by Vandana Shiva
World Social Forum, 2002
February 23, 2002
Globalisation was projected
as the next great leap of human evolution in a linear forward march
from tribes to nations to global markets. Our identities and context
were to move from the national to the global, just as in the earlier
phase of state driven globalisation, it was supposed to have moved from
the local to the global.
Deregulated commerce and
corporate rule was offered as the alternative to the centralised bureaucratic
control under communist regimes and state dominated economies. Markets
were offered as an alternative to states for regulating our lives, not
just our economies.
As the globalisation project
has unfolded, it has exposed its bankruptcy at the philosophical, political,
ecological and economic levels. The bankruptcy of the dominant world
order is leading to social, ecological, political and economic non-sustainability,
with societies, ecosystems, and economies disintegrating and breaking
The philosophical and ethical
bankruptcy of globalisation was based on reducing every aspect of our
lives to commodities and reducing our identities to merely that of consumers
on the global market place. Our capacities as producers, our identity
as members of communities, our role as custodians of our natural and
cultural heritage were all to disappear or be destroyed. Markets and
consumerism expanded. Our capacity to give and share were to shrink.
But the human spirit refuses to be subjugated by a world view based
on the dispensability of our humanity.
The dominant political and
economic order has a number of features that are new, which increase
injustice and non-sustainability on scales and at rates that the earth
and human community have not experienced.
1. It is based on enclosures
of the remaining ecological commons -- biodiversity, water and air,
and the destruction of local economies on which people's livelihoods
and economic security depends.
2. The commodification of
water and biodiversity is ensured through new property rights built
into trade agreements like the WTO which are transforming people's resources
into corporate monopolies viz. TRIPs and trade in environmental goods
3. The transformation of
commons to commodities is ensured through shifts in governance with
decisions moving from communities and countries to global institutions,
and rights moving from people to corporations through increasingly centralised
and unaccountable states acting on the principle of eminent domain --
the absolute sovereignty of the ruler.
This in turn led to political
bankruptcy and anti-democratic formations and constellations. Instead
of acting on the public trust doctrine and principles of democratic
accountability and subsidiarity, globalisation led to governments usurping
power from parliaments, regional and local governments, and local communities.
For example the TRIPs agreement
was based on central governments hijacking the rights to biodiversity
and knowledge from communities and assigning them as exclusive, monopolistic
rights to corporations.
The Agreement on Agriculture
was based on taking decisions away from farming communities and regional
The General Agreement on
Trade in Services (GATS) takes decisions and ownership over water from
the local and public domain to the privatised, global domain.
This undemocratic process
of privatisation and deregulation led to increased political bankruptcy
and corruption and economic bankruptcy.
A decade of corporate globalisation
has led to major disillusionment and discontentment. Democracy has been
eroded, livelihoods have been destroyed. Small farmers and businesses
are going bankrupt everywhere. Even the promise of economic growth has
not been delivered. Economic slow down has been the outcome of liberalising
trade. Ironically some corporations that led the process of trade liberalisation
and globalisation have themselves collapsed.
Enron which came to India
as the "Flagship" project of globalisation with the full force
of backing and blackmail by the U.S. Trade Representative has gone bankrupt
and is steeped in scandals of corruption. Chiquita, which forced the
banana wars on Europe through a U.S./Europe W.T.O. dispute has also
First South East Asia, now
Argentina have exposed how vulnerable and volatile current economic
The non-sustainability and
bankruptcy of the ruling world order is fully evident. The need for
alternatives has never been stronger.
Creating alternatives to
During the last decade of
the 20th century, corporate driven globalisation shook up the world
and the economic and political structures that we have shaped to govern
In December 1999, citizens
of the world rebelled against the economic totalitarianism of corporate
globalisation. Social and economic justice and ecological sustainability
became the rallying call for new movements for citizen freedoms and
liberation from corporate control.
September 11th 2001 shut
down the spaces that people's movements had opened up. It also brought
back the focus on the intimate connection between violence, inequality
and non-sustainability and the indivisibility of peace, justice and
sustainability. Doha was rushed through in the shadow of global militarisation
in response to the terror attacks.
As we face the double closure
of spaces by corporate globalisation and militarised police states,
by economic facism aided by political facism, our challenge is to reclaim
our freedoms and the freedoms of our fellow beings. Reclaiming and recreating
the indivisible freedom of all species is the aim of the Living Democracy
Movement. The living democracy movement embodies two indivisibilities
and continuums. The first is the continuum of freedom for all life on
earth, and all humans without discrimination on the basis on gender,
race, religion, class and species. The second is the continuum between
and indivisibility of justice, peace and sustainability -- without sustainability
and just share of the earth's bounties there is no justice, and without
justice three can be no peace.
Corporate globalisation ruptures
these continuities. It establishes corporate rule through a divide and
rule policy, and creates competition and conflict between different
species and peoples and between different aims. It transforms diversity
and multiplicity into oppositional differences both by breeding fundamentalisms
through spreading insecurity and then using these fundamentalisms to
shift humanities focus and preoccupation from sustainability and justice
and peace to ethnic and religious conflict and violence.
We need a new paradigm to
respond to the fragmentation caused by various forms of fundamentalism.
We need a new movement which allows us to move from the dominant and
pervasive culture of violence, destruction and death to a culture of
non-violence, creative peace and life. That is why in India we started
the living democracy movement.
Seattle was a watershed for
citizens movements. People brought an international trade agreement
and W.T.O. the institution that enforces it to a halt by mobilising
globally against corporate globalisation. Seattle was the success of
a strategy focussing on the global level and on protest. It articulated
at the international level what citizens do not want. Corporations and
governments responded quickly to Seattle's success. They killed protest
possibilities by moving to venues like Doha where thousands could not
gather. And they started to label protest and dissent of any kind as
The Biotech industry (Economist,
Jan 12th, 18th, p62)) has called on governments to use anti-terror laws
against groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the earth and groups critical
of the industry.
Mr. Zoellick, the US Trade
Representative has called the anti-globalisation movement terrorist.
A different strategy is needed
post September 11/post Doha. Massive protests at global meetings can
no longer be the focus on citizen mobilisation. We need international
solidarity and autonomous organising. Our politics needs to reflect
the principle of subsidiarity. Our global presence cannot be a shadow
of the power of corporations and Bretton Woods institutions. We need
stronger movements at local and national levels, movements that combine
resistance and constructive action, protests and building of alternatives
non-cooperation with unjust rule and cooperation within society. The
global, for us, must strengthen the local and national, not undermine
it. The two tendencies that we demand of the economic system needs to
be central to people's politics -- localisation and alternatives. Both
are not just economic alternatives they are democratic alternatives.
Without them forces for change cannot be mobilised in the new context.
At the heart of building
alternatives and localising economic and political systems is the recovery
of the commons and the reclaiming of community. The living democracy
movement is reclaiming people's sovereignty and community rights to
Rights to natural resources
are natural rights. They are not given by States, nor can they be extinguished
by States, the W.T.O, or by corporations, even though under globalisation,
attempts are being made to alienate people's rights to vital resources
of land water and biodiversity.
Globalisation has relocated
sovereignty from people to corporations, through centralising, militarising
States. Rights of people are being appropriated by States to carve out
monopoly rights of corporations over our land, our water, our biodiversity,
our air. States acting on the principle of eminent domain or absolute
sovereignty of the State are undermining people's sovereign rights and
their role as trustees of people's resources on the public trust doctrine.
State sovereignty, by itself, is therefore not enough to generate countervailing
forces and processes to corporate globalisation.
The reinvention of sovereignty
has to be based on the reinvention of the state so that the state is
made accountable to the people. Sovereignty cannot reside only in centralised
sate structures, nor does it disappear when the protective functions
of the state with respect to its people start to wither away. The new
partnership of national sovereignty needs empowered communities which
assign functions to the state for their protection. Communities defending
themselves always demand such duties and obligations from state structures.
On the other hand, TNCs and international agencies promote the separation
of the community interests from state interests and the fragmentation
and divisiveness of communities.
The living democracy movement
We started the living democracy
movement to respond to the enclosures of the commons that is at the
core of economic globalisation. The living democracy movement is simultaneously
an ecology movement, an anti-poverty movement, a recovery of the commons
movement, a deepening of democracy movement, a peace movement. It builds
on decades of movements defending people's rights to resources, the
movements for local, direct democracy, our freedom movements gifts of
Swadeshi (economic sovereignty), Swaraj (Self-rule) and Satyagraha (Non-cooperation
with unjust rule). It seeks to strengthen rights enshrined in our Constitution.
The living democracy movement
in India is a movement to rejuvenate resources, reclaim the commons
and deepen democracy. It relates to the democracy of life in three dimensions.
Living democracy refers to
the democracy of all life, not just human life. It is about earth democracy
not just human democracy.
Living democracy is abut
life, at the vital everyday level, and decisions and freedoms related
to everyday living -- the food we eat the clothes we wear, the water
we drink. It is not just about elections and casting votes once in 3
or 4 or 5 years. It is a permanently vibrant democracy. It combines
economic democracy with political democracy.
Living democracy is not dead,
it is alive. Under globalisation, democracy even of the shallow representative
kind is dying. Governments everywhere are betraying the mandates that
brought them to power. They are centralising authority and power, both
by subverting democratic structures of constitutions and by promulgating
ordinances that stifle civil liberties. The Sept 11 tragedy has become
a convenient excuse for anti-people legislation worldwide. Politicians
everywhere are turning to xenophophic and fundamentalist agendas to
get votes in a period when economic agenda have been taken away from
national levels and are being set by World Bank, IMF, W.T.O. and global
The living democracy movement
is about living rather that dead democracy. Democracy is dead when governments
no longer reflect the will of the people but are reduced to anti-democratic
unaccountable instruments of corporate rule under the constellation
of corporate globalisation as the Enron and Chiquita case make so evident.
Corporate globalisation is centered on corporate profits.
Living democracy is based
on maintaining life on earth and freedom for all species and people.
Corporate globalisation operates
to create rules for the global, national and local markets which privilege
global corporations and threaten diverse species, the livelihoods of
the poor and small, local producers and businesses.
Living democracy operates
according to the ecological laws of nature, and limits commercial activity
to prevent harm to other species and to people.
Corporate globalisation is
exercised through centralising, destructive power.
Living democracy is exercised
through decentralised power and peaceful coexistence.
Corporate globalisation globalises
greed and consumerism. Living democracy globalises compassion, caring
Democracy emptied of economic
freedom and ecological freedom becomes a potent breeding ground for
fundamentalism and terrorism.
Over the past two decades,
I have witnessed conflicts over development and conflicts over natural
resources mutate into communal conflicts, culminating in extremism and
terrorism. My book Violence of the Green Revolution was an attempt to
understand the ecology of terrorism. The lessons I have drawn from the
growing but diverse expressions of fundamentalism and terrorism are
Nondemocratic economic systems
that centralize control over decision making and resources and displace
people from productive employment and livelihoods create a culture of
insecurity. Every policy decision is translated into the politics of
"we" and "they." "We" have been unjustly
treated, while "they" have gained privileges.
Destruction of resource rights
and erosion of democratic control of natural resources, the economy,
and means of production undermine cultural identity. With identity no
longer coming from the positive experience of being a farmer, a craftsperson,
a teacher, or a nurse, culture is reduced to a negative shell where
one identity is in competition with the "other" over scarce
resources that define economic and political power.
Centralized economic systems
also erode the democratic base of politics. In a democracy, the economic
agenda is the political agenda. When the former is hijacked by the World
Bank, the IMF, or the WTO, democracy is decimated. The only cards left
in the hands of politicians eager to garner votes are those of race,
religion, and ethnicity, which subsequently give rise to fundamentalism.
And fundamentalism effectively fills the vacuum left by a decaying democracy.
Economic globalisation is fueling economic insecurity, eroding cultural
diversity and identity, and assaulting the political freedoms of citizens.
It is providing fertile ground for the cultivation of fundamentalism
and terrorism. Instead of integrating people, corporate globalization
is tearing apart communities.
The survival of people and
democracy are contingent on a response to the double facism of globalization
-- the economic facism that destroys people's rights to resources and
the fundamentalist facism that feeds on people's displacement, dispossession,
economic insecurities, and fears. On September 11, 2001, the tragic
terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon unleashed
a "war against terrorism" promulgated by the US government
under George W. Bush. Despite the rhetoric, this war will not contain
terrorism because it fails to address the roots of terrorism-- economic
insecurity, cultural subordination, and ecological dispossession. The
new war is in fact creating a chain reaction of violence and spreading
the virus of hate. And the magnitude of the damage to the earth caused
by "smart" bombs and carpet bombing remains to be seen.
Living Democracy is true
freedom of all life forms to exist on this earth.
Living Democracy is true
respect for life, through equitable sharing of the earth's resources
with all those who live on the planet.
Living Democracy is the strong
and continual articulation of such democratic principles in everyday
life and activity.
The constellation of living
democracy is people's control over natural resources, and a just and
sustainable utilisation of land, water, biodiversity, communities having
the highest sovereignty and delegating power to the state in its role
as trustee. The shift from the principle of eminent domain to the public
trust doctrine for functions of the State is key to localisation, to
recovery of the commons and the fight against privatisation and corporate
take over of land, water and biodiversity.
This shift is also an ecological
imperative. As members of the earth family, Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam,
we have a share in the earth's resources. Rights to natural resources
for needs of sustenance are natural rights. They are not given or assigned.
They are recognised or ignored. The eminent domain principle inevitably
leads to the situation of "all for some" -- corporate monopolies
over biodiversity through patents, corporate monopolies on water through
privatisation and corporate monopolies over food through free trade.
The most basic right we have
as a species is survival, the right to life. Survival requires guaranteed
access to resources. Commons provide that guarantee. Privatisation and
enclosures destroy it. Localisation is necessary for recovery of the
commons. And living democracy is the movement to relocate our minds,
our production systems and consumption patterns from the poverty creating
global markets to the sustainability and sharing of the earth community.
This shift from global markets to earth citizenship is a shift of focus
from globalisation to localisation of power from corporations to citizens.
The living democracy movement is a movement to establish that a better
world is not just possible, it is necessary.