2.8 Public action as contesting development
In this section, we will attempt to explore public action that involves contesting development of capitalism. The role of ‘development’ here includes individual and group empowerment, which often occurs during the process, contesting capitalist development as people come together and begin to organise around ‘social movements’. Yanacopulos (2002, p. 10) defines social movements in this way:
While NGOs have been receiving a great deal of attention in the development literature, social movement organisations (SMOs) have also been important players in development, and are a part of the association revolution. SMOs are typically formed to promote specific social changes, traditionally involving localised collective action. Within a development context, they sometimes articulate an alternative vision of development to that which is currently taking place in the local area. Social movements are often both locally focused and are action to issues which have a wider ‘global’ purchase. Their battles have usually been fought at local and national levels and often their utilisation of technology has been difficult (and remains so) as they are generally comprised of localised and marginalised groups. However, in recent years there have been movements that have successfully taken their cause outside of their local area or state – such as the Narmada Dam movement, the Zapatista … These transnational social movements have been effective in identifying the importance of solidarity groups outside of their country, and have a network of supporters internationally.
… In fact these cases are well established in the global discourse on environmental challenges. Some of these specifically challenge particular development projects such as the building of mega-dams (e.g. the Narmada and Chico dam movements). Others emerge as protest around threats to local resources, focusing on issues such as deforestation through commercial activities and the land speculation that often goes hand-in-hand with growth-led policies (e.g. Chipko; Rubber Tapper; Ogoni movement). Yet others revolve around the issues of ‘political rights to lives and livelihoods’; rights to information; participation; and to access and use of resources (Zapatista Rebellion; Green Belt movement). These movements have encompassed mass protests, campaigns and lobbying; expansion of local and global networks and organisational tactics; active challenges to the ‘ruling’ class and urban or industrial development; and a demand for ‘people-centered’ development. There is rapidly growing literature and voluminous information on the Internet on any of the ‘popular cases’ listed above.
(Yanacopulos, 2002, p. 10)
Activity 4 will allow you to apply the tripartite framework to a real-world context.
Activity 4: Steering, enabling and contesting development
Please watch the ‘Funny Money’ video clips linked below and answer the following questions.
How effective has the Argentinean state been in steering development in Argentina and Quilmes?
In what ways has the enabling mechanism of capitalist immanent development faltered in Argentina, giving rise to the ‘new poor’?
What other kind of actor is trying to respond to the growing public need?
How is social currency different from the Argentinean peso, and how does it contest capitalist immanent development and the failure of the Argentinean Government to steer intentional development?
Click to view the video clip (9 minutes).
Transcript: Video 1
Click to view the video clip (12 minutes).
Transcript: Video 2
Click to view the video clip (7 minutes).
Transcript: Video 3
Set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this video clip shows how the state is failing to steer development and has all but relinquished this role. The economic collapse in Argentina has been tackled by the state putting in place measures to further prop up the market mechanism, rather than effectively focusing on intervention to ameliorate the casualties of capitalist immanent development. It looks at how rising unemployment among blue- and white-collar workers has led to social exclusion for many, including the middle-classes. To escape this social exclusion, many have become involved in a barter club to help themselves. The barter club is a social movement to respond to the failure of the state to provide jobs and economic security for the people, and seeks to re-embed the market in social relations.
The market is the enabling engine of development in Argentina, but it is also failing to deliver economic growth. The social movement of the barter club is contesting both the lack of steering by the state, and the failure of the market mechanism and the private sector to deliver development in the form of economic growth. As such, it is pioneering an alternative. The barter club has been so successful that the Argentinean Government is looking at ways to integrate it into the mainstream economy, talking about the possibilities of people paying taxes through credits. As such, the social movement has not only contested the lack of direction of the state and the activities of the private sector, but is also steering and enabling development directly.