highlight what Joan Bondurant already identified decades ago as a key weakness of liberal thought, namely « the failure to provide techniques of action for those critical occasions when the machinery of democratic government no longer functions to resolve large-scale, overt conflict. »6

5The purpose of this essay is to engage some of the political dilemmas that surround the changing nature of activism. To do so, the essay portrays globalisation as a multiple and at times contradictory process : not only as a disempowering encroachment of large and unaccountable economic structures, but also as an evolution that has opened up new possibilities for popular participation in the struggle over global politics and governance. Acts of protest are no longer limited by their immediate spatial environment. If the dissident event is picked up by global media networks it has the potential to transgress the streets of Seattle, Washington, Melbourne or Prague. Protests then acquire an almost immediate transnational dimension. They interfere with the struggle over values that ultimately shapes the world we live in.

  • 7  For instance, James H. Mittelman, The Globalisation Syndrome : Transformation and Resistance, Prin (...)

6Popular dissent has clearly become a key feature of global politics. But while the nature of these transformations has been discussed in some detail,7 the ensuing dilemmas for activists remain much less explored. Clearly, an increase in political visibility and political influence also calls for additional moral responsibility, or so at least it should. Among the many political challenges that the new breed of diverse global activists face, and that this essay discusses, are the choice between violent and nonviolent means of protest and the struggle over voice and representation, the question of who can speak for whom. An extensive and broadly conceived engagement with these challenges is crucial if the global dissident movement is to contribute to the construction of a better world, rather than merely oppose existing policies.

Globalisation and its Discontents

  • 8  See, for instance, David Held et al., Global Transformations : Politics, Economics, Culture, Cambr (...)
  • 9  Paul Virilio, Vitesse et Politique, Paris : Éditions Galilée, 1977, p.131.

7Before probing the political dilemmas of global activism, a brief inquiry into the nature of globalisation is necessary. Given the existence of a vast literature on the subject,8 such an endeavour can only illuminate a few select aspects. A more limited focus on issues of dissent and agency is thus in order for this essay. Of particular relevance here is Paul Virilio, who a quarter of a century ago already noted that the contraction of distances had become a strategic reality.9 Virilio, like man other commentators, believes that the world is undergoing significant change. This change, he argues, revolves around the use and regulation of speed.

  • 10  Paul Virilio, La Vitesse de Libération, Paris : Galilée, 1995, pp.21-34.
  • 11  Jean-Baptiste Marongiu, « Excès de Vitesse » in Libération, 21.9.1995.

8Speed is an important aspect of globalisation, albeit, of course, not the only one. Speed signifies the relationship between various phenomena, notably space and time. Space has become annihilated, Virilio claims, and time has taken over as the criterion around which global dynamics revolve. The instantaneous character of communication and mass media has annihilated duration and locality. The « now » of the emission is privileged to the detriment of the « here, » the space where things take place. What matters are no longer the three spatial dimensions of height, depth, and width, but above all a fourth one, time.10 Virilio predicts that the globe will no longer primarily be divided spatially into North and South, but temporally into two forms of speed, absolute and relative. The « haves » and « have-nots » are then sorted out between those who live in the hyperreal shrunken world of instant communication, cyberdynamics, and electronic money transactions - and those, more disadvantaged than ever, who live in the real space of local villages, cut off from the temporal forces that drive politics and economics.11 Expressed in other words, inequality will increasingly defy the spatial dimensions of political life. One can frolic in the virtual world of speed and enjoy its privileges from virtually anywhere on the planet. A person with access to a computer, modem and phone line in, say, rural Lesotho or Tibet, can be as much part of global dynamics than a corporate executive in New York's World Trade Centre. On the other hand, one can be situated in the middle of the world's metropolitan cores, say, in Los Angeles, Paris or Tokyo, and miss out entirely on the revolution of speed.

  • 12  See Jerry Everard, Virtual States : Globalization, Inequality and the Internet, London : Routledge (...)

9The consequences of unequal access to the world of speed goes beyond the creation of material and social inequalities. The most fatal disparities may well emerge from the creation of two different mindsets and the types of privileges they engender. Those who operate in the cyberworld of speed will gradually acquire different thinking patterns. The dictates of linear thought, imposed by the representational limits of books and other printed materials, are gradually giving way to a more interconnected system of communication. New informational sources, such as CD-Rom and the World Wide Web, have already created logics of representation that defy linearity and, instead, provide the reader with a multitude of access points and connections between them. Fluency in the ensuing types of thinking patterns will increasingly dominate access to privilege and basic necessities, from job opportunities to information sources. People trained in and accustomed to linear thinking are likely to become more and more marginal, being cut of from the new informational dynamics that are bound to drive societies in the new millennium.12

  • 13  Human Development Report 1999, United Nations Development Program, http://www.undp.org/hdro/index2 (...)

10It is not surprising, then, that voices of concern have become more vocal. We hear of a nation state that is no longer able to uphold its sovereignty and the spheres of justice and civility that the corresponding boundaries were supposed to protect. We witness a decline in state responsibility for social affairs, which has either been relegated to the nongovernmental sector or simply left to market dynamics. But the latter, of course, operate along principles other than those necessary for the establishment of social justice. Decades after decolonisation was introduced in most parts of the world the gap between rich and poor has widened substantially. A recent report by the United Nations Development Program, for instance, informs us that the assets of the world's three richest people amount to more than the combined GNP of all least developed countries on the planet.13 Disempowerment and disentitlement have become key features of globalisation. We hear of neo-liberal world order that is

11increasingly run by a few powerful multilateral institutions and multinational corporations - big unaccountable structures whose strategic leitmotifs and decision making principles reflect the imperatives of short-term material objectives, rather than the more widely sketched principles that may well be necessary for the protection of average people and the survival of a global ecosystem that is becoming more and more stretched.

Activism Against International Economic Institutions

12The existence and exact significance of these and many other aspects of globalisation can be debated at length. There are other accounts of globalisation, of course, which view economic and social processes from more positive and altogether different angles. Far less disputable is the fact that the above-described phenomena are among a range of issues, diverse and subjectively perceived as they may be, that worry a great number of people around the globe. Consider the participants in the Seattle protests : they arrived from many parts of the world and represented a multitude of different interests, from labour to the environment. Their voices ranged from radical anarchists who sought to abolish the WTO to more moderate reformers who argued for a world economic system that is fairer and more democratic.

  • 14  Cited in Andy Rowell, "Faceless in Seattle," in The Guardian, 6.10.1999, http://www.guardianunlimi (...)
  • 15  Shiva, "This Round to the Citizens", p.2.
  • 16  Don Knapp, "Activists to WTO : Put People Over Profits," CNN.com, 29.9.1999.
  • 17  See Robert O'Brien, Anne Marie Goetz, Jan Aart Scholte and Marc Williams, Contesting Global Govern (...)
  • 18  Oscar Ygarteche, The False Dilemma : Globalization : Opportunity or Threat ?, trad. M. Fried, Lond (...)

13The main common target of the diversely motivated protest actions in Seattle, Prague and other cities are the three key institutions of the liberal world economy : the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO. Some protesters lament the lack of democratic accountability that characterises these influential organisations. Kelly Quirk, head of the Rainforest Action Network, worries that "the WTO has the right to completely rescind any law passed by the citizenry to protect the environment, health and labour rights."14 Other critics focus more generally on the neo-liberal agenda that is promoted by the respective economic institutions. They stress that the ensuing global free-trade regime is sacrificing the poor and the environment in favour of the short-term dictates of profit-seeking capital. Vandana Shiva, for instance, is convinced that the WTO is enforcing "anti-people, anti-nature decision to enable corporations to steal the world's harvests through secretive, undemocratic structures and processes."15 Many agree, even the less radical critics, pointing towards a variety of WTO decisions that favoured commercial interests over, for instance, the protection of dolphins and turtles. Or they emphasise that the so-called non-tariff trade barriers, which the WTO seeks to eliminate, are actually "hard-won environmental and food safety protections."16 Others draw attention to the many gendered effects of IMF interventions in the developing world. Women often bear the ensuing costs, as in the case of reduced expenditures on social services, which is a common element of privatisation and fiscal austerity policies that accompany structural adjustment programs.17 Others again stress that structural adjustment programs not only leave little policy options for nation-states, but also fail to address the root of the problem - seen as the enduring crisis of productivity of capital in industrialised countries.18

  • 19  Cited in Vittorio de Filippis and Christian Losson, "Prague, QG des anti de tous les pays" in Libé (...)
  • 20  Bello, "From Melbourne to Prague" p.3. Latter sections of this paper will problematize the issue o (...)
  • 21  Shiva, "This round to the citizens," p.1 ; Woodley, "The Battle for Seattle," p.28.

14It is not the purpose of this essay to discuss and evaluate these and many other criticism that have been directed against the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. Rather, the essay scrutinises some of the political dilemmas related to the process through which these grievances are expressed. And here the issue of globalisation is pivotal. Indeed, it is perhaps the only rallying-point that unites all the various and diversely motivated protesters. They all oppose something called globalisation. "I don't like the word globalisation," says one activist. "It signifies something inevitable, ineluctable."19 To be more precise, the problem is not globalisation as such, for it is hardly possible to turn back the clock of technological progress and neutralise the multitude of forces that are currently transforming the world. What many activists oppose is a particular approach to globalisation : the prevalent, neo-liberal version of international economics and the ensuing belief in "the inexorable irreversibility of free-market globalisation."20 This is why they stress that globalisation is not an inevitable phenomena, but a constructed narrative, "a political project which can be responded to politically."21

15How successful, then, have the protesters of Seattle been in diverting the seemingly unstoppable course of neo-liberal international economics ? How close are we to globalisation with a human face ?

  • 22  O'Brien et al., Contesting Global Governance.
  • 23  O'Brien et al., Contesting Global Governance, p.206.

16Evaluating the impact of global activism is no easy task, and I do not pretend to present, in the space of an essay-length exposé, evidence that can point conclusively towards success or failure. There are, however, a number of extensive studies that provide relevant insight. Among them is an impressive monograph that examines the relationship between social movements and international economic institutions. The authors, Robert O'Brien and three collaborators, examine the extent to which social movement pressure has resulted in institutional change and policy modification.22 The book's core consists of four detailed case studies. They focus on the influence of the environmental, the labour and the women's movement on the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO. The authors find sufficient evidence to conclude that multilateral institutions have embarked on a process of engagement, mutual learning and exchange of information. All three economic institutions have developed mechanisms to improve their relationships with NGOs. But while showing increased willingness to listen, the institutions have so far been reluctant to grant NGOs formal representational rights and access to the decision making process. As a result, O'Brien and his collaborators believe that in the short run the impact of global social movement "is unlikely to transform institutional functions."23 Since their study was finished just before the protests against the WTO meeting in Seattle of December 1999, a slightly more optimistic evaluation may be in order from today's vantage point.

  • 24  Charlotte Denny, "Protesters Open Doors for Moderates," in The Guardian Weekly, 5.11.2000, p.23. E (...)
  • 25  John Vidal, "Real battle for Seattle," in The Guardian, 5.12.1999, http://www.guardianunlimited.co (...)
  • 26  "War die Selbstkritik mehr als Rhetorik ? Breiter Konsensus über die Nachtteile der Globalisierung (...)

17Several commentators do, indeed, point towards a limited series of 'successes' reached by the recent wave of global activism. There is the fact that both the WTO negotiation round in Seattle and the annual World Bank / IMF meeting in Prague finished a day earlier, although the respective organisations claim that this change in schedule had nothing to do with the voices of protest that interfered - at times audibly - with the formal deliberation of the decision makers. Some commentators point out that the very presence of radical and violent protesters has provided the moderate, reform-oriented NGOs with unprecedented access to the inner sanctum of the IMF and the World Bank. "There is nothing like being besieged by a group of rioters armed with Molotov cocktails to make your old enemies suddenly look appealing," says one journalist.24 Others stress how the pressure from the street was instrumental in reinforcing some 40 developing countries who, during the Seattle WTO negotiations, argued that they were marginalized and bullied by an organisation that is dominated by rich countries protecting their own trading interests. "An unprecedented rebellion was in the offing," said one commentator. "For the first time in history the poor countries of the world had told the rich they weren't playing the First Worlds' game."25 A similar pattern occurred during the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2001. Representative of Third World Countries continued their criticism and an unprecedented number of NGOs were invited to participate in the program. And while police action outside kept popular protests in the streets of Davos to a minimum, the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, declared renewed commitment towards reaching a so-called "Global Compact" - a project designed to monitor the performance of major companies with regard to human rights, working conditions and environmental protection.26

18Pressure from civil society has lead to more transparency and accountability within the IMF, WTO and the World Bank. But one can argue about the adequacy or significance of these changes. The fundamental leitmotifs of the key multilateral economic institutions has not changed. Structural adjustment programs are still intact and neo-liberalism remains the modus operandi, and the underlying ideology, of global economic governance. There is no new legislation that protects the victims of globalisation : Annan's Global Compact is far from secured. Where, then, are the traces of Seattle ?

Speed and Dissident Agency

19To understand the long-term effects of global activism it is necessary to approach the process of globalisation in a more nuanced way. Contrary to the positions advocated by or implied in the Seattle protests, globalisation does not necessarily, or at least not only, lead to a centralisation of power and a corresponding loss of democratic participation and political accountability. While these phenomena are undoubtedly occurring - and pose increasingly difficult ethical and political challenges to the world community - they are not the only aspects of globalisation. A focus on speed allows us to recognise the contradictory forces of globalisation, the manner in which its whirlwinds push and pull politics, form the local to the global, in a variety of directions.

20Globalisation has not annihilated dissent. Quite to the contrary. There are at least two domains in which speed has magnified the possibilities for interfering with the conduct of global politics.

  • 27  See O'Brien et al., Contesting Global Governance, p.7.
  • 28  Ronald J. Deibert, "International Plug 'n Play ? Citizen Activism, the Internet and Global Public (...)
  • 29  See, for instance, the "Stop the FTTA Web-site" (http://www.stopftaa.org/), the site of the "Centr (...)
  • 30  Mark Riley, "Anti-globalisation groups prepare for online battle," in The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 (...)

21First, speed provides activists with a range of new tools to organise and co-ordinate their actions. Many of the protesters that went to Seattle, Melbourne and Prague, for instance, were brought together by e-mail correspondences and a variety of web-sites that organised resistance against neo-liberal forms of globalisation. The increased ability to exchange information across large differences has had a tremendous influence on the mobilisation of dissent within civil society. Social movements and NGOs that had hitherto existed in isolation can now easily communicate with each other. They can share data and insights about similar concerns and organise common actions in ways that was not possible before.27 A study on citizen activism against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), for instance, suggests that the Internet played a vital role in the relative success of the movement - the MAI was at least temporarily pushed off the OECD agenda. The Internet was central to the camping insofar as it facilitated communication among activists, permitted publication of a related information and helped to put pressure on politicians and policy-makers in member states.28 Cyber-based protest organisation has become more extensive and sophisticated as activists have learned from previous experiences. The protests in Quebec City, for instance, have given raise to numerous web-sites that exchange information and coordinate future actions.29 Not surprisingly, this move into cyberspace takes place at both sides of the struggle. The World Bank, for instance, has started plans for a major online conference in order to avoid another round of public protests.30

22Second, and perhaps even more importantly, speed has fundamentally changed the spatial dynamics of dissident practices. Protest actions, such as street demonstrations or acts of civil disobedience, used to take place in a mostly local context. They engaged the spatial dynamics that were operative in the interactive relationship between ruler and ruler. The contraction of space, however, has altered the very foundations of these socio-political dynamics. An act of protest, as it took place in Seattle, now interacts in a much wider and more complex array of political spaces. Images of a protest march may flicker over television screens world-wide only hours after people have taken to the street. As a result, a local act of resistance can acquire almost immediately a much larger, cross-territorial dimension.

  • 31  Naomi Klein, No Logo, London : Flamingo, 2001, p.357.
  • 32  Jean Baudrillard, « The Precession of Simulacra, » in Simulations, trPFoss, PPatton, Pbeitchman, N (...)
  • 33  Jean Baudrillard, “The Ecstasy of Communication”, trad. J. Johnston in Hal Foster (ed.), Postmoder (...)

23Any protest action that draws sufficient media attention has the potential to engender a political process that transcends its immediate spatial environment. It competes for the attention of global television audiences and thus interferes with the struggle over values that ultimately shapes the world we live in. "A world united by Benetton slogans, Nike sweatshops and McDonald's jobs might not be anyone's utopian global village," says Naomi Klein, "but its fibre-optic cables and shared cultural references are nonetheless laying the foundations for the first truly international people's movement.31 But the recent wave of global protests is hardly the first international movement of its kind. Nor is it as unproblematic as Klein suggests. For some the revolution of speed is too random to allow for critical interference and, indeed, for human agency. Jean Baudrillard, for instance, believes that the distinctions between reality and virtuality, political practice and simulation are blurred to the extent that they are no longer recognisable.32 Our media culture, he says, has annihilated reality in stages, such that in the end its simulating image « bears no relation to any reality whatever : it is its own pure simulacrum. » Television, the unproblematic transmission of the hyperreal, has conditioned our mind such that we have lost the ability to penetrate beneath the manifest levels of surface.33

24Patterns of global protest do not confirm the pessimistic views that Baudrillard and others espouse. The blurring of reality and virtuality has not annihilated dissent. The fact that televised images are hyperreal does not necessarily diminish their influence. Independently of how instantaneous, distorted and simulated images of a protest action may be, they still influence our perceptions of issues, and thus also our political responses to them. To accept the logic of speed, then, is not to render political influence obsolete, but to acknowledge multiple and overlapping spatial and temporal spheres within which political practices are constantly being shaped and reshaped.

  • 34  O'Brien, Contesting Global Governance, p.206.
  • 35  William EConnolly, "Speed, Eccentric Culture, and Cosmopolitanism," in The Texture of Thinking : N (...)
  • 36  Jacques Derrida, « Hospitality, Justice and Responsibility, » in R. Kearney and M. Dooley (eds), Q (...)

25Judged from such a vantage-point, the actions in Seattle and other cities are not quite as ineffective as they appear at first sight. Even without engendering immediate institutional transformations, traces of these protest events continue to influence the struggle over global values - and thus over the direction of politics. The repeated presence of protest actions around the world guarantees that a number of key issues, from environmental protection to minimal labour standards, remain discussed in the public sphere. Indeed, even before Seattle, O'Brien and his collaborators had already concluded that the interaction between social movements and multilateral economic institutions has transformed the nature of global economic governance. The authors label this transformation "complex multilateralism" in order to recognise that actors other than states now can and do express the public interest and shape issues of governance.34 The ensuing dynamics testify for the emergence of a new kind of global politics - one in which key political struggles occur beyond the control of the national state. Consider, for instance, how global networks of communication have enabled indigenous peoples in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to engage in forms of activism that ensured them an audience beyond their immediate surroundings. For William Connelly, this tendency confirms that speed has multiple dimensions : not only the encroaching and disabling one that Baudrillard (and to some extent Virilio) argue, but also one that "supports the possibility of democratic pluralization."35 Some even think ahead towards a time in which we can speak of unconditional universal hospitality - a situation in which rights and responsibilities would no longer be circumscribed by the spatial and political logic of national sovereignty.36

26But the increased ability to influence the course of events also carries certain responsibilities. And it engenders a new set of challenges : How is one to move from a mere protest movement to the task of constructing a more just and viable world order ? Who decides about the desirable course of action, the direction of protest, the means that are appropriate and the ends that are desirable ? How is one to maintain a level of solidarity or common interest in a vast array of diverging and competing interests ?

Who Speaks for Whom ? The Problem of Representation

  • 37  Vittorio de Filippis and Christian Losson, "Prague submergée par la rue," in Libération, 27.9.2000 (...)
  • 38  Levi and Olson, The Battles in Seattle, p.325.

27At first sight, the demands of the protesters seem clear and unequivocal. A participant in the Prague demonstrations puts it this way : "To advance the citizen's control [over globalisation]."37 But this is where the consensus ends and where difficulties begin. As mentioned at various points in this essay, the people that participated in the protest actions in Prague and other cities represented a great variety of different and at times conflicting interests and constituencies, from steelworkers to feminist and environmentalists. They ranged from radical anarchists to moderate reformers. "There was a cacophony of voices and issues," say Margaret Levi and David Olson about Seattle.38 And once these voices were picked up by global television networks, they became intertwined with an infinitely more diverse and random array of voices and images, all flickering and babbling away without much form or direction.

  • 39  Michael Ignatieff, The Warrior's Honor : Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience, London : Vintage, 1 (...)
  • 40  Paul Virilio, "The Vision Machine" trad. J. Rose in J. Der Derian, The Virilio Reader, Oxford : Bl (...)

28Media representations follow their own logic - different from the logic of the events they seek to capture - blending information and entertainment in often highly problematic ways. Indeed, information is often a secondary issue : "The entire script content of the CBS nightly half-hour news," Michael Ignatieff reminds us, "would fit on three-quarters of the front page of the New York Times.39 This is one of the reasons why Virilio believes that "the paradoxical logic of the video-frame privileges the accident, the surprise, over the durable substance of the message."40 It also privileges a specific key target audience : the television viewers of the Western World, those with the spending power to sustain the networks' advertisement rates and corporate profits. It is hardly surprising, then, that not all forms of protest receive the same level of media attention. There is a significant different between coverage of activism in developed and developing countries.

  • 41  For summaries of recent protest movements in the Third World see Jessica Woodroffe and Mark Ellis- (...)

29For decades, sustained popular protests against the key multilateral economic institutions have taken place in many parts of the Third World. Countless IMF-sponsored structural adjustment program have triggered sustained protest reactions by the local populace. These protests have increased in recent years. One can find many examples for the year 2000 alone : twenty million Indian workers went on strike to oppose IMF and World Bank policies ; some five thousand students, environmentalists and displaced people overwhelmed police lines protecting an Asian Development Bank meeting in Chiang Mai ; small anti-IMF protests in Argentina were dispersed by the police, but precipitated a mass protest of 80,000 people ; tens of thousands of Korean workers and students repeatedly took to the streets to protest against IMF-mandated austerity measures. The list could go on, and would also include protests in Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Haiti, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia, to name just a few counties, and only for protest during the year 2000.41

30Wide-spread and massive as these protests were, they received relatively little coverage in the global print and television media. Most of these uprisings warranted barely a line, or none at all, in the New York Times, Le Mondeor the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. They rarely make the BBC or the CNN World News. The Battle for Seattle, by contrast, was located at the heart of the industrialised world, and thus immediately turned into a global media spectacle.

  • 42  For a sustained engagement with the issue see Ponna Wignaraja (ed.), New Social Movements in the S (...)

31A single molotov cocktail in Seattle, Washington or Quebec is worth far more media capital than an entire protest march in Cochabamba, Lagos or Port-au-Prince. Twenty million Indian workers on strike or 80,000 Argentineans descending into the streets generate far less global attention than two dozen protesters in Davos, Melbourne or Gothenburg. Southern social movements clearly operate not only in a different local environment, but also according to very different rules of power.42 But what does this say about the dynamic of protest ? About the struggle for voice and representation ?

  • 43  Scholte, Cautionary Reflections on Seattle, p.119.
  • 44  See Kaldor, 'Civilising' Globalisation, p.112.

32One of the main criticism against the protests in Prague and Seattle was that the protesters were predominantly from the West and thus represented a very particular, often white and middle-class perspective. Here too, one could go on debating the provenance and motivations of the protestors. They certainly were not all rich and not all Westerners. But in most protest actions the Third World was clearly underrepresented. Significant political implications result. Some go as far as arguing that the new wave of global activism runs the risk of reproducing the very same neo-liberal practices of exclusion it so strongly opposes.43 It is questionable, for instance, to what extent the calls for higher labour and environmental standards, which was a central demand of most protest actions, is actually shared in the Third World. Many developing countries face the challenge to promote basic economic growth and may not be able afford the same environmental standards that are now established in the developed world. Indeed, some representatives of the Third World in Seattle argued that the US government was able to use the protest as a convenient pretext to break off discussions on trade issues, for a successful WTO negotiation round could have brought certain benefits to the developing world and undermined the traditional support base of the Democratic Party.44

  • 45  F.R. Ankersmit, Aesthetic Politics : Political Philosophy Beyond Fact and Value, Stanford : Stanfo (...)

33Such quarrels over the meaning and direction of the protest movement illustrate how the struggle over legitimate representation is one of the most pivotal political challenges faced by global protests movements. Indeed, representation is, as Ankersmit stresses, at the hart of politics.45 But how is one to establish appropriate standards and rules of enforcement for a protest movement that is all about defying conventional mechanisms and boundaries of politics ?

  • 46  William E. Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralization, Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1995 (...)
  • 47  Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralization, p.157.

34The most accepted standards of legitimate representation are democratic principles. The political legitimatisation process in the modern state is largely built around electoral accountability and the various legal and institutional frameworks that surround it. But democratic principles cannot easily be applied to transnational protest movements and their engagement with multilateral institutions. Democracy, as we know it, is intrinsically linked to the territorial boundaries of the nation state and its key political institutions. William Connolly correctly notes that "it is probably impossible even to imagine a form of democratic politics today that breaks entirely with this model [of the territorial imaginary]."46 But Connolly also recognises the rapidly changing dynamics of globalisation, the fact that virtually all aspects of life transgress the boundaries of sovereign states, from the flow of capital and labour to criminal organisations, media networks and protest movements. "Only democratic citizens," he stresses, "remain locked behind the bars of the state."47

  • 48  Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralization, p.154.

35The challenge, then, consists of finding a way of extending democratic accountability to the struggle over the direction of global governance and the various political, social and economic dynamics associated with it. While such a project may well be impossible to imagine today, Connelly points in a promising direction. He approaches democracy not only as a set of political institutions, but also, and perhaps even primarily, as an ethos, a cultural disposition. This ethos, Connolly stresses, needs to "foster a recurrent problematization of final markers" - foundational norms which continue to reinstate themselves.48 In the context of the struggle over global governance, such a democratic approach would entail regular public scrutiny and discussion of how norms, values and institutions function. Necessary as well would be a more generic promotion of transparency and an awareness of the political dimensions of representation, that is, sensitivity to who or what is excluded and included, and why.

  • 49  See Luc Boltanski, Distant Suffering : Morality, Media and Politics, trad. G. Burchell, Cambridge  (...)

36In some ways, the activists in Seattle can only speak for themselves. But this does not mean that they cannot engage political problems and criticise, say, issues related to economic governance or North-South relations. In fact, the process of convincing others across political, cultural and linguistic divides is the very subject of politics. Indeed, the most effective target of activism in the information age may well be the people with the spending power to influence politics. Comfortably installed in front of their television sets, this target audience does not usually suffer from unequal globalisation. In fact, they are the ones who profit from existing political dynamics.49 By questioning political, social and economic privileges, and by disturbing the stable foundations upon which these privileges rest, the protest movement is able to contribute to a democratisation of global governance, even if it cannot always perfectly represent all people affected by unequal globalisation processes.

The Importance of Form : Violent versus Nonviolent Protests

  • 50  Speaking of Prague, one commentator notes that even the wildest interpretations estimated the numb (...)

37The form and method of representation can be as significant as its content. The protest events in Seattle, Washington, Prague, Melbourne, Quebec, Gothenburg, Davos and Genoa are good examples. Without doing injustice to the uniqueness and complexities of each event, it is fair to say that most of them proceeded in a comparable way : the overwhelming majority of protesters engaged in a variety of peaceful and nonviolent forms of protest, while a small minority committed acts of violence.50 At times, as in Seattle, molotov cocktails and battles with riot police led to looting and the destruction of property. Media attention, in turn, focused often on these violent incidents, leading to a relatively uneven representation of the overall protests. The latter, violent episodes have attracted by far the most media attention, overshadowing both the substance of the protests and the presence of an overwhelmingly violent majority of dissidents. The violent nature of recent protests against globalisation pose a number of key questions for both social movement agency and politics in general. What is the exact nature and impact of violence ? To what extent can violence be justified as an act of dissent ? Is violence an effective way of promoting social change ? How can peaceful activists who engage in nonviolent protests or civil disobedience co-exist with those who advocate violence as a revolutionary strategy ? Do they belong to the same movement ? Do their different engagements reinforce or hinder each other ?

  • 51  Alice Dvorska cited in Irene Stehli, "Alice im Globalisierungsland," in Tages-Anzeiger, 23.9.2000.
  • 52  Vidal, Real Battle for Seattle, p.3.

38To engage these difficult questions it is necessary to enter terrains that are both analytical and normative. Consider one of the organisers of the Prague protests, a young Czech chemistry student. In principle she is against the use of violence, but believes that "at times it is nevertheless legitimate." When talking about the actions in Prague, she insist on drawing a distinction between different forms of violence : "Violence committed by demonstrators against objects ; violence committed by the police against demonstrators, and, worst of all, violence committed by institutions like the IMF and the World Bank that rob millions of people of their livelihood."51 She is not alone in drawing such a distinction. "They are worried about a few windows being smashed," said a Philippino participant in the Seattle protests. "They should come and see the violence being done to our communities in the name of liberalization of trade."52

  • 53  Frantz Fanon, Les Damnés de la Terre, Paris : Édition de la Découverte, 1985. See also Georges Sor (...)
  • 54  Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience, New York : W.W. Norton, 1966/1848 ; Leo Tolsto (...)
  • 55  Jonathan Freedland, writing about the events in Seattle, in "Powerless People," in The Guardian, 2 (...)

39The debate between violent and nonviolent forms of protest is, of course, not new. Frantz Fanon had already argued that violence is inevitable if existing structures of power - as those of colonialism - are being challenged and overthrown.53 It is an integral part of social change. Others disagree. They advocate nonviolent forms of dissent, basing their positions on a long tradition of thought and activism that stretches back to the words and deeds of Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, to name just a few key figures.54 They consciously employ nonviolent forms of protest when the official channels for political action, such as elections, referenda, petitions or lobbying do not exist or are considered inadequate for the resolution of the conflict in question. Nonviolent action thus seeks to empower those who do not have access to conventional forms of political influence. While such actions usually occur only in desperate circumstances, they are not necessarily manifestation of powerlessness, as Jonathan Freedland suggested with respect to the events in Seattle.55

  • 56  Richard B. Gregg, The Power of Nonviolence, Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott, 1934, p.89. The most c (...)
  • 57  See Thomas Weber, "The marchers simply walked forward until struck down : nonviolent suffering and (...)

40Nonviolent dissent can also be seen as an effective resistance strategy in itself. Indeed, the choice of nonviolent over violent protest is considered not only a moral, but also a strategic decision - a decision for the more sound and efficient form of struggle. Richard Gregg, in a classical study on the subject, suggests that nonviolence works by way of producing a change of mental attitude in the mind of those against whom the action is directed. Nonviolent action thus works not unlike military strategies, for it seeks to « to demoralize the opponent, to break his will, to destroy his confidence, enthusiasm and hope. »56 But instead of using violence to counter violence, which would only drain the resisters' energy and reassure the attacker about the adequacy of the chosen method of repression, nonviolence is considered to be a more effective form of political intervention. Some recent studies have found mixed evidence about the ability of nonviolent action to change the position of its opponents. Instead, they stress that nonviolence can engender social change by influencing third parties.57

  • 58  For this interpretation I have relied insight derived by Karl-Erik Paasonen, who has conducted ext (...)
  • 59  For various discussions on this issue see Mohandas Gandhi, Satyagraha, trad. V.G. desai, Ahmedabad (...)
  • 60  Amartya Sen, "All Players on a Global Stage," in The Australian, 16.5.2001, pp.7, 11The classical (...)

41This is where the debate over the politics of protest actions becomes explicitly strategic and tactical. The issues at stake are well illustrated by how activists differ about the point at which an action does and perhaps should become violent. Some non-violent activists reserve the right to employ violent means for reasons of self-defence. They argue that they have a moral right to self-protection, perhaps even to physical responses, if attacked by the police.58 Others disagree. They advocate a more principled adherence to nonviolence, and this for ethical and, above all, for strategic and tactical reasons. The classical example here is Gandhi, who urged his fellow activists to adhere to strict principles of nonviolence. He called off a protest march as soon as the slightest acts of violence were committed by activists. For him this was necessary because the power of nonviolence is located in its manipulative potential, in its ability to convert the opponent or third parties. Nonviolence, then, is seen as a psychological weapon, an intervention that causes emotional and moral perturbations which in turn trigger processes of social change. It seeks a conversation with the consciousness of the opponent and the public at large. Violent acts of protest generally fail to reach this objective, Gandhi argued. Principled nonviolence, by contrast, can be an exceptionally effective means. Recall the moment when Gandian activist were beaten by the police without attempting any form of retaliation. It remains one of the most striking and powerful images of the resistance movement against Britain's colonial occupation of India. Striking because these images capture an ethical and political commitment that can hardly be matched. Powerful because they manage to initiate forces of transformation that violent acts never can : they evoke pity which, in turn, can either convert the opponent or generate public pressure that can lead to a process of accommodation.59 A similar position has recently been advanced by Amartya Sen, who argued that the ant-globalisation protest would be fare more effective if it were to employ not violence, but humour as a strategy of dissent and transformation.60

  • 61  Viner, Lessons to Be Learnt, p.23.
  • 62  Patrick Bishop, "Small Cheese Faces Big Mac on Home Ground," in The Daily Telegraph, 30.11.1999, h (...)
  • 63  Daniel Johnson, "The Dwarfs Who Posture on the Shoulders of Giants," in The Daily Telegraph, 28.9. (...)
  • 64  Boris Johnson, "Aimless, Feckless, Hopeless and Legless in Seattle," in The Daily Telegraph, 2.12. (...)
  • 65  Rowell, Faceless in Seattle, p.3.

42The verdict of Seattle on the issue of violence and nonviolence is mixed. On the one hand, violence attracts fare more media attention than nonviolence does. In a world were entertainment and information are intrinsically linked, a molotov cocktail or a street fight between protesters and police offers far more spectacular and attractive 'news' material than does a peaceful protest march. On the other hand, this media attention is gained at a certain price. Recall that the main purpose of the protest, and of the ensuing media spectacle, was to draw attention to the undersides of globalisation and to win the hearts and minds of global television audiences. This is where the dissident event could leave its most enduring impact on the policy debates that surround globalisation. The fact that the evens in Seattle turned violent, however, gave critics an easy target : the protesters could now be dismissed as disgruntled youths or demonised as dangerous anarchist radicals who are not in tune with the needs and wishes of the general populace.61 This is why some commentators were able to speak dismissively of a "counter-culture carnival,"62 of the "globetrotting anti-globalisation mob,"63 of "hippies and yippies" with their "bedraggled beards and their mobiles phones hooked up to the internet."64 It is also unlikely that violence which leads to the destruction of property can win over the sympathy of the public, especially in the US where, as one commentator puts it, "private property is God."65 These issues are central not only to the political foundations of global activism, but also to its tactical and strategic efficiency.

  • 66  James Harding, "A New Era of Protest," in Financial Times, 2.2.2002, p.7.

43The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 have further highlighted the crucial relationship between violence and dissent. Consider the World Economic Forum of February 2002, which was held in New York rather than Davos. The significant presence of protesters both in New York and at the alternative World Social Forum in Porto Alegre revealed that opposition to free-market oriented globalisation remains strong. But the strategic dimensions of dissent have changed fundamentally. It would have been a major public relations disaster for protesters to embark on a violent street fight with members of the New York police, who are considered the heroes of 9.11. Many protest groups that stress strict adherence to nonviolence thus stayed away from New York. And those that went to Porto Alegre faced the challenge of articulating some sort of common manifesto, one that seeks to articulate, as one commentator puts it, "a methodology of protest that distinguishes them from terrorists, bloody revolutionaries and bomb-throwing malcontents."66

44The prime challenge for activists now consists of attracting media attention without resorting to violence, which ultimately undermines the ability to gain public support for their cause. To do so successfully, the location of protest may well have to move away from the major meetings of multilateral economic institutions. The risk that small acts of violence undermine a large and carefully planned nonviolent protest may simply be too high. Boycotts and innovative local actions, for instance, could prove to be more effective locations for protest. They would not attract the same spectacular, but in the long run such persistent actions may have more success in influencing the value system that sustains current practices of global economic governance.

Conclusion : Democracy, Ambiguity and the Struggle over Global Governance

  • 67  J.G. Ballard, Super-Cannes, London : Flamingo, 2000.

45An extensive and broadly conceived engagement with political issues is crucial if the global dissident movement is to contribute to the construction of a better world, rather than merely oppose existing policies. To engage this problematique the present essay has first demonstrated that globalisation does not necessarily, or at least not only, lead to a centralisation of power and a corresponding loss of democratic participation and political accountability. Taking the anti-WTO protest actions in Seattle as a case in point, the essay has argued that globalisation has also increased the potential to engage in acts of dissent that can subvert the very processes of control and homogenisation. In doing so, the essay counters images of a hyperreal world, of an increasingly shallow and media dominated globe in which nothing can penetrate beneath the surface. Political dissent, according to this doomsday scenario, becomes all but impossible, for there is nothing left to dissent against. There is only a twenty-for-hour-a-day-blur of information and entertainment. We are caught in a world that resembles J.G. Ballard's Eden-Olympia : a financially thriving but highly unequal high-tech information society, seemingly run by a few successful elites, but in reality spinning out of control and spiralling into an ever deeper moral void, fed by the very need for progress and economic expansion.67

46While engendering a series of problematic processes, globalisation has also increased the possibility to engage political issues. Before the advent of speed, for instance, a protest event was a mostly local issue. But the presence of global media networks has fundamentally changed the dynamics and terrains of dissent. Political activism no longer takes place solely in the streets of Prague, Seoul or Asuncion. The Battle for Seattle, for instance, was above all a media spectacle, a battle for the hearts and minds of global television audiences. Political activism, wherever it occurs and whatever form it takes, has become intrinsically linked with the non-spatial logic of speed. It has turned into a significant transnational phenomena.

47With the exploration of new terrains of dissent, global activists also face a series of political dilemmas. This essay has addressed two of them : the tension between violent and nonviolent means of resistance, and the issue of unequal representation, the question of who can speak for whom. Rather than suggesting that these issues can be understood and solved by applying a pre-existing body of universal norms and principles, the essay has drawn attention to the open-ended and contingent nature of the puzzles in question. Protest acts against the key multilateral institutions of the world economy will continue, and so will debates about the nature of globalisation and the methods of interfering with its governance. Keeping these debates alive, and seeking to include as many voices, perspectives and constituencies as possible, is a first step towards something that may one day resemble globalisation with a human face.

  • 68  Needless to say, this is an overly crude portrayal of realist ideas. But central tendencies of rea (...)

48But making global governance more humane, more transparent and more democratic is no easy task. Principles of transparency and democracy have historically been confined to the territorial boundaries of the sovereign nation state. Within these boundaries there is the possibility for order and the rule of law. But the space beyond is seen as threatening and anarchical - that is, lacking a central regulatory institution. The standard realist response to these perceptions is well know : protect sovereignty, order and civility at the domestic level by promoting policies that maximise the state's military capacity and, so it is assumed, its security.68 It is questionable to what extent realist policies remain adequate - and ethical for that matter - at a time when process of globalisation have lead to a fundamental transformation of political dynamics.

  • 69  Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, AThousand Plateaus : Capitalism & Schizophrenia, trad. B. Massu (...)

49The Battle for Seattle, and the media spectacle that issued form it, may well demonstrate that the struggle for power takes place in a realm that lacks a central regulatory institution. But realist interpretations make the mistake of embarking on a fatalistic interpretation of this political realm, constituting conflict as an inevitable element of the system's structure. It may be more adequate - and certainly more productive - to characterise the international system in the age of globalisation and transnational dynamics not as anarchical, but as rhizomatic. For Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari a rhizome is a multiplicity that has no coherent and bounded whole, no beginning or end, only a middle from where it expands and overspills. Any point of the rhizome is connected to any other. It has no fixed points to anchor thought, only lines, magnitudes, dimensions, plateaus, and they are always in motion.69 How, then, is one to reach a moral position in a world of webs, multitudes and multiplicities ? Are the lines, dimensions and plateaus of the rhizome so randomly arranged that we are no longer able to generate the kind of stable knowledge that is necessary to advance critique and, indeed, dissent ? Is the very notion of political foundations still possible at a time when social consciousness gushes out of five-second sound-bites and the corresponding hyperreal images that flicker over our television screens ? Are there alternatives to realist approaches that protect domestic order by warding off everything that threatens it from the outside ? Answers to such questions do, of course, not come easy. And they may not be uniform either. But an adequate response will need to engage in one way or another with the search for political engagements beyond the territorial boundaries of the nation state.

  • 70  Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralzation, pp.54-155.
  • 71  See Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and Ambivalence, Oxford : Polity, 1991.

50An extension of democratic principles into the more ambiguous international realm is as essential as it is difficult. It will need to be based on a commitment to democracy that goes beyond the establishment of legal and institutional procedures. William Connolly has pointed in the right direction when arguing for a democratic ethos. The key to such cultural democratisation, he believes, "is that it embodies a productive ambiguity at its very centre, always resisting attempts to allow one side or the other to achieve final victory."70 Such a model is, of course, the antithesis of prevailing realist wisdom, and perhaps of modern attitudes in general, which seek to achieve security and democracy through the establishment of order and the repression of all ambiguity.71

51Rather than posing a threat to human security, the rhizomatic dimension of the international system may well be a crucial element in the attempt to establish a democratic ethos that can keep up with the pace of globalisation. Some aspects of democratic participation can never be institutionalised. Any political system, no matter how just and refined, rests on a structure of exclusion. It has to separate right from wrong, good from evil, moral from immoral. This separation is both inevitable and desirable. But to remain legitimate the respective political foundations need to be submitted to periodic scrutiny. They require constant readjustments in order to remain adequate and fair. It is in the struggle for fairness, in the attempt to question established norms and procedures, that global protest movements, problematic as they are at times, make an indispensable contribution to democratic politics.

  • 72  See Doug Bond, « Nonviolent Direct Action and the Diffusion of Power, » in P. Wehr, H. Burgess and (...)

52The political significance of protest movments is located precisely in the fact that they cannot be controlled by a central regulatory force or an institutional framework. They open up possibilities for social change that are absent within the context of the established legal and political system.72 The various movements themselves are, of course, far from unproblematic. The violent nature of recent actions against neo-liberal governance may well point towards the need for greater political awareness among activists. But such awareness can neither be imposed by legal norms or political procedures. It needs to emerge from the struggle over values that takes place in civil society. The fact that this struggle is ongoing does not detract from the positive potential that is hidden in the movement's rhizomatic nature. These elements embody the very ideal of productive ambiguity that may well be essential for the long-term survival of democracy.

53Forthcoming in Pacifica Review, 2002.

Haut de page

Notes

1  An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Institute of Social Studies in The HagueThanks go to Bronwyn Evans-Kent, for useful research assistanceI have also profited from critical comments by Jean-Louis Durand, Tony Lang, Brian Martin, Karl-Erik Paasonen, and from unusually thorough and helpful reports by anonymous referees.

2  Bové cited in Jürg Schoch, "Seattle - das war wie Mai 1968" in Tages-Anzeiger, 26.1.2000, p.5

3  Margaret Levi and David Olson, "The Battles for Seattle," in Politics and Society, Vol28, No3, Sept. 2000, p325.

4  See Vandana Shiva, "This Round to the Citizens" in The Guardian, 8.12.1999, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk ; Gil Woodley, "The Battle for Seattle : Globalization and its Discontents," in Social Alternatives, Vol19, No1, Janv. 2000, pp.26-9 ; Walden Bello, "From Melbourne to Prague : The Struggle for a Deglobalized World," http://lbbs.org/melbourne to prague.htm (accessed Dec 2000). For accounts and further discussions of the events see, for instance, Jefferey StClair, « Seattle Diary : It's a Gas, Gas, Gas, » in New Left Review, Vol238, Nov/Dec 1999, pp.81-96 ; and the exchange section on "Seattle" in Millennium, Vol 29, No1, 2000, pp.103-140.

5  Mary Kaldor, "'Civilising' Globalisation : The Implications of the 'Battle' for Seattle," in Millennium, Vol29, No1, 2000, p.106.

6  Joan VBondurant, Conquest of Violence : The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, Berkeley : University of California Press, 1967.

7  For instance, James H. Mittelman, The Globalisation Syndrome : Transformation and Resistance, Princeton : Princeton University Press and Roland Bleiker, Popular Dissent, Human Agency and Global Politics, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2000.

8  See, for instance, David Held et al., Global Transformations : Politics, Economics, Culture, Cambridge : Polity Press, 1999 ; Ray Kiely, "Globalization : From Domination to Resistance," in Third World Quarterly, Vol21, No 6, Dec 2000 ; James HMittelman (ed.), Globalization : Critical Reflections, Boulder, Col : Lynne Rienner, 1996 ; Jan Nederveen Pieterse (ed.), Global Futures : Shaping Globalisation, London : Sage, 2000 ; Jan Aart Scholte, Globalization : A Critical Introduction, Basingstoke : Macmillan, 2000.

9  Paul Virilio, Vitesse et Politique, Paris : Éditions Galilée, 1977, p.131.

10  Paul Virilio, La Vitesse de Libération, Paris : Galilée, 1995, pp.21-34.

11  Jean-Baptiste Marongiu, « Excès de Vitesse » in Libération, 21.9.1995.

12  See Jerry Everard, Virtual States : Globalization, Inequality and the Internet, London : Routledge, 1999.

13  Human Development Report 1999, United Nations Development Program, http://www.undp.org/hdro/index2.html (accessed October 1999).

14  Cited in Andy Rowell, "Faceless in Seattle," in The Guardian, 6.10.1999, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk

15  Shiva, "This Round to the Citizens", p.2.

16  Don Knapp, "Activists to WTO : Put People Over Profits," CNN.com, 29.9.1999.

17  See Robert O'Brien, Anne Marie Goetz, Jan Aart Scholte and Marc Williams, Contesting Global Governance : Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp.35-41.

18  Oscar Ygarteche, The False Dilemma : Globalization : Opportunity or Threat ?, trad. M. Fried, London : Zed Books, 2000 ; For a more general overview of the various grievances expressed by global activists see Amory Starr, Naming the Enemy : Anti-Corporate Movements Confront Globalization, London : Zed Books, 2000.

19  Cited in Vittorio de Filippis and Christian Losson, "Prague, QG des anti de tous les pays" in Libération, 26.10.2000, p.4.

20  Bello, "From Melbourne to Prague" p.3. Latter sections of this paper will problematize the issue of representation. But it is necessary to note here that while resistance to neo-liberal economics has been a key theme in recent global protest actions, there is no uniform agreement on this issueIndeed, a significant number of unofficial actors in Seattle and similar subsequent meetings were from the business sector. Most of these groups favour some form of neo-liberal approach to marked economics. See Jan Aart Scholte, "Cautionary Reflections on Seattle" in Millennium, Vol29, No1, 2000, p.119.

21  Shiva, "This round to the citizens," p.1 ; Woodley, "The Battle for Seattle," p.28.

22  O'Brien et al., Contesting Global Governance.

23  O'Brien et al., Contesting Global Governance, p.206.

24  Charlotte Denny, "Protesters Open Doors for Moderates," in The Guardian Weekly, 5.11.2000, p.23. Evidence on this issue is, however, far from conclusive. One could as well identify a certain backlash, for some key institutions, including the World Bank and the WTO, have become increasingly defensive as a result of recent violent actions.

25  John Vidal, "Real battle for Seattle," in The Guardian, 5.12.1999, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.ukMany developing counties have traditionally considered the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to be more inclined to support their interest than the WTO and its predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). See O'Brien et al, Contesting Global Governance, pp.68-73.

26  "War die Selbstkritik mehr als Rhetorik ? Breiter Konsensus über die Nachtteile der Globalisierung," in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 31.1.2001, p.9.

27  See O'Brien et al., Contesting Global Governance, p.7.

28  Ronald J. Deibert, "International Plug 'n Play ? Citizen Activism, the Internet and Global Public Policy," in International Studies Perspectives, Vol1, issue 3, 2000, pp.255-272.

29  See, for instance, the "Stop the FTTA Web-site" (http://www.stopftaa.org/), the site of the "Centre for Media Alternatives of Quebec" (http://www.quebec.indymedia.org) or the Z-Net Site on Quebec (http://www.zmag.org/a20quebec.htm). All accessed July 2001.

30  Mark Riley, "Anti-globalisation groups prepare for online battle," in The Sydney Morning Herald, 22.6.2001. Some commentators have stressed that communication technologies, such as e-mail, favour organisations that are organised as networks. International organisations and government departments, by contrast, tend to be less effective users of these technologies, for their hierarchical structure revolves around the control of information flows. See Wendy Varney and Brian Martin, "Net resistance, Net benefits : Opposing MAI," in Social Alternatives, Vol19, No1, January 2000, pp.48-51.

31  Naomi Klein, No Logo, London : Flamingo, 2001, p.357.

32  Jean Baudrillard, « The Precession of Simulacra, » in Simulations, trPFoss, PPatton, Pbeitchman, New York : Semiotext(e), 1983, p.11.

33  Jean Baudrillard, “The Ecstasy of Communication”, trad. J. Johnston in Hal Foster (ed.), Postmodern Culture, London : Pluto Press, 1985, pp.126-34.

34  O'Brien, Contesting Global Governance, p.206.

35  William EConnolly, "Speed, Eccentric Culture, and Cosmopolitanism," in The Texture of Thinking : Neurophysiology, Cinematic Culture, and Micropolitics, manuscript, April 2000.

36  Jacques Derrida, « Hospitality, Justice and Responsibility, » in R. Kearney and M. Dooley (eds), Questioning Ethics : Contemporary Debates in Philosophy, London : Routledge, 1999, pp.69-71. See also Michael J. Shapiro, "The Events of Discourse and the Ethics of Global Hospitality," in Millennium, Vol27, No3, 1998, pp.695-713.

37  Vittorio de Filippis and Christian Losson, "Prague submergée par la rue," in Libération, 27.9.2000, p.1.

38  Levi and Olson, The Battles in Seattle, p.325.

39  Michael Ignatieff, The Warrior's Honor : Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience, London : Vintage, 1999, 26.

40  Paul Virilio, "The Vision Machine" trad. J. Rose in J. Der Derian, The Virilio Reader, Oxford : Blackwell, 1998, p.140.

41  For summaries of recent protest movements in the Third World see Jessica Woodroffe and Mark Ellis-Jones, "States of Unrest : Resistance to IMF Policies in Poor Countries," World Development Movement, http:/www.wdm.org.uk/cambriefs/DEBT/unrest.htm (accessed Dec 2000) ; and Patrick Bond, "The African Grassroots and the Global Movement," http://www.lbbs.org/CrisesCurEvts/Globalism/african grasstoots.htm (accessed Dec 2000). For an excellent theoretical engagement, in the context of the Zapatista struggle, see Nicolas Higgins, "The Zapatista Uprising and the Poetics of Cultural Resistance," in Alternatives, Vol25, No3, 2000. Drawing attention to the widespread opposition to structural adjustment is not to suggest that this is an undifferentiated universal phenomenonOne can find many cases where IMF programs have been implemented without local protest - for instance in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

42  For a sustained engagement with the issue see Ponna Wignaraja (ed.), New Social Movements in the South : Empowering the People, London : Zed Books, 1993.

43  Scholte, Cautionary Reflections on Seattle, p.119.

44  See Kaldor, 'Civilising' Globalisation, p.112.

45  F.R. Ankersmit, Aesthetic Politics : Political Philosophy Beyond Fact and Value, Stanford : Stanford University Press, 1996, p.23.

46  William E. Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralization, Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1995, p.136.

47  Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralization, p.157.

48  Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralization, p.154.

49  See Luc Boltanski, Distant Suffering : Morality, Media and Politics, trad. G. Burchell, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1999.

50  Speaking of Prague, one commentator notes that even the wildest interpretations estimated the number of violent activist at no more than one to two percent of the 15,000 protesters Viner, "Lessons to Be Learnt," p.7.

51  Alice Dvorska cited in Irene Stehli, "Alice im Globalisierungsland," in Tages-Anzeiger, 23.9.2000.

52  Vidal, Real Battle for Seattle, p.3.

53  Frantz Fanon, Les Damnés de la Terre, Paris : Édition de la Découverte, 1985. See also Georges Sorel, Réflexions sur la Violence, Paris : Marcel Rivière, 1972/1908.

54  Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience, New York : W.W. Norton, 1966/1848 ; Leo Tolstoy, Writings on Civil Disobedience and Non-Violence, London : Peter Owen, 1967 ; Clarence Marsh Case, Nonviolent Coercion : A Study in Methods of Social Pressure, New York : Century, 1923 ; Martin Luther King, Stride Toward Freedom, San Francisco : Harper, 1986/1958.

55  Jonathan Freedland, writing about the events in Seattle, in "Powerless People," in The Guardian, 2.12.1999, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk

56  Richard B. Gregg, The Power of Nonviolence, Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott, 1934, p.89. The most comprehensive treatment of the issue remains Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Boston : Porter Sargent, 1973.

57  See Thomas Weber, "The marchers simply walked forward until struck down : nonviolent suffering and conversation," in Peace and Change, Vol18, No3, 1993, pp.267-289.

58  For this interpretation I have relied insight derived by Karl-Erik Paasonen, who has conducted extensive interviews with M1 protesters debating the issue of violence and nonviolence in view of planned protest at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane (September 2001).

59  For various discussions on this issue see Mohandas Gandhi, Satyagraha, trad. V.G. desai, Ahmedabad : Navajivan, 1958 ; Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, trad. M. Desai Ahmedabad : Navajivan, 1984/1938 ; Joan V. Bondurant, Conquest of Violence : The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, Berkeley : University of California Press, 1967, Judith Brown, Gandhi and Civil Disobedience, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1977 ; and Raghavan Narashimhan Iyer, The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi, New York : Oxford University Press, 1973.

60  Amartya Sen, "All Players on a Global Stage," in The Australian, 16.5.2001, pp.7, 11The classical example of humour as an effective strategy of dissent and social change remains François Rabelais' sixteenth century text The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel, trad. J.M. Cohen, Penguin Books, 1966. For an analysis of its social and political impact see Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trad. H. Iswolsky, Cambridge : MIT Press, 1968.

61  Viner, Lessons to Be Learnt, p.23.

62  Patrick Bishop, "Small Cheese Faces Big Mac on Home Ground," in The Daily Telegraph, 30.11.1999, http://www.telegraph.co.uk

63  Daniel Johnson, "The Dwarfs Who Posture on the Shoulders of Giants," in The Daily Telegraph, 28.9.2000, http://www.telegraph.co.uk

64  Boris Johnson, "Aimless, Feckless, Hopeless and Legless in Seattle," in The Daily Telegraph, 2.12.1999, http://www.telegraph.co.uk

65  Rowell, Faceless in Seattle, p.3.

66  James Harding, "A New Era of Protest," in Financial Times, 2.2.2002, p.7.

67  J.G. Ballard, Super-Cannes, London : Flamingo, 2000.

68  Needless to say, this is an overly crude portrayal of realist ideas. But central tendencies of realist thought do point in this direction. See, for instance, K. N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics, Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley, 1979, and Michael Joseph Smith, Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger, Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University, 1986.

69  Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, AThousand Plateaus : Capitalism & Schizophrenia, trad. B. Massumi, London : The Athlone Press, 1996, pp.3-25, 377.

70  Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralzation, pp.54-155.

71  See Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and Ambivalence, Oxford : Polity, 1991.

72  See Doug Bond, « Nonviolent Direct Action and the Diffusion of Power, » in P. Wehr, H. Burgess and G. Burgess (eds.) Justice Without Violence, Boulder : Lynne Rienner, 1994 ; April Carter, Direct Action and Liberal Democracy, London : Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Roland Bleiker, « Politics After Seattle: Dilemmas of the Anti-Globalisation Movement », Cultures & Conflits [En ligne], Articles inédits, mis en ligne le 20 juin 2002, consulté le 19 novembre 2017. URL : http://conflits.revues.org/1057

Haut de page

Auteur

Roland Bleiker

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

Ce texte est placé sous copyright de Cultures & Conflits  et sous licence Creative Commons.

Merci d’éviter de reproduire cet article dans son intégralité sur d’autres sites Internet et de privilégier une redirection de vos lecteurs vers notre site et ce, afin de garantir la fiabilité des éléments de webliographie. » (voir le  protocole de publication, partie « site Internet » : http://www.conflits.org/index2270.html).

Haut de page