“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” – Audre Lorde
The histories of both the Development Project and the Globalization Project have been built upon Western notions of a “good society.” Notions which are driven by global capital and leave little room for issues of justice or human need. Today, this image of a “good society,” is systematized into the workings of neoliberal capitalism, which through coercive means, draw underdeveloped countries into unequal market relations with developed countries, opening borders to capital at the cost of working peoples’ lives. Such a system disproportionately benefits Western transnational corporations and a small number of owning-class elites in developing countries. Hence, development today operates in the form of neocolonialism. Even though this form of global capitalism has brought wretched conditions to working people globally, the same neoliberal ideology persists in development theory and practice today, such as with Microcredit programs and trade policies like the Trans Pacific Partnership.
This blog will focus on alternatives to neoliberal development by challenging the broader concept of “development” under capitalism. My case studies will explore development from the bottom up, to show that the only way we can achieve just societies is through the self-determination of working people. Development cannot continue as a way to deepen the systems of neoliberalism, nor can it return to the practices of the Development Project which left working people in developing countries exploited by their own states and corporations (Chibber 2015: 81-87). The primary focus of bottom up development will be in economic terms, specifically focusing on workers, for two reasons. First, as Chandra Mohanty notes, because “capital as it functions now depends on and exacerbates racist, patriarchal, and heterosexist relations of rule,” (Mohanty 2003: 231) and many of these hierarchal systems must be fought through economic means. Secondly, I believe that workers have a point of leverage in their ability to halt the accumulation of profits by transnational corporations and International financial Institutions via strikes and slowdowns, which enables workers to leverage drastic changes in the material conditions their lives (Chibber 2016). Development from the bottom up centralizes marginalized people in development countries in their own process of “developing.”
The first section of my blog will focus on global attempts to establish cooperative economies as a way to mitigate the conditions of capitalism. There are a number of debates on the possibilities and strategies of developing cooperative economies, as well as organizations attempting to aid workers in starting cooperatives. The “Pathways to a cooperative Market Economy,” a part of Verso books’ “Real Utopias Project” is engaging with cooperatives at an academic level, attempting to develop strategies for cooperative development. Pathways has so far hosted conferences in Barcelona and Buenos Aires, and are preparing for upcoming conferences in Johannesburg in 2016 and Italy in 2017. Other organizations such as “US Overseas Cooperative Development Council” have helped cooperatives with management strategies and “The Working World” has attempted to finance new co-ops through non-extractive loans in Argentina, Nicaragua and the United States. Although the creation of cooperatives is necessary, the viability of coops as system changing remains questionable. As of yet, there are few examples of co-ops accounting for large sections of economic activity (Gindin 2016). Additionally, issues of co-op competition with capitalist firms can restrict co-op success and may result in negative conditions such as worker self-exploitation (Luxemburg 1909: 41-43).
The constraints of co-ops taken into account, the second section of my blog will focus on worker action in capitalist firms in the Third World/South (Mohanty 2003: 222-228). Worker mobilization in the developing world, and international labor solidarity, has the ability to change the immediate conditions of workers who exercise militancy, as well as on other workers within a country due to the rippling effects of worker resistance. A key to investigating this activity will be to look for worker struggles from the most marginalized groups, usually poor women in the Third World/South, so I can create a more inclusive image of bottom up development (Mohanty 2003: 231). This work will focus on the struggles of female Bangladeshi garment workers, the recent strike wave in China, and the struggles of the Zapatistas in Chiapas Mexico for autonomy and gender equality.
Development is not something that can be brought to a group of marginalized people. Instead, liberation and justice must be fought for by the marginalized peoples themselves, with solidarity from others, for marginalized people are the only groups who know what is necessary for their own lives. Development from the bottom up, as forms of social struggle, are the only we can live in a globalized society free of economic, gender, race, and other social inequalities. This blog will reframe development, stripping it of its neocolonial legacy, through the stories and struggles of the most marginalized people globally.
Andalusia Knoll and Itandehui Reyes, “From Fire to Autonomy: Zapatistas, 20 Years of Walking Slowly,” Truthout, January 25, 2014.
Chandra Mohanty, “ ‘Under Western Eyes’ Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles,” in Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).
Jane Slaughter, “Review: Behind China’s Wildcat Strike Wave,” Labor Notes, October 15, 2014.
Milford Bateman, “The Power of a Dollar: Microcredit is nothing more than a socially validated way for financial elites to exploit the poor,” Jacobin 19 (Fall 2015): 9-19.
“Pathways to a cooperative Market Economy,” https://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright/Cooperative-pathways.htm.
“The Real Utopias Project,” http://www.versobooks.com/series_collections/2-the-real-utopias-project.
Rosa Luxemburg, “Cooperative, Unions, Democracy,” in Reform or Revolution. 1909. Reprint, (New York: Pathfinder, 1970), 41-43.
Sam Gindin, “Chasing utopia: Worker ownership and cooperative will not succeed by competing on capitalism’s terms,” Jacobin, March 10, 2016.
“US Overseas Cooperative Development Council,” http://www.ocdc.coop/.
Tula Connell, “Bangladesh Women Workers Increasingly Empowered,” http://www.solidaritycenter.org/bangladesh-women-workers-increasingly-empowered/.
Vivek Chibber, “Development From Below: Capitalists are interested in profit, not development. Only workers can empower the Global South,” Jacobin 19 (Fall 2015): 81-87.
Vivek Chibber, “Why the Working Class?,” Jacobin, March 13, 2016.
“The Working World,” http://www.theworkingworld.org/us/.