Expose, Oppose, Propose: Transnational Alternative Policy Groups and Global Civil Society
Expose, Oppose, Propose: Transnational Alternative Policy Groups and Global Civil Society

Expose, Oppose, Propose: Transnational Alternative Policy Groups and Global Civil Society

by William K. Carroll


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ISBN-13: 9781783606030
Publisher: Zed Books
Publication date: 08/15/2016
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

William K. Carroll is the author of a number of books, including The Making of a Transnational Capitalist Class, also published by Zed Books.

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Expose, Oppose, Propose

Alternative Policy Groups and the Struggle for Global Justice

By William K. Carroll

Zed Books Ltd

Copyright © 2016 William K. Carroll
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78360-604-7


Hegemony, Counter-hegemony and Organic Crisis

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, humanity is living a paradox of truly epochal scope. Those with a discerning eye see that the reigning way of life — globalizing, neoliberal capitalism — is incapable of serving as an organizational framework for resolving the deep ecological and economic crises that it has conjured into existence. Bank bailouts and "austerity," worship of "free" markets dominated by a few transnational behemoths, endless dead-end negotiations around the climate crisis — they are no more than a cruel joke whose punchline is visited upon the most vulnerable. Fueled by anger and desperation, protests and occupations rise up in resistance to a regime that relies increasingly on a preponderance of coercion over persuasion. Yet such outbreaks stall. The problem lies only partly in the sophisticated machinery of state repression. Resistance is not enough, and retreat into the self-limiting lifestyle politics of community gardening and the like offers little more than personal solace. The opposition lacks the organizational and communicative infrastructure, and the radical vision, that might sustain cumulative movement toward a real alternative to "business as usual." Meanwhile, "business as usual" means that the 1 percent (actually, the .01 percent) continue to overaccumulate private wealth while "the people as the rest of us" (Dean 2012: 18) cling, at best, to past gains in a deteriorating ecosystem. The situation is unsustainable on multiple levels.

Thus, the dangerous paradox, expressed most concisely eight decades ago by Antonio Gramsci (1971: 276): an organic crisis in which "the old is dying and the new cannot be born" Among the challenges faced by those interested in creating an alternative future is that of producing and promulgating counter-hegemonic strategies, policies and visions capable of winning broad popular support and of serving as cognitive and cultural resources for a political shift: a transition from episodic defensive resistance to responsible radical proactivity. Clearly, the production of knowledge that can inform practices to create alternative economic and political futures is a crucial task for scholars and activists today (Wright 2010). In an era in which an unprecedented dual crisis of economy and ecology opens space for a renewed radical imaginary, for a clear alternative to neoliberal globalization, where are the sites for such collective imagining, and how might their activities be integrated with the agency of democratic movements?

This book's objective is to investigate how transnational alternative policy groups (TAPGS) are creating such sites within global civil society. TAPGS are groups that, in dialogue with transnational publics and movements, produce evidence-based knowledge that critiques hegemonic practices and perspectives and promotes alternatives. Since the 1970s, as an increasingly crisis-ridden neoliberalism has reshaped the global political-economic landscape, transnational movements have emerged as advocates of a "democratic globalization" (Smith, J. 2008) that aim to enrich human relations across space by empowering citizens and communities to participate in the decisions that govern their lives.

An extensive international literature has grown up, researching and reflecting on these movements and on the prospects for a "global left" that their convergence seems to signal (cf. Chase-Dunn 2002; Conway 2013; Della Porta and Rucht 2013; Pleyers 2011; Santos 2006; Smith and Wiest 2012; Steger et al. 2013; Tarrow 2005). Although this movement of movements has to some degree delegitimized aspects of neoliberal globalization, the provisional result has not been a victory for global justice, but at best a stalemate representing "a paradoxical moment in world history" (Cox and Nilsen 2014: 162) within which a key strategic question has been posed: "how can we find ways of identifying potentials for change and underlying moments of crisis which are something more than wishful thinking?" (Cox and Nilsen 2014: 163).

This global left comes most immediately out of the anticorporate and alterglobalization movements that arose in the 1990s and collected hopefully into the World Social Forum (WSF) in 2001, although it has deeper lineages — in the antiauthoritarian and antiausterity politics of Latin America in the 1980s, which eventually provided impetus for the "pink tide" of left governments since the late 1990s (Muhr 2013; Walton and Setton 1994). And earlier, in anti-colonial struggles whose justice claims, nascent in the Bandung Declaration of 1955, given shape by the Cuban Revolution and the global political eruption of 1968, were crystalized in the 1974 call for a New International Economic Order (Bair 2009; Wallerstein 1989). And further back, in the first period of the Third International (1919–1924), which grappled with the challenge of uniting workers and colonized peoples in struggle against capitalism and imperialism (Chase-Dunn et al. 2006; Riddell 2012).

Despite the relevance of TAPGS to the question of transnational counter-hegemony and to the strategic question posed by Cox and Nilsen, the literature on transnational movements has largely ignored them. Certainly the WSF — which is not a TAPG per se, but a meeting place and sometimes a coordinator of action — has deservedly garnered much attention (e.g., Conway 2013; Patomaki and Teivainen 2004; Sen, J. and Waterman 2012; Worth and Buckley 2009). It constitutes "the largest and most diverse organizational umbrella" of the global justice movement (Steger et al. 2013), and over time its project has evolved from a critique of neoliberalism and imperialism to a trenchant anticapitalist position, and from annual face-to-face meetings to the prospect of the Internet Social Forum launched at the WSF 2015. Since 2011, attention has turned to "occupy" movements and related spectacular episodes of popular resistance (Kioupkiolis and Katsambekis 2014; Tejerina et al. 2013). All along, however, the actual work of producing and mobilizing alternative knowledge — the stock-in-trade of TAPGS — has eluded the gaze of critical social analysts. This book addresses that gap.

Having emerged in symbiosis with global justice politics, TAPGS serve as collective intellectuals that facilitate the construction of a counter-hegemonic bloc, posing democratic alternatives to neoliberal capitalism. They function as "think tanks of the left," generating knowledge, both visionary and strategic, for a "globalization from below" in which transnational social movements have been leading protagonists. Unlike social movement organizations, whose knowledge is produced tactically as they engage in collective action (Swift 2014: 136), efforts of TAPGS are focused primarily and strategically on producing and mobilizing critical-reflexive knowledge. Yet TAPGS are think tanks of a different sort from the conventional ones that advise political and corporate elites. TAPGS create knowledge that challenges existing corporate priorities and state policies; and advocates alternative forms of economic, political and cultural organization. They disseminate this knowledge not only via mainstream media venues but also through activist networks and alternative media, and they typically work collaboratively with social movements in formulating and implementing ideas. They are sites within and around which counter-hegemonic knowledge is produced and mobilized among subaltern communities and critical social movements.

The literature on social movements and counter-hegemony provides a number of rich concepts for understanding how this process occurs. In her theoretical reformulation of the "public sphere," Nancy Fraser (1990: 67) distinguishes a field of subaltern counterpublics, consisting of "parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses, which in turn permit them to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs" TAPGS may be seen as contributing to counterpublics by helping to create and maintain the "disposition towards further political activism" that comprises a radical habitus (Crossley 2003: 50). Given that movement politics ebb and flow in protest cycles (Tarrow 2012), TAPGS can also be seen as sustaining oppositional culture (Carroll and Ratner 2001) by building infrastructures of dissent (Sears 2014) during upturns in activism and maintaining them as abeyance structures (Grey and Sawer 2008) in periods of movement quietude. Without such infrastructure and collective memory, radical politics tends to circle around the same issues time and again, and to repeat the same mistakes (Dixon 2014: 229). The work of TAPGS thus contributes to a cumulative learning process while it builds capacity for progressive collective action.

Learning and building capacity are integral to a catharsis from sub-alternity to counter-hegemony. As Gramsci (1971: 367) argued, with catharsis "structure ceases to be an external force which crushes man, assimilates him to itself and makes him passive; and is transformed into a means of freedom, an instrument to create a new ethico-political form and a source of new initiatives." Alternative knowledge — including critiques of the existing order, policy alternatives, strategies for change and wider visions of future possibilities — enables knowers to reject fatalism and to find (and create) in current circumstances levers for social transformation. From a Gramscian perspective, the prospects for transformation rest significantly on movements and counterpublics acquiring and using alternative knowledge as part of a "counter-hegemonic generative politics" that empowers civil society over state and economy by building new institutions and practices (Williams 2008: 9). In this way, it is possible, over a succession of conjunctures, to wage a "war of position," shifting the balance of forces, opening space for radical alternatives and articulating "dissenting groups into a system of alliances capable of contesting bourgeois hegemony" (i.e., an historical bloc) (Carroll and Ratner 2010: 8).

A key site for this work is global civil society, which has been defined as "the realm of non-coercive collective action around shared interests and values that operates beyond the boundaries of nation states" (Glasius et al. 2006: v). Often idealized as a coherent collection of world citizens pursuing social justice, global civil society can be more productively conceptualized as a field of conflict and struggle, distinct from the global economy and the interstate system, yet internally related to both (Williams 2008: 10). While helping to reproduce global hegemony, global civil society offers a "discursive space" and a foothold to transnational counter-hegemonic politics (Ford 2003: 129). This is the sense in which I use the term.

This book has taken shape dialogically through engagement with more than one hundred protagonists in alternative policy groups who generously gave their time and provided many brilliant reflections on their practices of alternative knowledge production and mobilization (alt KPM), or "cognitive praxis" The work incorporates knowledge that was co-produced, mostly within open-ended interviews, during field work I conducted between May 2012 and May 2013. It has had a participatory dimension: Insights gained from the field work were shared in dialogue with participants to help them clarify their own work by seeing it in a broader comparative context and to clarify for me the significance of my findings for them.

In the chapters that follow, I take up the various analyses, strategies, proposals and social visions that TAPGS construct and disseminate. It is not difficult to see how important such knowledge is to global justice politics. If another world, a better world, is possible, creating it will require a critique of dominant political-economic practices and relations; and also the construction and advocacy of alternative strategies, policies and visions that, as taken up in practice, might foster a cathartic shift from the episodic, fragmented resistances typical of subalternity to a shared ethicopolitical project that can become "a source of new initiatives" (Gramsci 1971: 367). All transnational alternative policy groups seek to provide such intellectual leadership, in dialogue with the critical social movements that are the central protagonists in global justice politics. But they do so in different ways, and these differences open further possibilities for productive dialogue and synergies among the groups.

Transnational Policy Groups: Hegemonic and Counter-hegemonic

TAPGS are the counter-hegemonic response to such well-known hegemonic initiatives as the World Economic Forum, International Chamber of Commerce, Trilateral Commission and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (see Carroll 2010b). We can conceptualize transnational policy groups (both left and right) as sites of KPM embedded in opposing historical blocs, or, as Jackie Smith (2008) puts it, global networks. In conjunction with aligned social forces, each organization develops and deploys knowledge, with the strategic intent to make its bloc more coherent and effective; that is, it exercises a kind of leadership.

To understand the counter-hegemonic projects that TAPGS pursue, we must first consider how hegemony is secured and maintained within late capitalism. As Fred Block (1977) observed some years ago, within capitalism a key aspect of hegemony is that the ruling class does not rule. Instead, its core interests, always in alliance with other social groups and institutions, are articulated through the agency of organic intellectuals, whose ranks include business leaders and many other organizers of practical life. Such intellectuals are "organic" in a double sense: They are "organizers" of an advanced capitalist way of life, and their intellectual work is functionally — organically — predicated on the dominance of capital in human affairs (Vacca 1982: 62—63).

The history of conventional think tanks forms part of this story of class formation from above. In the early twentieth century, the United States took the lead in the elaboration of these centres of intellectual leadership (Abelson 1995). Linked into the circuitry of state policy networks, mainstream media and corporate elites, think tanks of the right have since the 1970s become important sites of "policy-planning" (Domhoff 2006) in the construction of a neoliberal discursive field (Carroll and Carson, 2003; Carroll and Sapinski, 2010; Carroll and Shaw, 2001; Gill 1990; Mirowski and Plehwe 2009). But the roots of neoliberal advocacy go deeper and were transnational from early on (Van der Pijl 1998: 130). Friedrich von Hayek's founding of the Mont Pèlerin Society (MPS) in 1947, when Keynesian corporate liberalism was gaining ascendance, was a key moment in the invention of neoliberalism. Hayek, an activist intellectual extraordinaire, recognized the need to rebuild antisocialist science to create antisocialist intellectuals and to establish antisocialist knowledge centres that could process and disseminate ideas (Plehwe and Walpen 2006: 33). Although the society laboured in obscurity for more than two decades, it assembled networks and cultural resources to mount an effective ideological offensive when the postwar class compromise began to dissolve in the 1970s. Its membership (mostly economists) grew from the initial thirty-eight to more than a thousand, and a proactive program of establishing right-wing think tanks in various countries was implemented, creating capacity in global civil society for a thriving neoliberal culture (Carroll 2007: 44). Thus did the mps evolve as "a historical 'thought collective' of increasingly global proportions" (Plehwe 2009: 4).

An important elaboration of the mps network is the Atlas Economic Research Foundation Network, a formation of more than four hundred market-oriented think tanks, most of them nationally focused and founded and run with the help of at least one MPS member (Plehwe 2009: 35). The Atlas Network takes its name from the novel Atlas Shrugged by uber-libertarian Ayn Rand. Founded in 1981 by Antony Fisher, who studied with Hayek at the London School of Economics in the 1950s, the network strives "to cultivate, support, and inspire potential and existing free-market organization partners around the world." Funded by wealthy individuals and businesses, Atlas's "vision is ofa free, prosperous and peaceful world where limited governments defend the rule of law, private property and free markets."


Excerpted from Expose, Oppose, Propose by William K. Carroll. Copyright © 2016 William K. Carroll. Excerpted by permission of Zed Books Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Challenges and responses
Chapter 3: Alternative projects and cognitive praxis
Chapter 4: The repertoire of alternative knowledge production and mobilization: modes of cognitive praxis
Chapter 5: The repertoire of alternative knowledge production and mobilization: a compendium of practices
Chapter 6: Convergent visions: the ends of alternative knowledge

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