The Struggle for the World: Liberation Movements for the 21st Century

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What do Mexico's Zapatistas, the French National Front, Slow Food, rave subculture, and al-Qaeda all have in common? From right-wing to left-wing to no-wing, they all proudly proclaim their mission to defend their distinctive identities against modernity's homogenizing processes. This controversial book establishes fundamental similarities between anti-globalization "aurora" movements that aim to destroy the modern world and bring a radiant new dawn to humankind.

While these groups often despise one another, they nonetheless share many fundamental characteristics, goals, and attitudes. Drawing on the original writings and actions of various anti-globalist groups, the authors reveal a common tendency toward charismatic leadership, good versus evil worldviews, the quest for authentic identity, concern with ritual, and unbending demands for total commitment. These movements, however they pursue world transformation and personal transcendence, are a prominent and continuing aspect of our present condition. This book is a strong reminder that, no matter what the cause, revolution is not a thing of the past and the fervent search for another world continues.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In an unusual and innovative analysis of radical social movements, Lindholm and Zúquete discuss a remarkable range of modern movements as oppositional to the homogenising processes of Western liberal market modernity... the discussion of the different movements is conducted with very impressive referencing coupled with a sustained process of letting the leaders of the movements speak for themselves. Multiple quotations in almost every case are blended into an intelligent analysis of the origins and purposes of the movements, and this alone gives the book substantial value."—Paul Rogers, Bradford University, RUSI Journal

"In the vast literature on globalization and its various antiglobalist movements, Charles Lindholm's and José Pedro Zúquete's The Struggle for the World is the first to look beyond the specific political designations of these different antiglobalist tendencies to emphasize the common redemptive, identitarian, and populist character they share."—Michael O'Meara, Occidental Observer

"A powerful, challenging book exploring global movements against political oppression and cultural destruction, it offers a wide-ranging critical analysis of the McDonaldization of everything. Against these alter-globalization movements and their charismatic leaders, Lindholm and Zuquete remain skeptical towards any immediate eruption of a post-global, post-modern Paradise."—Bryan S. Turner, Wellesley College

"From alter-globalization to the New Right to Jihadism, this timely book demonstrates that world-transforming movements, thought to have disappeared after the decline of the Left in the late 70s, have reappeared in different forms. As the first of its kind to assemble major contemporary 'global' movements in one place, this book will definitely prove crucial reading for anyone interested in the dynamics of social movements today."—Jonathan Friedman, University of California, San Diego

"The Struggle for the World is excellent. Lindholm and Zúquete deal with an issue of the age from a novel angle and with interesting cases. For all their similarities, the movements in question are different, and this difference is part of the pleasure and interest of the book. I have no doubt this superbly written work will garner considerable attention."—John A. Hall, McGill University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804759380
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/5/2010
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Lindholm is University Professor of Anthropology at Boston University. He is the author of seven books, including Culture and Authenticity (2008) and Is America Breaking Apart? (1999). His original fieldwork was in Swat, Northern Pakistan. José Pedro Zúquete is a researcher in political science at the Social Sciences Institute, in Lisbon, and a research associate of the Globalism Research Center, at RMIT University, in Melbourne. His research focuses on comparative politics, leadership studies and globalization studies. He is the author of Missionary Politics in Contemporary Europe (2007).

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Read an Excerpt

The Struggle for the World

By Charles Lindholm José Pedro Zúquete

Stanford University Press

Copyright © 2010 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8047-5937-3

Chapter One


If way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst. -Thomas Hardy These days of universal death must be days of universal newbirth, if the ruin is not to be total and final! -Thomas Carlyle


According to an ancient Chinese proverb "It's better to be a dog in times of peace than to be a human being wandering in times of chaos." Today we cannot live as peaceful dogs. For modern human beings, the only choice is to persevere through the tumult of what has increasingly been defined as the "global century." In fact, if one word could encapsulate the zeitgeist of our time, the strongest contender would surely be globalization. Although the present-day flow of commodities and consequent interconnectedness between peoples and cultures has many historical antecedents, globalization in its twenty-first century form is unique in its intensity, range, speed, and transformative technology. The shelves of bookstores groan under the weight of texts that seek to refine, expand, or reinterpret the meaning and significance of this new phenomenon. Some have argued that because of globalization the world has become flat, while others say it is still a very rugged place. We do not intend to add to this already too copious literature.

Instead we set our sights on analysis of some of the many political organizations and social movements that fervently oppose capitalist globalization. We call them aurora movements because they promise a new liberating dawn that will banish the dark injustices of the previous era. As a Zapatista manifesto puts it: "If this world does not have a place for us, then another world must be made ... What is missing is yet to come." This is only one example of popular protest against the insecurity and rootlessness associated with the "explosion" of the free market ideology. It began in the 1990s as violent street protests and increased support for antisystem populist-nationalists spread from Latin America to Europe. The collapse of the financial systems in Asia led to widespread panic and riots culminating at the end of the old millennium in the "Battle of Seattle," where thousands of demonstrators, ranging from traditional trade unionists to militant ecological activists, took over the streets in protest against the meeting of the World Trade Organization. Although the protest was quelled, it engendered a new unity (however fleeting) among a wide variety of opponents to the globalization process.

The 9/11 jihadist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon brought a new phase to the struggle, demonstrating that some zealots were quite willing to destroy this world to bring another. The military conflicts that ensued were felt by those on both the antiglobal left and antiglobal right as a confirmation that imperialism and war were the touchstones of an inhuman globalization based on suffering and misery. And so the twenty-first century was born in fire, fury, and blood. Subsequently, a global financial meltdown raised fresh doubts about the sustainability of the path taken by neoliberal globalization and added increased urgency to the search for radical alternatives to save a world apparently plunging into chaos.

Oppositional movements can be purely instrumental, but the ones we will discuss have much higher ambitions. They span the political spectrum from right-wing groups and activist intellectuals in Europe to left-wing political parties in Latin America, along with the "movement of movements"-the World Social Forum. We included as well groups with no apparent "wings" at all, such as Muslim "holy warriors," nomadic ravers, and the international "slow" movement. These groups gain inspiration from multiple contexts, cultures, and traditions. Some seek to recapture lost indigenous truths; some preach universalism; others worship the nation; while jihadists hope to return Islam to its primal roots. The more leftist of this varied lot have generally defined themselves as alter-globalizing or as "global justice" movements, to distinguish themselves from antiglobalist groups on the right, which are portrayed by their opponents as nationalistic, restrictive, and politically conservative. We shall show that the mind-set of the aurora movements blurs the old right/ left distinction. As will become evident, whether they come from the right or left or from someplace completely different, they all wish to redirect the course of history and inaugurate a new world where human potentials are realized, justice reigns, and happiness is universal. All are more active than contemplative, polarizing rather than pragmatic. Their shared goal is to defy and transform, not adjust and reform.

These groups are also alike in that they are at one and the same time reflections and shadows of globalization. As active opponents to global processes, they must propose solutions that are global in their ramifications, while also reversing the order of the present. So, the affirmation of difference implies the construction of an alternative belief system with many of the same universalizing characteristics found in global capitalism. Just as global capitalism is accused of affecting all areas of life, the changes pursued by these oppositional groups are total. All these activists tend to see themselves as soldiers in an existential battle for redemption of the world from the evils of globalization. They are, they believe, engaged in a life-or-death conflict between two expansionist models of the human future-one rational, bureaucratic, commercial, and immoral; the other spiritual, humane, heartfelt, and righteous. This battle, in its various permutations, is the subject of our book.


In many ways the search for a new world is nothing new. Throughout Western history, there has been no shortage of movements that strive to abolish the injustice, indignity, and inhumanity of the present. Popular rebellions in the form of peasant uprisings and urban revolts were a significant force all throughout premodern times. Though many were driven by specific complaints (against taxation, for instance), others aimed to completely transform society. Millenarian movements built on a Christian narrative of sin, purification, and redemption were devoted to ushering in a promised land of eternal peace, prosperity, and happiness. For example, in the early sixteenth century, the Anabaptist messiah Jan Bockelson declared the death of the old world and the advent of a new age of free love and equality. In the German city of Münster (heralded as the "New Zion"), 10,000 of his followers held off the army for a year before their final defeat and annihilation. And in seventeenth-century England, "it seemed as though the world might be turned upside down" by the radical passions of the Levellers and the Diggers.

The French Revolution of 1789 was undoubtedly the most influential, ambitious, and successful effort to transform the world; it was fueled by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, who, in the name of reason, questioned the existing traditions, superstitions, and institutions of the age. By eroding the foundations of the taken-for-granted universe, these thinkers opened the way for the revolutionary deluge. Gracchus Babeuf, swept along by the flood of history, prophesied that "all should return to chaos, in order that out of the chaos a new and rejuvenated world emerges." As the romantic French historian Jules Michelet described the Revolution: "The world is waiting for a faith, to march forward again, to breathe and to live ... Everything has gravitated towards one point, and that point now speaks forth; it is a unanimous prayer from the heart of France." Inspired by the unifying "prayer from the heart of France," a surge of movements aimed at the regeneration of humankind swept through nineteenth-century Europe and beyond. "No period before or after has experienced so luxurious a flowering of Utopian schemes purporting to offer a coherent, complete, and final solution to the problem of social evil." Dostoevsky described the prevalent revolutionary attitude in his novel The Possessed as a "fire in the minds of men." The revolutionary flame burned bright in Karl Marx's impassioned declaration of communism as the liberating last stage of history. The 20th century would turn many of these utopian impulses into actual projects to liberate man from the evils of history, starting with the soviet attempt to make the communist ideal a reality. The sense of a "new beginning" and the belief that "history itself was at a turning point" also nurtured the fascist quest "to purge civilization of decadence, and foster the emergence of a new breed of human beings which it defined in terms not of universal categories but essentially mythic national and racial ones." The hope for radical transformation carried over into the Third World as well, where many anticolonial liberation movements promised not only the pragmatic advantages of an autonomous nation-state but also the launching of an entirely new epoch in human history. This millenarian intention was clear in the writings of Frantz Fanon, the intellectual prophet of the Third World anticolonial struggle, for whom "decolonization is not merely the establishment of a New State or the achievement of Sovereignty but the replacement of one species of man by another species of man. The world is turned upside down, the last become the first." According to Fanon, the struggle against colonialism "infuses a new rhythm [into existence], specific to a new generation of men, with a new language and a new humanity. Decolonization is truly the creation of new men." Symbolic performances such as the so-called cargo cults that flourished among indigenous peoples in the Pacific islands and elsewhere during the mid-twentieth century also aimed at overturning colonial authority in preparation for the imminent arrival of a new golden age. So did the "Grounded Utopian Movements" such as the Rastafarians in Jamaica, the American Indian Ghost Dance religion of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the Guatemalan Maya movement of the 1980s (among others).

Sadly, Marx's utopian program of liberation provided the ideological justification for totalitarianism, the fascist project descended into the horrors of the Holocaust, the regimes of decolonized states often proved to be as exploitative and brutal as their colonial predecessors, and the bounty promised by the cargo cults did not materialize. In the era of "the God that failed," it seemed that dreams of a blissful new age had become nightmares instead. As a result of these catastrophes, postwar antiutopian intellectuals from both the left and right repudiated any possibility of collective emancipation. On the right, Karl Popper portrayed utopian blueprints as inevitably dangerous, pernicious, and self-defeating. Ideal societies are known "only from our dreams and from the dreams of our poets and prophets. They cannot be discussed, only proclaimed from the housetops. They do not call for the rational attitude of the impartial judge, but for the emotional attitude of the impassioned preacher." From the left, Hannah Arendt asked: "And what else, finally, is this ideal of modern society but the age-old dream of the poor and destitute, which can have a charm of its own so long as it is a dream, but turns into a fool's paradise as soon as it is realized?" Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who had intimate experience of one such "fool's paradise," knew where the blame lay: "Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale calculated in the millions. This cannot be denied, nor passed over, nor suppressed."

Others concurred. For Raymond Aron the time had come to "challenge all the prophets of redemption" and to celebrate the "advent of the skeptics." Judith Shklar agreed that "the urge to construct grand designs for the political future of mankind is gone. The last vestiges of utopian faith required for such an enterprise have vanished," while Daniel Bell proclaimed that chiliastic hopes, millenarianism, apocalyptic thinking, and ideology itself had come to "a dead end." In this same period Otto Kirchheimer described the transformation of the ideological mass parties of old into political machines, centrist and practical, constructed with the sole purpose of winning elections. Instead of organizations devoted to provide "spiritual shelter" and a "vision of things to come," the new type of parties would be committed to efficient, narrow, short-term goals suited to a time of "deideologization." However, the normative end-of-ideology narrative was seriously challenged in the 1960s and 1970s by liberation theologies, hippie and drug subcultures, civil rights crusades, antiwar activism, feminist protests, and a New Left committed to overturning "the system" and to achieving a total transformation of the modern world. The content of the dreamed-of utopia differed in its details but usually included the elimination of sexual and other taboos, the end of violence, the establishment of complete equality, and the rise of all-embracing communities of love and sharing. As the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) declared in 1962, "If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." Or, as the protestors who took over the streets of Paris in 1968 declared: "In a society that has abolished all adventures, the only adventure left is to abolish society."

Although these utopian visions failed, their reappearance led some to rethink the end-of-ideology paradigm. While remaining a proponent of rational liberalism, Isaiah Berlin took note of the resurgence of the "age-old dream" that "there is, there must be-and it can be found-the final solution to all human ills." The Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski resigned himself to the "unavoidable" and "irreconcilable" conflict between skeptical and utopian mentalities. "The victory of utopian dreams would lead us to a totalitarian nightmare and the utter downfall of civilization, whereas the unchallenged domination of the skeptical spirit would condemn us to a hopeless stagnation, to an immobility that a slight accident could easily convert into catastrophic chaos." Anthropologist Victor Turner took a more positive view of utopianism arguing that carnivalesque upsurges of "liminality" and celebratory egalitarian "communitas" are necessary to offset an overly rigid social order.

But the majority of intellectuals remained certain that there were no possible positive alternatives to the status quo. Utopian movements were merely aberrations, soon to be subsumed in the inevitable march toward a rational future. This perspective received powerful confirmation with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Its collapse was taken as convincing evidence that the predicted "end" of history had indeed arrived, as well as the end of ideology and the end of revolution. Indeed, it seemed the Western world had entered a period of "endism" in which transformative utopias were no longer to be imagined. Bureaucratic rationalism, it seemed, had crushed all rivals; representative democracy had emerged victorious; industrial capitalism was eternally triumphant. The only future imaginable was the "weary utopianism" of the unfettered free market as realized in the pure entrepreneurial spaces of monochromatic export processing zones. Though some waves would continue to ripple across the surface, stormy conflicts over what political and economic (not to mention spiritual) systems should govern human affairs had been permanently settled. Francis Fukuyama, the most eloquent spokesman for this perspective, wistfully remarked in 1989 that "the end of history will be a very sad time." Nonetheless, the "worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism" was a thing of the past. It had been "replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands."

Other social scientists and public intellectuals of the late twentieth century agreed that humanity had indeed permanently entered into a postrevolutionary era. The worldwide spread of rationalism and capitalism had decisively eliminated all traces of outmoded radicalism except among the most inconsequential groups. War also had been finally understood to be repulsive, uncivilized, and economically counterproductive; it would soon follow the path of dueling and slavery and simply cease to exist. Even the nation would soon disappear, according to the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. As he wrote: Despite "men's and women's longing for group identity" and notwithstanding ethnic "reactionary upheavals," a "new supranational restructuring of the globe" would "inevitably supersede nation-states." (Continues...)

Excerpted from The Struggle for the World by Charles Lindholm José Pedro Zúquete Copyright © 2010 by Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 The Struggle for the World 1

2 The Latin American Quest for Independence 11

3 The European Search for Authenticity 49

4 Global Movements to Transform Humanity 83

5 Purifying the World: The Global Jihad 122

6 Between Doom and Redemption 152

Notes 177

Bibliography 227

Index 261

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