Global Policy Forum

A Third Way: Globalization from the Bottom


By Abbas Jaffer *

Foreign Policy In Focus
August 6, 2008

Just as many books have been written as there are individual viewpoints on the crises related to globalization. Mark Engler's new title How to Rule the World: the Coming Battle Over the Global Economy has some unique offerings. It offers insight about the different currents at play in globalization, along with some new analysis about the rise of a distinct globalization that promotes social and economic democracy. This new movement is people-powered, and its future is promising.

Engler focuses deeply on three competing visions of globalization. The first trend of globalization is what he terms "imperial globalization." Growing and solidifying U.S. control in the world is a distinct and sometimes even contradictory viewpoint to the corporate one. Using the Iraq War as the most recent and prominent example, he writes about how corporate interest has been wary of the war because "it was pushed aside in favor of a different vision of the world order, one that puts U.S. nationalism ahead of the interests of a wide swath of multinational corporations."

Exploding in the 1990s, but present as early as the 1970s, the U.S. government served as a support and facilitator for the increased reach of multinational corporations and propagated free trade regimes. Engler argues that this model of "corporate globalization" is unable to solve the issues of the world's poor and developing countries. He points out the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) protests that took place in Seattle were a reflection of the serious shortcomings of corporate globalization. He observes "neoliberal ideology, which seemed like an unstoppable juggernaut when global protests erupted only a short time ago is now facing a crisis of legitimacy."

Battling against these two forms of globalization is "democratic globalization". Engler characterizes it as standing distinctly from the other two types because it is both a bottom-up movement and it encompasses many viewpoints. He places the work of the grassroots as an alternative model for globalization. He points to the World Social Forum, a yearly meeting of people from around the world seeking social and economic justice, as a perfect example of this new type of globalization. Democratic globalization is so promising for Engler particular because it is multivalent, about local solutions, and looks ready to tackle the issues of our day. Democratic globalization is steeped in the ideas of local and regional solutions, as well as a consideration of oppression when the impacts of globalization are considered.

As the debates of about extending true social and economic democracy to the world rage on, there are new voices apart from the anti-globalization movement that are also beginning to act. Whether it is organizing labor in spite of government pressure, clarifying when and where environmental racism is occurring, or underlining the continuing relevance of nonviolent conflict resolution in a militaristic world, grassroots movements are increasingly taking on entrenched corporate and military interests on an unprecedented scale. To further the aims of global justice, all of these movements should have an alternative vision of the global order they can present as an alternative to the status.

In Engler's view of democratic globalization, he admits that there is no one model for addressing the woes of an increasingly interconnected world. However, if the previously disenfranchised have a say in new policies and frameworks to overcome desperate poverty and oppression, than this form of globalization may indeed prove to be the fairest and most comprehensive. The book is sure to raise some critical issues and pose meaningful alternatives to globalization as it has developed thus far.

About the Author: Abbas Jaffer is a recent alum of the University of Denver and is an Everett Fellow at Foreign Policy In Focus.

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