Sunday, November 6, 2011

The globalisation of protest

Protesters around the world say they are part of a generation that played by the rules but has no hope for the future.

Joseph E Stiglitz

"The protest movement that began in Tunisia in January, subsequently spreading to Egypt and then to Spain, has now become global - with the protests engulfing Wall Street and cities across America. Globalisation and modern technology now enables social movements to transcend borders as rapidly as ideas can.

And social protest has found fertile ground everywhere: A sense that the "system" has failed, and the conviction that even in a democracy, the electoral process will not set things right - at least not without strong pressure from the street.

In May, I went to the site of the Tunisian protests; in July, I talked to Spain's indignados; from there, I went to meet the young Egyptian revolutionaries in Cairo's Tahrir Square; and, a few weeks ago, I talked with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York. There is a common theme, expressed by the OWS movement in a simple phrase: "We are the 99%.".....

On one level, today's protesters are asking for little: A chance to use their skills, the right to decent work at decent pay, a fairer economy and society. Their hope is evolutionary, not revolutionary. But, on another level, they are asking for a great deal: A democracy where people, not dollars, matter, and a market economy that delivers on what it is supposed to do.

The two are related: As we have seen, unfettered markets lead to economic and political crises. Markets work the way they should only when they operate within a framework of appropriate government regulations; and that framework can be erected only in a democracy that reflects the general interest - not the interests of the 1%. The best government that money can buy is no longer good enough."

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