'Glocal' is a fairly
recent term combining the words 'global' and 'local'. One definition
of this term, floated at the 'First Glocal Forum' in Rome in 2002,
is "diffused social action
that can be interpreted
as a kind of ideal and cultural movement oriented towards linking
the benefits of globalization to local situations, and toward
governing globalization also through local situations." According
to two of the co-organisers of this 'First Glocal Forum' would
"the guiding principles for a glocalism movement [
include references to the need for social processes that seek
a better balance bet-ween the forces of globalization and local
interests, values, and culture. Similarly, this movement would
be seen as seeking a better balance between economic and social
criteria, between short-term interests and long-term concern for
sustainable communities, and between the public and private benefits
This paper suggests
that this 'glocal' approach, originally minted in economic just
as much as political pursuit - but still not subscribed to by
any particular economic or political force - is re-engineered
into a platform for the new political philosophy still waiting
to be defined by the 'green' and 'alternative' movements, following
almost two decades of civic mobilisation and organisation for
a variety of causes. This would be a good opportunity to seize
a suitable enough building block that, once re-engineered to meet
the philosophical requirements, will have sufficient recognition
already from the outset, not only among those who are already
convinced of the need for a 'green' or 'alternative' agenda, but
also among those who, by tradition rather than conviction, passively
listen primarily to what the incumbent system or leader has to
in political science may consider the so called neo-Gramscians.
They use the Machiavellian concepts of 'war of position'
(trench warfare) and 'war of movement' (attack) to explain
the concept of 'counter-hegemony', i.e. the building of
a social, economic and political force that opposes whatever existing
power structure that is in place, eventually gaining strengths
enough to replace that incumbent power structure. Antonio Gramsci
himself talked about 'historical blocs'. By this he meant
culture-driven developments expressing themselves not only in
social terms, but also in political and institutional terms, where
the 'State' would be the highest level of representation. (By
'culture' Gramsci referred not only to socio-national cultures,
but also - and in particular - to socio-economic cultures,
i.e. 'social classes'.) The parallel I wish to draw is that it
is time for the 'green' and 'alternative' movements to
mature - i.e. to move from the peripheral to the center. By viewing,
organising and presenting themselves as a 'culture' rather than
'movements' can green and alternative become a truly
'multicultural culture', one that can build counter-hegemony
not only in terms of more environmentally-friendly and humanistic
approaches to global society, but also in terms of redefining
our ways of selecting, organising and managing whatever institutions
we need. Simply reshuffling the very same 'components' that industrialism
put in place, and modern capitalism refined, will not offer any
real change. Incumbent 'systems' will always suffocate new 'ideas'
- unless they too are retired and replaced.
Naming this new platform-philosophy
'Political Glocalism', it should strive to com-plement socialism,
liberalism and conservatism, and compete with them for popular
support. However, 'Political Glocalism' may in the longer
term (as will be argued later in this paper) also emerge as a
host for certain aspects of these three traditional poli-tical
'-isms', once its overriding objective to redefine the role of
politics - from being civic society's Master to
being its Servant - has been accomplished.
The 'new age' movements
we often label 'alternative' or 'green' do - at least to some
degree - recognise that a common political denominator is a key
requirement if one wishes to challenge established political philosophies
like conservatism, liberalism or socialism.
To be an 'alternative'
requires not only to define what the alternative is, but also
what it is meant to replace. By just labelling oneself 'alternative'
does therefore not give sufficient guidance to those who are not
already a part of such a movement, and far too many ideologies
and movements can fit within the scope of (e.g.) 'alternativism'
for such a term to be ideologically helpful.
In the same way is
'green' nowadays a term without a clear political definition,
since it in its ecological meaning can refer to anything from
(e.g.) improved handling of toxic waste and reduced
reliance or carbon-based fuels (which even oil companies adver-tise
their ambition to do in expensive TV-commercials), to (e.g.) complete
elimination of processes that create toxic waste and/or
make use of carbon-based fuels (that only windmill producers come
even close to advertising). No doubt are the changes required
for these two 'extremes' totally different in scope, meaning that
'green' is not a sufficient label either for a political challenge
to the established philosophies. Also in other political aspects
will 'green' remain a fairly vague concept.
It is therefore important
to go beyond the issues that may 'symbolise' the perceived needs,
when looking for a common political denominator. Also, even within
political movements (to outsiders seen as being homogeneous enough)
will stark differences in opinion present themselves when practical
issues are at stake. So will e.g. conser-vative or socialist parties
in Scandinavia not have their matches in e.g. the US, since the
application of basic political concepts (albeit some may see them
as 'universal') over time have come to take on national characteristics.
So would e.g. the Conser-vative Party in Sweden be closer to the
(perceived more liberal) Democrats in the US than to the (undoubtedly
more conservative) Republicans, and perhaps even rank to the political
left of the US' Democratic Party on a range of issues.
It may instead be
necessary to consider in what way the 'alternative' and 'green'
(etc) ideologies actually differ from the established ones. In
order to determine that, one is much helped by comparing how established
political philosophies differ (or resemble) among themselves.
On most day-to-day issues do politics in fact not only differ
from country to country within the same political philosophy (as
noted above), but also over time. The average conservative party
of today stands pretty far to the political left of where it stood
some 50 years ago, and most communist parties (albeit just a more
'extreme' version of socialism) have more or less denounced communism
in the philosophical shape and form upon which they were once
Instead is it their
focus on core issues such as economic or social interaction that
tell them apart. In particular is it the conservative parties'
focus on the economy, and the socialists' focus on social responsibilities
that differ. Interestingly enough do they both originate from
liberalism - the political philosophy that brought us both repre-sentative
democracy (a trait that socialism maintains as 'leading star')
and market economy (a trait that conservatives hails as their
equivalent). It is hence clear that all these three ideologies
(and their respective off-springs) have many ideas and ideals
in common. They all assume representative democracy to play a
more or less impor-tant role (albeit 'localised' through domestic
versions of party politics), although its actual power may differ
depending on the system under which their respective Head of State
is elected or appointed, and which powers that position (person)
In recent times have
all these ideologies' mainstream politicians also come to accept
'the market' as a key force, where even many socialist parties
to quite a degree have embraced capitalism's fundamental trust
in the market as an independent rather than controlled force.
Other 'visions' have instead entered, separating one ideology
from another, such as feminism, the level of ecological concern,
the view on globalisation, etc.
spectrum is in other words narrowing, and this is why there is
both a need to see and an ambition to create 'alternatives'. A
breaking point can, at least in retrospect, be traced back to
Seattle 1999, i.e. the World Trade Organization-meeting
held in that city that was so badly disrupted by anti-demonstrations
so that the entire organisation lost its carefully crafted momentum
and credibility. The crucial aspect of that event was not that
it was disrupted beyond repair, but the fact that it was put in
motion by a cross-section of civic movements that never before
had acted in concert. Every aspect of civic representation (whether
organised as NGOs or otherwise) took part, from environmentalists
to gays, from religious groups to reborn socialists. This display
of 'alternatives' did however not only help the 'alternative'
movements to demonstrate the strength to which they grown, it
also pointed to the weakness that their lack of a common political
denominator constitutes. It is no doubt easier to unify against
a common 'enemy' than it is to come up with (not to mention to
implement) a common alternative agenda. The latter is still absent,
ten years later.
I will therefore
claim that any common 'alternative' and/or 'green' political philosophy
must base itself on something different than what the traditional
ideologies not only share, but also keep squabbling over. It must
instead take its cue from Seattle 1999, and recognise the fact
that that was the first time in such a high-powered and multi-national
setting that civic society took control over the political society.
This is what needs to be the common denominator for 'alternative'
and 'green' movements; civic society must take control over
political society. Till date is it the other way round.
The only time the political society is truly concerned with the
views of the civic society is ahead of general elections, and
even then is it only superficial, since the so often cherished
'levelled playing field' is - in fact - nowhere to be seen. Politicians
work to refine their arguments for years (financed by civic society),
while civic society is 'informed' a few months prior, with the
help of colourful posters, media scoops and cheerful pamphlets
mixing ambitions with semi-truths.
Considering the need
for greater civic society involvement in local as well as national
and global governance, a significantly stronger focus on long
term issues in general and ecological issues in particular, the
need to replace the monopolistic world order of the last two decades
and to reorient the global trade regime, etc - still recognising
that globalisation as a phenomenon cannot be reversed or even
stopped, only re-directed to better serve humanity - I call this
common philosophical platform Political Glocalism.
When I make use of
the term 'glocal' in this context, I do not wish to stress only
the geographical meaning of the words 'global' and 'local', but
to include its more general interpretations where 'global' also
can refer to 'unity', and 'local' also can refer to
'unit'. The ambition is to draft a political philosophy ensuring
that the (global) unity respects the need of the (local)
unit, at the same time as the (local) unit understands
the requirements of (global) unity. The overriding task
will be to inspire the 'y'-factor, i.e. the critical factor that
separates as well as bridges the words 'unit' and 'unity'.
Now, in short could
Political Glocalism's objectives read as follows:
(i) Put humanity's
collective needs ahead of vested interests' short term desires.
(ii) Put humanity's collective priorities ahead of politicians'
short term ambitions.
(iii) Put humanity's local needs and priorities on par with those
However, in greater
detail could this platform be seen as a pentagon, a five cornered
'star' where each of its five integrated sections covers a philosophical
1. All humans
are humans. No matter our biological, socio-cultural, economical,
and/or linguistic differences, we are first and foremost humans.
This fact must be turned into a 'political axiom'.
2. All humans
share only one earth. Since we don't have the possibility
to divide earth into smaller and from each other independent parts
(other than in the superficial 'bits' we call nations), we can
nothing but share it. This responsibil-ity must be defined in
'eco/eco' terms (i.e. ecological / economic terms).
3. All humans
have a shared responsibility for future generations. As long
as humans inhabit the earth are we all partly responsible for
future generations, no matter their (future) biological, socio-cultural,
economical and/or linguistic differences. Only when humanity ceases
to exist (becomes extinct), will that responsibility cease. This
responsibility must be turned into a moral 'given'.
4. All humans
must take part in the process of setting the political agenda
- for which each society elect their own politicians to manage.
The power lies with those asking the questions, not those tasked
to answer them. It must be politically recognised that power belongs
to the civic society tasked to set the agenda - not to those elected,
appointed or otherwise tasked to carry it out. The first political
assignment is to re-organise the glocal order to reflect this
5. All societies
are 'local'. Just as local climates affect people's way of
life do all local societies' socially accepted behavioural patterns
(referred to as cultures) also matter. Although cultures continuously
evolve when in contact with other cultures, has no culture the
political right to oppress another. As all 'humans' are equal
guardians of our single earth for future generations, whereby
the collective sets the agenda for their respective politicians
to manage, it follows that politics' role includes ensuring a
peaceful co-existence among cultures.
From these 'fundamentals'
can different aspects of society be guided. The political axiom
'All humans are humans' serves as a framework for social and
spiritual issues, where inclusion is based on the fact that we
are all humans - not on specifics like race, gender or financial
standing (compare e.g. nationalism, ethnocentrism, class-based
partisanship, etc). The type of barriers that still exclude individuals
or groups from social or spiritual collectives under this axiom
are (e.g.) geographical proximity when physical presence is required,
commitment to a cause if / when that is needed, belief in or support
of ideas when that is required, age when ambitions target children
or seniors, and/or the like. The unlikelihood that any
single 'community' will ever be able to offer totally universal
values or access, render improper any claims that such a political
axiom is impossible to 'sell' due to some (false) assumption that
everybody first would have to become part of some kind of 'global
happy family' - which indeed is utopian. Practical considerations
will, as always, have to be accommodated.
(ecological / economic) terms that need to guide the way we share
our earth's space and other resources are to a large degree already
available. By putting existing frameworks to work, and maintaining
a significant focus on developing these further - as well as totally
new ones - will the balance soon shift towards better sus-tainability.
As can be easily recognised from today's societies is taxation
both the culprit and the saviour. By re-designing taxation along
eco/eco terms will human priorities change, and both the ecological
and security situations will rapidly improve.
that must be turned into a moral 'given' - i.e. to share responsibility
for future generations - is not difficult to promote once
we insert our own off-springs in the place of the general term
'future generations'. This promotion will be facilitated even
further once the above mentioned political axiom is in place.
The key to the fourth
'fundamental' - whereby civic society assumes control over
the political society - lies in the transfer of the power
to define the political agenda, from politicians to 'humans'.
No doubt are politicians also humans, but in today's political
landscape is the human sub-group 'politicians' not only rule-issuers,
but also players, goalkeepers and referees, and even in control
of the cheerleaders. If anyone is in doubt whether or not civic
society can gather momentum enough to make this trans-formation
happen, this is because the focus of this process is still so
strong on 'politicians' - not on 'humans'. So called 'shadow parliaments'
may serve as a critical step in this development.
Finally, the idea
that all societies are 'local' is not at all contradictory
to a globalised or integrated world as such. What is expressed
here is however the recognition of the individuals' need to impact
this increasingly globalised and/or integrated world, and that
globalisation cannot be allowed to become a pretext for ignoring
the huge scope of different needs that people have. Instead
must their location and socio-economic situation be allowed to
continue defining their needs, rather than 'local needs' being
dictated by large and anonymous multinational financial or political
interests, over which local communities have no influence.
As should be clear
from the above are these five fundamentals not indicative of what
people shall build from them. They are simply there to encourage
us to build some-thing from them. They constitute the 'foundation',
not the 'structures' we use to live our lives, and certainly not
the 'superstructure' that constitute life itself. This is also
where today's socio-economic and political systems have gone wrong.
So many particular conditions have been institutionalised as a
sheer consequence of previous actions so the resulting gridlocks
prevent all change, no matter where we start. By re-orienting
the 'fundamentals' of our socio-economic and political ambitions
- away from the financial concerns that conservatives and socialist
keep bickering over, or the 'systems' that true liberals tend
to focus on, but allowing these fairly narrow approaches to compete
on new terms whereby short- and medium term policies also
will need to target long term 'glocal' objectives in order to
get approval from the constituency - we can finally start the
breaking away from what keeps us locked in.
It is true that the
term 'glocalism' till date often suggests that large urban
communities challenge the authority of the State by interconnecting
directly with other large urban communities, simply bypassing
national governments. This term is nevertheless still politically
untested, and by instilling in it a political interpretation
can this 'urban' focus be replaced with a 'human' focus, simply
acknowledging that the density of humans is greater in major urban
areas than it is in smaller towns and rural communities. This
does not suggest that the latter have less influence over local
concerns, but it does suggest that decisions taken in small towns
and rural communities affect a smaller number of humans than do
decisions taken in mega cities.
Starting out from
the pentagon's five integrated fundamentals can any political
party or movement, as well as non-political movements, build their
own versions of what these fundamentals should entail - a version
they can then put to the electoral test if they are political
parties, or debate and lobby for if they are NGOs. What we can
aspire to achieve by launching Political Glocalism as a
new and competing political philosophy is not an immediate shift
away from the traditional political philosophies to this new and
'alternative' one, but a realignment of (i) the issues on which
the political establishment goes to election, (ii) how politics
are conducted and (iii) along which lines politicians are being
assessed. Those political institutions that already base themselves
on the 'glocal' model will however, once this happens, enjoy a
Rather than viewing
the launch of Political Glocalism as an endgame should this be
seen as the starting point for a long overdue change in political
practice - from narrow partisan interests to solution-driven political
agendas, where civic society finally takes charge of its own destiny.