The Impact of Globalization on Citizenship: Decline or Renaissance?

Article excerpt

This article contests two commonly held views about politics and citizenship: (1) that politics and citizenship are only possible within the boundaries of the state; (2) that economic globalization erodes the significance of the state, thereby diminishing the scope of politics and citizen activity. The very processes and means of communicating that are making economic globalization possible are making globalization contestable. Politics and citizenship, like the market, have burst the borders of the nation-state. Information and communication technologies (ICrs), primarily the Internet, have facilitated new forms of political expression and connection among groups and the growth of new public spaces. Canadians are among the most active users of ICrs in the creation of new public spaces and possibilities of citizen engagement that challenge the top-down, statedriven processes of international governance and multilateralism.

Cet article conteste deux vues communement admises au sujet des politiques gouvernementales et de la citoyennete : 1) que les politiques gouvernementales et la citoyennete ne sont possibles qu'a l'interieur des frontieres d'un etat; 2) que la mondialisation de l'economie erode l'importance de l'etat et, par le fait meme, diminue 1'etendue des politiques gouvernementales et des activates des citoyens. Ces me mes processus et moyens de communiquer qui permettent la mondialisation de l'economie rendent contestable cette mondialisation. Tout comme le marche, les politiques gouvernementales et la citoyennete ont fait Mater les frontieres de l'etat-nation. Les technologies de l'information et des communications (TIC), et surtout l'Internet, ont favorise une nouvelle forme d'expression et de rapports politiques entre les groupes, ainsi que la croissance de nouveaux espaces publics. Les Canadiens et Canadiennes sont parmi les plus grands utilisateurs des TIC en ce qui concerne la creation de nouveaux espaces publics et les possibilites d'engagement des citoyens, qui defient les processus descendants, vehicules par l'etat, lies A une gouvernance et A un multilateralisme internationaux.

lobalization is the catchword of our time. While some praise it, claiming it has brought a new era of wealth, freedom and democracy, others decry it, claiming that globalization brings the opposite - poverty, environmental devastation and corporate domination. The only point of concurrence seems to be its inexorability. Both sides agree that globalization, economically and technologically, is an irresistible and unstoppable force imposing its will on anyone or anything that might stand in its way, including the nation-state (Ohmae, Strange). In sum, as states, of necessity, open themselves up to the global economy, they suffer a loss of political and economic authority. "Diminished," "narrowed," "hollowed out" are some of the adjectives used to describe the state's reduced capacity and scope of policy action. In this portrayal of globalization as a deus ex machina, structure triumphs over agency, citizenship, a phenomenon of the nationstate, loses its relevance and globalization becomes our fate. Or so it seemed until lately.

Recently, however, there has been an increasing awareness that globalization can be contested. The controversies over the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are an indication of increasing concern about, if not hostility towards, globalization. As objects of discussion the primary instruments and agencies of globalization have moved from corporate boardrooms to the kitchen tables of everyday citizens, and governments have had to take notice. What seemed so certain now seems less so as globalization becomes a political, not just an economic, phenomenon. While politics still matter, however, the status of the state as the sole container of politics, public spaces, citizenship and identity is put in doubt. Politics and citizenship, like the market, have burst the borders of the nation-state. The very processes and means of communicating that made globalization possible, I argue, are making globalization contestable. Information and communication technologies (ICTs), primarily the Internet, have facilitated new forms of expression and connection among groups and the growth of new public spaces, which are not easily controlled by states and ruling elites. Citizenship is becoming a vita activa that can be practised at all levels, locally, nationally and globally.

In particular, ICTs are facilitating the growth of what may be described as alternative or counter-publics that are challenging important aspects of globalization, in particular the top-down, state-driven processes of international governance and multilateralism as embodied in the MAI and WTO. Increasingly, as questions of global governance intersect with the state they create new spaces in which citizens may act, contest and inject alternative values into what is becoming a worldwide debate over globalization. Canadians, I intend to demonstrate, are among the most active users of ICTs in the creation of new public spaces and possibilities for citizen engagement, both within the nation-state and beyond it, in an emerging global civil society. Indeed, the confidence with which Canadians engage in global political activity serves to remind us that Canadian citizenship, itself, is a contested notion. The recent neo-liberal attempt to reduce citizens to mere consumers is but an interlude in, not the culmination of, the Canadian debate over citizenship.

In the first part of the paper I briefly articulate the traditional state-centred view of politics and citizenship in Canada. As social constructs, both the state and citizenship have always been contested, and globalization has intensified this process. I then explore other dimensions of globalization, in particular the capacity of the Internet to facilitate the growth of networks of citizens, non-governmental organizations and social movements opposed to globalization. Here, particular attention is paid to the contributions of Hannah Arendt and Nancy Fraser to public sphere theory.

These insights are then applied to the activity of a number of Canadian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in contesting the MAI and the Third Ministerial meeting of the WTO in Seattle in 1999. Finally, I argue that the neoliberal discourse of economic globalization is being resisted and, contrary to popular perception, that the Canadian state still retains the capacity to act. The result is that the meaning of citizenship may be broadening and deepening in the era of globalization, rather than contracting and narrowing as is commonly claimed. Increasingly, citizenship as a political activity has meaning both within and outside the container of the state.

The State-Centred View of Politics and Citizenship

Economic globalization certainly has brought into question the Westphalian model of the modern state and politics. According to this model the political universe is composed of sovereign states - specific territorial/political units with their own populations and exclusive authority within their boundaries (Krasner). This model privileges a certain view of politics. State sovereignty structures a spatially delimited territory and political community, but in the absence of any overarching community the relations between states are characterized by anarchy and chaos. Today, state forms delineate virtually all territorial spaces. According to Walker It is this proliferation, affirmed by accounts of the modern state as an institution, container of all cultural meaning and site of sovereign jurisdiction over territory, property and abstract space, and consequently over history, possibility and abstract time, that still shapes our capacity to affirm both collective and particular identities. (445)

Such, then, is the power of this image of the state that it grounds our political identity as citizens. According to this view politics and citizenship are possible only within the boundaries of the state. To be a citizen means to be a member of a polls, that is, a member of a political community functioning within the territory of a state. Historically, the civic republican and the more legal, juridical views of citizenship implied rights that could only be recognized in a community and backed by the state or some form of political authority. Civic republicanism draws on the Aristotelian notion of citizenship as participation in self-rule, the freedom to participate in public decisions. Today, political theorists continue to insist that civic virtue can only be practised effectively within the nation-state (Miller; Kymlicka). The liberal or civil view of citizenship conceives of citizens as individuals who are equally entitled to the due process and the equal benefit and protection of the law, in essence, a private, personal and economic view of citizenship. In the twentieth century, a third strand of citizenship, social citizenship, emerged. Social citizenship refers to the rights of a minimum standard of welfare and income without which other forms of citizenship have little meaning (Marshall). All three elements of citizenship were claimed to be intertwined and given definition by state authority.

The hold that the modern territorial state has on our imagination is enormous and seems to be a constant in human affairs. We assume that politics and citizenship has always been and can only be state-centred. Recently, however, there has been a growing literature arguing that state sovereignty and the concepts of politics and citizenship constituted by it are not timeless but socially constructed, heavily normative and constantly undergoing change and transformation (Biersteker and Weber). What seems "natural," "historical" and "timeless" is, in effect, uncertain and historically contingent.

Canadian Citizenship Contested

It is with this realization of uncertainty and contingency that Canadian scholars have examined the social construction of Canadian citizenship. What is apparent is that the Canadian state and sovereignty have never had a defined and certain status, and therefore the construction of Canadian identity and citizenship is an unfinished and contested project. Only when Canadian citizenship and identity are placed within a historical context can we see that economic globalization is but one, and certainly not the last, formative influence on Canadian citizenship.

There is no doubt, however, that since the Second World War the Canadian federal state has played an instrumental role in attempting to construct a panCanadian state-centric citizenship. It has done so in a variety of ways, including the creation of Canada-wide communication and cultural institutions - the CBC, Radio-Canada, the National Film Board and the Canada Council - all designed to break down sectional differences (Jenson). Social citizenship was promoted by the creation of social programmes in the 1950s and 1960s, such as unemployment insurance and public health care. Canadians began to identify themselves as Canadians because they possessed "positive" social welfare rights.

Yet, this pan-Canadian construction of citizenship was contested, particularly in Quebec where French Canadians did not feel comfortable in the new Canadian nation. According to Louis Balthazar, the Quiet Revolution can be seen as a reaction to the conception of the welfare state and its corresponding nationalism emanating from Ottawa in the post-war years. Thus, claims Balthazar, "A Canadian 'national' enterprise turned out to be instrumental in fostering Quebec nationalism. Quebec nationalism is the illegitimate child of Canadian nationalism. The Canadian nation-state gave rise to the Quebec nation-state"(75). In essence, Quebec, by engaging in its rival modernist project of state-building and identity creation, was merely the first to have contested the notion of a universal panCanadian society composed of undifferentiated Canadian citizens. Speaking of Canada's Aboriginal peoples, Joyce Green writes: "Failure to acknowledge profound identity and rights collectively within the state leads to confrontation with the state when it seeks to impose a universal undifferentiated citizenship"(229).

Both the Ottawa and Quebec modernist projects were intended to create activist, secular states constructed around a left-right distributional politics. Canada's Aboriginal peoples have been less enamoured of modernity and the state. They have been joined by a host of new social movements (NSMs) - student, peace, environmental, women's, gay and lesbian, and disabled movements - that have arisen to contest the state-centred construction of Canadian citizenship. Variously described as post-materialist or post-modem movements for their pursuit of particular "lifestyle paradigms," these movements tend to view state and market institutions with suspicion. They also tend to have a broader and more participatory concept of politics focussing their activities within the institutions of civil society. NSMs possess more loosely structured and non-hierarchical organizations, eschew mainstream political organizations such as parties and pursue non-conventional actions that "take place outside of the institutions of representative democracy and 'normal' politics" (Phillips 383).

The view of civil society as represented by NSMs, it must be noted, is but one view. As Louis Hunt notes, civil society is "as contested as the social and political institutions it purports to describe" (11). One common view of civil society is exemplified by Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville viewed civil society as composed of a wide variety of voluntary associations, which, he thought, were free schools of democracy that inculcated the habit of attending to public concerns. Today, as Robert Cox notes, civil society has been given a Tocquevillean interpretation as a "mobilized participant citizenry juxtaposed to dominant economic and state power" (6). NSMs, in fact, are representative of the Tocquevillean interpretation of civil society. This interpretation must be distinguished from another common view of civil society as liberal, as an apolitical or pre-political space organized around the market economy. Today, this interpretation is embodied in neo-liberal globalization.

The growth of NSMs is emblematic of a more critical public that arose in advanced industrial societies in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. This public was characterized by "declining confidence in both governmental and non-governmental institutions and the emergence of non-traditional forms of political participation" (Nevitte 51). While Canadian NSMs were similar to their counterparts elsewhere in being anti-institutional and suspicious of capital and state institutions, however, they developed a much closer relationship to the Canadian state than has generally been the case in other countries, receiving federal government funding so they could better perform their role as democratic citizens (Phillips 383).

This approach to state funding of NSMs was not accepted by all Canadians, however With a slowdown of economic growth in the 1980s and the rise of populism and neo-liberalism, the argument from the ideological right was that Canadians should relate to the state as self-sufficient individuals and not through advocacy groups. State-funded groups became identified as "special interests" and were depicted as exercising excessive influence on social policy and government expenditures, in contrast to business and corporate interests. Beginning first with the federal Conservative government in the 1980s and then with the Liberals from 1993, the relationship between advocacy groups and the government was transformed. Substantial cuts to advocacy groups were made and instead of the government acting as the champion of marginalized groups and encouraging their participation in the formation of public policy, groups are now expected to act as service providers and conduits of information from the government to Canadians.

This change is representative of the change in the expected relationship of Canadians to governments. No longer were Canadians expected to relate to government as democratic citizens; rather, they were perceived as customers. As democratic citizens we have the right to participate, to shape the decisions that affect us. As customers we are judged to be self-interested, atomistic consumers of government services, the quality of which we judge by the information government provides.

The attempt to transform Canadians from democratic citizens to customers, with its movement from the public to the private and from the state to the market, is part and parcel of neo-liberalism and globalization. In the neo-liberal model, the market replaces the state and the individual, the community. Rather than accept citizenship as a political and social status, neo-liberals reassert the role of the market, rejecting the idea that citizenship confers a status independent of economic standing (Kymlicka and Norman). Increasingly, the protection of the rights of property owners was given emphasis over the participatory rights of citizens, nationally as well as globally.

This is usually where most analyses end - with neo-liberalism and globalization ascendant and the state and citizenship in crisis; however, there is growing evidence that economic globalization and the neo-liberal agenda, with its limited and unbalanced view of citizenship, are being contested. Moreover, the very means that have made globalization possible, ICTs, are helping to make globalization contestable. In effect, our capacity to act as participatory citizens is spilling beyond the borders of the Canadian state. While public spaces inside the Canadian state and public sphere appear to have shrunk, they are opening up elsewhere. They are doing so in a way that challenges the conventional understanding that politics and citizenship are confined to states and that the relations between states are characterized by anarchy and chaos. Now, however, through the means of the Internet "unmediated dialogue and information exchange between citizens from around the world occurs 24 hours a day" (Rothkopf 3). Moreover, Canadians have become highly adept at using these new technologies to challenge the "consensus" of neoliberalism and globalization. ICTs allow the creation of alternative spheres in which citizens may be active, receive information, and organize against and challenge what, until recently, had been a one-sided debate about globalization. In essence, ICTs lend themselves to agonistic politics, the challenging of vertical power structures and the creation of alternative identities.

One theoretical grounding for this form of combative politics can be found in the work of Hannah Arendt. Arendt's theory of politics involved both association and contestation. Politics, for Arendt, is not only the action of people in concert but also a site of struggle in which we act both with and against our peers (Honig 189). Moreover, Arendt argued that politics and public spaces are plural and not tied to any particular place or set of institutions - they can occur in a variety of social spaces. The political realm, then, comes into being when people act together in concert to gain power through the sharing of words and deeds. Arendt contended that "The polls, properly speaking, is not the city-state in its physical location, it is the organization of the people as it arises out of acting and speaking together for this purpose, no matter where they happen to be." Consequently, claimed Arendt, "wherever you go, you will be a polls." These words, wrote Arendt, "expressed the conviction that action and speech create a space between the participants which can find its proper location almost anytime and anywhere" (Arendt 198).

Arendt's conception of politics and public spaces has an open and contingent quality not found in state-centric conceptions of the political and lends itself to transnational political activity. The political and the public may occur in specific locations and institutions, but they do not have to. Political and public spaces may be anywhere but not necessarily everywhere. Indeed, in Arendt's analysis, the terms "public" and "private" are always embedded in a complex web of power relations and are always the subject of discursive negotiation and contestation (Sandilands 80).

Globalization, New Technologies and New Public Spaces

Until recently the idea that new technologies might provide a critical means by which globalization could be contested received scant attention. Because of their close connection with economic globalization the new technologies tended to be viewed deterministically, often negatively, as a monolithic or homogenizing system in support of the dominance of global market capitalism. More recently, however, the new technologies have been seen to serve as instruments either of corporate and state domination or of democratization and empowerment (Kellner 9). In other words, ICTs, particularly the Internet, represent contested forms of social and political space. The Internet not only facilitates e-commerce; it facilitates other individual and group forms of social exchanges, including political and cultural activities (Youngs 7). According to Rob Shields, the

Internet is a network, linking interactants across space and time, not a "thing" or set of computers communicating autonomously without human actors. It is essential to foreground the human in the Net. This resets the Internet as a phenomenon of social and political interest, not just a bright and technical toy for engineers. (8)

The very features of the Internet, especially its decentralized, anarchic form, facilitate the expression of alternative and contesting voices capable of transcending the borders of states. In short, the Internet is a contradictory feature of globalization capable, at one and the same time, of promoting homogenizing forces of sameness and uniformity and of heterogeneity, difference and hybridity. In other words, it can be both anti-democratizing and democratizing (Kellner 6). Suddenly, then, economic globalization no longer seems to be monolithic or inevitable. As globalization spreads so does a possible means of resistance. They are two sides of the same coin.

The Internet has several features that promote democratization and alternative spaces of citizen expression and activism. First, it is characterized by its interactivity. Unlike the telephone, however, which is interactive but usually only on a oneto-one basis, the Internet facilitates both one-on-one communication (e.g., e-mail) and also one-to-many (e.g., putting up a web site or sending a message to an e-mail list). In effect, the Internet is many-to-many, for "many" people can speak to "many others" (Shapiro). This also distinguishes it from mass media, such as television and newspapers, which usually emanate from one centre and are not interactive. The result is that the Internet permits its users to be producers of content, not just passive consumers, thus allowing the creation of competing narratives.

The Internet is also open and flexible. Anyone who has access to the Internet can enter and its digital format (representation of information in binary form) means that large amounts of information can be compressed, manipulated and copied very easily and quickly, thus fundamentally altering the economics of longdistance interaction and communication. Information, whether words, numbers, audio or video, can easily be copied and transmitted around the world, thereby overcoming barriers of time and space. The overall effect is to put considerable control of the means of communication in the hands of many more people.

The Internet thus poses a challenge to existing political, economic, class, race and gender hierarchies. Individuals and groups can express themselves directly and not through agents, representatives, gatekeepers or middlemen, a process known as "disintermediation" (Shapiro 55). Increasingly, our communication links to others become horizontal. The consequence is that Canada's existing parliamentary and bureaucratic institutions are ill-suited, it can be argued, to operate in this new environment. The Westminster model, with its domination by cabinet and the public service, depends on secrecy and control of information. How, for example, does one govern when information increasingly leaks and citizens can be equally informed as cabinet ministers and bureaucrats? How does Canada's adversarial parliamentary system accommodate and mediate the newly emerging and diverging voices made possible by the Internet? The potential impact is enormous. According to former Clerk of the Privy Council Arthur Kroeger, the big challenge for politicians and public servants is "how to reconcile contemporary demands for direct participation with traditional representative democracy" (5).

In many senses, then, the Internet is highly advantageous to citizens, activists, non-governmental organizations and new social movements that seek to challenge existing authority and prevailing discourses. In brief, the Internet facilitates the growth of new public spaces in which citizens can participate. These new public spaces, I would argue, also pose a challenge to the contribution of the leading theorist of the public sphere, Jurgen Habermas. Habermas's early work, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, provides the best-known account of how, during the era of the Enlightenment and eighteenth-century democratic revolutions, public spheres emerged in Europe where individuals could discuss and debate issues of common concern. According to Habermas's account of the ideal of the bourgeois public sphere, the public sphere represented space distinct from the state and the economy yet from which the state could be criticized. It was a space in which arguments, not status or traditions, were to be decisive (Calhoun 2), a space where citizens deliberated and debated about the common good.

Habermas's interpretation has had a powerful influence on scholarship but has been criticized for a number of reasons, foremost among them being that the "official public sphere rested on, indeed, was importantly constituted by a number of significant exclusions" - most significantly, women of various classes and ethnicities, working-class men, and virtually everyone else of non-European origins. According to Nancy Fraser, "Habermas not only idealizes the liberal public sphere but he also fails to examine other non-liberal, non-bourgeois, competing public spheres" (Fraser 112, 113). Moreover, the relations between bourgeois publics and other publics, for example, elite women publics and working-class publics, were always conflictual as these counter-publics challenged the power and influence of the dominant public sphere.

What the Internet facilitates is not so much the growth of a Habermasian global public sphere of disinterested discussion and deliberation but the proliferation of alternative public spaces, of counter-public spheres that contest the prevailing discourse of globalization and neo-liberalism. The Internet promotes oppositional discourses complete with sophisticated systems of networking and communication. They possess a much wider variety of options than possessed by earlier nineteenthand twentieth-century counter-publics - organizational web sites that offer a vast amount of information in the form of documents, reports, critiques, press releases, alternative magazines and newspapers, audio, video, list serves, chat groups and links to other relevant sites. For those who feel excluded from the dominant media and public sphere, the Internet offers rapid access to an alternative world of expression, networking and organizing. In effect, the Internet intensifies the postmodern challenge to authority structures that was well under way before the current wave of economic globalization broke.

Even so, critics of the Internet repeatedly claim that it is exclusionary, biased in favour of young, white, middle- or upper-class males. While this was no doubt true in Canada not long ago, recent Canadian surveys indicate that other categories of the population are becoming increasingly active. Today, Canada has one of the highest concentrations of Internet users in the world. According to a survey conducted by the Angus Reid Group, 56 per cent of Canadians or 12.5 million adults used the Internet in November 1999 (The Globe and Mail B10). Moreover, the maleto-female ratio of those who access the Internet at least once a month is nearly even in Canada ( 25 January 2000). The Angus Reid survey of 28,374 Internet users and consumers around the world forecast that in 2000, for the first time ever, women would lead global Internet growth. In Canada, the percentage of women intending to log on this year is 60 per cent. According to the study, "women and households with children represent the fastest growing segments of the online market in the developed countries." These new groups access the Internet not so much for e-commerce as for information/research, communications and general curiosity. ( 30 March 2000). The critical barriers to access in Canada remain the large initial cost of owning a home computer, which is continuing to decline, and monthly on-line connection costs, which in Canada are among the lowest in the world. Outside of Canada, particularly in poorer countries, the digital divide is most acute (Norris).

Finally, the fact that one does not have access to a computer or cannot go online does not mean complete exclusion from the Internet world. Increasingly, what occurs online penetrates the popular media or is diffused by other means, for example, via printouts of documents, reports or other information. Overall, then, the Internet is becoming a key means by which Canadians obtain information and communicate with one another.

Canadians Contest the MAI and the WTO

Given their high connectivity, Canadians were well positioned to take advantage of the Internet to mobilize against the MAI and the WTO. Canada had both of the ingredients crucial to the formation of critical publics - access to information and a well-educated population. Evidence indicates that many Canadians were also highly active as citizens both within and beyond their borders. While Canadian use of the Internet to resist neo-liberalism and globalization first became evident with the MAI, Canadian experience of networking using the Internet has its roots in the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

While the debate over the FTA in 1988 was front and centre in Canada, dominating the 1988 federal election, subsequent trade and investment negotiations were increasingly shrouded in secrecy and depicted as largely technical in nature even as they evolved in an increasingly intrusive manner into a broad range of domestic policies (Blair). Those activists opposed to these negotiations were steadily marginalized while the proponents of neo-liberalism became more bold. The opposition of a number of citizens to the succeeding rounds of negotiations on freer trade have tended to be mediated through social movements and NGOs. In each successive round of negotiations these social movements and NGOs have built broader international opposition coalitions. In the process they have moved the debate over globalization from the margins into full public view.

Beginning with the NAFTA, Canadian activists have made extensive use of new communications technology. While the transnational networking failed to stop NAFTA, participants learned from their experiences. As Nick Witheford notes: "The movement created a powerful pedagogical crucible for cross-sectoral and cross-border organizing. And it opened pathways for future connections, including electronic ones" (10).

Since NAFTA there has been increasing recognition of the role played by the Internet in mobilizing opposition to international trade and investment agreements. For example, when the MAI failed in the fall of 1998, the Dutch secretary to the chair and vice-chair of the MAI negotiating group pointed out that the negotiators were ill-prepared for a challenge from political activists, and concluded that the Internet was the "worst enemy of the MAI" (Quoted in Blair 11).

Initially, the MAI negotiations had begun in the fall of 1995 with little attention or public fanfare. It was only when a draft of the February 1997 text was leaked and ended up on the web sites of two public advocacy groups - the Washingtonbased group, Public Citizen, and Tony Clarke's Canadian-based Polaris Institute that opposition to the MAI began to spread rapidly, greatly facilitated by the Internet. A survey shortly after the conclusion of the MAI negotiations on the presence on the Net of MAI-related web sites and a number of interviews of web activists on the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet indicate how the web was used to mobilize and organize against the MAI. It is particularly noteworthy how robust Canadian participation was in this campaign (Smith and Smythe).

The 400 MAI web sites reflected a wide array of non-governmental organizations, political parties, governments, international organizations, individuals and student groups. Of the 400 sites, 71 (17.6 per cent) were Canadian, a number superseded only by the United States, with 10 times Canada's population, which was the source country for 129 sites (31.9 per cent).

Moreover, the Canadian web sites were highly influential in spreading information against the MAI around the world. Through the use of hypertext links, information may be reproduced and shared in a very cost-effective manner. This sharing of information helped redress the monopoly of complex, technical information that large corporations, governments and the media typically have. With information comes potential empowerment. Virtually all sites had links to other sites. As Table 1 indicates, 10 organizations accounted for over half of all the hypertext links on the 400 MAI sites.

Of these 10 sites, six were Canadian. The most frequently linked Canadian site, MAI-Not Flora was a bootstrap operation by two Carleton University students working through Ontario Public Interest Group Carleton and the OPIRG Ottawa. We found MAI-Not Flora links around the world. In turn, those Canadians who logged onto the MAI-Not web site received encouragement from other international activists via e-mail in support of their anti-MAI campaign. From New Zealand came this response:

New Zealanders are talking about the tremendous fight Canadians are putting up against the MAI every day.... Each day I switch on my email and there you are, carrying the flag of freedom and democracy, and we're encouraged all over again to keep going. Here's smiling at you Canada. (Nelson 24)

Canadian web sites penetrated not only the Canadian debate but also international debate over the MAI. In the case of Austria, for example, even negotiators admit that media coverage and active, growing opposition to the MAI in the spring of 1998 were a result of the 1998 Internet campaign, including, prominently, information gathered from Tony Clarke's web site (Smith and Smythe).

Follow-up interviews revealed that the Internet was used in a variety of ways - to co-ordinate the global campaign, to provide draft faxes and open letters that could be used to lobby decision-makers or sent to members of Parliament, and to offer press releases that local groups could use in an effort to gain more media coverage and announce local meetings on the MAI. In sum, the Internet must be seen as a means to organize and to penetrate and facilitate broader public debate. Importantly, virtually all groups interviewed, including Canadian ones, continued to use traditional lobbying methods with their national legislators and officials, including phone calls and face-to-face meetings, which they regarded as more personal and more effective.

What this indicates is that the anti-MAI campaign was highly complex. It was not a choice between the global or the local, the inside or the outside, but a campaign that occurred at all levels, global, national and local. The targets included state actors, parliamentarians and members of the executive and the broader Canadian public. While it would be too much to claim that the Internet was primarily responsible for the defeat of the MAI - there were very significant differences among member states of the OECD - the Internet contributed to two remarkable accomplishments. First, those counter-publics marginalized by the dominant public sphere, including the mass media, emerged from the shadows to frame the anti-MAI debate in Canada and elsewhere. Second, a potentially far-reaching international treaty emerged from the realm of technical, bureaucratic discussions into the full glare of publicity. From this it was dear that the environment of global trade and investment negotiations had radically altered. Globalization was now contestable and citizens did not have to be passive bystanders.

In a sense the furor over the MAI was just an episode in the increasingly contentious politics over globalization. Within a Canadian context the federal government, Parliament and Canadian non-governmental organizations and social movements drew on their MAI experiences to try to position themselves as the authentic and legitimate spokespersons for Canadians in anticipation of the Millennium Round of trade negotiations to be launched at the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in December 1999. The critical difference this time was that all participants, including government and international organizations, began to use a mixture of hearings, reports and the Internet to tell their stories directly to, and consult with, Canadians.

First, in September 1998 the Minister for International Trade, Sergio Marchi, in an unusual move, invited the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade to undertake public consultations on issues relating to the WTO, a process that took place in March and April 1999. In September 1998 the Council of Canadians, representing the 40 Canadian NGOs that had organized to defeat the MAI, began a cross-country tour to hear the concerns of Canadians about globalization. In February 1999, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) established its own web site, with the stated intent of hearing directly from Canadians on trade issues and the unstated intent of providing information that would present its own point of view. Later, on 20 May 1999, DFAIT held consultations with business representatives and NGOs on Canada's trade policy agenda. This was followed by a country-wide series of Round Table Sessions on Investment Policy that took place from 21 June to 29 July 1999.

The most extensive consultations were those of the Standing Committee, which held 30 public sessions across Canada and heard from over 400 witnesses, many of whom submitted substantial written briefs. Those testifying reflected a wide diversity of business organizations (88), NGOs (85), academics (61), government officials (26) and other concerned citizens (64). The committee's ensuing report and accompanying testimony ( reveal the later schism over trade policy so evident in Seattle. Given its control by the governing Liberal party, the committee did not challenge the government's trade liberalization agenda. The Committee's summary of the common themes of the testimony, however, echoes the views of most NGOs concerning trade negotiations - the need for greater public participation and the need to recognize other values in support of social justice, environmental sustainability, human rights, the public interest, fairness, openness, transparency and accountability.

Both during the hearings and after, NGOs repeatedly voiced scepticism that parliamentary and other representative institutions, such as an international association of parliamentarians, might provide the vehicle for oversight of trade negotiations. The NGOs, as was to be expected, preferred direct input from civil society organizations (White, Swenarchuk). Such was the scepticism that Parliament was capable of representing the concerns of civil society that on the very day the committee released its report, the Council of Canadians released its own inquiry report, "Confronting Globalization and Reclaiming Democracy" ( The report stressed five principles that should govern all international trade and investment agreements: (1) upholding the rights of citizens; (2) protecting the common good; (3) promoting the development of sustainable communities; (4) guaranteeing the sovereignty of democratically elected governments over corporations; and (5) ensuring effective citizen participation in the development of trade and investment policies.

Canadian NGOs did not limit their activities to Canada. In the summer in 1999 over 40 Canadian NGOs signed the on-line Civil Society Declaration, "No New Round, instead Turnaround," joining more than 1,100 organizations from 87 countries calling for a halt to the proposed new talks at the WTO. The global mobilization campaign reveals how complex the efforts to stop the WTO negotiations had become. NGOs and many individual Canadians were active at the local, national and global levels, an effort co-ordinated via the Internet. The impact of the Internet on the global movement against the WTO has been acknowledged by

Susan George:

The civic movement's success in Seattle is a mystery only to those who had no part in it. Throughout 1999, thanks primarily to the Internet, tens of thousands of people opposed to the World Trade Organization ... united in a great national and international effort of organisation. Anyone could have a front seat, anyone could take part in the advance on Seattle. All you needed was a computer and a rough knowledge of English. (George)

The movement was all the more potent because old social movements such as labour and new social movements such as the environmental movement had joined in common cause.

Canadians again had prominent visibility on the web. An analysis in early winter 2000 revealed 4,089 web sites with material specific to the Seattle round of the WTO, a tenfold increase over the MAI. Analysis of 5131 indicated that organization and commercial sites were predominant. Some of these were Canadian but most were American. Canadian web sites made up the next largest category, comprising 6.23 per cent of the total. This time, however, the only Canadian site in the top 20 organizations appearing as links of other web sites was not an NGO but the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (see Table 2).

The top Canadian sites in terms of links are listed in Table 3. Most of these are well-known organizations. Second to DFAIT was the International Institute for Sustainable Development, which, given the prominence of environmental and developmental issues at the WTO, is not a surprise.

One difference from the MAI is the appearance of more union sites, such as the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Canadian Labour Congress, which had an active presence on the web. Another difference is the prominence of A-Infos, which, in turn, was linked to, a regional federation of local autonomous collectives and individuals involved in communications and media, radical activism and social work. TAO organizes networks in order to defend and create public space. In some ways TAO, along with Cross-Canada WTO Caravan and Citizens on the Web, represents the new breed of web sites, a hybrid of communications and activism. Particularly noteworthy on TAO is DAMN, Direct Action Media Network, which both organizes and provides media coverage, including online video, of protests, marches, strikes and other direct actions. In a sense, however, trying to classify Canadian participation on the web by means of links provides an incomplete picture of Canadian participation. Given the anarchic, horizontal structure of the Internet, Canadians, like everyone else hooked up to the web, can and do go everywhere they want to obtain information, tell their stories and participate in activity and debate on globalization.

The appearance of TAO, DAMN and several other on-line activist communication networks, many complete with journalists, magazines and audio and video, demonstrates the potential of on-line organizations to make an end run around the mass media to tell their story directly. Indeed, the Internet is the medium of choice for those opposed to economic globalization. Figures for Canada per se are not available, but of the 513 web sites we coded, 51 per cent expressed opposition to the WTO, 14 per cent supported it, while most of the remainder were neutral (33 per cent) or provided a means for public discussion and dialogue (2.53 per cent).

While those opposed to globalization have taken most readily to the web, Canadian governments had a prominent presence on the web. Departments such as DFAIT are also finding it advantageous to tell their story directly. DFAIT echoed the opposition to globalization in trying to reach Canadians directly through the web, soliciting their comments, stating "it's important to listen to you, to draw on your wisdom and take your concerns to heart, before solidifying our negotiating position" ( How seriously DFAIT listened is questionable. Surveys done on behalf of the G-8 and the OECD indicate that most governments still see the web as a means of sending messages rather than receiving them (Kroeger).

Web sites and e-mail are only part of the politics of contestation and clearly have not replaced face-to-face meetings and traditional methods of protest. The Internet, though, has bolstered and even altered contentious processes of behaviour and provided new spaces for political activity. What the data do not indicate, however, is who actually accessed the web sites and what the impact was in terms of individual citizens. We do know, however, that groups relied on sites to educate, organize and mobilize people and to co-ordinate opposition on the ground in Seattle.

Did the anti-WTO forces make a difference? Accounts vary. Those opposed see the anti-globalization campaign as instrumental in turning the WTO talks in Seattle into a fiasco (George). Others point to differences among member states as the reason the talks collapsed (Edmonton Journal, Business 2, Tuesday, 9 May 2000). Moreover, while anti-WTO forces may have challenged trade liberalization, they have not defeated it. Talks on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) are going ahead, and in another venue the Canadian government is pursuing an agreement on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Indisputable, however, was the success of those opposed to the WTO in turning it from an obscure agency into one the world knows and talks about. An Angus Reid poll indicates that 79 per cent of Canadians were aware of the protests in Seattle against the WTO (Table 4). Clearly, trade liberalization policy and agencies have moved from the margins and become very public, no small victory to those opposed to economic globalization.


Politics and citizenship still matter. The question dividing theorists of citizenship and globalization is: Which city are we citizens of? David Held, for example, argues that globalization is undermining the capacity for meaningful political participation at the national level as nation-states decline in importance and become "decision-takers," not "decision-makers" (Held). Held consequently promotes the idea of a transnational democratic legal order circumscribed and legitimized by democratic public law. Will Kymlicka, however, rejects the view that globalization has deprived politics of its meaningfulness. He contends that nation-states still possess considerable autonomy that citizens - or their representatives - exercise and prize. Furthermore, argues Kymlicka, territory as a basis of politics and determination of political identity is not being undermined, and he rejects the idea that collective participation and deliberation are possible in transnational institutions and organizations.

Kymlicka is right in defending the continuing relevance of the nation-state, yet he too easily dismisses people's desire and ability to participate politically at a global level. Decisions of the World Trade Organization now intersect with and have considerable impact on areas of domestic policy. Concerned citizens are increasingly acting at both the national and global levels to counteract the power of such international institutions; however, contrary to both Held and Kymlicka, citizens feel increasingly alienated from any representative assembly - provincial, national, global, territorial or non-territorial (Inglehart). Citizens increasingly possess the technological capacity to overcome barriers of time and space and want to participate directly whether anyone likes it or not. So far there is no answer to the problem posed by political disintermediation and declining respect for representative institutions of any kind. In an era of critical citizenship, citizens realize that political power is held not so much by parliaments as by cabinets and bureaucracies, and these holders of power will continue to bypass mediating representative institutions and go directly to those making the real political decisions - in global terms, for example, the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. In effect, the public realm, which Hannah Arendt feared had "disappeared into the ... more restricted, impersonal sphere of administration," is gradually being recovered (60).

Horizontal networks facilitated by new technologies and not limited to territory are providing an alternative to the vertical interaction citizens have traditionally had with governments. Acknowledgement of this change comes from an unlikely source Pierre Pettigrew, minister of International Trade, in a speech to the Global Forum 2000 in Washington, claimed:

Today ... individuals no longer see themselves only as citizens of a given territory, of a given country. What characterizes individuals more and more is their sense of belonging toward all kinds of other networks that are not necessarily limited to their own territory - horizontal networks such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Medicin sans frontieres. More and more people in today's world belong to such groups. As a result, more and more individuals' identities are becoming extremely complex. (Pettigrew)

In a very important sense, then, neither Held nor Kymlicka has it right. To reiterate, Hannah Arendt was perhaps closer to the mark. "The polls, properly speaking," she wrote, "is not the city-state in its physical location; it is the organization of the people as it arises out of acting and speaking together..., no matter where they happen to be" (198). In today's world the polls can be almost anywhere wherever decisions are made that affect our lives - and consequently, so can the activities of citizenship.

Thanks in part to ICTs, citizens can more readily act as citizens both nationally and globally. The spaces between states are no longer necessarily spaces of anarchy and chaos; increasingly, they have become spaces of discourse, action, politics. But this is not necessarily at the expense of the nation-state. Contrary to those who argue that the capacities of the nation-state are significantly reduced, a growing number of sceptics argue that nation-states still have significant room to manoeuvre in domestic policies. According to George Hoberg et al., "despite deeper economic integration ... Canada does retain far more capacity for distinctive policy choice than is widely believed" (3).2 Moreover, data indicate that Canadians still believe in government and rank social policy, not fiscal policy, as their top priority. Polling data, for example, show that they want their governments to be citizen-centred and feel that big business and the media have too much influence on government policy (Ekos; Graves).

Thus, despite the rhetoric of neo-liberalism, Canadians have not accepted the notion that they be defined as customers and not citizens with voices. The Canadian view of what a citizen means is changing and becoming more complex as Canadians take advantage of new technologies to voice their concerns and tell their own stories, locally, nationally, globally. Canadian citizenship is not dying but its face is changing.

The capacity to participate will increase as ICTs improve and become more prevalent, thereby strengthening the ability of citizens to form networks and relate horizontally to government. Yet, ICTs have their limitations. First, the quality of information is frequently uneven. Second, the immense quantity of on-line information can exceed our capacity to process and analyze it (Homer-Dixon). Third, the English language predominates and only lately has the World Wide Web lived up to its name and become more multicultural. Fourth, a digital divide exists, so that significant portions of the population are left out of the digital world. Thus, the Internet may serve only to strengthen the voices of Canadians or members of other nation-states with higher incomes. Not all voices may be heard.

Finally, while diversity is needed for a robust political sphere (Arendt), new technologies make it possible to create a customized environment of virtual communities and information where citizens do not have to listen or confront one another. Those who operate on-line can create narrower and smaller worlds for themselves; however, unless citizens engage one another, unless we are exposed to a wide range of views including speech we might not initially want to hear we cannot make informed decisions about social and political issues. IC`rs have the potential to intensify social and political fragmentation so that the capacity to find common ground disappears.

This all points to the continuing need for trusted intermediaries, institutions and agencies that can bring people with differing points of view together, mediate differences, construct consensus and make decisions - in short, to govern. Which ones they will be is the central question. This, not the disappearance of public spaces, is perhaps one of the biggest challenges we face in a global era Agency is possible, and economic globalization can and is being resisted. The question is: What alternative values will shape its future path?


The author wishes to acknowledge the research assistance of Leonard Stolen-Falchidi and the financial support of the Mission Critical Research and Academic Research Funds of Athabasca University. Earlier versions of this essay were presented at the 2000 meeting of the Association for Canadian Studies at the University of Alberta, Edmonton and at the conference on "A Century of Citizenship in Australia and in Canada," University of Ottawa, February 2001.

1. All sites of four web pages or more were examined and classified. A sample only was taken of sites three pages or less. Forty search engines were used. The search was conducted in English, French, German and Spanish. The search process began in January 2000. 1 am confident that I captured most sites as sites often maintain their web pages long after an event has passed.

2. Hoberg et al.'s conclusion of the resilience of the policy capacity of the state is supported by the work of Kymlicka, Molot, Reich and Villasana and Garrett See references.


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[Author Affiliation]

Peter J. Smith is a professor of political science at Athabasca University. He is the co-editor (with Janet Ajzenstat) of Canada's Origins: Liberal, Tory, or Republican? and has published a variety of articles on Canadian political thought, public policy and political economy. He is currently engaged in a project on the impact of globalization and the information society on citizenship and politics.


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