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= En-gendered Globalization as a political perspective

Project: From the Crisis of Capitalism to the Emergence of Peer to Peer Political Ecologies


Summary by Jose Ramos:

Alternative globalisation cannot be conceived without addressing the conditions and institutions of structural violence within which many of the world’s women experience through patriarchy, and the social structures that support it. An aspect of this is the power of voice and re-presentation. Women’s voices are often rendered invisible by the un-equal gender constitution of mainstream media. IPS reports that only 22% of news media is generated by women. In locations of extreme structural (and literal) violence women suffer from fear and intimidation leading to a de-vocalising of self. In professional fields in the West, male or masculinist voices can dominate. Salleh makes this point about the need for ‘gender literacy’ within WSF(P) and alter-mondialisme:

the failure of gender awareness has been equally apparent at the World Social Forum, cutting edge of the global movement of movements, whose Manifesto of Porto Alegre 2005 was drafted by 18 white men and 1 African woman. Reflecting on this, Santos suggests that the way forward is through acknowledgement, voluntary self criticism, and putting measures in place to see that it does not happen again. (Salleh, 2009, pp. 8-9)

Milojevic states that hegemony and ideological control through ‘the imposition of a one-dimensional ‘global’ futures vision’’ is a fundamental problem associated with masculinist globalisation (Milojevic, 2000). Hawthorne argues as well that economic globalisation is deeply gendered, and that ‘the dominant global forces at work are capitalist, masculine, white, middle-class, heterosexual, urban, and highly mobile’… which propagates a false universalism and homogeneity based on masculine, Western, scientific and neo-liberal ways of knowing (Hawthorne, 2002, pp. 32-33). This is expressed at the domestic level where,

women in the ranks of the poorest of the poor find that their weltanschauung is entirely filtered and mediated by a reified masculine expression of domestic hegemony. As a result, there is a deep seated disconnection and social amnesia about the real strategic role of poor women, one that is taken for granted and denied even among themselves. (Podlashuc, 2009, p. 284)

Neo-liberal Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) have had a significant detrimental impact on women of the global South. This includes: reduced school attendance among girls, worsening gender equity, declining access to health services, as well as the ways in which women often absorb the negative effects of this (Milojevic, 2005). Issues that women face in such circumstances include, unemployment, underpaid work, economic debts incurred through predatory money lending practices, forced prostitution, sex trafficking, sexual discrimination, and discrimination against ‘illegitimate’ mothers and ‘illegitimate’ children, and domestic violence.

In the suburban and ‘middle class’ West, the traditional structures of community and extended family has, for many, broken down. The experience of social isolation during child rearing is common for many women; too often, a woman’s sense of anomie is considered her individual psychological problem. Neo-liberal globalisation, in so far as it promotes individualised and commodified forms of social life, rends the social and community fabric, the basis for emotionally and physically healthy community-based child and parent care. It also devalues (or appropriates the value) of work done by women. To the extent that globalisation is the expression of the commodification of life through neo-liberal policy and accounting, the work and value of what women do and provide is made invisible.

As Salleh argues, ‘by the logic of men’s ‘exchange value’, he who bombs a forest with dioxin is considered to generate worth and is highly paid accordingly, whereas the woman who builds her hut of hand-cut wattle and daub, then births a new life within, creates only ‘use value’, is not considered to be working or ‘adding value’ and remains unpaid’ (Salleh, 2009, p. 12). Likewise, as Waring argues, orthodox indicators of ‘progress’ such as GDP and the UNSNA do not measure what many women do (productive and re-productive – cooking, cleaning, care of children and the elderly, domestic food production, etc.), or how women ‘absorb’ the costs and externalities associated with economic rationalism. She argues that the systems used to measure ‘growth’, ‘development’, and ‘progress’ have excluded the majority of the work that women do (Waring, 2009).

The exploitation of natural resources that has typified neo-liberal globalisation threatens the livelihoods of women, and their families, who survive through subsistence means and who depend on local ecosystems for their present and future livelihoods: ‘ecological debt involves a debt beyond the extraction of value from waged labour; it involves the appropriation of people’s livelihood resources’ (Salleh, 2009, p. 4). Yet this debt should not only be seen in ecological terms but also as: ‘the embodied debt owed north and south to unpaid reproductive workers who provide use values and regenerate the conditions of production, including the future labour force of capitalism...’ (Salleh, 2009, p. 3).

Salleh introduces a new concept of class that allows for a sharper analysis of the neo-liberal displacement of value (surplus) and costs (externalisation), which she calls the ‘meta-industrial class’. She argues that this class not only suffers from industrial capitalism’s displacement (externalisation) of costs, but this class is also ‘regenerative’ in that it underpins industrial capitalism’s capacity to survive: ‘Meta-industrials include householders, peasants, indigenes and the unique rationality of their labour is a capacity for provisioning ‘ecosufficiency’ – without leaving behind ecological and embodied debt’ (Salleh, 2009, p. 6).

The eco-sufficiency of the meta-industrial class can be contrasted with the sustainability crisis that industrial capitalism faces. Salleh notes that the energy consumption of industrial cities has ‘created a ‘metabolic rift’ …with environmental degradation the result’, and as such the very survival of capitalism is based on appropriating the meta-industrial class’s sustainability to redress its own inherent un-sustainability: ‘the entire machinery of global capital rests on the material transactions of this reproductive labour force’ (Salleh, 2009, p. 7). This includes the unacknowledged work of women of the global South.

The above epistemic inversion in the attribution of sustainability defines meta-industrial knowledge and practice (and low impact sufficiency livelihoods) as ‘prefigurative’, giving it critical ‘political leverage’ in the global policy debates (Salleh, 2009, p. 7). Likewise, Podlashuc argues that women of the global South’s location in the global political economy positions them as an ‘unconscious class’ and ‘the ‘poorest of the poor’ (which Marx referred to as ‘lumpenproletariate’) (Podlashuc, 2009, p. 268). Yet unlike Marx’s ‘misgivings about the lumpenproletariate’, Podlashuc argues that the ‘atomised poor’ express the capacity for empathy and solidarity in transforming their own lives and generating sufficiency and security (Podlashuc, 2009, p. 278). For this ‘unconscious’ class, producing eco-sufficiency is survival with dignity.

In programs like ‘Shack / slum Dwellers International’ (SDI), collective agency for women is expressed through a neo-Freirian methodology, in which the practice of collective savings becomes ‘a collective investigation of poverty…a collective grassroots research process into the problems facing shack / slumdwellers… [this provides] dialogue between structure and agency, grounding action in a critical reading of reality’ (Podlashuc, 2009, p. 278). This creates ‘webs of solidarity’ by which poverty is collectively confronted: ‘little can be hidden and in this way poverty is shared, discovered, understood and through this dialogue, defanged’ (Podlashuc, 2009, p. 275). In a similar way Milojevic articulates subaltern agency in respect to women’s responses to hegemonic globalisation. She writes:

In such a climate the less dominant social groups are left with two basic choices: (1) to mainstream their own visions of desirable futures into a global vision, or to (2) focus on developing alternatives within a localized context. Women have been actively involved in both processes. (Milojevic, 2000, p. 188)

In envisioning a transformation of gender relations, challenging the social construction of history is primary. History has been largely written by men, and women have been mostly written out of history (Boulding, 1976). Reflecting historiographically, Inayatullah argues that the use or exclusion of gender as a category fundamentally challenges existing historical constructions. He writes, ‘Eisler emerges with a theory of stages where one gender dominates and stages where the genders exist in dynamic partnership. [Elise] Boulding’s interest in the problem of units of analysis lies in showing how these units themselves have removed women’s voices from history’ (Inayatullah, 1997c, pp. 181-182).

Milojevic argues that in the area of futures studies, male representations have largely dominated, with the effect of projecting and legitimising images of the future that marginalise women’s issues and contributions. She writes: ‘the domination of the masculinist images of the future has now reached a new peak’, emphasising notions of expansion, technology, control, and grand concepts of progress (Milojevic, 1999, pp. 62,68), while ‘within ‘feminine’ guiding principles it would most likely prioritise the futures of education, parenting, community, relationships and health..’ (Milojevic, 1999, p. 69). Envisioning an alternative globalisation that works toward gender equity and values is fundamental. As an alternative vision of the future, various authors articulate another world order based on Eisler’s vision of a partnership society (Korten, 2006; Milojevic, 1999, 2005). In this view, masculine guiding values have dominated the last six to seven thousand years, leading to a patriarchal cul-de-sac, a conflict ridden, hyper competitive, unequal world that values technological-instrumental power over life. The partnership model, on the other hand, balances masculine and feminine ways of knowing and being.

In the model of partnership or gylany, neither half of humanity is permanently ranked over the other. This is a way of structuring human relations – be they of men and women, or of different races, religions, and nations – in which diversity is not automatically equated with inferiority or superiority. Here, we find a different core configuration: a more equal partnership between women and men in both the so-called private and public spheres, a more generally democratic political and economic structure, and (since it is not required to maintain rigid rankings of domination) abuse and violence are neither idealized nor institutionalized. Stereotypically ‘feminine’ values can be integrated into the social guidance system. (Eisler, 1997, p. 143)

The challenge of enacting transformation is made more different by the existing structural positions that many women find themselves in. As Milojevic reflected, ‘our time and our energy are shattered over the multiplicity of tasks necessary for adjustment and survival within patriarchal societies’ (Milojevic, 1999, p. 63). This is also emphasised by Podlashuc, who argues ‘for the poorest of the poor the immediacy of need and urgency of poverty often prohibits any consideration of the future’ and suggests that the way forward is through sustained endogenous development processes in which women work together to change the structures of their embodied daily contexts (Podlashuc, 2009, p. 270), and as well through ‘local autonomy and resource sovereignty’ (Salleh, 2009, p. 8).

when these savings collectives start generating utopian imaginaries, they generally move from oppositional to dialogical intercourse and begin to establish degrees of autonomy from the forces that limit them. (Podlashuc, 2009, p. 277)

From [1]


Ramos, J. (2010) Alternative Futures of Globalisation: A Socio-Ecological Study of the World Social Forum Process, P.h.D. Thesis Dissertation, Queensland University of Technology

P2P Commentary

Michel Bauwens 1

It is clear that the present system has historically relied on inequalities, and that the gender inequality has been a primary factor of enclosure and primitive accumulation of capitalism. It is therefore vital to take into account, in a p2p perspective, all peers, especially those that have historically been excluded, with the female gender as paradigmatic example. However, I would also stress that are many inequalities, some of them seriously affecting large sectors of 'white men' themselves; and that a reformed neoliberalism may very well embrace gender and sexual minorities and replace them with other inequalities and displacements. In this context, gender inequality is a marker for all inequalities in the system. We may very well face a future in which a certain type of males would be left to the wayside, and a particular type of female would be accepted as part of a new elite.

I do believe that a purely naturalized peer to peer conception would fail to address this core issue of inequality. For example, while open source and free software production have no overt discrimination, we can see that it's meritocratic logic leads to particular forms of dominance, because it does not challenge inequalities that are external to itself, as well as cultural habits of a traditional male-dominated field which may drive out differently gendered minorities. We therefore need a 'conscious' peer to peer approach, which is aware of both its structural externalities and the internal subjective and cultural characteristics which continue to drive inequality. This approach would find its expression in positive use of social design and 'protocollary power', i.e. institutional design that is especially geared to insure pluralism and diversity, and can work on specific issues such as the lack of gender equality both within its own community, and outside of it. Active facilitation may also be part of the mix of measures used to insure equality. A good example of this is the institutional structure of OccupyWallStreet's General Assembly, which along with its Working and Operating Groups, also has institute 'Caucuses', which are specific circles for minorities and oppressed 'majorities', who have certain privileges to block measures that would have discriminatory effects. These types of solutions need to be generalized within commons-oriented peer production.