Globalisation, Work and Class

GLOBALISATION, WORK, AND CLASS: SOME RESEARCH NOTES.


Massimo De Angelis


Paper presented at the conference "The Labour Debate", Centre for Comparative Studies, University of Warwick, 24 February 1999.


0. Introduction.

1. Competition, Abstract Labour and Fractal Geometry.


2. The General Characters of Capital's Strategies Today.

2.1. A reminder of our starting point.


2.2. Universality of Enclosure Strategies.


2.2.1. Enclosure as Anti-Commons.


2.2.2. Universality of Enclosure Strategies

2.3. Globalisation of integration.


2.3.1. General characteristics.


2.3.2. Globalisation strategies and the Money Circuit of Capital.


2.3.2. Struggles and the Deployment of Globalisation Strategies.


2.4. Strategies of co-optation.

3. Social Movements and the Constitution of Reality

3.1. Bulding alliences across continents and across issues.

3.2. New patterns of recomposition and the struggle against abstract labour.

0. Introduction.


The recognition of the centrality of abstract labour as the essential character of capitalist strategies of domination, may be regarded as the starting point for the critique of the current human condition and the formulation of political strategies for its overcoming. In a previous paper (De Angelis 1995) I have raised three questions for further research. These are:


  1. Which forms do abstract labour take today?

  2. What are the strategies that capital is attempting to implement in order to transform life-activity into abstract labour?

  3. What are the new forms of struggles against abstract labour?

These questions arise from Marx's definition (1867: 128) of abstract labour as "human labour-power expended without regard to the form of its expenditure", which implies that abstract labour is imposed, alienated and boundless in character. Also, and more importantly, that it is a site of struggle.

In this paper I want to broadly address these questions in the context of today's strategies of globalisation and patterns of struggle. Let us start from three theses which summarise the key aspects of my arguments, and which I will then develop more extensively in this paper.


First Thesis. Abstract labour (the imposition of boundless, alienated work) is still the central issue today, in both senses of capitalist strategies and of the constitution of organisational counter-strategies of emancipation. Also, its pervasiveness has reached extensions and intensities that now embrace spheres of life and locations that only twenty years ago were left relatively at the margin.


Second Thesis. The strategies implemented by capital in the last two decades can be defined along three co-ordinates: universality of enclosure strategies, globalisation of integration strategies, strategies of co-optation.


Third Thesis. The large variety of social movements that have been developing in the last twenty years (and especially in the last decade), have two main central characteristics: 1. They move from a variety of contested issues, reflecting the plurality of partial experiences of the "global factory" and attempt to build bridges and alliances among themselves. 2. They are increasingly international in character. There are also two consequences of this. First, these struggles are in the process of constituting a serious challenge to global capital. Second, perhaps the most exciting aspect, is that instead of preceding from pre-established ideologies to revolution, the direction of "causation" goes the other way around. Specific social subjectivities shape shared visions, through a social, constitutive process of alliance building that result in transformations of reality.


1. Competition, Abstract Labour and Fractal Geometry.

The forms taken by capitalist work in the last twenty years, cannot be dissociated from the rise in unemployment and the consequent "job problem". Though it appears that "work" has become "scarce", indeed, capitalist imposition of work has become more widespread.


As the struggles of the thirties forced capital to recuperate workers' demands, in the form of Keynesianism, the capitalist strategy of the 1980s and 1990s attempted to recuperate the refusal of work of the 1970s by encouraging "flexible" forms of work. These include temporary and part-time work as well as the intensification of unwaged labour. It is clear that in capitalist hands the management of flexibility cannot correspond to the need to reduce and abolish work. On the contrary, the hierarchy of wage and work conditions accompanying flexibilisation of the labour market implies a broader extension and intensification of work.


Those who call for "work sharing" in order to deal with the problem of unemployment, do not see that flexibility, precariousness, and the diffusion of part-time is a form of sharing waged work at the social level and at the same time a compulsion for its intensification and extension. Thus, a growth rate of part-time and temporary work which is higher than the growth rate in employment implies, ceteris paribus, a reduction in the average waged working time. This, however, is not true if the income earned by part time and temporary workers is not sufficient to make ends meet. As precariousness compels part-time and temporary workers to have a "portfolio" of jobs, the overall effect could be an increase in average waged working time and a corresponding reduction in the average wage rate. This would be an interesting ground for empirical analysis.


On the other hand however, capitalist work does not only take the waged form. Unwaged work is also central for the process of social reproduction of capital. Much of the effect of the neoliberal strategies of the last two decades, was to intensify and restructure this unwaged work. Some of the effects of neoliberal strategies on both waged and unwaged work are summarised in Table 1.

Table 1


Some aspects of the relation between neoliberal strategies and imposition of work




Waged work

Unwaged work


Flexibilisation of labour markets: Increase in part time and temporary jobs may lead to increase in average social working time through the compulsion for a portfolio of "jobs".


Cuts in social spending: The extension of unwaged work in reproduction (affecting mostly women).


Reduction in entitlements and globalisation: Pressures to increase intensity of work for those having a job as a function of increased competition.

Cuts in unemployment benefits, workfare, etc.: Increased work of job-search in the job market.


Encouragement of self-employment: Pressure to increase work intensity and working time for self-employed in highly competitive markets.

Education policies and cut in Students' grants: Increase in "education work" under the compulsion of competitive pressure through mandatory training courses, cut or abolishment of students grants, etc.

An aspect of this work intensification as a result of neoliberal strategies which needs to be studied is of course the pattern of "class composition", an enterprise that cannot be dealt with here.


In the popular understanding, the last twenty years of neoliberal strategies involved the promotion of the market in every sphere of life. We, of course, know that this does not mean the reduction of the role of the state (Cornerhouse 1998), rather a redefinition of its role. In any case, it is immediately evident from Table 1 that there is a link between the extension of competition and the market and the intensification and extension of work. Competitive forces increasingly act as a compulsive external force that "ought" to regulate our activities and our sociality not only in the traditional spheres of industry, but also in several other social activities (as health, education, various activities of reproduction, etc.).


What is the potential result of the promotion of competition in every sphere of life? What is the consequent vision of our sociality embedded in neoliberal strategies? A good metaphor I think is provided by what the geometrical theory of fractals calls self-similarity. This property means that every feature of a fractal shape is reproduced by the same ratio in a reduced or blown up picture (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. The property of self-similarity in geometrical fractals.


If we reflect upon the vision of the human condition that is derived from neoliberal and globalisation strategies, we find an analogous characteristic. Each "scale" of social productive aggregation, (an individual, a "firm", a city, a district, a country, a macro-region or free trade area) faces strong pressures to turn into an isolated productive node vis-à-vis a "rest of the world". An individual versus other individuals, a firm versus other firms, a city versus other cities, a country versus other countries, a free trade area versus other free trade areas. In this sense, each productive node appears as self-similar with resepct to the others. At each of these scales, or levels of aggregation, each productive node has to cope with limited resources (budget constraint) and submit to the rules of a competitive drive vis-à-vis their own "rest of the world" (see Figure 2). Whether these limited resources are brought about by market competition or government budget restraints, the end result is the same: the immediate sphere of action of each productive node ought to preclude any other action but the survival vis-à-vis a rest of the world, no other course of action but the capitulation to and engagement in the competitive game.


We know that competition has a twofold role: it is today's perverse vehicle through which the human species spreads technology and know-how from productive node to productive node. And it is a force through which people are forced into a continuous activity of abstract labour. This, of course, means that socially necessary labour time is continuously reshaping itself and is condition and result of the process of social co-operation at each level of social aggregation.


Figure 2. Some form of self-similarity in the fractal social geometry of capital.



This figure illustrates the basic elements of the "fractal geometry" that contemporary capital is trying to impose. Each node is a site of competition with a correspondent "rest of the world" (represented by the horizontal black lines). In correspondence of each node, there is a set of institutions that aims at recuperating and co-opting practices that pose a rigidity to the competitive war at that particular node. Also, each node either facilitates or reduces the competitive strength of the other nodes in the "vicinity", either above or below in the level of aggregation and sphere of action. For example, if a computer chip firm A is able to out-compete firms B, C, D, etc., the city will gain in terms of "jobs", tax revenue, etc. Also, the firm will gain in competitive strength if the city is able to provide for infrastructure, enforce competition in the labour market, etc. The vertical double arrows illustrate this twofold level of reciprocal influence.

Now it must be pointed out that these are "nodes", and not simply "levels". With this I mean to say that each node is a site of both strategies and conflict, and the correspondent competition involves both waged and unwaged work.


This fractal geometry of capital can be seen as capital's project to impose a structure that crystallises human creativity and action into commodities and, through the continuous reproduction of the whip of the market, impose abstract labour, in both waged and unwaged form.



2. The General Characters of Capital's Strategies Today.


2.1. A reminder of our starting point.


We must now move from neoliberal visions of our sociality to the actual strategies used to implement it. We must therefore turn to the question of globalisation.


The large economic literature on globalisation can be divided in two broad approaches. On one side, there are those writers who highlight the novelty of social and economic processes developed in the last two decades. This approach considers globalisation as a new reality which individuals, corporations or nation states must accept and learn to cope with in the fabric of an increasingly competitive world (Ohmae 1990; Reich 1991). On the other side, there are those critics who point out that indexes of trade and foreign direct investment among others do not indicate a structure of the world economy significantly novel in relation to historical trends. This approach generally turns to the traditionally important role of governments in shaping economic policies promoting economic prosperity (Gordon 1988; Hirst & Thompson 1996; and Weiss 1997).

These two approaches share a main shortcoming in that they treat globalisation as a given state of affairs, rather than a social process ridden with contradictions. The key issue left out by the first approach seems to be the common character of the exploitative processes that global transactions and finance have always nurtured in the history of capitalism. On the other hand, the key issue neglected by the second approach is the new forms taken by global capital and their role.


Recent developments in social theory, represent another important branch of literature that has dealt with the question of globalisation. In what have now become a famous formulation, Marxist geographer David Harvey (1990:284-5) defines the current transformation of global capitalism as the result of "time-space compression". For Anthony Giddens (1990: 64) "Globalisation can . . . be defined as the intensification of world-wide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa". These formulations are certainly suggestive but their interpretative framework ignores the centrality of the capitalist relation of work, and the boundless drive of profit making associated to it. If we put this contradictory relation at the centre of our analysis Harvey's' "time-space compression" implies an increasingly rapid turnover as capital goes through the different phases of the circuit of capital (M - C(lp,mp) . . . P . . . C' - M') while at the same time being geographically dispersed on a wider area. The "intensification of world-wide social relations" implies the increased pervasiveness of capitalist relations as well as their oppositional nature. "Local happenings", such as declining wages in manufacturing in countries in the North, are shaped by events happening in distant and remote places, e.g., even lower wages in countries in the South producing the same goods, or producing commodities entering the wage basket of the workers in the North. This aspect of the "intensification of world-wide social relations" is certainly central to the process of capitalist integration. However, at the same time, it is the basis upon which a renewed pattern of emancipatory projects can be built, as it will be seen in section 3.


In any case, let us start from common sense, that is what is left out by the analyses of globalisation mentioned before. It is a matter of common sense to say that the various forces shaping the global economy on the spheres of production, trade and finance, are inserted within a general framework defined by capital accumulation and profit. Yet, in the large literature on globalisation, both in economics and sociology, very little emphasis is given to this basic, almost trivial insight. Reflecting upon this commonplace reality however, opens the way to more important questions such as: what are the conditions for accumulation to take place in a global context? what are the forms taken by capitalist accumulation at the global level? and indeed, ultimately, what is the social meaning of globalized capital?


Capitalist accumulation is a social process that can be illustrated by Marx's formula of the money circuit of capital. In formula 1, M represents money-capital, C the sum value of commodity capital, LP is labour power, MP stands for means of production while the apostrophes in C' and M' indicate the creation of surplus value embedded in the commodity values and in their money equivalents. This creation is possible through the production process P. Lastly, the dashes represent exchange relations and the points represent production relations.


1.


This circuit of capital represents how capital reproduces itself on a greater scale -- each sucessfully completed phase must follow be followed by another. Failing this, there is crisis. Thus, the valorization process -- the actual phase of production ( ...P...) in which living labour is expended and surplus labour created -- presupposes the fact that capital is able to find workers who are willing and in a position to sell their labour powers. The phase of realization moment C'- M', presupposes that actual living, surplus labour has been forced out of the workers and objectified in the form of commodities. The phase of purchase M-C presupposes that money as concentrated accumulated wealth is available. Each of the phases in this general formula is located in one particular moment in time and represents a qualitative transformation. It is important to keep in mind that the over-all circuit of capital thus represented in its sequential process tells us what must happen if capital is to be reproduced on a larger and larger scale if growth must proceed.

However, as Bell and Cleaver (1982) have pointed out, because each phase of the circuit of capital is a moment of the capitalist relation of work and therefore of the inherent antagonism of the class relation, social conflict may erupt in each of these phases, causing bottlenecks and ruptures. Thus, once struggles and social processes are acknowledged, each of the moments of capital's circuit presuppose the use of a capitalist strategy to shape human behaviour in ways compatible with the requirement of the overall circuit. The circuit. thus implies that capitalist accumulation, in order to occur, must overcome crises and bottlenecks. In this sense, it implies strategic interventions.


At the very general level, from an examination of the circuit we can say that the existence or degree to which capital accumulation occurs depends on two main conditions:


Condition 1: enclosure. This means the existence of the commodities labour power and means of production available for sale on the market in sufficient quantity to be available at profitable prices.


Condition 2: integration. This refers to the smooth integration of the various moments of transformation in a potentially endless "whole," the process of self-expanding profit-making which continues on a greater scale.

2.2. Universality of Enclosure Strategies.


2.2.1. Enclosure as Anti-Commons.


The creation of enclosure takes us back to Marx's discussion of "primitive accumulation". There turns out, however, to be more than one possible reading.


Marx writes:



The capital-relation presupposes a complete separation between the workers and the ownership of the conditions for the realisation of their labour (Marx 1867: 874).


From this it follows that:

the process . . . which creates the capital-relation can be nothing other than the process which divorces the worker from the ownership of the conditions of his own labour; it is a process which operates two transformations, whereby the social means of subsistence and production are turned into capital, and the immediate producers are turned into wage-labourers (Marx 1867: 874).


Thus, the


so-called primitive accumulation . . . is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production (Marx 1867: 874-5).


According to one main traditional interpretation, this concept of primitive accumulation primarily concerns the creation of two stocks: 1) a substantial section of the population with no other means of livelihood but their labour power to be sold in a nascent labour market and 2) an accumulation of money capital (and other forms of ) that may be used to finance nascent industries. In this conception, the adjective "primitive" corresponds to a clear-cut temporal dimension (the past), which becomes the condition for a capitalist future.


Marx's definition of primitive accumulation however, can be read differently in a way that leads to another possible interpretation. By focusing on a definition of capital as a social relation rather than as stock (Parelman 1998) and paying attention to Marx's emphasis on the "divorcing" of people from the means of production, we can rethink "primitive accumulation" as a continuous process of capitalist accumulation rather than as one confined to the initial expansion of capitalism throughout the world. Such an interpretation makes sense for at least two reasons: 1. Capital's drive to accumulate necessitates the commodification of larger and larger spheres of life. This implies the promotion of further separation between people and means of production. 2. Any time social movements are capable of erecting a social barrier to the endless drive to commodify and accumulate, capital is faced with the need to dismantle this barrier. We encounter here what Polanyi refers to as "dual movement" of modern liberal society. On one side, there is the historical movement of the market (Polany's term), or capital (Marx's term), a movement that has no inherent limit and that therefore threatens society's very existence. On the other side, there is society's natural propensity to defend itself, and therefore to create institutions for its protection, as limitless accumulation is not humanly and socially sustainable. This continuous element of "primitive accumulation" can be identified in those social processes or sets of strategies aimed at dismantling those institutions (old or new) that protect society from the market. The crucial element of continuity in the reformulation of Marx's theory of "primitive accumulation" arises therefore once we acknowledge the other movement of society, in Marxist terms, the class struggle.

2.2.2. Universality of Enclosure Strategies


Both strategies, the commodification of new spheres of life and those aimed at dismantling barriers erected as a result of past struggles to protect society from the market, can be understood as "new enclosures". This is because they are bringing about a separation between people and their conditions of life, through the curtailment of rights and entitlements. One key aspect of globalisation strategies takes this form. In the contemporary world new enclosures range from attacks on conditions of life by a World Bank funded dam in India threatening hundreds of thousands of farming communities, to cuts in social expenditures in the UK threatening hundred of thousands of metropolitan families. Viewed in light of the overall raison d'être of the money circuit of capital, these diverse social processes share a common functional role: that of the separation of people from whatever access to social wealth they have that is not mediated or co-optable by the market. To some extent, such an access shields people from the market and from market pressures, giving them a space in which they are to a certain degree empowered vis-à-vis market discipline, competitive pressure and consequent race to the bottom.


A simple graphical representation of modern enclosures and their connection to the imposition of work is provided in figures 3 and 4. Here the attack on entitlements of the welfare state is represented in its connection to "shirking". In this case, the strategy is clearly the imposition of work in the form of job search, a form of work for which the immediate aim is not so much the finding of a job, but the overall regulation of the classic parameters of accumulation (the spread between necessary and surplus labour at the social level), through the enforcement of more competition in the labour market.

A broader and general taxonomy of modern enclosure restricting people's access to social wealth can have different forms. A simple taxonomy is summarized in Table 2.


Table 2


Taxonomy of new enclosures with some examples




Commons

Example of new enclosures


Land


ex1 use of cash in tax


ex2 pollution in Nigeria.


ex3 intense shrimp production in India.


ex3 expropriation (Mexico's ejido)


ex4 against re-appropriation (Brazil)


Urban spaces

ex1 urban design



Social Commons

ex1 cut in social spending


Natural Commons

ex1 road building


Reproduction Commons


ex1 of women's body


Cultural Commons

ex1 Museum fees


Knowledge and Life

ex1 Intellectual property rights



Land can be (and has been) expropriated in different ways. In many countries of the South of the world, where the population is largely dependent on farming, imposing a tax in cash may be an instrument of expropriation by forcing mostly self-sufficient farmers into allocating part of their land to produce "cash crops" instead of food they can eat. The same result can be reached by many of large development projects such as the construction of dams (as in Malaysia, India, China), or other means to promote cash crops. Another form of new land enclosure is the result of environmental damages caused by multinationals. Yet another example is the intense shrimp production occurring in some Indian and other East Asian regions. The aquaculture industry that includes the production of shrimp for the world market using intense industrial methods. This consists of large pools of salted waters in the vicinity of coastal regions. In time, the salted water penetrates the soil thus polluting the water supplies (thus forcing local women to walks for miles to acquire drinkable water) and making the land of the local farmers unusable for subsistence crops. Also in this case of modern enclosures, the result is pressure to abandon the land.


Just as the old enclosures were accompanied by struggles, so to in the cases of new enclosures are people organising themselves and building forms of resistance. Two important examples are the Zapatista struggle in Mexico, catalysed by the attempt by the government to push the common land traditionally held by the indigenous population (ejido) into the market, and the movement for re-appropriation of land in Brazil by the "Sem tierra" (landless) movement.


In order to show the pervasiveness of the new enclosures, I will just mention a few cases of urban enclosure. Urban design in fact is an important attempt to enclose human and social behaviour in forms and pattern compatible with the accumulation process and the profit motive. For example, the lack of public benches in public sites such as the large main hall of Waterloo station in London can be puzzling, unless we understand it as aimed at the minimisation of vagrant behaviour (which takes us back to the rationale of the Tudor's "bloody legislation" following the early enclosures). Such efforts are aimed at the marginalisation of the homeless to "invisible sites" and also to give local businesses (cafes or restaurants) a monopoly on places to sit to nearby cafes. Similarly, what public benches are available are now constructed with a series of arms in London, or with convex surfaces as in Los Angeles, (Davis, 1990, p. 235). They are designed as instruments of social engineering to keep us on the move and to prevent our modern "vagrants" (especially homeless) from sleeping off the ground. In the same spirit many businesses fill their window sills with metal uprights to prevent people from sitting on them. Even the satisfaction of primary biological functions have become the subject of enclosure in train stations and other public spaces of the West where access to toilets require payment.


By "social commons," I mean those commons that have been erected as a result of past social movements and later formalised by institutional practices. A classic example is the body of rights, provisions and entitlements universally guaranteed by the welfare state in spheres such as health, unemployment benefits, education, and pensions. Although these social commons served at the same time as a site for administrative regulation of social behaviour (Piven and Cloward 1972), they also allowed to a certain extent the access to public wealth without a correspondent expenditure of work (that is, to access it directly). This characteristic has been under increasing attack by neoliberal policies of the last twenty years. In the North, enclosure of these social commons have gone through the transformation from welfare to workfare (as in the U.S. and in Britain), through the imposition of strict "convergence criteria" that limit social spending in countries that want to join the European Union, among other cases.


I call "natural commons" - - for lack of better word - - those commons that are given by nature and used directly by people. For example, the wilderness, to the extent that it is a means of recreation and of the reproduction of human energies, or the basis for human biological existence. Deforestation and increasing carbon dioxide emissions or the process of massive road building and large infrastructures are not only destroying important natural sites but are threatening the biological conditions of life for all species, including our own. In the meantime, even the greenhouse effect can be turned into a profitable activity. Faced with governments' indecision regarding cuts in emissions and the tackling of the global environmental problems of our age, calls have started to be heard regarding the need to react to new global climatic trends, reaction which will allow for example to replace traditional crops suitable to standard climate with genetically engineered crops resistant to changes in temperature. By reproduction commons I mean those commons based on women's ability to reproduce life. This also includes women's ability to breast feed their children, and the shared knowledge communicated across generations and within communities on child-rearing techniques. Enclosure in this case occurs when advertisement campaigns and the massive promotion of "baby-milk" occurs in countries where hygienic conditions would make natural milk the most sensible choice for mothers, a choice that does not make them further dependent on the market.

One example of enclosures of cultural commons is the transformation of museums and areas of historical interest into "commodities" to be sold by the tourist industry. Finally, a word on the enclosures of those commons that we can dub "knowledge and life". Just as language, agricultural and farming methods and skills of any kind, are the cultural basis of any society, without which any society would not survive, so genes are the building blocks of biological life. Enclosure here is taking the form of large multinational corporation's seeking legislation that would turn knowledge and genes into private property. These forms of enclosures are known under the name of Intellectual Property Rights, the consequences of which are potentially devastating.


As it is possible to see, these few examples of new enclosures are either aimed at commodifying aspects of life that were not previously touched by the market, or cracking open social spheres which have been developed by society to protect itself from the market.



2.3. Globalisation of integration.



2.3.1. General characteristics.


The process of globalisation that has occurred in the last twenty years cannot be seen in isolation from those social conflicts that brought Keynesianism down and that imposed remarkable constraints on capital accumulation. Despite the effort of the conventional wisdom to portray the process of globalisation entirely as a spontaneous development of market forces, there is clear evidence to suggest that post-1970s governments, in collusion with powerful corporate and financial groups, have in fact promoted financial integration and deregulation, trade liberalisation, and the internationalisation of production as each of these aspects of globalisation contributes to the management of the fundamental parameters of accumulation.


Financial integration and liberalisation allows capital mobility to serve as a disciplinary device, to limit the scope of concessions of individual governments which could harm national competitiveness, and presents "adjustment" in terms of cuts in welfare spending and entitlements as a necessity posited from outside. In other words, the globalisation of finance can be read in terms of a mechanism for the regulation of the balance between necessary ad surplus labour at the global level. In the countries of the North capital mobility has the same function as IMF structural adjustment policies in the South, the only difference being that the former appears as an impersonal and objective reality. Of course, global financial deregulation also fuels speculation and contributes to bring instability and sudden crashes.

The globalisation of trade, pursued before through the GATT, and now institutionalised with the creation of the WTO, offers the possibility of widening the scope for competition across countries, and therefore to increase the pressure on to each national civil society to raise productivity and production standards, to innovate, to reduce cost, to moderate monetary demands in terms of wages, public services, etc. This insistent, blind promotion of competition across the globe is of course accelerating the threat to indigenous cultures and local networks of production and subsistence and promoting the commodification of every aspects of human life. It is also contributing to set back gains obtained at national levels as a result of pressures from below in terms of environmental and labour standards by allowing the WTO to overrule national and regional laws, thus subverting the democratic process, instead of promoting it (Nader and Wallach 1996).


Finally, the globalisation of production is shaping and reshaping the international division of labour, and coincides with multinational corporations' drive to reduce cost of production, to reach and to create new markets. In chemical, automobile, electronic and textiles sectors among others, plants have been closed in some regions of the North, and reopened in other regions of the South of the world. For those relatively labour intensive sectors such as textile, the mobility of capital could be further utilised to react to increase in production costs in emerging markets as soon as they reach "uncompetitive" new levels due, for example, to pressures brought about by a newly unionised work force. In this case plants shifts to another "emergent" economy. This pattern, which initially had disastrous effects on the unskilled labor force, has subsequently reached skilled workers who are increasingly exposed to global competition (Reich 1992). However, one of the most striking effects of globalisation on labour markets is the dramatic increase in global poverty and the increasing role of various forms of modern slavery within the international division of labour (Chossudovsky 1997).


2.3.2. Globalisation strategies and the Money Circuit of Capital.


The process of capitalist accumulation is a process of social integration whose aim is the accumulation of capital. To the extent that the elements of integration (what is to be integrated) are productive nodes distributed around the globe, we can refer to this as globalisation of integration.


At the general level, there are two types of integration. Integration as a sequence of transformations, or integration through time, and integration as coordination of functions, or integration through space. Both are relevant dimensions of a successful capitalist strategy.


Time (diachronic) integration can be illustrated as the integration between different moments of Marx's formula of the money circuit of capital. In this sense, we can simply rewrite formula 1. by emphasizing the temporal dimension necessarily embedded within it. This is shown in 2.


2.


The subscript T refers to the time period at which each transformation takes place. For reason of simplicity, I assume that commodity capital C' is sold (realized) as soon as it is produced and that LP and MP are bought simultaneously. Both cases represent of course a great simplification. Indeed, the occurrences of crises would make these transformations more difficult, and therefore, if they occur at all, they would take more time.

Any historical form of this strategy of integration must have a spatial dimension defined in terms of a particular functional integration of different productive nodes within society. A productive node is constituted by individuals, or overlapping networks of individuals (home, factory, office, company, city, region, nations, continents, etc.). The integration of these nodes and within these nodes give rise to a web of interrelated nodes. The study of the spatial configuration of these nodes can give us insights into the relation between capitalist production and territory, and into the social composition at various social planes of spatial configuration.


This spatial integration gives concrete substance to the different moments of the money circuit of capital. For example, the transformation M-LP acquires concreteness in the form taken by the labor market, the segmentation and stratification among workers, the patterns of reproduction, the division of labor within the family, etc. The period of production . . . P . . . acquires concreteness in the patterns of the social and technical division of labor, their overlapping zones, the way things are produced, etc. C-M acquires concreteness in the way goods are commercialised, in the patterns of semiotic meaning given to commodities that people, succumbing to or rebelling against strategies of advertisements, give to commodities, etc.


The general aim of any strategy of capitalist integration is therefore twofold. On one hand, the temporal integration of a sequential process of M-C{LP; MP} . . . P . . . C'-M', which is the basis of accumulation. On the other hand, the spatial integration of synchronic social cooperation. It is clear that this distinction is uniquely analytical and that in reality spatial and temporal dimensions turn into one another and coexist. Synchronic and diachronic dimensions are not two different "levels" of analysis. They do not imply a hierarchy of importance, or a sequence of assumptions. Rather, real social processes can exists only within a temporal and spatial framework, but the nature of this space and time is given by the social processes themselves. From the point of view of capital for example, a particular social cooperation of labor (synchronic dimension) is the form allowing labor-time (diachronic dimension) to be extracted. On the other hand, the control over the temporal dimension of life (the discipline over labor-time) allows the definition of social forms of cooperation. Since globalisation strategies are strategies of accumulation, they must address both these two dimensions, the how the different layers of society are integrated in order to accumulate; and the how quantitative patterns and flows of accumulation displace, affects, promote certain forms of social cooperation.


Within this general analytical framework therefore, from the perspective of temporal and spatial integration, the general character of capital's strategies of accumulation is defined by the historical conditions required for the smooth integration of the different phases of the money circuit of capital, where the ultimate character of this "smoothness" is some forms of management of contradictory social relations of production. From a general analytical perspective, accumulation is the integration of different moments of the money circuit of capital each carrying both a time and a space index.


3.

In 3. the superscripts s1, s2, etc., indicate geographical/spatial sets of locations, which could be countries or any other sites. Formula 3, can give us a first general analytical framework to analyze the current process of globalisation. The first moment of the circuit of capital implies the buying of LP and MP. The spatial superscript on M (s1) and on the commodity bought (s2) defines the mixture of locational origin of money capital, LP and MP respectively. For example,




can define a capital coming from a network of US and European banks, while s2 in


can be a set of immigrant workers coming from mainland China to the US, plus workers in Salvador and Malaysia. In the case of the production process,


. . . . . .


may represent a production process that takes place between T = 1 and T = 2 and is dispersed in a set of location s3 which includes a factory in Salvador, Malaysia and US, all vertically integrated. Finally, commodities can be realised


through sales on the European, Canadian, US and Japanese markets defined by spatial set s4.


2.3.2. Struggles and the Deployment of Globalisation Strategies.


Now, it may be a truism to say that all human production, and not only its capitalist form, takes place within temporal and spatial dimension. Also, the money circuit of capital described in formula 3. could in principle represent the accumulation process in all spheres of capitalist history. Thus, how is it possible to distinguish the current trends that go under the name of globalisation to previous spatial dispersion of capitalist relations? Is it simply that the spatial sets s1, s2, etc. now include more regions in the world than, say, in the late XIX century? This, by and large, is not true. Although the last thirty years or so have witnessed a transformation of capitalist relations across the globe, global markets have long since been integrated. As the sceptics of the globalisation thesis often remind us, the share of trade over GDP in several countries in the North is today at comparable levels than 100 years ago (Gordon 1988; Hirst & Thompson 1996; and Weiss 1997). Also, a look at the balance of payment of UK, India and the US in the mid XIX century, can give us an immediate impressionistic view of an integrated relation between centre and periphery in the world much earlier than the recent globalisation buzz.


However, within the framework of the money circuit of capital and the logic of the accumulation of capital, it is possible to envisage what are the novel characters of today's processes of globalisation. As we will see in the next section, globalisation appears as the net result of the clash between those forces in society geared toward accumulation attempting to escape from or regulate those forces which go in the opposite direction, to escape or regulate the "double movement" of society that Polanyi was talking about, or the "class struggle" as referred by Marx.

The recognition of globalisation as the net result of capital's drive on one side and struggles on the other, implies that a theoretical and empirical analysis of globalisation as strategy should be devoted at least to two main areas.


1. Analysis of strategies deployed to overcome social rigidities: synchronic dimension. These social rigidities, from the perspective of capital's accumulation, give origin to problems of co-ordination, stability and scale. The ability of capital to overcome these struggles and rigidities is proportional to its ability to impose inter-exchangeability between spatial sets at any moment of the circuit. This in turn can take the forms of strategies aimed at reducing trade barriers (such as those pursued under GATT and now pursued and enforced by the WTO); reduce restriction on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and increasingly shield it from any national government regulations (such as those attempted under the failed Multilateral Agreements on Investment and now pursued under the chapter on FDI within WTO and other international institutions); or those strategies that deregulate capital market and deregulate financial capital (such as those imposed by IMF structural adjustment policies). The study of the spatial configurations at any moment of the circuit of capital as well as of the strategies to increase their inter-exchangeability is of paramount importance in order to understand strength and weaknesses of the current processes of globalisation vis-à-vis social movements. The study of these strategies requires of course a careful critical examination of the role of the state and governments policies within the global economy (Holloway 1995).


2. Analysis of strategies deployed to overcome social rigidities: diachronic dimension. Each of the strategies referred above on the areas of production, trade and finance, also have an impact along the diachronic dimension of the money circuit of capital. For example, the effect and impact of trade liberalisation policies should not only be assessed in terms of the absolute amount of trade over national product. They also should be assessed in terms of their impact on the production process, the forms taken by co-operation of labour, the patterns of socially necessary labour time. All the same, strategies of enclosure of the "social commons" such as structural adjustment, must be appreciated not only in terms of a change in distributive criteria but also as a moment of the valorisation strategy.


2.3.2.1. Example 1. International Trade and Class Composition.


A first example can be provided by the condition, from a mere sociological point of view, of the working class in countries of the North, and the possibility that are open to capital today to deploy Keynesian-like strategies of accumulation in the face of possible deepening of the current economic and social crisis. Following the last twenty years of neoliberal policies, the working class has generally been structurally fragmented and divided, with an income hierarchy that cuts along not only domestic but also international lines. Exposed to the titanic yet seemingly impersonal force of global competition and integrated within a chain of production that recognises no borders, this new working class seems cannot offer opportunities for a Keynesian-like national capital to be systematically turned into a force enhancing the growth of domestic capital. This is for at least three reasons (Caffentzis 1998).


First, it is becoming less and less relevant to talk about domestic capital and a domestic working class. For example, capital owned by US citizens is increasingly employed abroad not only for the commercialisation of products in foreign markets, but even in their own domestic market. Also, workers employed by US capital (what used to be considered the US working class) increasingly include non-US citizens. It must be noted that the effect of this globalisation of capital and labour power on the power relations shaping wages and productivity greatly depends on the real and perceived threat of capital mobility rather than simply on the absolute amount of national capital actually located abroad. This threatened mobility can in fact be used as a disciplinary device in wage settlements.

Second, and consequently, in the context of the global market, the increasing importance of export-oriented production allows employers still located within the national borders room to escape the constraints of workers' domestic purchasing power.


Third, global competition allows wages to be cheapened not only because of the wage moderation obtained by greater competition in the labour market, but also because of the cheapening of the commodities entering the wage basket and flooding the global economy. Import-consumption thus is part of a process reducing what Marx would call the value of labor power.


These three interrelated factors represent a mechanism for the regulation of the parameters of accumulation in ways that are incompatible with traditional Keynesian solutions. Domestic markets are increasingly being replaced by global markets as sites to realise sales. Productivity deals have been replaced by real or threatened capital movements to curb workers' wage aspirations and enforce productive discipline. From the perspective of neoliberal capital accumulation today, a return to systematic Keynesian policies would imply the dismantling of the composition of the global working class and the establishment of a global productivity deal. Such a titanic enterprise would certainly run counter in many ways to the interests of the corporate and financial elite who rule the global economy today. This of course leaves open the question of what could be the strategies of capital's recuperation in face of growing social unrest.


2.3.2.2. Example 2. Disciplinary role of Financial markets.


On the other hand, one aspect of current globalisation even recognised by the sceptics is that of financial markets. This is not surprise, given the fact that the last twenty years have been characterised by a tremendous increase in the amount of money capital that has floated the financial markets of the North. Also, enormous pressure have been put by the guardians of neoliberalism such as IMF and WB to countries of the South to liberalise their financial markets and promote local stock markets and capital inflow. For example, in 1995, while world export of goods and services totalled about $6.1 trillion, the daily foreign exchange market turnover amounted to about $1.2 trillion, that is about 50 times as much. Samir Amin has observed that "financialisation" is a recurrent stage in capitalism and is a mode of crisis management. This mode often implies the creation of the conditions of recovery "elsewhere but at a relative distance from the center of financialisation" (Amin 1996: 244).


In traditional critical analysis, it is not clear how "financialization" can become a mode of capitalist crisis management without having an effect on the actual capitalist process of value production. Amin correctly points out that there may be a spatial displacement between the area in which financialisation occurs and the areas in which accumulation accelerates, but he does not indicate what is the link between the two. Contrarily to prevalent orthodoxy, the link between financial globalisation and accumulation cannot be the fact that the former allows more efficient and better allocation of financial resources among productive ends. It is now well know that the greatest percentage of firms investment is not out of the stock market, but out of non distributed profits and borrowing. Instead, if the increase role of financial capital is linked to efficiency in accumulation, it seems to me that the link must be found in the disciplinary role that financial markets fulfil to regulate the fundamental parameters of accumulation.

Thus, as in the case of the globalisation of trade and production, also the globalisation of finance is characterised not so much by the global distribution of locations within the spatial sets "s", but by the easiness, relative to previous periods, for which spatial locations within the sets can interchange. This "easiness", which entails not only actual movement of capital in all its forms (financial, commodities, means of production, etc.), but also the real and perceived threat of movement.


The immediate motivation of the social agents responsible for the actual or threatened movement of capital may differ, depending on whether they manage financial or industrial profit making firms, for example. Thus, what governs financial firms movement of capital across stock markets are short run considerations about interest rate, value of stock, socio-political factors, etc. The financial operators who are responsible for this movement may need to know nothing about the social and human cost of their enterprise. What governs capital movement of industrial multinationals are considerations about wage, productivity and access to markets. In this case, the managers who engage in the dislocation of productive activities may or may not know the wider social and human implications of their actions. These, from a purely business perspective, are irrelevant. What matters is that whatever are the particular motivations that lead agents in different branches of production and finance to consider capital movement, the effect of actual and threatened capital movement, the rationale of the existing relative easiness for capital to move, is the regulation of the classical parameters of accumulation embedded in formula 3, that is, in Marxian terms, variable capital and surplus value at the social level. Thus for example, it is well known that the movement of productive capital, allows to escape higher wages, militant unions, absentee workers, etc. while the explicit or implicit threat of productive capital movement, results in downward pressures on wages, upward pressures in intensity of labour etc. Also, the movement and the threatened movement of financial capital is at the basis of government policies geared towards public spending cut and/or austerity, due to the financiers' perception of the link between public spending and the loss of the value of money and assets in their hands (inflation). In other words, global finance acts as a weapon to enforce strategies of enclosures and attempt to overcome social resistance. A detailed study of the recent East Asia crisis in terms of strength and limitations of the instrumental use of finance for the overcoming of the social rigidities posed by organised labour and social movements Vis-à- Vis the needs of capital in the region, would be today a useful research.


2.4. Strategies or co-optation.

Along with economic and competitive pressures described before, each node within the fractal geometry of capitalist production must interiorise an economic rationale as the ultimate criteria for the organisation of work in a particular sphere. The more pervasive is the commodification of life, the more the economic rationale penetrates spheres of society and life which were relatively protected until no longer ago (see higher education for example).


The social function of the economic rationale is first and foremost entirely pragmatic. How does this or that node of social production (individual, firms, city, country, etc.) survive and out-compete the rest of the world? It goes without saying that the questions raised by the economic rationale do not allow to transcend the problems posed by capitalist economic practice. The problems of the isolated nodes facing an alien "rest of the world" can be addressed with a frame of mind which accepts the reality of the nodes and of the "rest of the world" as given and not transcendable. Hence, since this given reality corresponds ultimately to the reality of alienation and exploitation for the subject performing living labour, practising the predicaments of the economic rationale leads to reconciling with a vision embedded in hopelessness, of absence of an alternative reality.


This spreading and generalisation of the economic rationale, and the consequent promotion of the ideology of hopelessness, also touches institutional politics and governance, the traditional spheres which original aim was to give us an alienated form of our sociality (Marx 1844). Now instead, institutional politics and governance seems to differentiate from the rest of human activities simply for their particular scale of action, not for the substantially different attributes of these actions. The preoccupations of a government of a "Country A Inc.", or "Trade Area B Inc." cannot but substantially be similar to the preoccupations of a small firm, a "good" worker, or a small city competing in the tourist industry. The so called "end of ideologies" meant essentially that "compete and mobilise labour, within the limits of a budget constrain" is the only ideology, is the only image of the future compatible with today's accumulation.


If this is the role of government and institutional politics in the context of today's "fractal social geometry," it is certainly not there that can be found the source or inspiration for a new world, not even in a mystified form. Whatever appeal had institutional politics in the past as a source of social transformation, that appeal is now doomed, the more we proceed on the path indicated by the fractal social geometry. The conditions are laid therefore for visions and empowerment coming directly from below. I will discuss this in the next section.

Let us briefly focus here on the strategies of recuperation. Having foregone the traditional role of recuperation and co-optation of projects of social transformation, institutional politics and governance are taking a big risk. Living subjects who in struggles and other social practices, find themselves, consciously or unconsciously, setting up limits to capital's boundless drive of profit, are always there, no matter what is mainstream ideology. How can these be recuperated? How can capital tap into these social practices and attempt to make then function for its own purposes?


European commissioner Leon Brittan (1997), addressed this issue in a recent speech on the questions of sovereignty in the context of globalisation. He wrote:


[I]n order to meet the challenges of globalisation the multilateral system has had to embark on a much broader based process of liberalisation than in the past, but has also had to buttress that process with an effective discipline which is pro tanto a diminution of unfettered national sovereignty.


It is firstly recognised that, in the context of the world economy (the fractal geometry of capital), the decline of national sovereignty corresponds not only to the increase in the power of the market. Also, the power of global institutions such as the WTO or the increase in the power of the European commission to deal with commercial policy without even the need to consult the European Parliament or national governments, has increased vis-à-vis national governing bodies. These global institutions, despite being non elected bodies, have the power to undo national and regional legislation aimed at erecting some barriers over environmental, labour and social issues. But these laws were in fact introduced as a way to concede to and recuperate popular movements. Yet, even the European commissioner knows that there is a danger in this decline in national sovereignty.


As globalisation proceeds, as supranational institutions converge and as European integration develops, it is more than ever important that electorates do not feel that they have been cheated of their own power to influence decision-makers. This requires a more subtle division of labour between different centres of power and political institutions. Decisions should be made at their most appropriate level.[My emphasis]


In other words, the process of globalisation reduces the ability for national government to enter into negotiation with social movements and claims of various "interest groups." People may feel cheated about this, they may feel "disempowered", and of course a problem of legitimacy may follow. What to do? Brittan suggests the formula of the "pooling of national sovereignty", a formula borrowed by Ferdinand Mount (quoted by Brittan)


. . . authority must reside and be seen to reside where it is, in theory, supposed to reside.


Where is it supposed to reside? In the ability of people to "do their job" within the budgetary constraints and conditions of the competition faced by their "node".


A headmaster should be allowed to act like one. A manager should be left to get on with managing. Similarly, local communities should not feel that local decisions are unnecessarily dictated by national or international structures. The necessary degree of pooling of sovereignty will only be acceptable if people are confident that their Governments will always be vigilant to ensure that there really is something to be gained every time a step in the direction of further integration is taken. Governments entering into international commitments must consider carefully whether the effects of those commitments will not intrude unnecessarily into the minutiae of regional or national practices.


In other words, to be gained is what is gained by "successful" competition. It goes without saying that this logic not only overlooks the fact that in the definition of competition resides the possibility of loosing. Also, it implies the acceptance of a life organised around a continuous struggle for survival and reproduction of scarcity. It is implies the acceptance of social Darwinism as the human condition.


Brittan's quote helps us to highlight the institutional forms taken by today's various versions of localism: European regionalism, British devolution, London's major, and the concessions to the Northern league in Italy. With this apparent fragmentation and dispersion of authority, we are witnessing a strategy of elicitation of social practices and its channelling it to the competitive war, in correspondence of whatever productive node.


From here, the new form of bourgeois democracy that is being developed. This can be summarised as the management of the crumbs of the polis vis-à-vis the big priorities set by transnational corporations, world trade organisation, and Brussels' bureaucracy. It is a case of centralisation of priorities (Marx 1844) ultimately determined by this "thing" called "global economy" (which in Figure 2 is at the top of the inter-nodes links) and decentralisation of responsibility to implement these priorities. This pooling of sovereignty implies that the priorities of capital's sovereignty are taken as given at any level of social aggregation and at any level of political administration: that is the priorities of competitiveness and accumulation. According to this project, the role of the national parliament is no longer the recuperation of social conflict and the management of the class relation. Rather, politicians in the national parliament, or the regional or city councils, are increasingly required to administrate the country, region, city, or neighbourhood as a productive node of the global factory. In this sense, the main purpose of the administrators is to make the country, city, region or neighbourhood more competitive than others, and therefore more able to attract capital than others. Thus, pooling sovereignty can be seen, in Weberian terms, as a strategy of recuperation of legitimacy. Devolution therefore does not mean devolving power to regions, etc., but to make people actively involved in the management of the world capitalist machine at their own local level.


However, the process of globalisation, and with this the process of European integration, by attempting to expropriate a residual power that people used to have in the Keynesian era, that of negotiation through representation of a trade union or a political party, that is negotiation of conditions of work, wage and social entitlements, also carry the risks in terms of the maintenance of social control. Two important developments are here worth mentioning with regards with state strategies of recuperation of the deviant behavior of the "socially excluded". On one side, their increased criminalisation occurred in the last two decades, which in countries such as the UK and especially the US made use of "private" prisons run as businesses and fully inserted within the networks of global economy. Second, a more recent development, that is the liaison that institutions such as WTO, WB and national governments are nurturing and promoting with many NGOs, a liaison dangerously paralleling the one adopted by the state with the Trade Union Movement in the 1930s and which opened the way for the Keynesian strategy of recuperation of social conflict. Although it is still perhaps too early to say, the hidden agenda may well be to set the ground for a recuperation of the inevitable spread of social conflict, and therefore the use of many NGOs to serve the purpose of mediating between the demands springing out of struggles of people distributed within a territory, and the competitive needs of a locality.

3. Social Movements and the Constitution of Reality


3.1. Bulding alliances across continents and across issues.


This set of neoliberal strategies of global integration did not occur in a vacuum, but against a set of social forces opposing it. Mainstream economists and other social scientists often forget the oppositional nature of capitalist society, as well as the dynamism of the forms of these forces. It is relatively easy to discover social conflict in the midst of a global financial crisis like in Indonesia in 1998, when a mass explosion forced dictator Suharto out and continued to give trouble to his successors. But these events are the tip of an iceberg. The fact is that all throughout the neoliberal 1980s and 1990s struggles have often posed limits to the forces of globalisation, and often forced international economic institutions to setbacks in the implementation of their agenda. The drive towards the integration of the South of the world into the global economy for example was a drive which used debt as the main tool for enforcing market dependence. But the history of debt in the Third World is a history dotted with what has been called "IMF riots" (Walton and Seddon 1994) which often forced the IMF to "allow" national governments to repeal some of the most socially devastating conditionalities imposed by IMF loans. Another example is provided by the campaign against Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI), that is the negotiations among OECD countries to allow multinational corporations more freedom to roam across the world with lower public and legal restraint. In April 1998 ministers involved were forced to interrupt negotiations for six month and rethink their strategy after what has been defined the growing "network guerrillas" has publicly exposed the devastating social and economic consequences of what was supposed to be secret negotiations (de Jonquières 1998).


Also, the character of social movements and struggles against neoliberalism and the effects of globalisation has evolved since the beginning of the 1980s. In the countries of the North for example, at first, neoliberal strategies were met with the resistance of social subjects whose main socio-economic characteristics and political/organisational imagery were typical of the class composition of the Keynesian era. These struggles were mostly reactive in nature and mainly defensive of rights and entitlements threatened by the new neoliberal policies. But with the passing of time and the unfolding of the 1990s, the defence of rights and entitlements of the Keynesian era has been paralleled by a process which, although still at an embryonic stage, has started the formation of new oppositional alliances, which began to develop new political and organisational imageries, and that has started to define new claims, new rights and new entitlements. To the observer endowed with a stereotypical radical cynicism, the long period of the neoliberal hegemony since the beginning of the 1980s may appear simply as a long period of working class defeat. And certainly many entitlements and many rights have been lost. However, to the observer who takes an historical perspective, these last twenty years cannot be only synonym of defeat. A process of recomposition of radical claims and social subjects has been under way, a process which is forcing every movement not only to seek alliances with others, but also to make the struggles of other movements their own, without first the need to submit the demands of other movements to an ideological test. Unlike the times in which communist and socialist organizations provided the hegemonic ideological frame of reference in many struggles, today the ideological frame of reference seems to be the ongoing result of the process of recomposition among different social subjects. The premise of this process of recomposition is the multidimensional reality of exploitative and oppressive relations as it is manifested in the lives and experiences of the many social subjects within the global economy. On its own, the heterogeneous character of this premise is not able to effectively confront the hegemonic and monolithic pansée unique which legitimizes neoliberal strategies. But the interaction among these social subjects in various occasion of struggles, creates an alternative mode of thinking which is increasingly able to root the multidimensionality of human needs and aspirations into the universalism of the human condition. In a word, the process of social recomposition against neoliberal hegemony is creating a new philosophy of emancipation.

Indeed, the globalisation of trade and production has contributed to widen the scope of political aspirations across movements around the world (Waterman 1998). This can be seen at least in two major issues. In the first place, the great variety of movements in the last few decades, and the resistance within each movement to be subsumed within a main neoliberal ideological discourse, is forcing the formation of new radical ideas and practices which attempt to encompass the basic aspirations of all movements. It is now impossible to define the basic elements of a progressive paradigm, without testing it against the issues raised by the struggles of a great variety of social movements. The relief of poverty does not justify blind environmental destruction (thanks to the environmental movement); environmental protection does not justify the unemployment of thousands of workers (thanks to the labor movement); jobs protection does not justify production of arms, instrument of torture and yet more prisons (thanks to the human rights movement); the defense of "prosperity" does not justify the slaughter of indigenous people and their culture (thanks to the movement of indigenous people); and so on with the movements of women, blacks, students, among others. The visibility of a great variety of contentious issues and aspirations, leads of course to inevitable contradictions, the transcendence of which is the object of daily political practice, intra-movements communication, the continuous formation of new alliances which is helping shaping new political visions. For example, the large diffusion of acceleration and promotion of a dialogue between grassroots labor activists and militant environmentalists, human-rights groups, women, etc., is shaping new political weapons. The activists are learning for example that cuts in welfare state can be resisted on human rights grounds, thus enabling not only a wider coalition, but also shaping a broader sense of what the movement is for, a broader and richer philosophical perspective.


In the second place, the globalisation of trade and production has contributed to widen the scope of international alliance, and putting together the needs and aspiration of a great variety of social subjects across the globe. This was seen in the various movements that in these latest years opposed the processes of neoliberal globalisation. These movements not only grew into increasingly organized and effective international networks of resistance against individual neoliberal strategies, but also initiated a social process of recomposition of civil society across the globe on priorities which are not compatible with those of global capital. At the same time as capital's strategy of globalisation is increasing the inter-dependence of different peoples around the world by increasing their vulnerability, movements are transforming their practice and transcending the distinction between national and international, making it less definite, less important. Also, as more and more state functions are transferred to supranational state bodies, so too the struggle against these bodies (IMF/ WB/ WTO etc.) is blurring the distinction between national and international.


The patterns of this new wave of international organisations was perhaps first recognisable in the struggle against the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Anti-Nafta campaign represented the coming together of these different souls, forcing the official US labour bureaucracies to distant themselves form support of US foreign policy for the first time in history. The traditional AFL-CIO failure to back progressive movements and unions in Latin America and other third world countries, served US employers to pit the workers of these countries against the US ones. Other international networks which combine both a greater scope for internationalism and the overlapping of different issues include the "for humanity and against neoliberalism" promoted by the Zapatistas, the insurgent indigenous of the Mexican region of Chiapas; other interfacing networks such as Peoples Global Action against the World Trade Organisation and the Action for Solidarity, Equality, Environment and Development (ASEED); the networks against IMF, World Bank and third World debt; the network against the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment, among others. On this last question, it is worth mentioning what I believe may be considered a very important set back in the process of global neoliberalism when the OECD countries were forced to postpone negotiations on global investment liberalisation.


3.2. New patterns of recomposition and the struggle against abstract labour.


To what extent do these patterns of recomposition represent struggles against abstract labour? After all, unlike some of the movements of the 1970s, there is little evidence that "refusal of work" is a common rhetoric of current struggles. Yet, the analysis of abstract labour in its "component parts" allows us to pinpoint some important elements of recomposition and make sense of them all in their interrelationships (see Table 3).


Table 3.


Opposition between the elements of abstract labour and those of recomposition




Abstract labour (common factor: alienated humanity)


Elements of recomposition (common factor: humanity as a constitutive force)


Imposed (strategies of enclosures)

Struggles against forms of imposition: GM, IPR, WTO, MAI, human rights, etc.


Alienated (products, activity, sociality, nature)

+ "Health conscious" culture (products)

+ Eco-awareness (products, activity, nature).


+ "consensus seeking" method of organisation (activity, sociality).


+ direct action (activity, sociality).


+ horizontal characters of alliances (activity, sociality).


Boundless (growth for growth's sake)

+ Play as non-separated from "politics".


+ limits set against enclosures.


Opposed to those strategies of enclosure which attempt to create more spaces for the market and therefore for the capitalist relation of work, we have witnessed an abundant array of struggles, some of which were mentioned in the previous section. Furthermore, it must pointed out that struggles against enclosures are struggles for different meanings, and struggles in which new meanings are searched for. For example, the struggles against the attempt to introduce intellectual property rights that enclose farmers' centuries-long practices and knowledge is also a struggle against the destruction of many meanings and their replacement by a few (geared to profit making). Also, it must be noted that the struggles for meanings in human activity are struggles against humanly meaningless abstract labour.


In contrast to the estrangement and alienation of ourselves from the product, from the activity of labour, from our sociality and from ourselves as part of nature, a series of practices seems to have emerged from a variety of directions. Each of these practices moves from the experience of a fragment of the totality of capitalist relations and rebels against it. Then, through communication, alliances, and cross-movement "bridge building", each oppositional fragment redefines priorities, methods, and their place into a moment of an oppositional universe. The constitution of a new sociality therefore is not to be found in the prior definitions of political theory, but rather in ongoing processes of self-organisation.


The methods of organisation and alliance building are important. In the last two decades there has been a growing emphasis on "horizontal" organisations, rather than vertical, on "direct action" rather than delegated action, on "consensus seeking" rather than majority vote. These practices are sinking in deep into the consciousness of "how to do things" of the people involved in various social movements. In this sense, as the Zapatistas are teaching us, the question of power is completely redefined. Instead of aiming at "seizing power", those in struggle are all focused on the exercise of power through a process of mutual recognition of the different "fragments".


Finally, it is becoming increasing evident that the notion of "politics", of our fighting for different worlds, is becoming less and less separated from "play", i.e., the lived experience of a world outside anxiety and imposed scarcity. Together with the struggles against enclosures and alienation, the increasingly relevance of play in the practice of politics, implies setting a limit to the boundlessness of capitalist work, from its priorities that everything wants to include.

In a word, by posing the question of direct democracy, consensus seeking, horizontal organisation, play and access to resources, recent struggles are waged against abstract labour and are posing anew the question of human freedom.


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