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LOCAL Review :: Globalization

Book Review: Globalize Liberation

Constructed and linked locally and globally, a “new radicalism? is flourishing in opposition to neoliberal capitalist imperialism, and yet few Americans are aware of its critical reach.
Popular representations of the movements as archaic, violent, crazy, and/or disruptive of daily urban traffic flows abound in media reports. What we need are popularly accessible texts that can dispel these misrepresentations. The volume, Globalize Liberation, edited by David Solnit, seeks to chronicle, popularize, and articulate the main elements of this new radical movement by weaving together the thoughts and experience of activists and activist groups. Moreover, it seeks to provide examples of effective social action that can mobilize local groups around the world.

The main elements of this movement’s dynamism, as detailed through various chapters in the volume, are its critical globality, its blurring of the lines between theory and activism, and its emphasis on vibrancy, creativity, and play. As is obvious from the title of the book, the volume steers away from the localist, “anti-globalization? streams of the anti-imperialist movement, which is how the new radicalist movement as a whole is most often mistakenly represented in mainstream media accounts. Instead, as in other textual representations of this new radicalism, such as the 2002 World Social Forum proceedings, published as the text Another World Is Possible, and the book We Are Everywhere, the emphasis here is on creating and bolstering a “movement of movements,? connections among grassroots local groups for mutual support and aid on a global level. The purpose is to create an alternative, radical, progressive sense of globalization, in direct reaction to and critique of the ways in which “globalization? and “neoliberalism? have been conflated in recent decades. The volume makes it powerfully clear that it is no longer sufficient to “think globally, act locally,? but that we must think and act globally and locally all at the same time.

The book is organized in a way that argues for the necessity of weaving together ideas and actions. It is divided into three sections: the first critically analyzes the problems associated with neoliberal capitalism; the second provides strategies and ideas for change; and the third contains case studies of actions and movements. But the sections are not necessarily clearly delineated from each other, allowing for a continuous conversation between theory and activism to develop from one chapter to the next.

The heavier emphasis is on action rather than ideas, as in the self-proclamation that this is a book “by practitioners for practitioners.? One of the greatest strengths in the volume is the chronicle of actions in the third section. In my role as a college instructor, I find the case studies to be immensely useful as a way to critically appraise new radicalism in action. This section is the perfect antidote and response to those students and others who may claim that the movement is abstract, impractical, or nonexistent. The weakest of the three sections is the first, the contextualization of the problem. Perhaps because of the emphasis on action over ideas, many of the chapters in this section are theoretically thin in their discussion of rich and contested ideas such as class, race, and feminism.

The greatest limitation of this volume as a whole is that it does not critically address the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion through which “new radicalism? becomes defined. This is in most part purposeful, in order to enable the greatest amount of flexibility and openness in allowing the participants to define the movement themselves. But at the same time, as a volume seeking to represent a whole movement, there are some conspicuous absences. Ideas and movements based on gender and sexuality, for example, are absent except for a very brief chapter on feminism.

Furthermore, the case study examples all come from North America, Europe, and Latin America. Admittedly, no single volume can be comprehensively representative of such a vast and dynamic “movement of movements,? but to the extent that the volume seeks to represent the new radical movement on a global scale, these absences need to be more thoroughly addressed through the editing process. There are other significant unaddressed questions, such as what elements differentiate a “new radicalist? group from other social actors and organizations, new and old, which practice a critique of global capitalism. US white supremacist groups are also deeply critical of the effects of globalization on US society, but their hateful rhetoric would not fit within the framework of the movement described by the authors of this volume.

My point here is that any movement must ultimately engage in a discussion of inclusion and exclusion, and it is very important to be upfront and transparent about the process of critical editing through which some voices are included and others are not. The reality of this inclusion/exclusion process is not apparent in Globalize Liberation. I find this to be a common problem in new radical movements, ranging from the World Social Forum to Indymedia, where through the worthwhile desire to be open and inclusive, “others? become marginalized without their marginalization being addressed.

What this volume demonstrates most effectively are the vibrancy, creativity, and dynamism of the new radical movement. In contrast to previous progressive movements that have gone out of their way to present a “serious? face to the public, the new radical movement described in various chapters here actively and critically injects theater, performance, joy, fun, and the carnivalesque in the work of activism. In this sense, it cultivates political activism as an essential part of a reconstruction of everyday life.

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