Alter-globalization slogans during the protests in Le Havre against the 37th G8 summit in Deauville, France

Alter-globalization (also known as alternative globalization, alter-mundialization—from the French "alter-mondialisation"—or the global justice movement) is the name of a social movement whose proponents support global cooperation and interaction, but oppose what they describe as the negative effects of economic globalization, feeling that it often works to the detriment of, or does not adequately promote, human values such as environmental and climate protection, economic justice, labor protection, protection of indigenous cultures, peace, and civil liberties.

The name may have been derived from a popular slogan of the movement: 'Another world is possible', which came out of the World Social Forum.[1] "The alter-globalization movement is a cooperative movement designed to protest the direction and perceived negative economic, political, social, cultural and ecological consequences of neoliberal globalization".[2] Many alter-globalists seek to avoid the "disestablishment of local economies and disastrous humanitarian consequences". Most members of this movement shun the label "anti-globalization" as pejorative and incorrect since they actively support human activity on a global scale and do not oppose economic globalization per se.

Instead they see their movement as an alternative to what they term neo-liberal globalization in which international institutions (World Trade Organisation, World Bank, International Monetary Fund etc.) and major corporations devote themselves to enriching the developed world while giving little or no attention to the detrimental effects of their actions on the people and environments of less developed countries, countries whose governments are often too weak or too corrupt to resist or regulate them. This is not to be confused with proletarian internationalism as put forth by communists in that alter-globalists do not necessarily oppose the free market, but a subset of free-market practices characterized by certain business attitudes and political policies that often lead to violations of human rights.


The term was coined against accusations of nationalism by neoliberal proponents of globalization, meaning a support of both humanism and universal values but a rejection of the Washington consensus and similar neoliberal policies. ("Alter" is Latin for "other", as in "alternative" and French "autre".) The "alter-globalization" French movement was thus opposed to the "Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe" on the grounds that it only advanced neoliberalism and an Anglo-Saxon economic model.

Originally developed in French as altermondialisme, it has been borrowed into English in the form of altermondialism or altermondialization. It defines the stance of movements opposed to a neoliberal globalization, but favorable to a globalization respectful of human rights, the environment, national sovereignty, and cultural diversity.

Following the French usage of the word altermondialist, the English counterpart alter-globalist may have been coined.

The term alter-globalization is derived from the term anti-globalization, which journalists and others have used to describe the movement. Many French journalists, in particular, have since ceased using the term anti-globalization in favor of alter-globalization. It is supposed to distinguish proponents of alter-globalization from different "anti-globalization" activists (those who are against any kind of globalization: nationalists, protectionists, communitarians, etc.).


Economic integration via trade, financial flows, and investments had been occurring for many years, but the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 1999 brought significant attention to the outcry for such integration through vast media outlets, support groups, and activists. Though this opposition first became highly popularized in the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, it can be traced back prior to the 1980s when the Washington Consensus became a dominant development in thinking and policy-making.[3]

Factors historically provoking economic integration and resistance

The period of European colonialism

During the late 15th century most regions of the world were self-sufficient; although this led to much starvation and famine. As nations grew in power, sought to expand, and increased their wealth they forged on a mission to gain new lands. The central driving force of these nations was colonialism. Once in power in these new territories, colonists began to change the face of the economy in the area which provided them with motivation to sustain their efforts. Since they no longer had to solely rely on their own lands to produce goods, some nations began global commerce after establishing colonies in continents like Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East, the Americas and the Caribbean.

Once lands were conquered the native inhabitants or others brought along as slaves grew rebellious towards their captors. This is evident in a number of slave rebellions, such as Harper's Ferry, Stono, and the New York Burning, and Native American attacks on European colonists on the North American continent. Over time these skirmishes gave way to social movements aimed at eliminating international trade in goods and labor, an example of which is the attempt to abolish the slave trade and the establishment of the First International Workingmen's Association (IWA).[3]

The post World War II era

The global economic state of post-World War II led to the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The International Monetary Fund's purpose was to supervise the exchange rate system and provide immediate loans for financial supplement of countries whereas the World Bank’s goals were aimed at creating long term/low interest loans that aided in the 'reconstruction' of Europe and the 'development' of independent Third World countries. GATT originated from a perceived need to "oversee the reduction of tariff barriers to trade in manufactured goods".[3]

These financial institutions allowed for the development of global private corporations as administration over trade fell. Free market systems began to grow in popularity as developing countries were required to globalize their economies instead of concentrating on creating jobs and stimulating economic growth. This allowed for private corporations to expand globally, without regard to central issues facing the home country like the environment, social structure or culture.[3]

The 1970s and Southern resistance

The 1970s saw resistance to global expansion by both government and non-government parties. Senator Frank Church was concerned with the role multinational corporations were beginning to play and created a subcommittee that reviewed corporate practices to see if they were advancing U.S. interests or not (i.e. exporting jobs that could be kept within the United States). It was through these public revelations that Southern nations around the world wanted rules to govern the global economy. More specifically, these Southern nations (ranging from Tanzania to the Philippines) wanted to raise/ stabilize raw material prices, and to increase Southern exports.[3] These nations began their movement not only with central goals but with codes of conduct as well (though non-enforceable). Thus two manifestations, one individual, and the other collective, amongst Southern nation-states, existed in their attempts to generate reform.

Preconditions for alter-globalization

It is suggested by some scholars, such as Lagin Russia, that the effects and growth of alter-globalization can be felt worldwide due to progress made as a result of the Internet. The Internet can provide easy, free-flowing and mobile information/network organization that is in its very nature democratic; knowledge is for everyone and is perceived to be needed for further development of our modern world. Furthermore, Internet access makes possible the rapid spread of various groups' principles, progress, growth, opposition and development. The Internet has provided a means of communication that stretches beyond the limits of distance, time and space so ideas may not only be generated but implemented as well.[4]

Alter-globalization as a social movement

Alter-globalization can be characterized as a social movement based on Charles Tilly’s WUNC displays. WUNC is an acronym for Worthiness, Unity, Numbers and Commitment. Alter-globalization is seen as a worthy cause because its goals aim to sustain those being afflicted by the selfish acts of global corporations and their negative effect on human value, the environment, and social justices. It also serves to unite various people around the world for a good cause: to fight for better treatment of Third World countries and their economies, workers rights, fair/equal human rights. Many are committed to the goals set forth by alter-globalization groups because of the perceived negative effects globalization is creating around the world.[5] Examples include: the exploitation of labor, outsourcing of jobs to foreign nations (though some argue this is a nationalistic rather than alter-globalist motive), pollution of local environments, and harm to foreign cultures to which jobs are outsourced.

Alter-globalization can be viewed as being purposeful and creating solidarity, which are two of the three incentives posited by the rational choice theory proposed by Dennis Chong. Rational choice theory focuses on the incentives of activism, stating that activism follows when the benefits to protesting outweigh the costs. Alter-globalization allows one the opportunity to see the difference they are working towards by eliminating the negative side effects already affecting our world (e.g., environmental pollution). It also calls for solidarity amongst peer/community relations that can only be experienced by being a part of the system that causes change.

Another type of social movement that applies to alter-globalization and our understanding of how it relates is found in collective action frames. Collective action frames provide a schemata of interpretation that allows for organization of experience into guided action. Action frames are perceived as powerful because they draw from people’s emotions, re-enforce the collective identity of the group, and create a statement from the groups' collective beliefs. Frame analysis is helpful to alter-globalization because it calls for activists to learn through their socialization and interactions with others. One of the key tasks of action frames is generating agency, or a plausible story that indicates the ability of the activists to create change. With alter-globalization every aspect of the movement suggests this ability because the goals affect the economies, environments and human relations of various countries around the world.

Examples of alter-globalization as a movement

  1. Attempts at an alter-globalization movement to reform policies and processes of the WTO include: "alternative principles of public accountability, the rights of people and the protection of the environment" through the theoretical framework of Robert Cox.[6]
  2. Labor movement and trade union initiatives have begun to respond to economic and political globalisation by extending their cooperation and initiatives to the transnational level.[7]
  3. Fair trade initiatives, corporate codes of conduct, and social clauses as well as a return to local markets instead of relying too heavily on global markets.[8]
  4. "Alter-globalization activists have promoted alternative water governance models through North-South red-green alliances between organized labor, environmental groups, women's groups, and indigenous groups..." (spoken in response to the increase in privatization of the global water supply).[9]
  5. "The first current of the alter-globalization movement considers that instead of getting involved in a global movement and international forums, the path to social change lies through giving life to horizontal, participatory, convivial and sustainable values in daily practices, personal life and local spaces. Many urban activists cite the way that, for example, the Zapatistas in Mexico and other Latin American indigenous movements now focus on developing communities' local autonomy via participatory self-government, autonomous education systems and improving the quality of life. They appreciate too, the convivial aspect of local initiatives and their promise of small but real alternatives to corporate globalization and mass consumption."[10]


Advocates of alter-globalization have set up an online global news network, the Independent Media Center, to report on developments pertinent to the movement. Groups in favor of alter-globalization include ATTAC, an international trade reform network headquartered in France.

World Social Forum

Opening walk of 2002 World Social Forum, held by participants in the movement

The largest forum for alter-globalization activity is the annual World Social Forum. The World Social Forum is intended as a democratic space organized in terms of the movement's values.[11]

See also


  1. Hinkelammert, Franz Josef; Ulrich Duchrow (2004). Property for People, Not for Profit: Alternatives to the Global Tyranny of Capital. Progressio. pp. vii. ISBN 1-84277-479-4.
  2. Krishna-Hensel, Sai (2006). Global Cooperation: Challenges and Opportunities in the Twenty-first Century. Ashgate Publishing. p. 202.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Broad, Robin; Zahara Heckscher (August 2003). Before Seattle: The Historical Roots of the Current Movement against Corporate-Led Globalisation. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. pp. 713–728.
  4. Russia, Lagin. "Towards The Theory of Alter Globalism Ghost of Alter Globalization" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  5. Razsa, Maple. Bastards of Utopia: Living Radical Politics After Socialism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015
  6. Paterson, William (December 2006). Before Seattle: The Historical Roots of the Current Movement against Corporate-Led Globalisation. University of Stirling.
  7. The Construction of a Trans-European Labour Movement, Capital & Class, February 2011, by Daniel Jakopovich
  8. Broad, Robin; John Cavanagh. Development Redefined: How the Market Met its Match.
  9. Bakker, Karen (2006). "The Commons Versus the Commodity : Alter-globalization, Anti-privatization and the Human Right to Water in the Global South". Antipode. 39 (3).
  10. Pleyers, Geoffrey (March 2009). "WSF 2009: A generation's challenge". OpenSpaceForum. Retrieved 2009-04-09. Pleyers, Geoffrey (December 2010). "Alter-Globalization". Polity Press.
  11. Scerri, Andy (2013). "The World Social Forum : Another World Might Be Possible". Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest. 12 (1): 111–120. doi:10.1080/14742837.2012.711522.

Further reading

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