Lecture Review: Bottom Up Politics; an agency centred approach to Globalisation

‘Bottom Up Politics: an agency centred approach to Globalisation’ lecture explored the political implications of giving power to ordinary people in an era when the nation-state has lost its dominance as a political actor.

The lecture was ultimately the launch of the book “Bottom up Politics: an agency centred approach to Globalisation”. The writing out of agency from the study of globalisation resulted in its portrayal as an uncontrollable, unstoppable and unchangeable force. Ordinary people have been conceptualised as victims or beneficiaries. Alternatively, grassroots activism has been portrayed as an unproblematic force for ‘good’. Inspired by the work of Mary Kaldor on global civil society and new wars, the authors explore complex, counterintuitive and even unintended forms and consequences of bottom-up politics as the state loses its dominance as a political actor in the global era. Leading theorists such as Albrow, Falk, Held, Rothschild and Sassen, together with young scholars, demonstrate the importance of an overriding agency to our understanding of globalisation. They offer a critical evaluation of bottom-up politics from a variety of disciplines, including those of sociology, law, economics, history and politics.

Our first speaker of the lecture was Marlies Glasius; a Professor of Citizens Involvement in War Zones and Post-Conflict Zones at the Faculty of Social Sciences and a Visiting Fellow at the LSE Human Security and Civil Society Research Unit. After her appraisal of Mary Kaldor, she started off with an elaboration using an intellectual approach in protesting against global governance without the need of pluralistic violence, which has been visible in the Arab Spring uprisings. She forwarded an alternative of non-institutional action on political inputs, whilst upholding the values of courage and determination to fight for a long term, sustainable socioeconomic and civil society that embraces democratisation- is that not the primary purpose of these protests? This intellectual approach is similar to recent demonstrations of the ‘Occupy’ group because these movements are peaceful and are aware of the common knowledge of government’s failings, and are trying to enforce decisiveness on these issues, in a time of uncertainty.

Next to speak is Helmut Anheier, a professor of sociology at the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin. Helmut’s main point of discussion is how civil society can prevent a financial crisis, similar to 2007-2008, occurring again. The problem is that society has an institutional void when dealing with financial organisations. To fill this void, he argues a creation of an independent non-profit agency which synthesises popular forms of protests, backed up financial autonomy of expertise, to formulate long terms and sustainable investment projects, free of profit motive and corruption. This will help position global finance in a state of ‘adaptive coping’ in which any financial threat, being an insolvency or natural disaster on agriculture, can be swiftly eradicated. However, to become the state of ‘adaptive coping’, everyone must make a concentrated effort, not by governments or regulators, but by popular sentiments and incentives to establish a new infrastructure to deal with financial institutions that prevent excessive costs economic moves, risking billions of dollars and economic stability. In short, there must be an agency to regulate global finance in the manner in which Greenpeace works with Shell.

Our third speaker is Professor Mient Jan Faber, an Emeritus at the Free Universit, Amsterdam and visiting professor at the University of Houston. Mient takes the lecture from finance to politics and war- another issue which these demonstrations are protesting about. He discusses the methodology of protecting civilians in conflicted areas; is it possible to protect the people without getting rid of the enemy? Recent affairs in Libya, for example, would suggest no, especially with Colonel Gaddafi’s death. Continuing the recent Arab uprisings, he explains they are signals of desire for foreign intervention from the insecure civilians, forced into inhabiting self-built securitised communities, because law and order is no longer enforced. But is war the only way to protect people? If society were to retaliate, this would cause further attacks from those enemies. So should international bodies should make the first move and destroy the enemies before harming the civilians. Would that not be breach of Human rights and Just War Theory? How many must die before a serious counter-response is made?

Finally, the lecture star lecture, Mary Kaldor, the professor of Global Governance and director of the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit, LSE. There was a resounding reception for a woman who has fought for hard human security and strong welfare. After her thanks and acknowledgement of her colleagues, she discussed about globalisation and the several challenges to the status quo and the difference of macro-management strategies that it has caused. Mary Kaldor points out that civil society is facilitating a transformation from individual, robotic thoughts to public persons with deep-rooted values. For example, in Europe, there is seemingly a unifying process on a war against terror in which sub terrain politics in European capitals is becoming more visible. In short, cooperative political engagement is crucial in keeping a stable society.

In conclusion, this lecture brings up an apparent point in society; people are evolving and their minds are starting to doubt the customs set in this country, especially in a time of uncertainty and lack of real leadership. Public protests are a frustration for their absence of prosperous comforts as supposed to their desire to cause chaotic order. It is clear the people have had enough of  the current political enfranchisement. Grass activism is on the rise.

Contributed by Wafiq Islam

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