Is another world possible?

In 1989, with the decline and imminent collapse of state socialism in the Soviet Union and China, as well as the turning of so many states that had once been authoritarian and/or had intervened actively in the economy to a model of liberal democracy and free markets, the American intellectual and State Department employee Francis Fukuyama declared “the end of history.” By this, he meant that there were no more grand ideas on the reorganization of society—liberal democracy and free markets had come to be the ideal to which all states aspired. As the Soviet Union’s state socialism disintegrated by late 1991, it seemed that Fukuyama’s prediction had come true. There was, it seemed, no alternative to this form of globalization.

Fukuyama’s prediction was based on the benefits that globalization was supposed to bring to all countries, but the social effects of adopting a program of free markets as imposed by international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, were often dire. Many lost jobs, lost social security nets of healthcare and education, costs of living soared, as did poverty and inequality—these adverse effects were felt most pointedly in what were once known as Third World countries.

To counter not only the effects but the very logic of globalization, a worldwide grouping of movements arose by the turn of the twentieth century, and the slogan of this anti-globalization movement was that “another world is possible.” Their opposition to globalization was most effectively demonstrated in mass mobilizations against meetings of international financial institutions in Seattle, USA in 1999 and Quebec, Canada in 2001, as well as through the meeting of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001. Asserting both the necessity and possibility of “another world” so visibly, the anti-globalization movements seemed to challenge head on Fukuyama’s claim of the end of history.

Yet, the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York seemed to sap the anti-globalization movement of its vitality. George W. Bush’s administration launched a war in Afghanistan later that year that went largely unopposed by genuinely popular movements, but when such a movement arose on a hitherto unforeseen global scale to oppose the American invasion of Iraq in 2002 and 2003, it met not only with immediate failure but rapid disintegration. It seemed that another world was, indeed, possible, but it was not the one that the anti-globalization movement was looking forward to. It was one where authoritarianism and the belligerence of the world’s remaining superpower was unchecked, and while the World Social Forum continued to meet it and its associated movements seemed to wither.

Our current moment is one of global crisis—global crises of food, of the climate, of the entire globalized economic system, and of health. The end of history, it seems, has long ended. In fact, even as these global crises have developed, new movements have arisen or older ones have been reinvigorated, particularly but not only in the Third World. The “pink tide” of left-leaning and leftist governments in Latin America has provided a glimpse of an alternative globalization challenging the logic of liberal democracy and free markets. Meanwhile, in certain parts of South Asia, communist movements seem to be making inroads through combinations of armed and electoral struggles. Indeed, the very election of Barack Obama in the United States suggests the widespread desire for “change”—for another world—involving an end to wars and the provision of greater social security. In other words, even as it seems that the entire world is careening toward a catastrophic crisis, movements on the ground and in government in many countries are attempting to build, precisely, a better world. While we can guess at the outlines of another world, only through active participation can we make the possible probable and give it substantive content.

This piece is written for class. The idea is to be able to communicate effectively in non-academese for a general audience. this!

3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    J. Moufawad-Paul said,

    October 9, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

    “History is a weapon in the ideological battle between those who want to change society… and those who want to maintain its basic features. […] Those who want to change society necessarily have ideas of a higher quality than those who wish to keep it from changing.”
    -Samir Amin, Class and Nation

  2. 2

    R.V said,

    October 15, 2009 @ 11:05 pm

    The current financial crisis definitely brought an end to the ideology of ‘end of history’. The free market and globalization ideologists have come to realize that the swirling typhoon of crisis inherent in capitalist mode of production has hit the nucleus at last – the United States and Western Europe!! However the history is playing a spoilsport in these regions where it ought to be the leftists who should take control of the situation. The postmodern academicians and movements centered on variety of identity politics ranging from gays, lesbians, desi, muslims to variety of feminists articulations – groups liberally patronized by the corporates – to quell and prevent the class consciousness and communist movements affecting the nucleus is giving scope for rightist elements to take control of the situation. The immigrant problem was not pitched/studied in Marxian terms rather appropriated by the champions of ‘multi-culturalism’ – the language of the liberal bourgeoisie. Hence the contradictions are manifold in the nuclear region that is now reeling under the crisis of free market globalization.

    The specter of ‘Communism’ is no longer haunting Europe as it haunted one and a half centuries ago. So when one speak of another world one should able to analyze the contradictions gripping the nucleus as well.

  3. 3

    niku said,

    November 10, 2009 @ 11:55 am

    hi, please take the comment in a friendly manner.

    The language on the pages related to Malcolm X seem much better than this page. For example the has simple clear and short sentences, and your message comes out clearly. It is smooth reading, and it looks as if you manage to cover all that you wanted to say. Reading that I form a picture of an intelligent young man(you, that is).

    This page reads like the normal inanity about globalization. Just compare the sentences lengths. The impression is that you have just heard some ‘heavy phrases’ and somehow want to use them in your writing and that there is no clear idea of what you want to say. For example, compare the first and third line: if the decline of Soviet union prompts the author to offer this thesis, it cannot be used as evidence in support of it(evidence would be something new). Then usage such as “Asserting both the necessity and possibility of another world so visibly” make me sick. The protests were visible all right, but how was another-world’s necessity proved, and how was it shown possible? (both will require a lot more work than just having a lot of people to protest–that shows interest, or, at best, a wish)

    Whenever you had written the index.html page, would you have written something like “This piece is written for class”? What is a ‘piece’, what does ‘writing for class’ mean? Why coin useless words like “non-academese”, can’t you say ‘simple language’ or non-technical language? (for that matter, the phrase is superfluous)

    I would never have written anything on this page if I wasn’t coming from the index.html page, which is excellent. Please consider my point. If you want more examples or an explanation please ask.

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