André C. Drainville, "Resistance to Globalisation: The View From The Periphery of The World Economy", International Social Science Journal, 2009, 192, 235 – 246.
Using a world-system analytical perspective, André C. Drainville examines how the periphery articulated its global presence in contesting globalization. In the process, he reviews the different forms that contestation took at different modern time periods and the current spaces of struggle against neo-liberal globalization. To put it simply, these forms of contestation articulate the social presence of the periphery on the global scene and relation to the world order.
What is the world order that the periphery faces? According to Drainville,
"The core of the world economy is no longer just a country or a group of countries: there is also a transnational elsewhere, beyond the reach of all nationally organised societies. It is there that transnational capital made itself into a self-knowing political subject (Cox 1987; Sklair 2001; van der Pijl 1984), where it set up a nebulas of institutions (such as the International Monetary Fund [IMF] and the World Bank) to read and reproduce general conditions of accumulation, and where it attempts to assemble an apolitical global civil society to legitimate the new world order (Drainville 2004)." (235)
Which means, of course, that current globalization, far from eliminating social inequalities between areas of the world-system or from generating one world under cultural homogenization, has created a vastly differentiated space. Correspondingly, forms of contestation are equally differentiated. Drainville puts it better:
"Notwithstanding the transnationalisation of finance, the delocalisation of production or the cosmopolitan rhetoric of global governance, the world has not become an undifferentiated field of action." (236)
In typical world-system analytical fashion, Drainville then takes the perspective of longue duree to examine the modes of contestation of the periphery against the world order. The central thesis of the article is then:
"At the periphery of the world economy, in what Amory Starr and Jason Adams call the "global South" (Starr and Adams 2003, pp. 28 – 29), social forces have historically constituted themselves in their meeting with world order. What is new to the current phase of globalisation is that terrains of world significance are less authoritatively circumscribed then ever, and that the social forces involved in struggles are more varied and less isolated from one another than before, both on the terrain of the world economy and locally. As a result, what we may term ‘the dialectics of global presence‘ operates to greater effect than ever." (237)
Drainville distinguishes between three different historical periods with their respective mode of peripheral constestation.
From the second half of the 19th century until WWI, this era is structured by colonialism and imperialism. Contestation then took the form of everyday resistance from peasants and indigenous workers.
From the end of the colonial era until the crisis of the Bretton Woods order, this period is marked by the struggles for decolonization but also against the world ordering processes of the Bretton Woods institutions. Ultimately, the debt crisis and structural adjustment programs prevailed as peripheral authoritarian regimes failed.
From the end of the 1980s onward is the era of global governance, marked by a softening of global regulations and programmatic impositions on peripheral countries but for the same purpose, bring the global South more deeply into the world economy.
For Drainville, global governance means something more specific than just issuing global regulations or international air traffic:
"Global governance is the political face of the globalisation project at the periphery of the world economy. It has been accompanied by attacks on state corruption and violence, efforts to bypass state agencies and anchor regulation directly in civil society, and attempts to institute ‘low intensity democracy’". (238)
"Low intensity democracy" means that the economy is off-limit to state’s action through massive privatization, lower government spending, openness to foreign investment, deregulation and liberalization, firing of government employees, and overall reduction of state capacity down to its repressive functions (police and military). And the civil society here refers to the private sector, which include the economic private sector.
We already know that the social consequences of this process of pushing for low intensity democracy have been across the global South, and there lie the roots of contestation across the social structure:
"Nowadays resistance does not take place only in haciendas and plantations, it does not only have the colonial or neo-colonial state as its targets, and it is not a creation of specific groups with particular histories and trajectories. Rather, it involves a broad array of the dispossessed: those ‘without roof, without land, without work, without rights (Zibechi 2005, p.13), the impoverished middle classes, small and medium agricultural producers, indigenous peoples, unemployed professionals, public employees, women in the informal sector, small savers, retired people, "students, lecturers and nurses in Angola; public sector workers in Benin, farmers, electricity workers and teachers in Kenya; municipal workers in Morocco; health workers in Nigeria; community groups and organised labour in South Africa’, displaced farmers in Mexico, maquilla workers in Guatemala, garment workers in Bangladesh and peasant groups in Brazil and India (Bond 2003)." (238)
Based on such a diversity of forms of contestation, Drainville identifies three specific spaces of struggle in the global South where resistance to world-ordering processes are questioned:
- Global Cities where the transnational capitalist class and the slum-dwellers coexist uneasily (see, IMF riots)
- Export Processing Zones where workers, especially women are the manufacturing base of the world economy
- Countryside where peasants and indigenous peoples are located fighting for self-determination and land reform
All three categories are engaged in struggles again neo-liberal globalization according to what Drainville calls the dialectics of global presence. The dialectics works in two stages:
"In the first stage of the dialectic, social forces ensconced in localities are brought out of their situated selves by the exigencies and opportunities of increasingly globalized struggles." (240)
Good examples of this are provided by the EZLN holding its global meeting at Aguas Calientes a few years back, or the women of the Niger Delta occupying a Chevron Texaco refinery. Local dynamics shape the structure of the global struggle. This is at this stage that local connections are linked with other groups globally, creating transnational networks involved in gathering information, or promoting organizational models or straightforward activism and advocacy. Local movements make global connections.
"At the second stage of the dialectic, what was created globally (the alliances made and networks formed, resources gathered, strategies and tactics learned) is brought to bear on localities." (241)
As an example, the EZLN uses its global connections to organize the defenses of localities in the Chiapas fighting for self-determination and autonomy.
But what is new about this dialectic?
"What is new in the current phase of globalisation is how relatively open and diverse peripheral terrains of world significance are, how struggles born there have found focus outside state-centred struggles and how pregnant is the sentiment of global propinquity that unites different movements. Never have such distinct social forces so rooted in local struggles taken place on the terrain of the world economy, never have they been as conscious of a common context of struggle and never has this context so informed and radicalised localised struggles. Never, in a word, has the dialectic of presence been activated to such effect." (243)
Indeed, the article is rich in examples and mentions that reflect the incredible diversity of peripheral global presence articulated according to the dialectic, and localized in the three main spaces of contention. These various movements are unified in their struggling to define their connection to the world order, but they do so in great diversity of modes of resistance.