Discords and Conflicts: What Kind of Globalisation?

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Civil society is characterised by diversity rather than likeness. There are a number of discords, and even open conflicts, within CS.

Two paradigms can be extracted from the diverse range of arguments and opinions, which we call the reformist and the radical. Martin Khor of the Third World Network (Cavanagh, 2004, p. 30) has provided a summary of their nature:

The first paradigm involves the choice to work in the system of globalisation, in which we feel we are trapped. If we do work within that system, we begin by asking: “Are the rules of the game fair particularly to the weaker partners, or are they being twisted and manipulated by the strong partners in order to keep the weaker countries down?” If the latter, then we should fight for reform of the rules of the game so that they can be more fair.

This is the so-called reformist paradigm, as it tries to adjust the weaknesses of the global system without attacking its essence and systemic character. Reformists therefore criticise the unfair rules of international trade, which are set to the benefit of trade superpowers and marginalise the export capacities of the poor countries. Reformists, however, do not criticise production for export, the environmentally unsustainable nature of long-distance trade and of economic growth based on the using of non-renewable resources. Khor therefore suggests a second paradigm, so-called radical:

this debate between the North and the South is irrelevant because in twenty or thirty years the whole system will blow up anyway. So, in the second paradigm, we work for Ghandi-style, community-based, self-reliant family units of production and only making occasional exchanges with the rest of the world, as needed.

Khor calls for work inside the first paradigm, where changes can be achieved, whilst activists should remember that the second paradigm should be the goal.

The debate over the reform of globalisation within CS is dominated by controversies over the following topics: access to markets and global growth and globalisation versus localisation.