Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, India
Globalization connotes and denotes an agglomeration of political, economic and socio-cultural processes that are simultaneously shrinking the world and creating global consciousness. It represents a universal human condition of today. The mystique and hype associated with globalization indeed stresses certain forms of connectedness: information, telecommunications, trade, travel. However incoherent, it is suggested that this connectedness propels and promotes exchanges of various kinds and solidarity that is distinct from homogenization. Nonetheless, it presents two faces of itself: one ugly and other benign. Its ugly face is reflected in askewed power relationship of the global 'north' over the rest of the world. Its benign face is reflected in growing solidarity of people's movements, associations and voluntary groups, trade unions and cooperatives, faith organizations and NGOs to ensure security and well being of the people of the world. By and large, this solidarity is reinforced by non violent resistance tradition of civil disobedience
This interconnectedness is also manifested within nations almost as corollary of its existence at the global level. In focussing on an essentially geographical and geopolitical understanding of globalization there has been a near complete failure to recognizing its footprints at sub-global levels. Many scholars have termed it as globalization from below. In a manner of speaking, this alternative globalization is rooted in movement culture that challenges the legitimacy of existing structures of international regime, but also often negotiates with it.. Solidarity at this level is its response to global problematique in terms of social transformation.
This alternative globalization from below represents ferment in contemporary ways of thinking that is embodied in thousands of local, national and transnational movements that are grounded in a notion of human community and global plurality. These include the environmental, human rights, women's, sustainable development, indigenous people's, and peace movements. The spread of these grassroots movements as well as their concerns have made and are making vital contribution towards global conscientization of sorts. To describe their functionality. I draw an image from a classical Taoist poem:
Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the centre hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there. (Tao Te Ching )
Such alternative global initiatives are manifested in the emergence and diffusion of these movements, particularly through transnational solidarity linkages. Their objective is not simply to mount local pressure on authoritarian governments to move towards more liberal democratic systems but, in fact, it is the articulation of different visions and a variety of insights. These processes seemingly challenge the 'traditional' notions of development, democracy and governance but may also be seen as complementary to global dialogues, conversations and action plans towards a meaningful new democratic order. Also, in the realm of economics, these visions are part of social movements' basic critique of, and challenge to, modernity and the attendant notions of development and progress; their insistence on subsistence and sustainability; their resistance to neo-liberal economic reforms and trade relations that are seen as externally imposed and include local protests against domestic hegemonies that have transnational linkages with dominant power structures.
Throughout the global south, democratic social movements are engaged in resistance against the encroachment of Western culture, its notions of modernity, secularism and ‘ given universals’. Pro-globalizers call them ‘rejectionists’. However, it does not mean an uncritical, romantic grasping of tradition by the so-called ‘rejectionists’. Indeed, their activism has translated into reappraisal of tradition in order to infuse it with the best of compatible values of modernity. These movements are addressing structures and ideologies of domination such as patriarchy and caste which are manifested internally and are not external impositions. Here too, there is an increasing expression and formulation of global solidarity among the dominated against the dominators, both external and internal.
Most of the received wisdom has generally seen these movements and groups as simply reactive and praxis-oriented that arise in reaction to specific situation and then fade away, either through failure or success. But the contemporary movements are as much about absorbing alternative values at the individual level as they are involved in creating communities and taking up well-defined issues. While very diverse, these movements and groups have much in common, particularly a ‘moral motivation’ located in awareness of injustice. Many of these movements and their associates do not seek power. Instead they desire autonomy from the state, looking beyond it to alternative frameworks for participatory relationships based on the ideas of solidarity. These movements seek to create and strengthen links with their cohorts within and across nations.
Indeed, these grassroots global initiatives exist in dialectical relationship with externally driven forces of globalization or what is also called corporate globalization.. There are, no doubt, tensions between local and global, contextually-specific and universal, but such simple dichotomization is not very helpful. Notwithstanding pro-globalization stances and counter hegemonic voices of the two sides, the boundaries between them are often blurred. The fact remains neither can ignore the other. The ‘globalizers’ have also realized that they cannot travel It has to work towards functional ‘roundness’ by being sensitive to feedback from localities.
Surely, globalization from above is opposed to global solidarity created by movements operating at the grassroots, but at the same time it also creates the spaces for the later to operate. To an extent, the collective actions of these groups, reinforced by transnational linkages, especially, the articulation of alternative visions, sensitizes the globalizing apparatus of the nation states. It is this collective activity at the grassroots level that I see as globalizing solidarity that cannot be ignored. It is this solidarity that is helping to build a new framework to initiate dialogue between radically different perspectives. It is this solidarity that not only safeguards community harmony but also ‘bridles Leviathan’, as Walt Whitman puts it in context of forces unleashed by market capitalism.
What is less realized is that globalizing solidarity also enables individual to discover and face challenges of personal globalization for themselves without losing their local bearings. It gives them access to finding ways of understanding how we are already together. Man lives in society; he has an inner life of his own but, as member of the society, he has also to contribute to the stability and enrichment of larger social order. Compatibility between the demands of the inner world and that of the social order requires something more than harmony. It requires solidarity that promotes and sustains harmony.
For Gandhi, liberation of the individual and the community were inextricably linked-- one was incomplete without the other and, hence, illusory. His idea of self-rule was used to gain independence in the narrow sense that obscures his sense of personal governance of one’s own domain that was at the core of his message. At one point he observed:”We can only strive to increase man’s opportunities of realizing and fulfilling his duties and getting nearer to God.” In this sense Gandhi tried to show that what is within individual capability is also of universal validity. Needless to say that this perspective recognizes the autonomy not only of the individuals but also of societies and their cultural-specific world views to determine the patterns of future global arrangements. Understanding the real ‘self’, and its relation to communities and society in which it is located, holds the key to generate systems and structures that may enable societal arrangements to be more humane
In sum, globalization cannot be imagined in a way that divorces it from the living experiences of different societies. It has to be an experiential reality to be gradually built on societal consensus. I see globalization as living presence of the future that accommodates sensitivities of human collectivities . The current state of globalization is riddled with inadequacies. One bright spot is growing solidarity at the grassroots, their emancipatory intent, and their commitment to social justice and human dignity. It has effectively intervened against rapacious abuse of the planet in such a way that imperils the existence and welfare of future generations. They have grown in number and size. If we think of power as the capacity to cope with tangle of human problems in economic, social, cultural and political domains, then these non-governmental solidarity activists are playing increasingly important roles. Such ability is based on a sense of identity, purpose and solidarity. It is expressed in multiple ways and reflects confidence. The present state of affairs can be seen as an important condition shaping the