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The global justice movement underlay that of the emergence of a global civil society idea. This has made some scholars argue that the new wave of ‘protest cycle’ attests to the emergence of a collective behavior and social movement reflecting a decline of nationally based forms of contention. This reflects a decline of nationally based forms of contention and the emergence of ‘a global civil society’. This paper will discuss the Global Justice Movement through collective behavior and social movements which accompanied most meetings of International Monetary fund and the World Bank.
Collective Behavior and Social Movements
The term collective behavior refers to the behavior of a group of people who are defined by a certain particular circumstance. This is unlike the case with members of organized formal organizations like churches. The term social movement refers to a situation in which the above group challenges existing institutions on their social norms and values by defying rules of behavior. Usually social movements were used in democratizing countries but they flourish more in democratic countries and recently they have become popular in voicing against global expressions dissents. But during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, collective behavior paradigm came about with advent of ‘new social movements’ when activism relied on the ability of social movements to engage in planned rational action. The social constructionism theory argues that the tendency of resource mobilization to spotlight resources but ignoring the role of culture provoked a reaction from social movements especially in Europe (Mulberry, 2006).
Focus on Global Justice Movement
The emergence of global justice movement came unexpectedly in 1999, during which a GJM meeting was being held. The meeting is Seattle was the third ministerial WTO meeting that was preparing for the Millennium Round. The protest stood out from the attention it received from the media and the impact it had on the meeting and negotiations. Protesters included human rights organizations, students, religious leaders, environmental groups and labor rights activists. These groups concentrated on such issues like rejection of ‘a new cycle of world trade liberalization’, improvement of social rights in the northern and southern hemispheres, fair trade, lack of democracy in such institutions like the WTO and a better safeguard of environmental resources globally. Most of these protests were non-violent and made of small groups that sometimes used disruptive forms of action. Police had to declare a state of emergency in Seattle due to the protests (Giugni, et al., 2006).
The Seattle movements were crucial to the emergence of Global Justice Movements and since then, these activities have greatly increased in different forms like mass demonstrations, parallel summits and disruptive protests. But it is to be noted that the origin of such meetings in 1999 were not new as the contention against the international finance or economic organizations like the WTO, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, (IMF), have been ongoing albeit on small scales. Such protests have been ongoing in the 1980s and 1990s during the G7/G8 meetings. The first such movement started in London in 1984 during a G7 meeting. A parallel meeting called The Other Economic Summit was organized by some several organizations; development organizations, environmental organizations and solidarity organizations (Giugni, et al., 2006). The Global Justice Movement grew out of different cultural soils in the UK and the U.S. and once movements were invented they became modular (Tarrow, 2011).
Drawing from sociology, emergence of modern social movement theory in North America began from the critique of the collective behavior model. The model asserted that social movements differed from group manifestations like crowds and crazes because collective behavior is considered noninstutional. Collective behavior starts when individual start experiencing anomie as a response to societal breakdown. Therefore, collective behavior in this regard is more of psychological reaction than political and is thus regarded as dangerous. This school of thought advanced the idea that these social movements were “little more than the most well organized and self-conscious part of an archipelago of ‘emergent’ phenomena” (Tarrow, 1998, p.14). This ranged from riots, enthusiasm and rumors. Mulberry concludes that the global movements were thus seen as rising directly from the new social movements formed from the main form of contention starting in Western Europe (Mulberry, 2003).
The emergence of GJM has several claims and mobilizes around many different issues but two claims are considered central to this; promotion to democracy and neoliberalism. Most of the GJM mobilizations have been concentrated on issues relating to redistribution of resources, notions of justice, democracy, solidarity issues on a global scale. As discussed earlier, the 1984 G7 meeting in London opened protests focusing on wide gaps between the north and the south. The southern hemisphere countries were riddled with debt unlike the rich North; this was the cause of the gap. Contention thus opened to the international economic institutions and organizations that were considered promoters of neoliberal globalization and their negative consequences like the WTO, World Bank and IMF (Guigni, 2006).
Mulberry postulates that as a result of the mobilizations, social movements started to develop in Europe by dividing social movements; the ones dominated by labor movements and the emerging new ones led mostly by the middle class. Usurped by culture and because he understood collective action, Marxist rubric concept of identity gained prominence this way.
Digitizing the Global Justice Movements
This is one of the most dramatic changes in social movements in the last few years since the invention of the internet. The global justice movements are slowly changing from the ‘hactivism’ to ‘meetups’ (p.137). The internet is now becoming a basic tool of movement organizers who are using it to bring people to international sites of protest from faraway places unlike in the past when it was employed as a way of diffusing information and propaganda (Tarrow, 2011). Mulberry asserts that recently the internet has been used through its social sites like Facebook and Twitter to mobilize people all over the world on where and how they can hold their protests. The internet has made it possible to connect different social justice activists across the globe. The power of the internet was seen in the massive demonstrations against the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999 which saw ACGM being born. Thus through the internet, for the first time in history many different grievances were represented under a one banner of social justice in the settle meeting (Mulberry, 2006).
The digital media has changed the nature of activism in many important ways by diminishing the relative importance of organizations and increasing the advantages of resources to poor nations. It has made it possible to link specific targets in many different parts of the globe and combine them to face-to-face interactions with virtual performances. This new technology is expected to totally remap social movement’s strategies (Tarrow, 2011).
GJM began as protests in different parts of the world during different epochs but contention of the protests have changed over time. In a broader context, the GJMs explain the social movements and GJM acts within a certain multilevel political opportunity. Concerning GJMs major impacts from its earlier and present state of knowledge, it is still too earlier to conclude that the GJMs movements have so far succeeded in reaching their goals. But it is clear that the GJMs are contributing to societal democratization by allowing alternative forms of participation.