Categorisation can kill, or, failing that, render all debate impossible; it arouses confusion at the heart of the most enlightened talks; instead of furthering the evolution of ideas, it causes it to lose ground. “Anti-globalisation”, which has carved a prominent place for itself within the world of politics and the media over the last five years, is one of these deceptive, deleterious and even deadly categories.
From Seattle to Florence, passing through Davos and Porto Alegre, Quebec and Genoa, this category claims to justify the most varied, most opposing and most problematic positions, theorisations and demonstrations. Sprung from the Pandora’s box of illusionists conjuring factual concept, it freezes positions which are not necessarily fixed. It constructs dissensus a priori where a bit of attention would rather have discerned contradictory debate, deliberation, the construction of a balance of power, in short politics. It ignores the complexity of the questions at hand and the numerous people who are seriously interested in them and refuse to reduce this complexity to nothing. Where an extra-moral judgement would prove itself infinitely precious, it offers itself to fashionable thinking as the weak driving force of poor ethics which laugh at knowledge and prefer to divide.
This category is deceptive in all its aspects as it makes “globalisation” into something well known, indisputable, and it makes its supposed aversion into something homogeneous, clear and distinct. However, not only is “globalisation” one of the most debatable concepts, but the protesters which are grouped together under the generic label of “anti-globalisation” generally have much more precise matters to denounce and rarely express their opposition to it without nuances. Their campaigns are aimed at global or regional movements to privatise the public sectors, questioning “the social benefits that have been won”, liberalisation, the openness of markets, “structural adjustment”, Stock Exchange and monetary speculations, threats to the environment, cultural imperialism… And less and less towards “globalisation” in the singular, which everyone recognises as neither an obvious entity nor a monolith, and which offers on the contrary contrasting images. Some of these images (economic and financial globalisation) are rejected by many, others (the globalisation of information, solidarity and strength) so widely approved. It is because of this that the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre and the European Social Forum (its first meeting situated in Florence) refuse to be caricatured as a platform for the “anti” movement and claim rather to be places of development for other forms of globalisation, for types of economic, cultural, social and political relations other than those imposed by “globalisation” currently in progress.
The category “anti-globalisation” is deleterious as its usage considers the ongoing dialogue between what it identifies as two irreconcilable positions improbable and compromised in advance. As if there were only two positions… In a way it creates the questions and the answers at the same time: “questions” which are not really questions and “answers” which are not answers either. It takes in what occurs in public demonstrations, the “anti-summits”, the besieged citadels of the G8 stars, the European Union or the FTAA. Mainly: security problems, police measures, ballistic discussions… but it is hardly interested in the real contents of these controversial projects, less still in the indispensable critical work carried out on them, and led with perseverance in the long-term by the most varied and least “ideological” of activists. And that is without mentioning its ignorance of the compromises being sought, the evolution of the positions or dogmas of one side or the other: the widely shared will to advance the concrete approach to the conflicting issues, the well-established reasons for this disagreement, and to go beyond the pure black and white distinction. No, the word “anti-globalisation” does not care about these things, it laughs at these fragile, infinitesimal or spectacular movements.
Finally, anti-globalisation is deadly because the imaginary violence engendered in this category produces real consequences which exceed the expectations and procedures of normative control, as was illustrated in Genoa in July 2001. Identified as “anti-globalisation” a young demonstrator becomes society’s enemy, a delinquent, a terrorist. He embodies an absolute negativity (the refusal of the “free world”, “progress”, “democracy”…) which must be answered by any means possible and with an unwavering severity. He resembles the questioning of an order that is most certainly imperfect but stable, solid, efficient and that ordinary citizens would be incapable of alienating in favour of the leap into the unknown that he seems to propose. That is why he is fought in such a martial way, with the methods of Argentina and Chile in the seventies, on the streets of Quebec or Genoa, as well as in the Kananaskis mountains. So that is what this irresponsible expression can generate, it gives a meaning as “clear” as it is dangerous to something which is not.
That said, if it is necessary to do away with “anti-globalisation”, it is not in order to substitute another word in its place which would conquer the market by following in its footsteps. There are actually better and more demanding things to be done. One such demand would start with the recognition that what is behind the idea of “globalisation” is something other than a meeting of cynics and naïve people whose sorry stories we are always hearing. It would continue by identifying that the profound conflict present at the heart of current globalisations, besides the fact that is as normal as it is desirable, is intrinsically multilateral and is not ready to be reduced to another binary set-up (with the roles of the good and the bad changing alternately). It would be followed by the conviction, acquired through experience, that the privatisation of the globalised world finds itself reinforced and perpetuated by the accelerated distribution of certain “coins” which are put into circulation by the masters of the game, then relayed by those who accept, at their own risk, to play along. Coins that carry the name “Free Trade”, “governance”, “market economy”, “productivity”, “competitiveness”, “liberalisation”, “fight against poverty”, “sustainable development”, “globalisation”, and “anti-globalisation” among others.
Today, however, it surely is not a pseudo-concept like anti-globalisation that we need in order to visualise the future of the unstable and worrying world – because this can only distance us from that which we must approach. Instead it should be true concepts like alternative, monetary code, communitarianism, cosmopolitanism, dignity, domination, emancipation, fragmentation, intercultural, memory, migrations, knowledge-sharing, control, solidarity and totalitarianism that we seize and re-appropriate in order to understand the problematic meaning of on-going globalisations.
Is this too much to ask of the impatient narrators of new “divides”, of those who listen avidly to their “factual information” and read their “Q&A” fondly? In fact, whether we want it or not, we cannot prosper for long under the regime of a formal classification which erases all difficulties without solving any of them. It is therefore time, not only to renounce a category which deceives, injures and sometimes kills, but in addition and in reply: to spread the usage of inconvenient tools, of concepts resistant to current simplism, of new questioning which allows us to tackle the difficult issues of globalisations currently escaping us with as much persistence as irony. If the anti-globalisation movement were not to exist, the critics and their work would be more necessary than ever faced with the world’s turbulences.