Globalisation from below? "Ordinary people", movements and intellectuals from Seattle to Genova to war
Cox, Laurence (2001) Globalisation from below? "Ordinary people", movements and intellectuals from Seattle to Genova to war. In: William Thompson Weekend School, May 2001, Cork.
It looks like there could be something big happening “out there” – not in the sense of “somewhere far away, in other countries”, but close to hand, within processes of globalisation and resistance which are just as real here in Ireland as anywhere else: “out there” where working-class communities are struggling to take back control of their everyday contexts, where Irish activists are working in solidarity with the Zapatistas, where trade unionists are pushing partnership to the limits, where women are demanding childcare provision, where Netslaves are realising that £35,000 a year really means three and a half hours travel a day and a house in nowhere, New Suburbia. All of this connects us to the rest of the world. In terms of our own history, perhaps, only the quiet revolution in community politics, along with the “indifference and unease” (Mills 1970) of the new suburbia, mark any kind of qualitative shift. In other areas, popular action is not doing so well: it’s hard to imagine who or what today could mobilise the kinds of numbers that participated in the protests around Wood Quay, Carnsore or CND for a single event1. But these local shifts exist within a global context which has thrown up something very remarkable: the “new movement” marked by the Zapatistas, Seattle and Porto Alegre, a remarkable development which is not easy to understand or explain. What’s going on? Where do we fit into it? And what can we do to help? In the first part of this talk I want to try thinking about the long history of popular movements on a world scale, to try and get a sense of what it might be that’s happening out there. In the second part, I want to try to break down that general analysis into a sense of the different ways things might be working in different places, and to try particularly to think about the odd situation of Ireland. In the third bit, I want to think about practical implications: what do activists and intellectuals do in general, what can we do, and what should we do? History, Hunter Thompson said, is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit (1972: 65). And of course there is no way that one person can reasonably hope to grasp all these different things except at third hand. We grasp the world we’re in at first hand, through the politics of our own everyday situations and conflicts, and at second hand, through other people’s actions and words. But what they (and we) reflect is the echo of six thousand million people, all working with their own situations and trying to make sense of them in the process. So this paper comes with no guarantees!
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