Seeking positive solutions to problems identified by alter-globalisation activists, a wide range of organisations participated in organising the first World Social Forum in Brazil in January 2001. A self-proclaimed ‘open space’ for dialogue to prove that ‘another world is possible’, this massive gathering provided world-wide inspiration for hundreds of local groups. While not as numerous in the UK as other European countries, local social forums sprang up in part as a channel for the energy and new-found resources of the anti-war movement. As such, the social forums retained the multi-faceted character of the anti-war movements, with strong representation from a wide array of political positions.
This chapter is, in part, the story of Sheffield Social Forum (SSF) in particular. Here we see, represented in microcosm, many of the debates also being held at national, regional and even the global level. These debates are hardly played out on a simply local level, however, as SSF engaged in UK-wide and European networks of local social forums seeking to influence the direction of the third edition of the European Social Forum. Again we see the utility of the three frames identified throughout this thesis in aiding understanding of the thoughts and actions of significant groups of actors contesting neo-liberal globalisation and the idea of the social forum itself. This chapter raises the possibility that the self-consciously ‘open space’ of the social forums have enabled a new combination of ideas to come to the fore, one which draws on both revolutionary socialism and radical liberalism.
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A Paper Presented to the Alternative Futures and Popular Protest Conference, at Manchester Metropolitan University, April 2006
This study utilises a theoretical framework developed from the interpretive frames approach. I will offer a hermeneutic conception of ‘orientational frames’ that has a number of advantages over the more usual, largely positivist, application of the approach. This research is based on ethnographic fieldwork within the Sheffield Social Forum (SSF) from the inception of the group, through its involvement in a UK network of local social forums, to the attendance of members of the SSF at the 2004 edition of the European Social Forum. As such, it relates to processes at a number of levels: the creation of a local organisation; the networking of local organisations nationally; and their involvement in an international event. Data will be drawn from each of these levels in order to argue that despite important ideational continuities the SF movement contains substantially shifted emphases, and the development of novel connections between familiar ideas that signal a new politics of the social forums.
Please download a .pdf version of this paper from this link: Another Ideology?
“The conflict between Davos [the partisans of the World Economic Forum] and Porto Alegre [the partisans of the World Social Forum] is not about the virtues and vices of neo-liberal globalisation, although this is how it is often protrayed … It is not about capitalism as a world-system, since capitalism as a world system is in structural crisis and will disappear in the next 20-50 years. The conflict is about what will replace the capitalist world-economy as an historical system. It is about whether we shall move in the direction of a different system that maintains one crucial feature of capitalism – its hierarchical, inegalitarian, polarising nature – or of a new world system that is relatively democratic, relatively egalitarian.”
Immanuel Wallerstein , 2004, “The dilemmas of open space: the future of the World Social Forum” in International Social Science Journal 56(4), pp. 629-637.
It is worth noting that the next paragraph begins “This is no small question…” – no shit professor!