American University
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Transnational activist networks: Against neoliberal globalization and for another possible world

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posted on 2023-09-06, 03:11 authored by Ruth Reitan

This dissertation addresses why and how a shift to the transnational level is occurring among activist networks, what are their changing compositions and characters, and what is the role of the World Social Forum (WSF) in this transnationalizing process. It uses an extended case method of semi-structured interviews and theory-driven participant observation to compare four networks targeting the World Bank, the IMF and the World Trade Organization (WTO) as propagators of neoliberal globalization: the Jubilee anti-debt networks, the Via Campesina peasant farmers and Our World Is Not For Sale which both target the WTO, and the anti-capitalist Peoples' Global Action. First, in amending McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly's scale shift process from their Dynamics of Contention, this work shows that networks follow a similar trajectory in "going global": broad change process and triggers of neoliberal globalization spark localized action, the realization of the need to go global, relational and non-relational diffusion and brokerage, frame alignment, a shift in objects and claims, the attribution of worthiness, interconnectedness, or similarity, leading to solidarity and, finally, transnational collective action. Second, in analyzing networks' compositions and characters vis-a-vis proximity to the problem, affective response, type of solidarity evoked, network model, operational paradigm, and claims, this work identified a trend away from altruistic solidarity and toward, first, identity-based solidarity shared among those immediately affected by neoliberal change and, second, reciprocal solidarity based on empathy and perceived interconnectedness. Identity-based solidarity networks eschew a centralized, NGO advocacy model and rather are hybrids that adopt features of horizontal, direct activism social justice networks, making bivalent claims of economic redistribution and cultural recognition, and bridging the reformist-transformational divide with transitional paradigms. Finally, the WSF was found to be fertile ground to nourish and strengthen individual networks, a common ground for cooperative action among them, and a battleground over the future of the forum process and the global "network of networks" itself. The process and outcome of this cooperation and competition will greatly impact the character of the WSF, the emergent network of networks, and "other possible worlds" in the making.







Thesis (Ph.D.)--American University, 2006.


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