Anti-globalization movement

Anti-globalization movement
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The anti-globalization movement, or counter-globalisation movement,[1] is critical of the globalization of corporate capitalism. The movement is also commonly referred to as the global justice movement,[2] alter-globalization movement, anti-globalist movement, anti-corporate globalization movement,[3] or movement against neoliberal globalization.

Participants base their criticisms on a number of related ideas.[4] What is shared is that participants stand in opposition to large, multi-national corporations having unregulated political power and to the powers exercised through trade agreements and deregulated financial markets. Specifically, corporations are accused of seeking to maximize profit at the expense of sabotaging work safety conditions and standards, labor hiring and compensation standards, environmental conservation principles, and the integrity of national legislative authority, independence and sovereignty. Recent developments, seen as unprecedented changes in the global economy, have been characterized as "turbo-capitalism" (Edward Luttwak), "market fundamentalism" (George Soros), "casino capitalism" (Susan Strange),[5] "cancer-stage capitalism" (John McMurtry), and as "McWorld" (Benjamin Barber).

Many anti-globalization activists generally call for forms of global integration that better provide democratic representation, advancement of human rights, fair trade and sustainable development and therefore feel the term "anti-globalization" is misleading.[6][7][8]


Ideology and causes

Supporters believe that by the late 20th century those they characterized as "ruling elites" sought to harness the expansion of world markets for their own interests; this combination of the Bretton Woods institutions, states, and multinational corporations has been called "globalization" or "globalization from above." In reaction, various social movements emerged to challenge their influence; these movements have been called "anti-globalization" or "globalization from below."[9]

Opposition to international financial institutions and transnational corporations

Generally speaking, protesters believe that the global financial institutions and agreements undermine local decision-making methods. Corporations exercise privileges that human citizens cannot:

  1. moving freely across borders,
  2. extracting desired natural resources, and
  3. utilizing a diversity of human resources.

They are able to move on after doing permanent damage to the natural capital and biodiversity of a nation, in a manner impossible for that nation's citizens. Activists' goals are for an end to the legal status of "corporate personhood" and the dissolution of free market fundamentalism and the radical economic privatization measures of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization.

Protest against the G8-meeting in Heiligendamm, 2007.

The activists are especially opposed to "globalization abuse" and the international institutions that promote neoliberalism without regard to ethical standards. Common targets include the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and free trade treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). In light of the economic gap between rich and poor countries, movement adherents claim “free trade” without measures in place to protect the environment and the health and well being of workers will contribute only to the strengthening the power of industrialized nations (often termed the "North" in opposition to the developing world's "South").

A report by Jean Ziegler, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, notes that "millions of farmers are losing their livelihoods in the developing countries, but small farmers in the northern countries are also suffering" and concludes that "the current inequities of the global trading system are being perpetuated rather than resolved under the WTO, given the unequal balance of power between member countries." [10] Activists point to the unequal footing and power between developed and developing nations within the WTO and with respect to global trade, most specifically in relation to the protectionist policies towards agriculture enacted in many developed countries. These activists also point out that heavy subsidization of developed nations' agriculture and the aggressive use of export subsidies by some developed nations to make their agricultural products more attractive on the international market are major causes of declines in the agricultural sectors of many developing nations.

World Bank/IMF protesters smashed the windows of this PNC Bank branch located in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Activists often also oppose some business alliances like the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), as well as the governments which promote such agreements or institutions. Others argue that, if borders are opened to capital, borders should be similarly opened to allow free and legal circulation and choice of residence for migrants and refugees. These activists tend to target organizations such as the International Organization for Migration and the Schengen Information System.

It is often argued that the United States has a special advantage in the global economy because of dollar hegemony, and that dollar dominance is not just a consequence of US economic superiority. Globalization historians claim that dollar dominance has been achieved also by political agreements such as the Bretton Woods System and OPEC dollar-only petroleum trade after the US broke with the gold standard for the dollar.

Global opposition to neoliberalism

Through the Internet, a worldwide movement began to develop in opposition to the doctrines of neoliberalism which were manifested on a global scale in the 1990s when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) proposed liberalisation of cross-border investment and trade restrictions through its Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). This treaty was prematurely exposed to public scrutiny and subsequently abandoned in November 1998 in the face of strenuous protest and criticism by national and international civil society representatives.

Neoliberal doctrine argued that untrammeled free trade and reduction of public-sector regulation would bring benefits to poor countries and to disadvantaged people in rich countries. Anti-globalization advocates urge that preservation of the natural environment, human rights (especially workplace rights and conditions) and democratic institutions are likely to be placed at undue risk by globalization unless mandatory standards are attached to liberalisation. Noam Chomsky stated in 2002 that

The term "globalization" has been appropriated by the powerful to refer to a specific form of international economic integration, one based on investor rights, with the interests of people incidental. That is why the business press, in its more honest moments, refers to the "free trade agreements" as "free investment agreements" (Wall St. Journal). Accordingly, advocates of other forms of globalization are described as "anti-globalization"; and some, unfortunately, even accept this term, though it is a term of propaganda that should be dismissed with ridicule. No sane person is opposed to globalization, that is, international integration. Surely not the left and the workers movements, which were founded on the principle of international solidarity—that is, globalization in a form that attends to the rights of people, not private power systems.[11]

In an interview in June, 2005, Chomsky stated,

The dominant propaganda systems have appropriated the term "globalization" to refer to the specific version of international economic integration that they favor, which privileges the rights of investors and lenders, those of people being incidental. In accord with this usage, those who favor a different form of international integration, which privileges the rights of human beings, become "anti-globalist." This is simply vulgar propaganda, like the term "anti-Soviet" used by the most disgusting commissars to refer to dissidents. It is not only vulgar, but idiotic. Take the World Social Forum, called "anti-globalization" in the propaganda system—which happens to include the media, the educated classes, etc., with rare exceptions. The WSF is a paradigm example of globalization. It is a gathering of huge numbers of people from all over the world, from just about every corner of life one can think of, apart from the extremely narrow highly privileged elites who meet at the competing World Economic Forum, and are called "pro-globalization" by the propaganda system. An observer watching this farce from Mars would collapse in hysterical laughter at the antics of the educated classes.[12]

Anti-war movement

By 2002, many parts of the movement showed wide opposition to the impending invasion of Iraq. Many participants were among those 11 million or more protesters that on the weekend of February 15, 2003, participated in global protests against the imminent Iraq war and were dubbed the "world's second superpower" by an editorial in the New York Times.[13] Other anti-war appointments[clarification needed] were organized by the antiglobalization movement as such: see for example the big demonstration against the impending war in Iraq that closed the first European Social Forum on November 2002 in Florence, Italy.[14]

Anti-globalization militants worried for a proper functioning of democratic institutions as the leaders of many democratic countries (Spain, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom) were acting against the wishes of the majorities of their populations in supporting the war.[citation needed] Chomsky asserted that these leaders "showed their contempt for democracy". Critics of this type of argument have tended to point out that this is just a standard criticism of representative democracy — a democratically elected government will not always act in the direction of greatest current public support — and that, therefore, there is no inconsistency in the leaders' positions given that these countries are parliamentary democracies.

The economic and military issues are closely linked in the eyes of many within the movement.

Appropriateness of the term

Many participants (see Noam Chomsky's quotes above) consider the term "anti-globalization" to be a misnomer. The term suggests that its followers support protectionism and/or nationalism, which is not always the case - in fact, some supporters of anti-globalization are strong opponents of both nationalism and protectionism: for example, the No Border network argues for unrestricted migration and the abolition of all national border controls. S A Hosseini (an Australian sociologist and expert in global social movement studies), argues that the term anti-globalization can be ideal-typically used only to refer to only one ideological vision he detects alongside three other visions (the anti-globalist, the alter-globalist and the alter-globalization).[15] He argues that the three latter ideal-typical visions can be categorized under the title of global justice movement. According to him, while the first two visions (the alter-globalism and the anti-globalism) represent the reconstructed forms of old and new left ideologies, respectively, in the context of current globalization, only the third one has shown the capacity to respond more effectively to the intellectual requirements of today’s global complexities. Underlying this vision is a new conception of justice, coined accommodative justice by Hosseini,[16] a new approach towards cosmopolitanism (transversal cosmopolitanism), a new mode of activist knowledge (accommodative consciousness), and a new format of solidarity, interactive solidarity.

The term "anti-globalization" does not distinguish the international left-wing anti-globalization position from a strictly nationalist anti-globalization position. Many nationalist movements, such as the French National Front, are opposed to globalization, but argue that the alternative to globalization is the protection of the nation-state, sometimes, according to critics, in explicitly racist or fascist terms. Other groups, influenced by the Third Position, are also classifiable as anti-globalization. However, their overall world view is rejected by groups such as Peoples Global Action and anti-fascist groups such as ANTIFA.

Some activists, notably David Graeber, see the movement as opposed instead to neoliberalism or "corporate globalization". He argues that the term "anti-globalization" is a term coined by the media, and that radical activists are actually more in favor of globalization, in the sense of "effacement of borders and the free movement of people, possessions and ideas" than are the IMF or WTO. He also notes that activists use the terms "globalization movement" and "anti-globalization movement" interchangeably, indicating the confusion of the terminology.[17] The term "alter-globalization" has been used to make this distinction clear.

While the term "anti-globalization" arose from the movement's opposition to free-trade agreements (which have often been considered part of something called "globalization"), various participants contend they are opposed to only certain aspects of globalization and instead describe themselves, at least in French-speaking organisations, as "anti-capitalist", "anti-plutocracy," or "anti-corporate." Le Monde Diplomatique 's editor, Ignacio Ramonet's, expression of "the one-way thought" (la pensée unique) became slang against neoliberal policies and the Washington consensus.[18]

Two main approaches to finding a common term for the movement can be distinguished: one that might be described as "anti-globalist" or "regionalist", and another that embraces some aspects of globalization (like cross-cultural exchange of information or the diminishing role of the nation-state) while rejecting others (like neo-liberal economics). While proponents of both approaches often cooperate and are a reaction to the same phenomena, their differences might be actually greater than the common ground. The former approach can be described as outright anti-globalist (usually including what is perceived as "Americanization" of culture), while the latter would be more appropriately called "globalization critics". In practice, however, there is no set boundary between these approaches, and the term "anti-globalization" is often indiscriminately applied.

The global justice movement describes the loose collection of individuals and groups—often referred to as a “movement of movements”, which advocate fair trade rules and are critical of current institutions of global economics such as the World Trade Organization. The movement is often labelled the anti-globalization movement by the mainstream media. Those involved, however, frequently deny that they are “anti-globalization,” insisting that they support the globalization of communication and people and oppose only the global expansion of corporate power. The term further indicates an anti-capitalist and universalist perspective on globalization, distinguishing the movement from those opponents of globalization whose politics are based on a conservative defence of national sovereignty. Participants include student groups, NGOs, trade unions, faith-based and peace groups throughout the world. However it is clear that the movement is overwhelmingly dominated by Northern Hemisphere NGOs and that there is a systemic marginalisation of popular organisations from the global South[citation needed].


Anti-WEF graffiti in Lausanne. The writing reads: La croissance est une folie ("Growth is madness").

Several influential critical works have inspired the anti-globalization movement. No Logo, the book by the Canadian journalist Naomi Klein who criticized the production practices of multinational corporations and the omnipresence of brand-driven marketing in popular culture, has become "manifesto"[19] of the movement, presenting in a simple way themes more accurately developed in other works. In India some intellectual references of the movement can be found in the works of Vandana Shiva, an ecologist and feminist, who in her book Biopiracy documents the way that the natural capital of indigenous peoples and ecoregions is converted into forms of intellectual capital, which are then recognized as exclusive commercial property without sharing the private utility thus derived. The writer Arundhati Roy is famous for her anti-nuclear position and her activism against India's massive hydroelectric dam project, sponsored by the World Bank. In France the well-known monthly paper Le Monde Diplomatique has advocated the antiglobalization cause and an editorial of its director Ignacio Ramonet brought about the foundation of the association ATTAC. Susan George of the Transnational Institute has also been a long-term influence on the movement, as the writer of books since 1986 on hunger, debt, international financial institutions and capitalism. The works of Jean Ziegler, Christopher Chase-Dunn, and Immanuel Wallerstein have detailed underdevelopment and dependence in a world ruled by the capitalist system. Pacifist and anti-imperialist traditions have strongly influenced the movement. Critics of United States foreign policy such as Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, and anti-globalist pranksters The Yes Men are widely accepted inside the movement.

Although they may not recognize themselves as antiglobalists and are pro-capitalism, some economists who don't share the neoliberal approach of international economic institutions have strongly influenced the movement. Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom (Nobel Prize in Economics, 1999), argues that third world development must be understood as the expansion of human capability, not simply the increase in national income per capita, and thus requires policies attuned to health and education, not simply GDP. James Tobin's (winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics) proposal for a tax on financial transactions (called, after him, the Tobin Tax) has become part of the agenda of the movement.

George Soros, Joseph E. Stiglitz (another Economic Sciences Nobel prize winner, formerly of the World Bank, author of Globalization and Its Discontents) and David Korten have made arguments for drastically improving transparency, for debt relief, land reform, and restructuring corporate accountability systems. Korten and Stiglitz's contribution to the movement include involvement in direct actions and street protest.

High profile events such as the "McLibel" case have highlighted concern over the effects of multinational corporations on society, labour relations and the environment (in that case the McDonald's fast food chain).

In some Roman Catholic countries such as Italy there have been religious influences, especially from missionaries who have spent a long time in the Third World (the most famous being Alex Zanotelli).

Internet sources and free-information websites, such as Indymedia, are a means of diffusion of the movement's ideas. The vast array of material on spiritual movements, anarchism, libertarian socialism and the Green Movement that is now available on the Internet has been perhaps more influential than any printed book. The previously obscure works of Arundhati Roy, Starhawk, and John Zerzan, in particular, inspired a critique favoring feminism, consensus process and political secession.


Anti-globalization protests in Edinburgh during the start of the 31st G8 summit.

Although over the past years more emphasis has been given to the construction of grassroots alternatives to (capitalist) globalization, the movement's largest and most visible mode of organizing remains mass decentralized campaigns of direct action and civil disobedience. This mode of organizing, sometimes under the banner of the Peoples' Global Action network, tries to tie the many disparate causes together into one global struggle. In many ways the process of organizing matters overall can be more important to activists than the avowed goals or achievements of any component of the movement.

At corporate summits, the stated goal of most demonstrations is to stop the proceedings. Although the demonstrations rarely succeed in more than delaying or inconveniencing the actual summits, this motivates the mobilizations and gives them a visible, short-term purpose. Critics claim[citation needed] that this form of publicity is expensive in police time and the public purse. Although not supported by many[citation needed] in the movement, rioting has occurred in Genoa, Seattle and London and extensive damage can be done to the area, especially corporate targets, including McDonald's and Starbucks restaurants.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of formal coordinating bodies, the movement manages to successfully organize large protests on a global basis, using information technology to spread information and organize. Protesters organize themselves into "affinity groups," typically non-hierarchical groups of people who live close together and share a common political goal. Affinity groups will then send representatives to planning meetings. However, because these groups can be infiltrated by law enforcement intelligence, important plans of the protests are often not made until the last minute. One common tactic of the protests is to split up based on willingness to break the law. This is designed, with varying success, to protect the risk-averse from the physical and legal dangers posed by confrontations with law enforcement. For example, in Prague during the anti-IMF and World Bank protests in September 2000 demonstrators split into three distinct groups, approaching the conference center from three directions: one engaging in various forms of civil disobedience (the Yellow march), one (the Pink/Silver march) advancing through "tactical frivolity" (costume, dance, theatre, music, and artwork), and one (the Blue march) engaging in violent conflicts with the baton-armed police, with the protesters throwing cobblestones lifted from the street.[20] These demonstrations come to resemble small societies in themselves. Many protesters take training in first aid and act as medics to other injured protesters. In the USA, some organizations like the National Lawyer's Guild and, to a lesser extent, the American Civil Liberties Union, provide legal witnesses in case of law enforcement confrontation. Protesters often claim that major media outlets do not properly report on them; therefore, some of them created the Independent Media Center, a collective of protesters reporting on the actions as they happen.

Key grassroots organizations

Demonstrations and appointments


The Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, that took place in Berlin in 1988 (in the part of the city that was then part of the Federal Republic of Germany), saw strong protests that can be categorized as a precursor of the anti-globalization movement.[original research?][21] One of the main and failed objectives (as it was to be so many times in the future) was to derail the meetings.[citation needed][22]


The 50th anniversary of the IMF and the World Bank, which was celebrated in Madrid in October 1994, was the scene of a protest by an ad-hoc coalition of what would later be called anti-globalization movements. They tried to drown the bankers' parties in noise from outside and held other public forms of protest under the motto "50 Years is Enough". While Spanish King Juan Carlos was addressing the participants in a huge exhibition hall, two Greenpeace activists climbed to the top and showered the bankers with fake dollar bills carrying the slogan "No $s for Ozone Layer Destruction". A number of the demonstrators were sent to the notorious Carabanchel prison.


One of the first international anti-globalization protests was organized in dozens of cities around the world on June 18, 1999, with those in London and Eugene, Oregon most often noted. The drive was called the Carnival Against Capitalism, or J18 for short. The protest in Eugene turned into a riot where local anarchists drove police out of a small park. One anarchist, Robert Thaxton, was arrested and convicted of throwing a rock at a police officer.


The second major mobilization of the movement, known as N30, occurred on November 30, 1999, when protesters blocked delegates' entrance to WTO meetings in Seattle, Washington, USA. The protests forced the cancellation of the opening ceremonies and lasted the length of the meeting until December 3. There was a large, permitted march by members of the AFL-CIO, and other unauthorized marches by assorted affinity groups who converged around the Convention Center.[23][24] The protesters and Seattle riot police clashed in the streets after police fired tear gas at demonstrators who blocked the streets and refused to disperse. Over 600 protesters were arrested and thousands were injured.[25] Three policemen were injured by friendly fire, and one by a thrown rock. Some protesters destroyed the windows of storefronts of businesses owned or franchised by targeted corporations such as a large Nike shop and many Starbucks windows. The mayor put the city under the municipal equivalent of martial law and declared a curfew. As of 2002, the city of Seattle had paid over $200,000 in settlements of lawsuits filed against the Seattle Police Department for assault and wrongful arrest, with a class action lawsuit still pending.

Washington A16

In April 2000, 10-15,000[26] protesters demonstrated at the IMF, and World Bank meeting.[27][28][29] International Forum on Globalization (IFG) held training at Foundry United Methodist Church.[30] Police raided a staging warehouse on Florida Avenue.[31][32][33] 678 people were arrested.[34] Three-time Pulitzer Prize winning, Washington Post photographer Carol Guzy was detained by police and arrested on April 15, and two journalists for the Associated Press also reported being struck by police with batons.[35] A lawsuit was filed for false arrest.[36] In November 2009, the suits were settled, with $13 million damages awarded.[37][38][39]

Washington G-7 IMF

In September 2002, protesting groups included the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, the Mobilization for Global Justice.[40] 649 people were reported arrested, five were charged with destruction of property, while the others were charged with parading without a permit, or failing to obey police orders to disperse.[41][42] At least 17 reporters were in the round-up.[43][44] Protestors sued in Federal Court about the arrests.[45] The D.C. Attorney General had outside counsel investigate apparent destruction of evidence,[46][47] and forensic investigations continue,[48][49][50] and the testimony of the Chief of Police.[51] A settlement to the class-action lawsuit was announced for about $8.25 million.[52]

Law enforcement reaction

Although local police were surprised by the size of N30, law enforcement agencies have since reacted worldwide to prevent the disruption of future events by a variety of tactics, including sheer weight of numbers, infiltrating the groups to determine their plans, and preparations for the use of force to remove protesters.

At the site of some of the protests, police have used tear gas, pepper spray, concussion grenades, rubber and wooden bullets, night sticks, water cannons, dogs, and horses to repel the protesters. After the November 2000 G8 protest in Montreal, at which many protesters were beaten, trampled, and arrested in what was intended to be a festive protest, the tactic of dividing protests into "green" (permitted), "yellow" (not officially permitted but with little confrontation and low risk of arrest), and "red" (involving direct confrontation) zones was introduced[citation needed].

In Quebec City, municipal officials built a 3 metre (10 ft) high wall around the portion of the city where the Summit of the Americas was being held, which only residents, delegates to the summit, and certain accredited journalists were allowed to pass through[citation needed].


The Genoa Group of Eight Summit protest from July 18 to July 22, 2001 was one of the bloodiest protests in Western Europe's recent history, as evidenced by the wounding of hundreds of policemen and civilians forced to lock themselves inside of their homes and the death of a young Genoese anarchist named Carlo Giuliani -- who was shot in the face while trying to throw a fire extinguisher on a police car—during two days of violence and rioting by fringe groups supported by the nonchalance of more consistent and peaceful masses of protesters, and the hospitalisation of several of those peaceful demonstrators just mentioned. Police have subsequently been accused of brutality, torture and interference with the non-violent protests as a collateral damage provoked by the clash between the law enforcement ranks themselves and the more violent and brutal fringes of protesters, who repeatedly hid themselves amongst peaceful protesters of all ages and backgrounds. Several hundred peaceful demonstrators, rioters, and police were injured and hundreds were arrested during the days surrounding the G8 meeting; most of those arrested have been charged with some form of "criminal association" under Italy's anti-mafia and anti-terrorist laws. No consistent investigation has been put forth against the violent protesters, mainly due to the difficulties encountered in identification of the many masked protesters and the fierce opposition at Congress held by most of the left-wing parties, such as the Communist Party and current PM Romano Prodi's Union coalition.

Eight years have passed, and the city of Genoa is still trying to recover from the many damages provoked by the rioters, mainly devoted to crash cars, setting stores on fire, robbing banks and using any heavy or pointed object as a means to provoke damage to people and objects.[citation needed]

As part of the continuing investigations, police raids of social centers, media centers, union buildings, and law offices have continued across Italy since the G8 summit in Genoa. Many police officers or responsible authorities present in Genoa during the G8 summit, are currently under investigation by the Italian judges, and some of them resigned.

International social forums

See main articles: Social forum, European Social Forum, Asian Social Forum, World Social Forum.

The first World Social Forum (WSF) in 2001 was an initiative of Oded Grajew, Chico Whitaker, and Bernard Cassen. It was supported by the city of Porto Alegre (where it took place) and the Brazilian Worker's Party. The motivation was to constitute a counter-event to the World Economic Forum held in Davos at the same time. The slogan of the WSF is "Another World Is Possible". An International Council (IC) was set up to discuss and decide major issues regarding the WSF, while the local organizing committee in the host city is responsible for the practical preparations of the event.[53][54] In June 2001, the IC adopted the World Social Forum Charter of Principles, which provides a framework for international, national, and local Social Forums worldwide.[55]

The WSF became a periodic meeting: in 2002 and 2003 it was held again in Porto Alegre and became a rallying point for worldwide protest against the American invasion of Iraq. In 2004 it was moved to Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay, in India), to make it more accessible to the populations of Asia and Africa. This appointment saw the participation of 75,000 delegates. In 2006 it was held in three cities: Caracas (Venezuela), Bamako (Mali), and Karachi (Pakistan). In 2007, the Forum was hosted in Nairobi (Kenya). 2009 the Forum returned to Brazil, where it took place in Belém. 2011, the Forum is scheduled to take place in Dakar (Senegal).

The idea of creating a meeting place for organizations and individuals opposed to Neoliberalism was soon replicated at other geographic scales. The first European Social Forum (ESF) was held in November 2002 in Florence. The slogan was "Against the war, against racism and against neo-liberalism". It saw the participation of 60,000 delegates and ended with a huge demonstration against the war (1,000,000 people according to the organizers). The following ESFs took place in Paris (2003), London (2004), Athens (2006), and Malmö (2008). The next ESF is scheduled to take place in Istanbul in 2010.

In many countries Social Forums of national and local scope where also held.

Recently there has been some discussion behind the movement about the role of the social forums. Some see them as a "popular university", an occasion to make many people aware of the problems of globalization. Others would prefer that delegates concentrate their efforts on the coordination and organization of the movement and on the planning of new campaigns. However it has often been argued that in the dominated countries (most of the world) the WSF is little more than an 'NGO fair' driven by Northern NGOs and donors most of which are hostile to popular movements of the poor.[56]


The anti-globalization movement has been criticized by politicians, members of conservative think tanks, and many mainstream economists.[57]

Lack of evidence

Critics assert that the empirical evidence does not support the views of the anti-globalization movement. These critics point to statistical trends which are interpreted to be results of globalization, capitalism, and the economic growth they encourage.

  • There has been an absolute decrease in the percentage of people in developing countries living below $1 per day in east Asia (adjusted for inflation and purchasing power). Sub Saharan Africa, as an area that felt the consequences of poor governance and was less responsive to globalisation, has seen an increase in poverty while all other areas of the world have seen no change in rates.[58]
  • The world income per head has increased by more over period 2002–2007 than during any other period on the record.[59]
  • The increase in universal suffrage, from no nations in 1900 to 62.5% of all nations in 2000.[60]
  • There are similar trends for electric power, cars, radios, and telephones per capita as well as the percentage of the population with access to clean water.[61] However 1.4 billion people still live without clean drinking water and 2.6 billion of the world’s population lack access to proper sanitation.[62] Access to clean water has actually decreased in the world's poorest nations, often those that have not been as involved in globalisation.[63]

Members of the anti-globalization movement respond that the pro-globalization slogan, "growth is good for the poor", is purposefully misleading. They argue that neoliberal policies consistent with globalization and capitalism may not actually be causing growth that has beneficial effects for the poor, or progressing with the urgency the situation requires. They also take issue with the time period which is often normally associated with proponents' arguments such as those cited for life expectancy, child mortality, and literacy above, because they typically include data from periods such as 1950–1975, which were prior to the advent of the neoliberal reforms associated with globalization, and serve to make statistics for globalization seem better than they really are.[citation needed]

Similarly, they note that including positive data from countries which largely ignored neoliberal prescriptions, notably China, discredits the evidence that pro-globalists present. For example, concerning the parameter of per capita income growth, development economist Ha-Joon Chang writes that considering the record of the last two decades the argument for continuing neo-liberal policy prescriptions are "simply untenable." Noting that "It depends on the data we use, but roughly speaking, per capita income in developing countries grew at 3% per year between 1960 and 1980, but has grown only at about 1.5% between 1980 and 2000. And even this 1.5% will be reduced to 1%, if we take out India and China, which have not pursued liberal trade and industrial policies recommended by the developed countries."[64] Jagdish Bhagwati argues that reforms that opened up the economies of China and India contributed to their higher growth in 1980s and 1990s. From 1980 to 2000 their GDP grew at average rate of 10 and 6 percent respectively. This was accompanied by reduction of poverty from 28 percent in 1978 to 9 percent in 1998 in China, and from 51 percent in 1978 to 26 percent in 2000 in India.[65] According to The Heritage Foundation, development in China was anticipated by Milton Friedman, who predicted that even a small progress towards economic liberalization would produce dramatic and positive effects. China's economy had grown together with its economic freedom.[66] Critics of corporate-led globalization have expressed concern about the methodology used in arriving at the World Bank's statistics and argue that more detailed variables measuring poverty should be studied.[67][68] According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), the period from 1980–2005 has seen diminished progress in terms of economic growth, life expectancy, infant and child mortality, and to a lesser extent education.[69]


One of the most common criticisms of the movement, which does not necessarily come from its opponents, is simply that the anti-globalization movement lacks coherent goals, and that the views of different protesters are often in opposition to each other.[70] Many members of the movement are also aware of this, and argue that, as long as they have a common opponent, they should march together - even if they don't share exactly the same political vision. Writers Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri have together in their books (Empire & Multitude) expanded on this idea of a disunified multitude: humans coming together for shared causes, but lacking the complete sameness of the notion of 'the people'.

Lack of effectiveness

One argument often made by the opponents of the anti-globalization movement (especially by The Economist), is that one of the major causes of poverty amongst third-world farmers are the trade barriers put up by rich nations and poor nations alike. The WTO is an organisation set up to work towards removing those trade barriers. Therefore, it is argued, people really concerned about the plight of the third world should actually be encouraging free trade, rather than attempting to fight it. People in the third world, they argue, will not take any job unless it is better than the next best option they have. Thus, if people living in the third world are deprived of their best option, their lives have been made worse. While it follows from definition that, other things being equal, a rational person is better off with strictly more options, anti-globalization advocates would likely either reject the assumption of rationality or more likely argue that globalization creates negative externalities (pollution) or alters the marketplace in such a fashion as to eliminate better options (for example, investment encourages assembly line production of products out competing traditional methods). On the other hand globalization advocates would suggest that positive externalities and increased efficiencies create better options for the poor.

Many supporters of capitalism do think that policies different from those of today should be pursued, although not necessarily those advocated by the anti-globalization movement. For example, some see the World Bank and the IMF as corrupt bureaucracies which have given repeated loans to dictators who never do any reforms. Some, like Hernando De Soto, argue that much of the poverty in the Third World countries is caused by the lack of Western systems of laws and well-defined and universally recognized property rights. De Soto argues that because of the legal barriers poor people in those countries can not utilize their assets to produce more wealth.[71]

Lack of widespread "Third World" support

Critics have asserted that people from poor countries (the Third World) have been relatively accepting and supportive of globalization while the strongest opposition to globalization has come from wealthy "First World" activists, unions and NGOs. Alan Shipman, author of "The Globalization Myth" accuses the anti-globalization movement of "defusing the Western class war by shifting alienation and exploitation to developing-country sweatshops." He later goes on to claim that the anti-globalization movement has failed to attract widespread support from poor and working people from the Third World, and that its "strongest and most uncomprehending critics had always been the workers whose liberation from employment they were trying to secure." [72]

These critics assert that people from the Third World see the anti-globalization movement as a threat to their jobs, wages, consuming options and livelihoods, and that a cessation or reversal of globalization would result in many people in poor countries being left in greater poverty. Jesús F. Reyes Heroles the former Mexican Ambassador to the US, stated that "In a poor country like ours, the alternative to low-paid jobs isn't well-paid ones, it's no jobs at all."[73]

Egypt's Ambassador to the UN has also stated "The question is why all of a sudden, when third world labour has proved to be competitive, why do industrial countries start feeling concerned about our workers? When all of a sudden there is a concern about the welfare of our workers, it is suspicious."[74]

On the other hand, there have been notable protests against certain globalization policies by Third World workers as in the cause of Indian farmers protesting against patenting seeds.[75]

See also

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