Globalism, Neoliberalism, and Democracy

By Casanova, Pablo Gonzalez | Social Justice, Spring-Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Globalism, Neoliberalism, and Democracy


Casanova, Pablo Gonzalez, Social Justice


The Discourse on Globalism

We find ourselves in an ideological climate in which postulates such as "national sovereignty" have been watered down in favor of "globalism" and the rights of "peoples" have been obscured in favor of the rights of "individuals." The change can also be seen with the discrediting of "social justice," as opposed to an older concept of "justice," without adjectives, as John Rawls would have it. "Wars of liberation" and "class wars" appear as phenomena of the past, as obsolete concepts. "Insertion" or "integration" are proposed instead of "liberation," and humanitarian or entrepreneurial "solidarity" instead of social struggle. At the same time, Daniel Bell's assertion that we have come to the end of ideologies has been confirmed as correct. It is even thought that "the battle to save the planet will replace ideological war as the subject capable of organizing the new world order" (Brown, 1991: 3).

Not all of this is erroneous. The change of categories is not purely ideological; it is also part of reality. Whoever still thinks in terms of mere national wars for the sovereignty of nation-states without noticing the new global straggle, of national wars against imperialism without taking ethnic wars into consideration, or of struggles for a rationalist culture excluding the very important role of religions in liberation; moreover, whoever still maintains that the struggle for social rights makes the struggle for individual rights unnecessary or that class war against exploitation is sufficient and excludes the struggles for democracy and freedom would be absolutely incapable of understanding that the changes voiced in the 1980s not only presupposed the victory of new hegemonies, but also of new categories.

The discourse of globalism is often obedient to objective and universal facts. It expresses a growing interdependence among national economies as well as the emergence and dominance of a transnational banking-communications system, the ascent of which coincides with a real weakening of nation-state sovereignty and nationalist, anti-imperialist, Marxist-Leninist currents. The latter, in fact, are in a state of confusion or revision in the few countries or organizations that declare themselves to be following them. A reporter for the New York Times discovered that the communists remaining in the First and Third Worlds no longer share a common complex of ideas, doubt their sclerotic language, and have lost party discipline and even their party. In the revisions of what they believed yesterday, they show serious confusion in what they believe today (Kaufman, 1989a: 1; 1989b: 1). It is a truism that when a man accustomed to thinking in dogmas finds himself bereft of those dogmas, he realizes that he is not in the habit of thinking at all. Facing them, the dominant way of thinking, the victorious dogma, is "de-ideologized" globalism, individual rights without social rights, the laissez faire of conservative neoliberalism.

During all these years, the discourse of globalism and its logic for problem solving has proliferated in the world's departments of foreign affairs, in United Nations assemblies, among chiefs of state and employees of the "media," and in the world's best universities. The rights of the individual, the war against totalitarianism, drug trafficking or terrorism, or the right of one Third World state to intervene militarily across the borders of another, as Iraq against Kuwait, have justified military intervention by the great powers, making universal law and its responsible application their own.

In the 1980s, according to many experts, the discourse of sovereignty sounded like pure rhetoric, whether coming from Thatcher or the last populist presidents. "Non-intervention" of the great powers against small nations and the "self-determination of peoples," recognized in the U.N. Charter, along with the basic reasoning of Third World foreign affairs departments and the Soviet bloc suffered serious discredit, among other reasons because many governments invoked them to restrain straggles for the rights of the individual and their citizens.

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