Criticism of globalization

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Globalization-critical poster with a skull for the G8 summit in Heiligendamm 2007 ; translates as "The second face of your globalization"

Criticism of globalization refers to the critical examination of the economic, social, cultural and ecological effects of globalization .


A multitude of different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the attac network , all kinds of independent organizations and individuals such as Arundhati Roy , Jean Ziegler or Naomi Klein are responsible for the criticism of globalization . Those positions that reject globalization completely and want to reduce global interdependence, for example through renationalization and isolation ( protectionism ), are called anti-globalization . This is to be distinguished from a critique of globalization in the narrower sense, which, for example, advocates a different globalization (hence also French altermondialization and English alter-globalization from alter = different). In common parlance and also in the media, the globalization critics are sometimes inappropriately referred to as anti-globalization.

Criticism of globalization covers a wide spectrum from left to right . At the center of left-wing globalization criticism are often the accusation of deregulation and the associated dismantling of social rights as well as the allegedly all-encompassing commercialization and marketing ( commodification ) through " privatization of public companies , restructuring of social welfare or" valorization "of human and non-human nature". One focus of the criticism should be directed against an economic order that is labeled with the ambiguous battle term " neoliberal " and that is promoted worldwide by multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organization . Right-wing critics of globalization also turn against the social aspirations of world citizenship or a world society , such as in internationalism .


The criticism of globalization is rooted in older currents such as the criticism of capitalism and the theology of liberation ; it adopts and develops their ideas further; it is a current version of these.

Towards the end of the 1990s, the criticism of globalization developed in various movements. In many former colonies , various social movements regard the struggles against global agreements and institutions as a continuation of the struggles against the colonial rulers (cf. neocolonialism ).

In Latin America , the Zapatista uprising in January 1994 was directly related to the entry into force of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) . The Zapatistas also organized the first global networking meetings with the so-called intergalactic encuentros (gatherings). A riot broke out in Chiapas that quickly spread across large areas of the state. The attempt to popularize the struggle against “neoliberalism” remained largely limited to a small group of political companions from the European and US student milieu.

It was only with the draft of the Multilateral Investment Protection Agreement (MAI) in 1997, which provided for extensive rights for transnational corporations, that the protest spread to a wider international public. NGOs in Canada, the US, France and some Asian countries criticized the draft heavily. The French culture industry in particular felt threatened by the “MAI”, as free market access would have exposed it to competition from Hollywood productions. With the exit of the French government under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin , this project failed.

The OECD countries, and will business leaders announced soon after the failure of that they wanted to find a new institutional framework for investment agreements to the greatest possible for transnational corporations and foreign investment legal certainty to guarantee. This announcement and the Asian crisis that began in July 1997 sharpened the critical perception of the “neoliberal world economy”. So published u. a. the editor-in-chief of Le Monde diplomatique , Ignacio Ramonet , published the editorial "Désarmer les marchés" - disarming the markets, in December 1997, which gave birth to the Attac movement .

A decisive event in the movement critical of globalization was the breaking off of the 3rd WTO conference in Seattle in December 1999, after which violent clashes between globalization critics and the police broke out. After Seattle, the movement critical of globalization also developed in the metropolises and spread around the world.

On the European continent, the protests against the meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on September 26, 2000 in Prague were important for further mobilization. The 15,000 or so critics of globalization marched towards the conference building in three color-coded demonstrations: a yellow train ( Tute Bianche and others), a blue train ( Autonome and others), and Pink & Silver ( Rhythms of Resistance and others).

At the EU summit in Gothenburg in 2001 , more than 20,000 critics of globalization demonstrated on June 14, 2001 under the motto "Bush not welcome". Violence escalated. A police officer fired several shots at demonstrators, in addition to two leg hits, one person was critically injured by a shot in the stomach.

A few weeks later, at the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001 , serious clashes broke out between the Italian police and demonstrators. The Italian government had suspended the Schengen Agreement for the time of the summit and had all borders monitored seamlessly. In Genoa itself, 20,000 police officers and carabinieri were brought together. The media and some politicians warned of “ civil war-like conditions ”. There were serious attacks and human rights violations by the executive against demonstrators. Hundreds of demonstrators were injured. When the Italian activist Carlo Giuliani and others attacked a police vehicle, he was shot by one of the police officers and rolled over twice with the SUV. It is estimated that between 70,000 and 250,000 critics of globalization took part in the protests.

Aspects of globalization criticism can also be found in the various currents of growth criticism since the 1970s and in the growth-critical movement . They question whether the Global South should follow the development model of the Global North and it is doubted that global issues of justice and distribution can be overcome through economic expansion.


In Europe and North America, the movement critical of globalization can be traced back to different parts of the New Social Movements , especially the Third World / One World Movement, and the trade unions . The protests attracted attention through new forms of action inspired by groups such as Reclaim the Streets in the UK and the Direct Action Network in Seattle. In the Netherlands an "anti-globalization movement" was formed at the end of the 1960s. a. against the Treaty of Amsterdam . For this purpose, the Eurodusnie collective was created in 1967 , which still exists today.

Non-governmental organizations / independent organizations

NGOs play a major role in the movement critical of globalization. They regularly organize counter and alternative congresses and use modern communication technologies to bring their publications to a critical public. NGOs work in numerous networks with different focuses. Many NGOs favor the UN as an institution for their concepts of “ global governance ”. In Europe they rely on the European Union . Critics accuse the NGOs of concentrating primarily on lobbying . The greater the financial dependence on supranational institutions, governments or corporations, so the much-voiced criticism of the radical wing of the movement, the louder the NGOs propagated the reformability of the capitalist world economic order.

In areas with indigenous peoples, they often join the NGOs' campaigns if they are not able to do so themselves. The indigenous criticism of western civilization, colonization and globalization has been topical for centuries.


Since the Seattle events, the unions have also increasingly mobilized against meetings of international institutions. In Europe they took part for the first time on a large scale in the protests against the EU government summits in Nice and Brussels. There the unions each organized their own demonstrations. In both cases the large participation was due to the mobilization ability of the French CGT .

Internationally, it is above all a few trade union associations from emerging countries that stand by the side of the new movement. These include the Brazilian CUT and the South Korean KCTU , which was only legalized in 1999. In Europe, independent and left- wing trade union organizations were the driving forces, such as the Italian SinCobas and the French SUD trade unions, which since the European marches against unemployment in 1997 on the occasion of the EU summit in Amsterdam have been pursuing an offensive policy beyond the national framework.

In the program of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) adopted by the founding congress in 2006 , the first section under the heading "Changing globalization" contains the ITUC's criticism and alternative ideas. The 2nd ITUC World Congress (2010) adopted a broader resolution on the subject.



In addition to trade unions and NGOs, various international networks have developed within the movement critical of globalization. The best known in Europe is Attac . The idea launched by Ignacio Ramonet in his editorial in Le Monde Diplomatique was to set up an NGO on a global scale to put pressure on governments to introduce an international “solidarity tax ” called the “ Tobin Tax ”. This meant the 0.1% tax on international capital flows proposed by the US economist James Tobin at the end of the 1970s. The name of this organization "Attac", proposed by Ramonet at the same time, should, due to its linguistic proximity to the French word attaque , also signal the transition to the "counterattack", after years of adaptation to globalization.

In France this appeal fell on fertile ground from the newspaper, which was influential in progressive circles. The great wave of strikes in the mid-1990s had already sharpened many French people's critical awareness of neoliberalism, the international dimension of which was made clear again by the Asian crisis at the end of 1997.

Attac's activities quickly expanded beyond the area of ​​the Tobin tax and the “democratic control of the financial markets”. Attac's field of activity now also includes WTO trade policy, Third World debt and the privatization of state social security and public services. The organization is now present in a number of African, European and Latin American countries.

In Germany, several NGOs, including World Economy, Ecology and Development (WEED), took the initiative for Attac-Germany in 2000 .

Attac is active in more than 30 countries and had around 90,000 members at the end of 2016 - 29,000 of them in Germany.

Other networks

A second global network besides Attac is Peoples Global Action (PGA). In Europe, PGA mainly works with groups based on the political understanding of the Mexican Zapatistas . The network, founded in Geneva in February 1998, rejects any kind of lobbying and instead organizes regular global “action days”. The largest organization belonging to it is the Indian farmers' organization KRRS , which claims to have around ten million members. The network makes v. a. attract attention through original actions. It relies on the principles of spontaneity, self-management and confrontation. Unlike Attac, there is no formal membership of individuals. However, each continent must provide a responsible group that is delegated for the international coordination of the days of action and helps prepare the international conferences.

The international farmers' association Via Campesina plays a major role, especially in the countries of the south. The French José Bové became known in Europe for his actions against free trade and McDonald’s . From Latin America, the Brazilian landless movement MST in particular enjoys a certain degree of awareness due to its spectacular land occupations. Via Campesina focuses on agricultural policy, green genetic engineering and patent law. In his field of vision is v. a. the policy of the WTO. The farmers' organization advocates food sovereignty , i.e. against an export orientation in agriculture and for food security in the regions. This means that every region in the world should be able to feed the people living there with local agricultural products.

In Germany, the Dissent! Network, the Interventionist Left and the Federal Coordination of Internationalism ( BUKO ) should be mentioned.

Social forums

These different networks and organizations met for the first time in January 2001 for the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (Brazil) - at the same time as the World Economic Forum of corporate managers and economic politicians in Davos, which has been taking place since 1971. A total of 117 countries were represented in Porto Alegre, with more than 10,000 participants. In addition to numerous NGOs and grassroots movements, 400 parliamentarians were also present. Porto Alegre was considered a model project for the motto of the conference: “Another world is possible”, as the Brazilian Workers' Party ( PT ) had introduced the “participation budget” there, which provided for plebiscitary elements for at least 20% of the city's budget.

As a result of this counter-summit, further social forums emerged , initially on a continental level ( European Social Forum ), and later also on a regional and local level. The movement is considered to be multifaceted in terms of content. The focus is on socially just globalization as well as human rights (especially “ women's rights ”) and ecological issues.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) , which also expresses criticism of capitalism at its general assemblies, is closely linked to the church actors in the social forums .


The political scientist Claus Leggewie distinguishes five types of globalization criticism:

  1. Basic movements that want to develop a different social system under the motto “A new world is possible”. In addition to environmentalists, women's rights activists and pacifists on the fringes, there are also violent groups.
  2. Insider critics who draw attention to the “defects” of globalization and try to integrate social reforms into the globalization process. The former Vice President of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz with his book The Shadows of Globalization , John Perkins with his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and financial analyst Michael Hudson with his criticism of the US attitude "Our dollar, your problem" should be mentioned here.
  3. the academic left , which fights above all against the “cultural hegemony of neoliberalism ”.
  4. Religious movements that tie in with the social reform tradition of the churches, see for example Liberation Theology .
  5. a national-conservative or nationalist current , which primarily advocates a strong nation-state and the reintroduction of borders and tariffs , and a right-wing extremist current, which sees the world economy as being directed and ruled by Jews in an anti-Semitic way (and using certain ciphers such as "American East Coast “ Served).

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman assumes that nationalist currents or “church tower interest groups” are gaining influence in the current phase in which the states (or confederations such as the EU), which have so far been unable to cope with their cosmopolitan obligations, are trying to meet them Obligation to create order in the deregulated globalization chaos, to get rid of it in the name of " subsidiarization ". These groups reacted within their territories or neighborhoods to the “increasingly cosmopolitan conditions of existence with a way of thinking and feeling according to the motto 'small but mine'”.

Criticism of globalization criticism

The German sociologist Ulrich Beck , among others, speaks out against the focus of globalization criticism on the economic dimension , who describes and criticizes this approach as “ globalism ”.

Oliver Marchart criticizes the globalization critics because they did not go far enough, but got stuck in economic thinking. He justifies this with the fact that the globalization critics did not make a new beginning in the sense of Hannah Arendt . If globalization criticism takes place in an area where there is no alternative , as the neoliberal Margaret Thatcher expresses it clearly in her statement - “ There is no alternative ” - “then it could only be a question of either more efficient or somewhat fairer administration - ultimately, better globalization management. “This means that you are in a discourse that is in the old, past framework, but is apolitical in the sense of Arendt. Politics must not only follow the supposed necessities , but also think creatively in the "realm of freedom" in the sense of the ethics of Immanuel Kant , which is based on a new, completely unknown beginning .

The social scientist Samuel Salzborn points to one of the "great paradoxes of the anti-globalization movement": one feels - since abstract structures of capitalist society are not understood - at the mercy of anonymous powers, so one tries through personalization "to give concrete people the responsibility for a system ] to take". The sphere of the abstract is identified in the anti-Semitic fantasy with “the Jews”, since in this worldview Jews are “those who make profit from capitalism and the financial crisis”.

See also


  • Christophe Aguiton: What motivates the critics of globalization? From Attac to Via Campesina. ISP, Cologne 2002, ISBN 3-89900-103-6 .
  • Claus Leggewie : Globalization and its opponents. Beck, Munich 2003.
  • Dieter Rucht , Roland Roth : Globalization-critical networks, campaigns and movements. In: R. Roth, D. Rucht (ed.): The social movements in Germany since 1949. A manual. Campus, Frankfurt / M. 2008, ISBN 978-3-593-38372-9 , pp. 493-512.
  • Rüdiger Robert: The movement of the "globalization critics". In: Rüdiger Robert (Ed.): Federal Republic of Germany - Political System and Globalization - An Introduction. Waxmann, Münster 2003, pp. 299-319.
  • information center 3rd world: An interim assessment of the globalization criticism. Where is the movement? In: iz3w. Issue 265. Third World Information Center, Freiburg 2002.
further reading


Web links

Commons : Criticism of globalization  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ulrich Brand : Article “Criticism of Globalization” ( Memento from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 146 kB) In: Wolfgang Fritz Haug (Ed.): Historisch -kritisches Dictionary des Marxismus . Volume 5. Argument, Hamburg 1994 ff.
  2. Cf. Gerhard Klas: Passed the test. An overview of the new movements, their actors and ideas. In: Socialist Hefts. 1 / February 2002, pp. 3–10.
  3. Article in German translation ( Memento from April 15, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  4. ( Memento from June 24, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Giacomo D'Alisa, Federico Demaria, Giorgios Kallis (ed.): Degrowth: Handbook for a new era. oekom, Munich, 2016. pp. 49–53.
  6. Kallis, Giorgos; Martinez-Alier, Joan; Schneider, François (2010): Crisis or opportunity? Economic degrowth for social equity and ecological sustainability. Introduction to this special issue. In: Journal of Cleaner Production 18 (6), pp. 511-518.
  7. Asara, Viviana; Otero, Iago; Demaria, Federico; Corbera, Esteve (2015): Socially sustainable degrowth as a social-ecological transformation. Repoliticizing sustainability. In: Sustain Sci 10 (3), pp. 375-384.
  8. Cf. Gerhard Klas: Passed the test. An overview of the new movements, their actors and ideas. In: Socialist Hefts. 1 / February 2002, p. 4
  9. website of KCTU ( Memento of 19 October 2005 at the Internet Archive )
  10. German homepage of the Euro march movement
  11. ^ ITUC program , accessed on February 18, 2018
  12. Resolution: "Changing Globalization" , accessed on February 18, 2018
  13. Abbreviation for "association pour une taxation des transactions financières pour l'aide aux citoyens", German "Association for a taxation of financial transactions for the benefit of the citizens"
  14. ^ Distribution of the Attac political network , from: Facts and Figures: Globalization , Federal Agency for Civic Education / bpb
  15. Brief introduction to the KRRS
  16. Do it yourself so that others don't determine the picture! by Berit Schröder, accessed February 21, 2010
  17. World Council of Churches criticizes the growing gulf between rich and poor ( Memento from March 30, 2015 in the Internet Archive ),, February 17, 2006, accessed on March 26, 2015.
  18. Churches: Against the godless world economy ,, 12/2013, accessed on March 26, 2015.
  19. Review ( Memento of October 26, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) by Sebastian Dullien, Intervention, Volume 1 (2004), Issue 1 (extended version of a review - How an Economist explains the financial basis of American supremacy ( Memento of November 21, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) in the Financial Times Deutschland , July 1, 2003).
  20. Zygmunt Bauman: Symptoms in the search for their name and their origin. In: Heinrich Geiselberger (Ed.): The great regression. Berlin 2017, pp. 37–56, here: p. 51.
  21. Oliver Marchart: Beginning anew: Hannah Arendt, the revolution and globalization. Turia + Kant, Vienna 2005, p. 95.
  22. ^ Samuel Salzborn: Global anti-Semitism. A search for traces in the abyss of modernity. With a foreword by Josef Schuster. 2nd edition, Beltz Juventa, Weinheim 2020, p. 104 f.