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Globalisation and resistance: struggles over common sense in the global political economy

  • MATTHEW STEPHEN
Abstract

This article develops and applies the role of ‘common sense’ in a Gramscian theory of transnational counter-hegemony. Building on recent interpretative literature on the alter-globalisation movement, it applies this framework to then evaluate empirically the impact of the alter-globalisation movement on the realm of global ‘common sense’ understandings of the world in the period 2002 to 2007. It shows that there is little empirical support for the notion that the alter-globalisation movement effected a legitimation crisis for neo-liberalism as a hegemonic project on a global scale. Instead, a more ambivalent and potentially reactionary situation amongst collectively held norms is revealed. This indicates the shortcomings of the alter-globalisation movement as a coalition of social forces capable of mounting an ideological attack on neo-liberalism and forging a new intellectual-moral bloc.

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1 For the politics and tribulations of naming and ‘school’ formation, see Morton, Adam David, ‘The Sociology of Theorising and Neo-Gramscian Perspectives: The Problems of “School” Formation in IPE’, in Bieler, Andreas and Morton, Adam David (eds), Social Forces in the Making of the New Europe (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2001), pp. 2543 ; Gill, Stephen, ‘Gramsci and Global Politics: Towards a Post-Hegemonic Research Agenda’, in Gill, Stephen (ed.), Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 118 ; and Cox, Robert, The Political Economy of a Plural World, with Schechter, Michael (London: Routledge, 2002), pp. 2629 .

2 Colás, Alejandro, International Civil Society (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002), p. 16 .

3 Drainville, André, Contesting Globalization (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 29 .

4 Hobson, John M., ‘Is Critical Theory Always For the White West and For Western Imperialism? Beyond Westphilian [sic] Towards a post-Racist Critical IR’, Review of International Studies, 33 (2007), pp. 91116, at p. 93 ; see also, Strange, Gerard, ‘Globalisation, Regionalism and Labour Interests in the New International Political Economy’, New Political Economy, 7:3 (2002), pp. 343365 .

5 Gill, Stephen and Law, David, ‘Global Hegemony and Structural Power of Capital’, in Gill, Stephen (ed.), Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 93124, at p. 123 ; Rupert, Mark, Producing Hegemony (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 207 ; Bieler, Andreas and Morton, Adam David, ‘A Critical Theory Route to Hegemony, World Order and Historical Change: Neo-Gramscian Perspectives in International Relations’, Capital and Class, 82 (2004), pp. 85113, at p. 103 ; Bieler, Andreas, ‘Class Struggle Over the EU Model of Capitalism’, in Bieler, Andreas and Morton, Adam David (eds), Images of Gramsci (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 119132, at p. 128 .

6 Cox, , Political Economy of a Plural World, p. 42 .

7 Often referred to as the ‘anti-globalisation movement’, I use here an appellation that seems to have taken favour in recent years and doesn't cause anyone serious offence.

8 Rupert, Mark, Ideologies of Globalization: Contending visions of a New World Order (London: Routledge, 2000) ; Gill, Stephen, ‘Toward a Postmodern Prince? The Battle in Seattle as a Moment in the New Politics of Globalisation’, Millennium, 29:1 (2000), pp. 131140 ; Morton, Adam David, ‘“La Resurreccion del Maiz”: Globalisation, Resistance and the Zapatistas’ Millennium, 31:1 (2002), pp. 2754 ; Morton, Adam David, ‘Structural Change and Neoliberalism in Mexico: “Passive Revolution” in the Global Political Economy’, Third World Quarterly, 24:4 (2003), pp. 631653 .

9 Bieler, Andreas and Morton, Adam David, ‘Another Europe is Possible? Labour and Social Movements at the European Social Forum’, Globalizations, 1:2 (2004), pp. 305327 ; Bieler, Andreas and Morton, Adam David, ‘Class Formation, Resistance and the Transnational’, in Bieler, Andreas et al. , Global Restructuring: State, Capital and Labour (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2006), pp. 196206 .

10 Birchfield, Vicki and Freyberg-Inan, Annette, ‘Constructing Opposition in the Age of Globalization: The Potential of ATTAC’, Globalizations, 1:2 (2004), pp. 278304 ; Birchfield, Vicki and Freyberg-Inan, Annette, ‘Organic Intellectuals and Counter-Hegemonic Politics in the Age of Globalisation’, in Eschle, Catherine and Maiguashca, Bice (eds), Critical Theories, International Relations and ‘the Anti-Globalisation Movement’ (London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 154173 .

11 Rupert, Mark, ‘In the Belly of the Beast: Resisting Globalisation and War in a Neo-Imperial Moment’, in Eschle, Catherine and Maiguashca, Bice (eds), Critical Theories, International Relations and ‘the Anti-Globalisation Movement’ (London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 3652 .

12 Rupert, Mark, ‘Anticapitalist Convergence? Anarchism, Socialism, and the Global Justice Movement’, in Steger, Manfred B. (ed.), Rethinking Globalism (Lanham, USA: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004), pp. 121135 .

13 Garza, Rosalba Icaza, To Be and Not to Be: The Question of Transborder Civic Activism and Regionalization in Mexico. A Critical Account of Neo-Gramscian Perspectives’, Globalizations, 3:4 (2006), pp. 485506 .

14 Gibson, John, ‘The Myth of the Multitude: The Endogenous Demise of Alter-Globalist Politics’, Global Society, 22:2 (2008), pp. 253275 ; Stephen, Matthew, ‘Alter-Globalism as Counter-Hegemony: Evaluating the “postmodern Prince”’, Globalizations, 6:4 (2009), pp. 483498 .

15 Rupert, ‘Belly of the Beast’, pp. 36–7, 50–1. See also his contrition of earlier excitement in ‘Reflections on Some Lessons Learned from a Decade of Globalisation Studies’, New Political Economy, 10:4 (2005), pp. 457458 at pp. 472474 .

16 Gill, ‘Postmodern Prince’, p. 137; ‘Constitutionalizing Inequality’, p. 64.

17 Bieler and Morton, ‘Another Europe Is Possible’, pp. 320–1, at p. 305.

18 Shilliam, Robbie, ‘Hegemony and the Unfashionable Problematic of “Primitive Accumulation”’, Millennium, 32:1 (2004), pp. 5988 at p. 61 .

19 Cox, Robert, ‘Beyond Empire and Terror: Critical Reflections on the Political Economy of World Order’, New Political Economy, 9:3 (2004), pp. 307323 at pp. 309, 314315 .

20 Gill, Stephen, ‘Constitutionalizing Inequality and the Clash of Globalizations’, International Studies Review, 4:3 (2002), pp. 4765 at p. 64 .

21 Gill, ‘Postmodern Prince?’, p. 140.

22 Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio, Multitude (New York: Penguin, 2004), p. 322 .

23 Bull, Malcolm, ‘The Limits of the Multitude’, New Left Review, 35 (2005), pp. 1939 at pp. 1920 .

24 Bullard, Nicolla, ‘Where is the Movement Moving?’, Development, 48:2 (2005), pp. 47 at p. 5 .

25 Editors, , ‘Introduction’, New Left Review, 9 (2001), pp. 8189 at p. 88 .

26 Gramsci, Antonio, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (New York: International Publishers, 1971), pp. 332335, 395, 419425 .

27 Cox, Robert, ‘Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory’, [1981] in Cox, Robert with Sinclair, Timothy, Approaches to World Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 85123 ; Cox, Robert, ‘Gramsci, Hegemony and International Relations: an Essay in Method’, [1983] in Cox, and Sinclair, , Approaches to World Order, pp. 124143 ; Gill, ‘Postmodern Prince?’; Gill and Law, ‘Global Hegemony’, p. 114; Murphy, Craig N., ‘Understanding IR: Understanding Gramsci’, Review of International Studies, 24 (1998), pp. 417425 ; Rupert, , ‘(Re-)Engaging Gramsci: A Response to Germain and Kenny’, Review of International Studies, 24 (1998), pp. 427434 ; Rupert, Mark, ‘Globalising Common Sense: a Marxian-Gramscian (Re-)Vision of the Politics of Governance/Resistance’, Review of International Studies, 29 (2003), pp. 181198 .

28 Partial exceptions include Mittelman, James H. and Chin, Christine B. N., ‘Conceptualising Resistance to Globalization’, [2000] in Amoore, Louise (ed.), The Global Resistance Reader (London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 1727 ; Morton, ‘La Resurreccion’; Rupert, Mark, Producing Hegemony (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 2531 . By comparison, such a systematic attempt has been made in a Gramscian study of the rise of political Islamist organisations in the Middle East: Butko, Thomas J., ‘Revelation or Revolution: A Gramscian Approach to the Rise of Political Islam’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 31:1 (2004), pp. 4162 .

29 Compare Cox, Robert, Production, Power and World Order (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), p. 299 ; Gill, Stephen, Power and Resistance in the New World Order (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2003), pp. 60, 116120 ; Payne, Anthony, The Global Politics of Unequal Development (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2005), pp. 2628 .

30 Cox, ‘Social Forces’.

31 Cox, Robert, ‘Civil Society at the Turn of the New Millennium: Prospects for an Alternative World Order’, in Amoore, (ed.), Global Resistance Reader, pp. 103124 at p. 109 .

32 Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, pp. 229235 . This is often misread as a binary opposition between two alternative strategies of social contestation.

33 Ibid., p. 238. ‘Heartland’ and ‘contender state’ terminology is from van der Pijl, Kees, Global Rivalries from the Cold War to Iraq (London: Pluto, 2006) .

34 Ibid., p. 235.

35 Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, p. 419 .

36 Rupert, ‘Globalising Common Sense’, p. 185.

37 Gramsci, Antonio, Quaderni del Carcere, 4 vols., Gerratana, Valentino (ed.), (Torino: Einaudi, 1975), p. 1319 ; as quoted in Germino, Dante, Antonio Gramsci: Architect of a New Politics (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), pp. 236237 .

38 Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, pp. 323324, 419425 .

39 Ibid., pp. 376–7. It is with this in mind that Gramsci reiterated Marx's point in the introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right that ‘popular beliefs’ can assume the same energy as ‘material forces’. See also p. 404.

40 Hall, Stuart, ‘The Problem of Ideology – Marxism without Guarantees’, Journal of Communication Inquiry, 10:2 (1986), pp. 2844 at p. 42 as cited in Bieler, Andreas and Morton, Adam David, ‘The Deficits of Discourse in IPE: Turning Base Metal into Gold?’, International Studies Quarterly, 52 (2008), pp. 103128 at p. 119 .

41 Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, p. 239 .

42 Ibid., p. 162.

43 Cox, , Production, Power, and World Order, p. 358 .

44 As Gramsci wrote, ‘[…] though hegemony is ethico-political, it must also be economic, must necessarily be based on the decisive function exercised by the leading group in the decisive nucleus of economic activity’. Prison Notebooks, p. 161.

45 Sklair, Leslie, The Transnational Capitalist Class (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001) . In contrast to the more excitable literature on the transnational capitalist class, I see this more as an emerging tendency than as a fait accompli, which will fracture and weaken with the appearance of more hostile inter-state relations.

46 Rupert, Mark, ‘Globalising Common sense: a Marxian-Gramscian (re-)vision of the politics of governance/resistance’, Review of International Studies, 29 (2003), pp. 181198 at p. 190 .

47 ‘[…] the material forces would be inconceivable historically without [ideological] form and the ideologies would be individual fancies without the material forces’. Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, p. 377 .

48 Gill, ‘Epistemology, Ontology and the “Italian School”’, p. 26.

49 Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, p. 420 .

50 van der Pijl, , Transnational Relations, pp. 133134 .

51 Stephen, ‘Alter-Globalism as Counter-Hegemony’.

52 Ibid., p. 424.

53 Ibid., p. 344.

54 Ibid., p. 395.

55 Birchfield, Vicki, ‘Contesting the Hegemony of Market Ideology: Gramsci's “Good Sense” and Polanyi's “Double Movement”’, Review of International Political Economy, 6:1 (1999), pp. 2754 at p. 45 .

56 Gramsci, , Quaderni, p. 1050 ; as quoted in Augelli, and Murphy, , America's Quest, p. 125 .

57 van der Pijl, , Transnational Relations, p. 11 .

58 Bleiker, Roland, ‘Seattle and the Struggle for a Global Democratic Ethos’, in Eschle, and Maiguashca, (eds), Critical Theories, IR and ‘the Anti-Globalisation Movement’, pp. 195211 at p. 202 .

59 Nineham, Chris, ‘Anti-Capitalism, Social Forums and the Return of Politics’, International Socialism, 109 (2006), pp. 91108 at p. 91 .

60 Robert Cox seems to be of this view. He writes that ‘Collective images are not aggregations of fragmented opinions of individuals such as are compiled through surveys; they are coherent mental types expressive of the world views of specific groups such as may be reconstructed through the work of historians and sociologists […]’. Cox, ‘Social Forces’, p. 153, fn. 2.

61 Adorno, Theodor and Frenkel-Brunswik, Else and Levinson, Daniel and Sanford, Nevitt, The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper and Row, 1950) .

62 Held, David, Introduction to Critical Theory (London: Hutchinson, 1980), p. 165 .

63 Nel, Philip, ‘The Foreign Policy Beliefs of South Africans: A First Cut’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 17:1 (1999), pp. 123146 at p. 123 .

64 This is how I would reconcile this approach with Cox's point in note 60 (above).

65 Pew Global Attitudes Project, World Publics Welcome Global Trade – But Not Immigration (Washington: Pew Research Centre, 2007), p. 9 . Available at: {http://pewglobal.org/display.php?ReportID=258}, accessed on 26 May 2008.

66 Pew Global Attitudes Project, Conflicting Views in a Divided World: 2006 (Washington: Pew Research Centre, 2006), p. iii . Available at: {http://pewglobal.org}, accessed on 26 May 2008.

67 Pew Global Attitudes Project, Views of a Changing World: 2003 (Washington: Pew Research Centre, 2003) . Available at: {http://pewglobal.org}, accessed on 26 May 2008.

68 Pew, World Publics Welcome Global Trade – But Not Immigration.

69 Pew, , Conflicting Views in a Divided World: 2006, p. 95 ; Pew, , World Publics Welcome Global Trade – But Not Immigration, p. 80 .

70 Pew, , Views of a Changing World: 2003, pp. 119120 .

71 Pew, , World Publics Welcome Global Trade – But Not Immigration, pp. 7987 .

72 Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, n. 80.

73 Epstein, Barbara, ‘Notes on the Antiwar Movement’, Monthly Review, 55:3 (2003), pp. 109116 at p. 109 ; Karin Simonson, ‘The Anti-war Movement: Waging Peace on the Brink of War’ (Geneva: Centre for Applied Studies in International Negotiations: 2003). Available at:{http://www.casin.ch/web/pdf/The%20Anti-War%20Movement.pdf}, accessed on 26 May 2008.

74 Pew, , Views of a Changing World: 2003, p. 1 .

75 Ibid., p. 2.

76 Ibid., p. 3.

77 BBC World Service Poll, World View of US Role Goes from Bad to Worse. Available at: {www.bbc.com}, accessed on 26 May 2008.

78 Jackson, Richard, ‘Language, Policy and the Construction of a Torture Culture in the War on Terror’, Review of International Studies, 33 (2007), pp. 353371 .

79 As reported by Bieler and Morton, ‘Another Europe Is Possible?’, p. 320.

80 Pew, , Views of a Changing World: 2003, p. 1 .

81 Ibid., p. 11.

82 Ibid., p. 98.

83 Ibid., p. 98–9.

84 Cox's term nébuleuse was re-applied to NGOs by Drainville, in Contesting Globalization, p. 118 .

85 Pew, , Views of a Changing World: 2003, p. 100 .

86 Ibid.

87 Ibid.

88 Ibid. The Bolivian poll was undertaken at the same time as a private consortium spearheaded by the US corporation Bechtel tendered to acquire the rights to the municipal water supply (and potentially threatening the right of water collection by private citizens) in Cochabamba, which the Pew researchers rightly point out in their report.

89 Ibid., p. 99.

90 Pew, , World Publics Welcome Global Trade – But Not Immigration, p. 14 .

91 Ibid., p. 15.

92 Ibid., p. 2.

93 Ibid., p. 1.

94 Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, pp. 324, 423 .

95 Ibid., p. 333; Femia, Joseph, ‘Gramsci's Patrimony’, British Journal of Political Science, 13:3 (1983), pp. 327364 at p. 359 ; Mann, Michael, Consciousness and Action Among the Western Working Class (London: Macmillan, 1973), p. 68 ; Held, David, Introduction to Critical Theory (London: Hutchinson, 1980), p. 367 ; van der Pijl, Kees, Transnational Classes and International Relations (London: Routledge, 1998), pp. 4648 ; Rupert, Mark, Ideologies of Globalization (London and New York: Routledge, 2000) ; Morton, Adam David, ‘The Antiglobalization Movement: Juggernaut or Jalopy?’, in Veltmeyer, Henry (ed.), Globalization and Antiglobalization: Dynamics of change in the New World Order (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), pp. 155168 at p. 163 ; Mittelman and Chin, ‘Conceptualizing Resistance’, p. 19.

96 Pew, , World Publics Welcome Global Trade – But Not Immigration, p. 1 .

97 Ibid.

98 Hayden, Patrick and el-Ojeili, Chamsy, Critical Theories of Globalization (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2006), pp. 125126 .

99 Anderson, Perry, ‘Renewals’, New Left Review, 1 (2000), pp. 524 at 19 .

100 Urbinati, Nadia, ‘From the Periphery of Modernity: Antonio Gramsci's Theory of Subordination and Hegemony’, Political Theory, 26:3 (1998), pp. 370391 at p. 370 .

101 Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, p. 157 .

102 Pew, , Views of a Changing World: 2003, p. 8 .

103 Ibid.

104 Pew Global Attitudes Project, Among Wealthy Nations … America Stands Alone in its Embrace of Religion (Washington: Pew Research Centre, 2002), p. 1 . Available at: {http://pewglobal.org}, accessed on 26 May 2008.

105 Pew, , World Publics Welcome Global Trade – But Not Immigration, p. 44 .

106 Cox, ‘Beyond Empire and Terror’, p. 316.

107 Gramsci touched on some of the themes here, though with differing conclusions, in ‘American and European Civilisation’. Cf. Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, pp. 316318 .

108 Pew, , Views of a Changing World: 2003, p. 79 .

109 Ibid., p. 85.

110 Pew Global Attitudes Project, Global Opinion Trends 2002–2007: A Rising Tide Lifts Mood in the Developing World (Washington: Pew Research Centre, 2007), p. 4 . Available at: {http://pewglobal.org}, accessed on 26 May 2008.

111 Pew, , Views of a Changing World: 2003, p. 13 .

112 Ibid., p. 14.

113 Ibid., p. 10.

114 Ibid.

115 Ibid., p. 79.

116 Pew, , World Publics Welcome Global Trade – But Not Immigration, p. 5 .

117 Rupert, ‘Globalising Common Sense’, p. 186.

118 Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, p. 333 .

119 Bieler and Morton, ‘Another Europe Is Possible’, p. 319.

120 Overbeek, Henk, ‘Globalization and Britain's Decline’, in English, Richard and Kenny, Michael (eds), Rethinking British Decline (London: Palgrave, 1999), p. 249 .

121 Gramsci, , Prison Notebooks, p. 235 .

122 Ibid., p. 421.

* The article presented here has benefited from the helpful feedback of the three anonymous reviewers, and I would also like to thank Philip Nel for ongoing encouragement and intellectual engagement. The financial help of a University of Otago Postgraduate Publishing Bursary is gratefully acknowledged.

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