Alternatives to Economic Globalization

Counter-Movement: Alternatives to Economic Globalization

Backlash to Washington Consensus grew in scope and intensity

Reactions to the Structural Adjustment Programs of IMF, reinforced by World Bank, grew in scope and intensity. Lack of labor and environmental standards within economic globalization enlarged anti-globalization coalition.

The Double Movement of Karl Polanyi

The revamped Bretton Woods accords set in motion what economic historian Karl Polanyi calls a double-movement. From above, the proponents of economic globalization maneuver to set the stage for transnational corporations to enjoy privileges denied sovereign peoples and to literally control the fate of the Earth. The myriad dialectical reverberations from below, now dubbed the anti-globalization movement, collide with the centralized movement from above. The resolution of the double-movement will determine the prospects for sustainability. Proponents of neo-liberalism are heavily outnumbered, but hold predominant political and economic power. The situation remains fluid.

The WTO, Seattle, November, 1999

The counter-movement to Washington Consensus came to a head in November, 1999, at the ministerial meeting of WTO in what was called The Battle of Seattle. The hegemony of neo-liberalism was undermined, if not the legitimacy.

A wide variety of protesters charge that the WTO, the World Bank, and the IMF have been captured by the neo-liberal agenda in a joint to advance the interests of transnational corporations, and thus to destroy prospects for sustainable development. See Cavanagh and Mander, Momentum for Change, pages 28-29.

World Social Forum convenes at Porto Alegre, Brazil

The world's economic elite gather in Davos, Switzerland, in January. The counterpart, World Social Forum gathered originally in Porto Alegre, move to other venues is Global South to define alternatives to economic globalization. The WSF has met annually since its inception at Porto Alegre in 2001. Their motto is, Another world is possible.

Resolution: Stay tuned.

Neo-liberalism cannot be reconciled with sustainability; there exists no middle ground. The principles underlying each and the dynamics they drive are thoroughly incompatible. If neo-liberalism triumphs, sustainability cannot be achieved, with drastic implications for future generations of humans and for the hospitality of the Earth for life. The stakes are high and the prospects grim.


Wayne Hayes, Ph.D. | Initialized: 3/6/2007 | Last Update: 3/25/2007