Globalization: Challenge to the People’s Movement

Prof. Kim, Yong-Bock,Chancellor
Advanced Institute for the Study of Life

Globalization is a process of integration of all peoples and nations into one global market, driven by global capital. This process has several characteristics which pose new challenges for people’s movements around the world.

The geo-political integration of nations is forcing all peoples into a mono-polar world. Local, national, regional and global horizons are integrated into one global market. Financial speculation has driven people into a casino economy. Science and technology in highly advanced forms have led to the global integration of digital information and to a multi-communication society. The cultural life of the people is subjugated to the process of commoditization on a global scale. Globalization, driven by "global marketization," threatens the life of the people at the microcosmic (genetic) level as well as macrocosmic (ecological) level.

In this process the life of the people and of the cosmos (macro-and micro) are under the threat of death. People’s movements are to preserve, enhance and fulfill life in the cosmos. We will outline the experiences of the people (Minjung) under the globalization process, which is unfolding in a new and unpredictable way. Then we will reflect upon the emerging challenges to the People’s movements as they struggle for life in the cosmos.

The people (Minjung) are suffering in a multi-dimensional way. Their movements are challenged in terms of reading the signs of times, in terms of analyses, and in terms of the vision of life in the future, and, therefore, in terms of strategies of their struggle and movement. We should try to discern tentatively the signs of the times and seek to clarify the challenges of globalization to the People’s movement.

1. The world has become one globe, dominated by one power. This is what we have called the mono-polar world. This is a dramatic shift of global geo-politics from the bi-polar world. The geo-politics of the world is truly shaped into the structure of the global power versus the peoples of the world. The mono-polar power seeks to maintain and consolidate its global geopolitical hegemony, as a result of which the peoples of the world will be victimized by direct and indirect violence.

The challenge to the People’s movement is how to achieve peace and security for life in the cosmos. This task is far more difficult now than during the previous bi-polar situation. The People’s movement is challenged to form alliances and solidarity for geo-political security and peace. When nation states and international organizations such as the UN are basically under the hegemony of mono-polar power, the People’s movements and their solidarity are the only way to peace and security.

The other dimension of the challenge for the People’s movement is to link their local and grassroots movements with national and regional movements and further to the global movement. The importance of civil society movements, NGO movements and various kinds of People’s movements is to be understood in this context.

2. Transnational capital, in the form of transnational corporations and speculative financial capital, is a special challenge to the People’s movement. It has encroached into the life of the people and impoverished them at unprecedented levels. Recently it caused financial crises among Asian nations, victimizing the People’s life.

People do not seem to have any alternative to the global market. The People’s movement must seek an alternative political economy of life free from the reign of the global market and its rulers. The so-called national economic growth among Asian nations has not benefited the Minjung people, though it was wrought through their sacrifice. New thinking is needed among the people. Asian religions can provide new orientation for a political economy of life against the global market economy.

3. Globalization has brought about drastic changes in the nature of the nation-state. It has served the neo-colonial policies of the global powers. Now nations have succumbed to the pressure of the market forces to open their borders to the global market, thereby exposing the people directly to the principalities and powers of the global market. The neo-liberal process of globalization has weakened the People’s freedom and participation.

The challenge to the People’s movement is to forge a new political democracy not only in political terms within nations, but also in global political and economic terms to democratize the market and the international political process. This demands that the People’s movement develop a direct participatory process and international solidarity across national and regional boundaries, even as it is faithful to local democracy, which is basic. Previously the People’s movement had to deal with dictatorship by national powers; now it must deal with global powers as well.

4. Globalization has deepened social contradictions and made them more violent. The social and human security of the people is threatened more than ever. Social peace has been evaporating in the process of globalization. The doctrine of the survival of the fittest is newly enforced by limitless competition for the maximization of profits. Traditional contradictions between classes, races, genders and other conflicts are intensified and become more violent. National social welfare and security systems are being dismantled in the process of market globalization, and integrated into the market.

The People’s movements have been struggling for social justice; and they have struggled for social rights at all levels and in all places. The "triumph of neo-liberalism" is generating a kind of new social Darwinism. The People’s movement must face the global market forces in a newly complex struggle to realize social justice, as the web of social contradictions has become more complicated. The challenge is to clarify the nature of the social contradictions and to articulate a vision for social justice and solidarity in the global context.

5. The greatest challenge of globalization for the People’s movement lies in the area of information technology (technetronics) and hi-tech multi-media. The global market dominates the information and media industry, including various cultural products. The people are subjugated by the power of information and media, eroding their cultural identity and value, dismantling their style of life and subjugating their perceptions and senses. The people experience not only cultural subjugation but also cultural up-rootedness and chaos.

The People’s movements need to struggle for cultural and ethnic identity in the context of globalization, which drives the process of cultural integration into the global market. One of the challenges is to struggle against cultural subjugation for the establishment of an open and strong identity that enriches cultural life. This will overcome cultural exclusiveness, which often creates the situation of cultural and ethnic conflicts. Asian people enjoy their unique cultural life in richness and diversity.

The challenge is to communicate among the people for justice and peace, against the dominant order of information and communication, which is increasingly dominated by the market forces. Previously, information and communication were dominated by the political powers; and now the economic powers dominate the worldwide order of information and communication. The people must struggle for a new information and economic order that supports the People’s movements at the local, national, regional and global levels from the bottom up. Participatory democracy is essential in the information and communication order, for the life of the people.

6. People in Asia must also cope with the religious situation. Globalization is challenging the religions in Asia. Some religious groups react strongly to the impact of globalization, and there arises a tendency of fundamentalism, causing religious reactions and religious conflicts. The people in Asia have been very much immersed in their religious faiths and heritages. Their religions have sometimes been oppressive, when they are symbiotically related to the ruling powers. Although the globalization process will loosen religions’ grip over the life of the people, this may trigger religious reactions against the People’s movements for change.

The People’s movements must search for authentic religious teachings for free, just and peaceful life. Deeper religious foundations for life may become a great cornerstone from which to build strength to meet the challenges of globalization and the global market. This means that religions in Asia must be freed from the ideological captivity of the powerful. For example, People’s movements in Asia must seek wisdom as to how to attain a good, healthy economic life. Buddhism rejects greed, Islam advocates justice, Hinduism cherishes life, and Confucianism condemns selfishness. What do these teachings mean for the political economy of life, and what are the implications for the People’s movements? Christian religion in Asia must serve the people, joining in ecumenical solidarity with Asian religions.

7. Globalization and the global market turn people against life, as well as destroying the ecological balance and harmony. The global market promotes biotech ventures to manipulate microcosmic and macrocosmic life. The life of the people is convivial with cosmic life. It is the nuclear core of the life of the universe. Globalization separates the life of the people from the life of the cosmos.

The challenge of the People’s movement is to promote the solidarity of life in the cosmos, rejecting a split between the life of the people and life in the Eco-sphere. When the life of the people is victimized in the global market, life in the cosmos is also victimized. The People’s movement must promote the political life of the people, which expresses the conviviality and solidarity of life in the cosmos, human or otherwise.

Direct Participation and Solidarity in the New Geo-political Situation of Globalization.

The challenges of globalization for the People’s movement are basically the questions of the free subjectivity of people for life and of their solidarity for the conviviality of life in the cosmos. For this reason I would like to propose LIFE as the central focus of our deliberation. The vision of the good and full life, the transformation of the conditions of life, or rather, of death, for new, just and peaceful life, and the ways to enjoyment of life together, the feast of life, are some our concerns. Therefore, the study of life and praxis for life is a new paradigmatic framework with which to articulate the vision of life, analyze the conditions of life, and develop a praxis for life. This is to liberate life from the forces of death. This is to free life from the forces of destruction in the context of globalization.

The study of life involves the vision and imagination of life, rooted in human civilizations. In my case I have visions of Buddhism (the Western Paradise), Confucianism (the Reign of Great Peace), Donghak (the Paradise on earth) and Christianity (the Messianic Reign). The social visions of secular philosophies are part of my vision for life, in so far as they enrich and fulfill life as a whole in the cosmos.

The study of life is an integral study, not a reductionist and fragmentary one. It begins with the life experiences of the people in the cosmos, including the question of convivial relationships. The study respects the subjecthood of life, rejecting the objectification of life, human or otherwise. It is inter-disciplinary and wholistic study for the whole of life. Modern science and technology, which has thus far been serving the dominant powers of the market, must serve life, not the other way around.

The study of life serves life as a whole. It is to establish an alternative abode of life, an alternative political economy of life and to till the garden of life in the cosmos. It turns the market into a festive place for exchange of life. It does not serve the powers and forces of death in the global market.

The People’s movements in Asia are the movements of direct participation as the subjects of life and of convivial solidarity with the whole of life in the cosmos.