Saturday, February 13, 2010

Globalization and Local Empowerment

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.[1]

Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852)

The quote above is relevant to the discussion of globalization influence towards local empowerment. Globalization process has structures that confined the ability of the agency. Thus it will refrain the corridor of the agencies expansion in exercising choice.

Michael T. Snarr argued that globalization offers a advantages to people around the world, but also exposes people to an even greater vulnerability and insecurity.[2] The ongoing Neoliberal globalization process driven by G8 countries, perpetuated by the WTO, bilateral and regional trade agreements, sustained by International Financial Institutions such as World Bank and IMF benefits the landlords, elites and TNCs. This present imperialist dominated economic and political processes have intensified wider inequalities, environment depletion, women disempowerment, etc. It has increased the social vulnerabilities of the many.

Beck defined social vulnerabilities as a cumulative concept that includes the means and possibilities available to individual societies or whole populations to cope (or not) with the risks and uncertainties that mark their lives.[3] Examples are indigenous people socially excluded in Latin America.[4] Also women whose gender roles, in the household and society, has been discriminated.[5] Or African Child refugee deprived from their family in foreign places.[6] Thus, local agency that were disempowered or socially vulnerable due to globalization process, need to be empowered.

Empowerment could be defined as the expansion of assets and capabilities of those who are vulnerable to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control, and hold accountable institutions that affect their lives.[7] Thus effort of empowered the vulnerables could be done in several ways.

Local empowerment in the context of globalization could be done in a manner of top-down, bottom-up, or cyclical combination of the previous. Top-down local empowerment example is the direct intervention of international actors towards local actors. For instance, is the United Nations efforts in promoting, funding and implementing Human Rights practice, hand in hand with state actors and NGO’s.[8] In this case, globalization characteristics of increasing multilayered and suprastate governance such as UN, had support local empowerment.

Bottom-up empowerment for instance is the indigenous peoples efforts to claims for autonomy and identity status in the level of national and international.[9] Wider inequalities and diversified identity as several characteristics in globalization, sparks resistance of the indigenous peoples. Thus, Indigenous people gained information for capacity building and echoed their resistance using information technology. They use globalization features to organized and strife themselves for a better condition.

And of course the third is the cyclical combination of the previous two. For instance is when actors such as WTO, World Bank, IMF created policy that drives inequalities, thus sparked simultaneous and spread wide resistances, and the aggregate of the critics and resistances could alter or reform the previous institution. But the institutional reform it self could cause different inequalities that makes the process cyclical.

If we look further, in the process of those three types of empowerment, many failed. Globalization hinders local empowerment if the repressing structure is more powerfull than the agency’s local organization capacity. Examples are the Bhopal tragedy case in 1984 of gas leak, where until now, the victims have not gain justice and no one was held accountable for the catastrophe.[10] In my opinion the impunity happened because of corrupt government, lack of political will and weak regulation despite the victims efforts to campaign this issue. Therefore to in some case the local empowerment might not break through the corridor of globalization structural inequalities, yet, but it is not to say, it is unnecessary.

[1] Marx,Karl, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louise Napoleon 1852”, available at (accessed at 30 Nov 2009)

[2] See Snarr, Michael T, “Introducing Globalization and Global Issues”, p.8, in Snarr & Snarr, 2008, Introducing Global Issues, Lynne Rienner Publishers, London.

[3] See Beck, Ulrich (2008), World at Risk. P.178

[4] See Mignolo, Walter 2009 “The Communal and the Decolonial”. Available at [](accessed at 30 Nov 2009)

[5] See Mosedale, Sarah (2005). “Assessing Women’s Empowerment: Towards a Conceptual Framework.” Journal of International Development 17: 243 – 257. (accessed at 30 November 2009)

[6] See Clark, Christina R (2007). Understanding Vulnerability: From Categories to Experiences of Young Congolese People in Uganda. Children & Society Volume 21 (2007) pp. 284-296. (accessed at 30 November 2009)

[7] See “What is Empowerment?,” Chapter 2 in Empowerment sourcebook. World Bank. [,,contentMDK:20260036~menuPK:543261~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:486411,00.html] (accessed at 30 Nov 2009)

[8] See Snarr, D.Neill,”The Challenge of Human Rights”p.57-75, in Snarr & Snarr, 2008, Introducing Global Issues, Lynne Rienner Publishers, London.

[9] See Cutler, Claire 2008 “The Globalization of International Law, Indigenous Identity, and the "New Imperialism". [] (accessed at 30 Nov 2009)

[10] See “Dodging Responsibility; Corporations, Governments and Bhopal Disaster” Amnesty International Reports 2009, available at ttp:// (accessed at 30 Nov 2009)

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