Alter-globalization (also known as alternative globalization) is a social movement whose proponents support global cooperation and interaction, but oppose what they describe as the negative effects of economic globalization, considering to often work to the detriment of, or 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, namely “Another world is possible”, which came out of the World Social Forum. The alter-globalization movement is also defined as a cooperative movement designed to “protest the direction and perceived negative economic, political, social, cultural and ecological consequences of neoliberal globalization”. 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 such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) etc., and major corporations devote themselves to enriching the developed world while giving little or no attention to what critics say are 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 they say often lead to violations of human rights.
According to an article by Geoffrey Pleyers, the short history of the alter-globalization movement can be divided into four periods. “The first one, in the mid-1990s, reflected a proliferation of local and national protests against neoliberal policies, in every region of the world. During this period the movement was essentially organized, on the one hand, around international campaigns (such as the one against third world debt), and networks and meetings of intellectual activists, NGOs and counter-summits; and on the other hand, on the basis of massive popular protests at the local and national levels, as in the ‘water wars’ in Bolivia, and farmers’ protests all over Asia,” states Pleyers and adds that“They all denounced the growing influence of the WTO, the burden of third world debt, and the power of the multinationals. Small farmers movements were particularly active. In 1993, they founded the global network Via Campesina, which today boasts 200 million members across the world.”
Defining alter-globalization as a different kind of globalization more attentive to labor and minority rights, the environment and economic equality, Quinn Slobodian analyzed in an article that “Two decades later, traces of that movement are hard to find. But something surprising has happened in the meantime. A new version of alter-globalization has won — from the right. We often hear that world politics is divided between open versus closed societies, between globalists and nationalists. But these analyses obscure the real challenge to the status quo… President Trump and the far right preach not the end of globalization, but their own strain of it, not its abandonment but an alternative form. They want robust trade and financial flows, but they draw a hard line against certain kinds of migration. The story is not one of open versus closed, but of the right cherry-picking aspects of globalization while rejecting others. Goods and money will remain free, but people won’t.”
Reminding that in Britain, the Brexit campaign was built on the demand to ‘take back control’ and fear-mongering about refugees and immigrants, Slobodian states that “Withdrawal from the world economy was never on the program. On the contrary, the Brexiteers championed a pivot from the European economy to the global one unfettered by the regulations of Brussels and the European Court of Justice. Almost all negotiations since the vote to leave have been in pursuit of a vision in which the free flow of goods and money across the channel can be preserved while labor migration can be squelched.”
According to Slobodian, the pattern of right-wing alter-globalization is repeated in Germany and Austria, where the Alternative for Germany and the Austrian Freedom Party have recently recorded electoral wins. Neither party proposes national self-sufficiency or economic withdrawal. In their programs, the rejection of economic globalization is highly selective. The EU is condemned, but the language demanding increased trade, and competitiveness is entirely mainstream… Even the alt-right, usually seen as the epitome of the fortress mentality of separatist survivalism, contains significant strains of alter-globalization.
“The varieties of right-wing alter-globalization differ significantly in degrees of horror. What they share is a rejection not of the “postwar international order” — as many pundits fruitlessly argue — but of the order of the 1990s. In the cross hairs are the products of that decade, above all, the crown jewels of neoliberal globalism: the WTO, the European Union, and NAFTA,” states Slobodian and adds that “the right’s alter-globalizers unite in condemnation of the structures of multilateral governance that emerged from that decade along with their implication that democracy and capitalism were twins joined at the reported ‘end of history’… To summarize, the formula of right-wing alter-globalization is: ‘Yes’ to free finance and free trade. ‘No’ to free migration, democracy, multilateralism and human equality.”
Pleyers, Geoffrey. (2010). Alter-Globalization. Becoming Actors in the Global Age, Cambridge: Polity, 2011. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0268580912452372b