Sunday, December 12, 2004

A bit on the Environmental and the Anti-Globalization Movements

If we were to describe the values in which the western capitalist world is based, the identification of them developed by D. C. Pirages and P. R. Ehrlich in 1974 would make justice to the social ideology of the neo-liberal present. The Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP) of the North-West is made up of “our belief in abundance and progress, our devotion to growth and prosperity, our faith in science and technology, and our commitment to a laissez-faire economy, limited governmental planning and private property rights”. This dominant social paradigm, which is supported by the multinational companies and their friends at the top of governments, could be renamed as “Anti-Ecological DSP”.

But such a model is being increasingly challenged by different kinds of movements[1]. Two of those movements are the Anti-Globalization movement and the Environmental movement. These groups are important because they were born in the North-West and because their main target is the corporate ideology, its values, and its ethical contradictions.

- The Environmental Movement

It is the Environmental movement the one that has developed, in a consistent way, an alternative social paradigm opposed to the dominant one. The New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) is form around such concepts as limits to growth, a steady-state economy, preserving the balance of nature, and rejection of the anthropocentric notion that nature exists solely for human use (from the works of R. E. Dunlap & K. D. van Liere). L. W. Milbrath considered that this “environmental vanguard” is trying to lead their fellow citizens to a new social paradigm, the NEP, project that requires a change in the fundamental values of society. On the other hand, the rear guard, society’s establishment and business elites would defend the old dominant paradigm (DSP), since that’s in their best short-term, short-sighted interests.

Ten new values synthesize the New Environmental Paradigm (taken from L. W. Milbrath and Manuel Castells works):

1. Love and respect for nature
2. Concern for public goods in contrast to an emphasis on private goods
3. Conservation of resources for future generations
4. A long-term view (a social psychology of glacial time[2]).
5. Cooperation over competition
6. A concern for a minimum standard of living for everyone
7. Careful planning to avoid risks in the production of wealth
8. Environmental protection over economic growth
9. Environmental protection over the provision of jobs
10. Emphasis on energy conservation

A very different type of society will emerge if these Environmental Principles continue to be accepted and applied by more and more people. They demand an extensive change in policies, which will affect basic economic, technological and ideological structures.

- The Anti-Globalization Movement

A less proactive movement, since it exists based on its opposition, or reaction, to global corporate capitalism, is the Anti-globalization Movement. This highly diversified, highly networked, movement is attempting to establish (or re-establish) the control of society over its institutions after the failure of traditional democratic controls under the conditions of globalization of wealth, information and power. This objective is product of the movement’s radical critique of the mechanisms of political representation in the institutions of global and national governance. The following four characteristics offer a general definition of the Anti-globalization movement (more information on M. Castells book "The Information Age", 2004):

- It is a diversified movement involving a wide spectrum of nodes with different and specific agendas. From critical social reformers to anarchist anti-capitalists, all are bind together by the opposition to the current globalization process, which is based on an asymmetrical economic liberalization that fits the interests of corporate capitalism.

- Its power has emerged from its intensive and conscious use of the Internet, and from its grassroots–network communication strategies. The movement sees the Internet, and its underlying “networking” concept not only as an organizational tool but also as the emergent form of a self-managed society.

- It is a combination of powerful ideological and active nodes based in open societies, which usually correspond to the (so-called) developed countries, and networks that reach out through a planet in which most people suffer oppression and poverty. In this way the movement challenges globalization on behalf of the whole of human kind.

- Although its name has been coined using the prefix “Anti”, and in spite of being addressed and known by the public opinion as the Anti-Globalization Movement, it is not a movement against globalization, but a movement for participative (as opposed to representative) democratic globalization, based on the new ideals and decision-making processes that are part of the emerging global network society.

When the Dominant Capitalist values (DSP) are contrasted with the Environmental model, or with the critiques and claims of the Antiglobalists, the main contradiction of the corporate ideology emerges: the dominant values, the short term objectives, the corporate fundamentalism and all its self-confident rhetoric, will be worthless if there is no world, no land, no earth, no humans to experience and exercise those values.


[1] In "The Information Age", Vol. 2, Ch. 2, 3 and 4, Manuel Castells identifies and explores in depth seven movements (from a set of many others): The Mexican Zapatistas, the American Militia, the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo, the Muslim al-Qaeda, the Anti-globalization Movement, the Environmental Movement and the Feminist Movement.

[2] Manuel Castells has identified three kinds of “time” concepts: a) Clock time: it corresponds to time as understood in modern industrial societies until the present: a time based on sequencing of events and predetermined schedules that rule human life; b) Timeless time: characteristic of the new network societies where the aim is instantaneity, time compression and short term demands for every social process, generating systemic perturbations and discontinuity in the sequential order of clock time; and c) Glacial Time: it is based on the Environmental Movement’s belief that the relation between humans and nature is very long term and evolutionary, that sustainable development means intergenerational solidarity, that the value of our life has to be measured by the types of lives that our children, and the children of the children of our children will endure or enjoy.

By Carlos Peralta Caceres - December 2004

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