World-systems analysts have drawn our attention to the importance of the long-standing worldwide struggles of subaltern groups to defend their livelihoods and address fundamental conflicts of our times. Climate change, financial volatility, and rising inequality are exposing the existential threats the global capitalist system poses to growing numbers—many of whom once enjoyed some of its benefits.
Rethinking Globalizations - Routledge
These urgent challenges create possibilities for social movements to attract more widespread support for alternatives to global capitalism. Using data on transnational social movement organizations TSMOs from , we assess possibilities for counter-hegemonic movements to provide the organizational infrastructure for a global movement to transform the world-system. We describe the organizational foundations for transnational cooperation among social movements and consider what changes in the population suggest about its counter-hegemonic potential.
Our study reveals substantial organizational expansion, greater participation from actors in the periphery, regionalization, radicalization in the issue frames pursued by activist organizations, and network ties that suggest more limited and strategic engagement with the inter-state system.
We attribute these changes to U. Alvarez, Sonia E. Archer, Angus. Arrighi, Giovanni, Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein. Antisystemic Movements. New York: Verso. Arrighi, Giovanni and Beverly J. Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System. Minneapolis, Mn. Beckfield, Jason. Boli, John and George Thomas. Boli and G. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
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Will the social movements be right or left, revolutionary or reformist, nationalist or globalist, civil or violent? And, above all, will the movements be legitimately grassroots or remotely fomented by foreign governments? Activism, once suppressed by governments, is being absorbed by governments who wish to go beyond co-optation—the goal now is the creation and control of these movements.
And while it may be easier to cast this struggle to control activism in a purely negative light, there is clearly an upside: activists now have an opportunity to play a significant role in the outcome of events that will impact us all. The changing role of activism in society has fueled an evolution in the form of activism, from a critique of globalisation to an embrace of globalised activism. The model of the anti-globalisation movement was to hop from summit to summit, protesting with an aim to disrupt.
The movement was spread globally by activists who traveled incessantly. The turning point for the form of activism occurred on February 15, when the anti-globalisation movement was absorbed into the anti-Iraq War movement. It was on this day that millions of people in cities across the world marched in the streets.
I remember the feeling of being among the sea of people protesting in New York City. We failed to stop the Iraq War, but instead we demonstrated for the first time the capacity of activists to organise protests nearly everywhere at once. Activists no longer hopped from summit to summit, now they organised simultaneously and independently in their own community. This culminated with Occupy Wall Street, a movement that spread to 82 countries and nearly 1, cities.
The anti-globalisation movement began as a critique of globalisation and ultimately gave birth to an activist culture that has become itself a global institution, albeit a weak institution whose power ebbs and surges. In the years since the Arab Spring and Occupy, a staggering number of people around the world have protested. Seeing that a global movement is necessary to solve a global challenge, activists have embraced the global outlook of the international institutions they once derided. Activism is globalised: social movements easily mobilise people in many countries simultaneously.
At the same time as these changes are taking place, activism as a discipline is experiencing decreasing effectiveness, a phenomenon I call " the end of protest ". The success of the anti-globalisation may be arguable. Activists did, for a while, succeed in disrupting the ability of international organisations to hold their meetings. Successive protest movements have not, however, achieved their short-term objectives: the anti-Iraq War movement failed to stop the war; the Arab Spring only briefly resulted in greater democracy in the region; Occupy Wall Street did not end the power of money in Western democracies; March for Our Lives has not ended gun violence in the United States, etc.
In naming these particular protest movements, I am not critiquing the specific activists that took part. Instead, the decreasing effectiveness of protest results primarily from the intransigence of governments who fail to see the enormous potential in giving into protest movements in order to achieve great things. Activism is becoming integral to the functioning of power. And yet, activism is losing its ability to create the social change that activists desire—and that society needs. This is paradoxical and has led to much confusion among activists who assume the proliferation of activism is inherently a positive sign.
One would expect that if activism were becoming necessary for the functioning of power then it would also be growing more effective. But that is not the case. I want to end by understanding why the proliferation of protest within democratic societies has not led to an increasing effectiveness of protest. In particular, I want to focus on why members of the OECD may want to reconsider their posture towards activism in order to heal the social contract.
From an activist perspective, the breakdown of the social contract underpinning Western democracies is the primary reason why protests have experienced diminishing returns despite their tremendous speed and size. When activists mobilise large numbers of people to go into streets behind a message, they are evoking a core principle of the social contract that once guided democracy:.
Most of the members of the OECD are signatories to this declaration.