Revista Yachaikuna
Working Papers
Boletin ICCI Rimai
A monthly publication of the Institute for Indigenous Sciences and Cultures (IISC)
Year III, No 28, July 2001

General Edition: Pablo Davalos
Editorial Direction: Luis Macas
Design: Rocamadour
Electronic Edition: Marc Becker


También disponible en español.

Threats from Globalization


Globalization's discourse has become what the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called "strong discourse", which is used to justify and legitimize power structures that respond to the interests of the big transnational corporations, finance capital and governments of the industrialized countries.

The concept of "globalization" is now used more as an ideological construct that demands compliance to some inexorable destiny, rather than as the historical result of human action that can be transformed and is the responsibility of all peoples which requires everyone's participation.

But as the discussion generated by globalization stresses the benefits of liberalization and integration on a world scale, the most powerful countries become increasingly protectionist as they close their borders and control the flow of people, stopping those they don't consider necessary for their economies.

And so we're witnessing the paradox of a discourse that talks of the need to liberalize markets at the same time as barriers are put up to stop the movement of people. The world as seen from the ideology of globalization is a contradictory one, shot through with conflicts, tensions and fissions.

The world we now refer to as globalized is one that excludes from its supposed benefits a great part of the planet's population, that makes the powerful ever more powerful and closes all hope of a dignified life to some three quarters of the world's people.

Globalization, as it is now being constructed, is an authoritarian and violent process that not only imposes its rules of play everywhere but which also threatens to expel any and everyone who doesn't subscribe to its 'civilizing' codes.

Concepts of poverty are articulated within these codes: peoples and nations are considered to be poor who don't reach the levels of consumption of the richest countries. Poverty is measured within the framework of the consumer and category of Homo economicus. To avoid being poor one has to attain some minimum level of consumption. Utopia is a world of consumers and the planet turned into one gigantic shopping mall.

But these levels of consumption are exhausting our physical environment and have become one of the most serious threats now facing humanity. From the Club of Rome's report in the 1970s to the new currents of deep ecology, political ecology and so on there's an increasing felt conviction that our planet's days are numbered if the present levels of consumption of rich countries are maintained. Pollution, ecological destruction and environmental degradation are a serious threat to our habitat. The threat is real and it is becoming an imminent danger given the present U.S. government's position and rejection of the Kyoto treaty.

In reality, the globalized world is a predatory one with its central idea of accumulation. It is precisely on this concept that human and historical relations are being framed. Accumulation implies that there will never be enough and that, given the system's existing power relations, need will always be used for its strategic purposes. It doesn't matter how much is owned or possessed, there will always be need for more. The concept of accumulation inherent in capitalism's epistemological matrix is a form of black hole that negates any possibility of sustainability or respect for other people and nature. Thus when the globalizers mention growth they are really talking about accumulation in capitalist terms to peoples and nations to whom the concept is alien.

In recent times, 'development' has been used as a policy for carrying out this accumulation: Backward people must be 'developed'. 'Modernization' has been bundled together with 'development' according to the Washington consensus, understood as the need for these societies to be efficient and rational, and they become so as social regulation is accepted by individuals who go on to adopt 'rational choices' within the market.

What makes globalization a threat in this historical period is its bid to homogenize human diversity on the basis of capitalist consumption, profit and accumulation. Entire peoples are considered as marginal because they haven't interiorized capitalism's 'civilizing' codes and so are doomed to disappear because they're inefficient, irrational, unproductive - peoples who don't fit into current dominant thinking.

However, there are hopeful signs within globalization's totalitarian panorama, such as an increasing awareness and concern with the world's problems from a more cosmopolitan perspective, in the original Greek sense of 'citizen of the world'. A commitment that transcends nation state borders, understood as 'global citizenship' in the human sense of the term.

Those who question globalization, not because it aims to unite people within a common project but because of its authoritarianism and capitalist framework, are really contributing towards a new form of democracy that goes beyond the ideas of the nation state and incorporates new elements such as social responsibility, human commitment and solidarity.

Dissidence is fundamental to all human effort. Dissidents are people who confront established reality and who foreshadow and open new horizons of possibilities for human history. It is they who can, at this present time, point to ways in which this world could be and what we should include within our horizons and fields of action.

Globalization has lead to the emergence of numerous social actors who make up a variegated and heterogeneous social movement, which is being built on a world scale and that constitutes a new phenomenon in human history. It is the first time that so many human wills and desires have joined together from the most varied corners of the planet to express their rejection of this new threat and to add their voices to the official discussions concerning globalization.

The young man killed in Genoa while demonstrating against globalization and the meeting of the world's richest countries has become a symbol. His death is both a sign of the violent and repressive contents that are becoming increasingly forceful in the globalization project and a symbol of resistance to this project.

This commitment to build a new citizenry with different contents and concerned with peoples' destiny whatever their nationality has become the main obstacle globalization now faces. All means are being used to demean the anti-globalization protests, including coining the term 'globaphobes', based on the "you're with us or against us" argument. Those who support globalization are in favor of the market's efficiency and rationality, while those who oppose it are traditionalists against modernity, growth and development. That's the theoretically poor rationale used against the ever-stronger anti-globalization movement.

These peoples' movements are achieving the seemingly impossible: isolating and literally encircling and entrenching the most powerful sectors in the world, as was seen in Quebec and Genoa, obliging them to enter into debate with the emerging global civil society. It's a sign of the times that those who talk of globalization have to do it within fortresses, surrounded by thousands of police behind high walls while all around them people's voices, marches and protests multiply.

It's also a sign of our time that fewer and fewer towns and people want to play host to those who speak in the name of humanity and globalization. Genoa, the city where the latest of these meetings was held, is now fractured, hurt and shocked, and would rather forget its bitter experience. Every day more peoples are saying the same thing: globalization, as it is been construed, is a menace to democracy, citizens and diversity around the world. That is, for humanity as a whole.

Institute for Indigenous Sciences and Cultures (IISC)

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