Global political economy
Value Transformation of the Present-day Society
Another phenomenon that has undoubtedly contributed to the development of global civil society is the association of two seemingly unrelated issues: global political economy and its impacts on a number of countries, mostly developing ones; and the value transformation among the public in the developed countries, titled by sociologist Ronald Inglehart the inclination toward post-materialism (Inglehart, 1997; Inglehart & Abramson, 1995).
Analysts Walton and Seddon (1994) described the relationship between so-called structural adjustment programmes, under which developing countries have been forced to undergo drastic economic measures, and the mobilisation of civil society. The protests brought about by the neo-liberal belt-tightening resulted in the formation of civil society, which has gradually ripened and taken up new topics such as women’s rights, human rights, and democracy in general. When developing countries were undergoing the neo-liberal economic experiments, part of Western society was undergoing a transformation, called a ‘silent revolution’ by Ronald Inglehart. In his view, a society freed of primary existential difficulties begins to care more for the quality of life and its ethical dimension. Post-materialists are people whose thinking and conscience differ from those of the Homo economicus, running into conflict with the logic of the global economics.
Post-materialism means a departure from quantity (of money and material assets) toward quality of life. Quality of life includes its ethical and ecological dimensions, in which community, justice, sustainability, and control over one’s own fate play the crucial roles. The generation of peace activists of the Cold War has transformed into the generation of environmental activists and subsequently into global activists demanding debt cancellation, fair trade, sustainability, and regulation of multinational corporations. As philosopher Václav Bělohradský (1999) noted in his comment on the protests in Seattle, ‘CS has come onstage surrounded by the sound of shattering glass’ when it opposed openly the greedy global logic of ‘growing Growth’ (Bělohradský, 1999; 2000; Lebeda, 2003). Dutch analyst Kees Breed (1998) sees the emergence of CS from a different angle than Inglehart and Bělohradský, saying that one of the reasons for the development of civil society in the 1990s was a deficiency of democracy in the Western democracies, where a gap widened between the society and its political representation.
CS, which begins to include demands for global justice, thus emerges in various processes and various places, but the access to information, and new communication and mobilisation possibilities have helped the development of the phenomenon that we now call the global CS with its own agenda, inner dynamics, and related political opinions. It is interesting to see anarchists meet Christians and unions meet environmental activists under this common umbrella, once obstinate ideological opponents.