What is the main goal of globalization

What do the opponents of globalization want? / [Michael Ehrke] - [Electronic ed.] - Bonn, [2001 - 2] Bl. = 22 KB, text. - (Political Info / International Political Analysis)
Electronic ed .: Bonn: FES Library, 2001

© Friedrich Ebert Foundation

The G8 summit in Genoa - after the events in Seattle, Prague, Davos, Gothenburg, etc. - provided another stage for the new generation of rebels who opposed globalization. Their protest becomes a political issue because it can be based on a certain basic sympathy in the population: The opponents of globalization are clearly articulating a discomfort that is widespread in Western societies.

The protesters' goals, on the other hand, often remain unclear. This is due to the fact that the opponents of globalization do not even form a heterogeneous coalition without bizarre additions. Nevertheless, their majority is in favor of a number of very concrete reforms, including (without claiming to be exhaustive):

  • Stricter regulation of the international financial system, including stricter stock exchange and banking supervision and a tax on financial transactions;
  • free access of the developing countries to the protected agricultural markets of the industrialized countries;
  • no further WTO liberalization round, no trade agreement to protect intellectual property; no global investment agreement;
  • the introduction of social, environmental and democratic standards in international trade agreements
  • Debt relief for developing countries;
  • Closing of offshore-Tax havens;
  • Continuation of the Kyoto process on global climate protection;
  • Reform, democratic control and / or change in the priorities of the international financial institutions World Bank and IMF.

A common denominator for all of these demands is that they could also be included in the programs of the established parties, that they can reliably trigger applause on talk shows and that they are acceptable in international circles of experts. Their common denominator is Not in that they are all against globalization:

1. The demand for market opening for developing countries aims at a More to globalization, to the closing of the last protectionist reserves of the world economy;

2. The same applies to the rejection of strictly interpreted intellectual property rights that deny developing countries access to certain technologies and products or make them unreasonably more expensive; the so-called opponents of globalization stand here for Less Restrictions one as their proponent.

3. Some demands are neutral to economic globalization, such as debt relief for developing countries or the continuation of the Kyoto process.

4. Demands aimed at the control of global financial markets (for which George Soros, Paul Volcker and Gerhard Schröder among others have spoken out) or the closure of tax havens (as the OECD is aiming for) could be interpreted as directed against unbridled markets - but also as a necessary flanking of an in principle irreversible and accepted process of globalization.

5. The rejection of another WTO round can indeed be seen as an initiative that is explicitly directed against free trade. However, given the level of free trade that has already been achieved, this is also possible mainstreamEconomists assume that further free trade rounds would have marginal effects at best.

6. Demands for democratic control or changed priorities for international organizations and institutions fill a democratic legitimacy gap, which is also seen as a problem by many politicians. The movement is not a movement against globalization and, in its majority, not against capitalism. It does not represent any alternative to the prevailing economic and social order. Their political coherence compared not only to past socialist movements but also to the Greens in their formation phase is, it seems, weak. Is there even a common political denominator that distinguishes the anti-globalization opponents from the organizers of the Love Parade?

There is not any

A first possible answer: the protest movement is indeed too heterogeneous; the various groups are only connected by a collective Pavlovian reaction to international summits, which trigger the insatiable urge to go to the appropriate places and perform violent or non-violent rituals there. The movement is not only divided into violent criminals and peacemakers, into declared anti-capitalists and reformers; The reform forces also differ with regard to the scope of the desired changes. Some want the democratization of the WTO, others the abandonment of another WTO round, still others want to abolish the WTO entirely, etc. Conclusion: The movement is too diverse to be able to articulate a clear message.


A second possible answer: The unity of the movement does not lie in demands that are rationally justified and that do not fundamentally differ from what is also being discussed in the ruling institutions. No twenty-year-old will travel to the most diverse places in the world and risk his health and - after Genoa - possibly his life, in order to help improve stock market regulation. The common denominator of the movement is not on the rational-programmatic, but on the emotional level. What connects the movement (and this with many other citizens) is anxiety (before an uncertain process of social change, before loss of orientation and identity, etc.), Anger (about social injustice or similar) or shame (about the wealth of the industrialized countries, etc.) - So feelings. The demands mentioned above, on the other hand, were formulated by an intellectual avant-garde that is not representative of the movement as a whole.

Cultural criticism

One factor of the anti-globalization movement is the discomfort with a MacWorld dominated by company logos such as Nike, McDonalds or Coca Cola, in which differences and substances are obliterated, in which supermarkets, hotel rooms, transport hubs etc. in Kathmandu increasingly look exactly the same as in Cairo and Cologne . Country and culture-specific peculiarities dissolve in favor of globally harmonized consumption patterns. Just as the languages ​​of this world relate to a bad one New Economy-English level, the living environments adapt to each other like airport interiors.

The anti-globalization movement is more culturally / subcultural than politically motivated. It does not wage a holy war against globalized culture, it does not oppose a uniform fundamental principle, but a colorful bundle of counter-motifs, some of which - from the Aborigines to the Zapatistas - are based on the cultures that MacWorld threatens to destroy.


The opponents of globalization become a political movement through their rational and explicit criticism of neoliberalism. The aim of the criticism is neoliberalism not as an economic school, but as a political project and as resigned self-abolition of politics. As political project a strategy is perceived that - under the label Washington consensus - aims to unify the world into a global market. This strategy has identifiable protagonists working in the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, Wall Street, the U.S. Treasury, the big corporations and the White House are located. A Self-repeal of politics on the other hand, it registers where politicians who cannot be classified as neoliberal capitulate to the autonomy of global markets and defend the adaptation of politics to the decisions of the market as necessary because there is no alternative.

In the eyes of globalization critics, neoliberal politics, be it cheerfully active or resignedly realistic, deepen the division of both the world into poor and rich countries and of societies into poor and rich population groups. It takes back the relativizations of the social contradictions that have already been achieved, for example in the form of the welfare state; The old antagonism between rich and poor, which could have been dealt with on a national level, is expanded to include a dimension: a majority of the population that remains territorially bound and dependent on the state is opposed to a mobile globalized upper class that is entitled to its resources at all times low cost and low risk.

The critics of globalization lead against neoliberalism the normative priority of democratic politics over the inherent laws of the market in the field. Markets can only develop to the extent that the political will of the citizens corresponds. They do not automatically work for the benefit of everyone, as the existence of markets for slaves, drugs and protection money shows. The criteria under which markets are to be restricted are not provided by the market itself. There are also no other predefined evaluation systems from which such criteria can be derived in a binding manner (such as religions or scientific systems), but only the open communication processes of the citizens, the results of which are converted into state actions via the democratic institutions. The globalization critics call on the citizens and their representatives to meet the political opportunities and the obligation of democracy to shape, to define ecological, social and moral priorities and to enforce them against the dynamism of the economy.

The egoism of the mighty

Ultimately, neoliberalism is nothing more than a straw doll, the burning of which has at best a symbolic meaning. It neither explains the functioning of the global economy, nor is it - despite the verbal attacks - the actual target of globalization criticism. Because global economy and politics only function partly according to the laws of the market, but more importantly according to those of power. Markets are also bequeathed. The rationality of the market is sought when it corresponds to the interests of the powerful (people, companies, states), and it is undermined when it no longer corresponds to their interests. Companies stand up for the free market through their associations, every single company will seek and perceive every competitive advantage - even if this can only be achieved in the most shameful form of state intervention. The question is not whether there should be regulation or deregulation, but who will benefit from regulation or deregulation.

Outstanding examples are - again - the agricultural markets of the industrialized countries, which for decades have survived not only economically, ecologically and socio-politically motivated, but also liberal and neoliberal attacks one hundred percent undamaged. Their legitimacy in every conceivable frame of reference is zero; their only right to exist is the power of those who benefit from them. Another example is location debates or location politics, which are pointless in the framework of neoliberalism and in which the practical egoism of the states has clear priority over the autonomy of the market.

The targets of the globalization critics are less the neoliberalism and its protagonists than in a very general sense "the powerful", whether their power is based on the market or not. This also includes the politicians of the powerful states (i.e. G8) who are committed to their democratic duty to protect the less powerful, against the egoism and opportunism of the powerful becomes one public morality brought into the field that openly as scandal brands that which contradicts the normative basic consensus of the democracies, but is accepted as given in the political routine. If - for example - it is only possible to provide affordable medication for people with AIDS in Africa if the patent rights of international pharmaceutical companies are not affected, this is economically plausible, but - it could be argued - it is contrary to everyone conceivable community morality, without which ultimately no markets would function.

The movement of the opponents of globalization is so colorful that all of the motifs mentioned here are in some way characteristic of it. It cannot be ruled out that the movement will break up because of its most conspicuous inner contrast - between violent opponents and violent offenders. It is likely that it (like any political movement) feeds itself to a large extent from emotional energies or a subcultural aesthetic rather than being absorbed in its rational political demands. The protagonists themselves would probably see neoliberalism as their common opponent, but are in danger of building a bogeyman: In the strict sense of the word, some economics professors are neoliberal, not the majority of those against whom the globalization opponents turn. The contradiction between an at least rudimentary valid public morality and one of this derisive reality is ultimately a central normative motive of the opponents of globalization, but it is directed against an opponent that is difficult to define - because ultimately it is also the lifestyles of majorities in industrialized countries that denounced it Underlying scandals.

Does the anti-globalization movement have a perspective comparable to that of the Greens in their formation phase? Is a new political force emerging here that could one day form as an independent party and / or open up issues that all parties will have to occupy and work on one day - just as no party today can do without environmental policy items?

Greens and opponents of globalization point to man-made trends, the uncontrolled continuation of which would lead to catastrophe. Both movements have in common that their topic will never be settled: Just as there will always be environmental disasters, global economic development will also be accompanied by disasters again and again. In addition, the opponents of globalization have two advantages over the Greens. You represent a concern that cannot be worked down as a special problem like the environmental issue; their criticism and demands are aimed at the Core areas of the economic and political system of the industrialized countries. Secondly are the opponents of globalization mainstream politics and society closer than the Greens were in the 1970s. They do not represent a fundamental counter-principle against the ruling order, but argue in its terms. In a dramatic way they draw attention to conflicts that are also perceived by the representatives of this order. They are therefore less subject than the Greens to the dangerous alternative between fundamentalist political ineptitude and realistic loss of substance.

The western democracies were able to absorb the green movements - for the benefit of these democracies. You should now be prepared for a new challenge.

Michael Ehrke

A detailed presentation and commentary on work on the topic of globalization can be found in the focus "Globalization and Justice" under http://www.fes.de/indexipa.html

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 53170 Bonn, fax: 0228/883 625, e-mail: [email protected]

© Friedrich Ebert Foundation | technical support | net edition fes-library | September 2001