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INPUT#4   Politics and the Utopian Laboratory

The modern philosopher G. W. F. Hegel once noted that the political process that embodies a new universal impulse often perishes while its principle persists. What is the principle that the World Social Forum brought forward? My book (co-edited with William F. Fisher) Another World is Possible—published at the beginning of 2003—was the first book in English on the World Social Forum (WSF), the first to contend that the common theme that threaded through all of the alternatives proposed at the WSF was a call for a participatory, radical democracy, and the first to argue that the Forum represented the initial steps for building a new left and a new global civilization.

Over the years, there have been a number of insightful interpretations of the WSF process: it embodies resistance to globalization; it epitomizes the latest struggle against imperialism; it manifests the power of identity; it is an insurgency against all forms of hierarchical discrimination, including patriarchy; it exemplifies the “movement of the multitude,” or articulates the emergence of the epistemologies of the South. The interpretation that I offered did not and does not exclude any of the others but encompasses them within a common overlapping framework: the “alternative globalization,” or “global justice,” movements that emerged from the WSF at minimum call for a radically participatory democratic process to be integrated into all major economic, political, cultural, or ecological decisions.

Social movements around the planet are too diverse to fully develop—at this time—a common substantive notion of the good but instead, for the first time in history, bring forward a shared principle of the process of emancipation, that is, the call for a global radical democracy that extends across all social domains.

Group: RC10 Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management, RC26 Sociotechnics, Sociological Practice

Session Selection: The Future of the World Social Forum


 Utopian laboratory, World Social Forum, globalization and movements 

Thomas, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences George Brown College, Toronto, Canada