Counter-hegemonic globalization is a social movement based in a perspective of globalization that challenges the contemporary view of globalization; neoliberal globalization. Counter-hegemonic globalization confronts the implicit idea of neoliberal globalization that the system of domination, as a consequence of the development of transnational networks, transportation and communication, is a natural and inevitable course for globalization. It maintains that transnational connections can instead be harnessed as the means to bring about more equitable distribution of wealth, power, and sustainable communities. Counter-hegemonic globalization, unlike neoliberal globalization, uses the assets of globalization to stand against any form of domination by hegemony, operating from a bottom-up process that stresses the empowerment of the local.
Peter B. Evans, a political sociologist renowned for his contributions to the development of this theory, defined counter-hegemonic globalization as “a globally organized effort to replace the neoliberal global regime with one that maximizes democratic political control and makes the equitable development of human capabilities and environment stewardship its priorities.”
In defense to the arbitrary exploitation by neoliberal globalization, the number of advocates of counter-hegemonic globalization seems to have increased. There are already sets of transnational networks and ideological frames imposed by many activists pursuing the perspectives of counter-hegemonic globalization; collectively called the “global justice movement". The number of transnational Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) supporting counter-hegemonic globalization has doubled between 1973 and 1983 and doubled again between 1983 and 1993. Furthermore, with the cultural and ideological diffusion of counter-hegemonic globalization proven significant in the recent Wall Street Protest, the movement is beginning to be regarded as an effective and promising political antidote to the current domination-oriented globalization by many activists and theorists.
While Peter Evans and Boaventura de Sousa Santos remain two prominent theorists who have contributed to the counter-hegemonic globalization theory, classic Marxist socialist ideas are implicated in the theory. For example, Antonio Gramsci asserted that any struggle over globalization must be conducted at the level of the superstructure (culture, institutions, political power structures, roles, rituals, and state), the revolutionary bloc is no longer determined solely by objective and economic factors of class but through subjective factors related to shared perceptions that cut across class lines to include all those individuals and social groups experiencing difficulty in the economic globalization.
The project of counter-hegemonic globalization emerged mainly as a result of neoliberal policies and Structural Adjustment Programs in Latin America in the 1980s. The fundamental base for counter-hegemonic globalization movement has been the long history of labor unions struggle for better work environments and equitable distribution of welfare against the dominating authority. Currently, local and transnational trade unions play majors parts in the counter-hegemonic globalization movement.
For example, the South-based World Social Forum (WSF) was organized as a joint venture between ATTAC and the Brazilian Workers Party to counter the World Economic Forum. It first began with the mission of rescuing classic social democratic agendas of social protection in danger of disappearing under neoliberal globalization and is now the representative organization that supports counter-hegemonic globalization.
A global social movement
Originating from the worker's movement, the counter-hegemonic globalization movement has expanded to various different fields of social movements. Three primary pillars constitute counter-hegemonic globalization: the labor, women's, and environmental movements, respectively. The success of each of these three global social movements depends on being able to complement each other and generate broad alliances among them.
Under the influence of neoliberal globalization, labor was systematically reconstructed into a spot market rather than a social contract between employer and employee. Employment was outsourced and informalized throughout different countries and labor was bought and sold with minimum expectations regarding employment contract. Such security-threatening phenomenon triggered powerful global labor solidarity; various NGOs and activists unified to fight for labor security against abrupt and powerful hegemonies sweeping across the globe.
Teamsters UPS strike
The 1997 UPS strike by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) is recognized as one of the most triumphant moments in the history of counter-hegemonic globalization movements; for it has perfectly demonstrated the nature of counter-hegemonic globalization. The Teamsters Union went on strike against the UPS because UPS was "seen as representing the intrusion of the "American Model" of aggressive anti-union behavior, coupled with the expansion of part-time and temporary jobs with low pay and benefits and the use of subcontracting".
The first victory was in how IBT took advantage of a previously underexploited global organization — The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). Through ITF, a World Council of UPS union was created. It started a "World Action Day" which mounted 150 jobs actions and demonstrators around the world. This action taken by ITF helped the workers win the strike, and also showed how international organizations, a product of hegemonic globalization, could be successfully used as a tool to fight against hegemonic globalization. The second victory came when numbers of European unions took action in support of US strikers.
Due to this new form of globalization, the transnational women's movement has been brought to the forefront of transnational social movement. Until the emergence of such revolutionary transformation of gender roles came into places, the disadvantages of inequitable allocation of resources derived from neoliberal globalism fell heavily on women. According to Peter Evans, the "structural adjustment" and many of neoliberal strategies for global governance of feminism is embedded in gender bias. Consequently, transnational women's movements now account for many of the leading roles in counter-hegemonic movements.
While the women's movement has been quite like the labor movement, in working with the issue of human rights, it also has more difficulty with the "contradictions of building politics around the universalistic language of rights." Evans points out that feminists have the advantage of universal recognition of "women's rights are human rights," and have been benefiting from globalization in helping and empowering oppressed women across the world. However, he also suggests that feminist movements are still confronted with the challenge of "one size fits all" global feminist agendas implemented by neoliberal globalization. For example, the critics of the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women argue that international organizations were "perpetuating colonialist power relations under the guise of transnational unity."
However, despite many of the challenges, feminists movement started to recognize the significance of more complex and efficient global agenda with the tide of counter-hegemonic movements. The adoption of CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) by the UN is considered equivalent of the victory in the Kyoto Accord on global warming. In addition, the development of a new organization in places such as India, South Africa, Turkey, and other countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America, called the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) has become an intricate part of many cultures and governments. Due to the fact that this organization incorporates informal sector employment, consisting of the least privileged women of the global South, SEWA is considered the leading transnational organization to adopt "feminism without borders" agenda.
Global environment movements are usually considered the most successful of counter-hegemonic social movements. From environment movement's success, we see many advantageous correlations with the other two movements: labor movements and women's movements. Firstly, Just like the other two movements, political clout for environmental movements depend on the diffusion of universal ideology such as "saving the planet" as of "human rights" and "democracy" for women's movement and labor movement respectively. Secondly, the possibility of using governance structures empowered by hegemonic globalization also applies to the case of environment movement. UN system had been proved extremely valuable and effective in supporting and empowering transnational environmental movement. UN helps to organize international conferences, and to solidify transnational networks.From environment movement, we see counter-hegemonic movements, once again, leveraging the ideas and organizational structures implemented by hegemonic globalization.
However, the obstacles for environment movement still remains. The formidable gap separating the South's "environmentalism of the poor" and the "conservationist" of traditional Northern environmental groups still restrict many possible transnational environmental activities. In addition, building a global organization that can effectively integrate international interest of environment rather than focusing on nations' self-interest still remain as a challenge as well.
Narmada Valley Project
The Narmada Valley Project includes the Sardar Sarovar Dam, one of the most controversial projects in India. The communities of India protested against destroying prime agricultural land, large tracts of forests, rich horticulture, and hilly as well as densely populated habitats through lop-sided development, displacement and disparity growing with the presently imposed growth-centric paradigm of development for dominating corporate.
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