Anti-Globalisation Movements

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The twentieth century saw an upsurge in a new form of protest movement, the anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist social movement, which is a branch out of what was known as the New Social Movement. The new social movements were a plethora of informal groups, organisations and campaigns that surfaced in the 1960s. These included movements that campaigned for racial equality, sexual equality, gay rights, environmental concerns, peace groups, prisoners rights, human rights, among others. Because of this history, contemporary groups have been dubbed ‘Even Newer Social Movements’ (Crossley, N. (2003) ‘Even Newer Social Movements? Anti-Corporate Protests, Capitalist Crises and the Remoralization of Society’, Organization, 10(2), pp. 287-305).

Sklair, in his book Globalization Capitalism & Its Alternatives (2002), identifies two major reasons as to why these even newer social movements have emerged in recent years, namely the “class polarisation crisis” and the “ecological unsustainability crisis”. It is important to recognise that there are several other issues pertaining to the emergence of these movements but to adequately assess each of them in a short essay is impossible. Hence, concentration will be on Sklair’s two crises as they depict a genuine but, sadly dismal, picture of the current situation in the world.

Class polarisation, as Sklair explains, “is the growing numbers of the very rich and the very poor and the widening gaps between them” (Sklair (2002) Globalization Capitalism & Its Alternatives, New York, p. 43). Indeed, observations show the existence of a large upper and lower class and an increasingly invisible middle class, a trend which is further emphasised by statistical evidence. In a report released in December 2006 by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University, it was found that the top richest 10% of the world's population owns 85% of the world's wealth. In the United States alone, the top 10% owns approximately 76% of all wealth. “Global inequalities in income increased in the 20th century by orders of magnitude out of proportion to anything experienced before. The distance between the incomes of the richest and poorest country was about 3:1 in 1820, 35:1 in 1950, 44:1 in 1973, 72:1 in 1992” (UNDP, 2000, p. 6).

Singer believed that this economic inequality would naturally extend into other aspects of human welfare such as health, nutrition, life expectancy, education, employment opportunities, and so forth ' and he was right (Singer, 1999). Poverty deprives access to these facilities and leads to gender, ethnic, religious and racial discriminations. It is a vicious circle, which once entered, is very hard to pull out of! Inequality is not just the gap between the rich First World and the poor Third World. It can also be analysed on a national level, even in the rich developed countries such as the United States. But the rich hegemony in these countries has found a solution to this growing scourge. No, they are not devising policies to narrow this gap as one may expect. Their solution is much simpler: gated ghettos, factories and residential communities. “In Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Bombay, and Calcutta, the ghettos for the poor are more or less defined and cordoned off geographically. It is unsafe for outsiders to wander off into these areas.” (Tehranian 1999, Pancapitalism and Migration in Historical Perspective, p. 15)

How do we expect these people living in progressively more deprivation and confined to artificial prisons not to protest about their unfair treatment? The Zapatistas, in Chiapas, Mexico, were among the first to stand up against this injustice. On January 1, 1994, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) left their jungle to rise against the Mexican state. What was initially a violent rebellion against years of marginalisation and racism to which the Mayan Indians have been...
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