In defence of Marxism : Marxist theories of globalisation and social injustice and the evolution of post-socialist ideology within contemporary movements for global social justice

Wood, Jared (2016) In defence of Marxism : Marxist theories of globalisation and social injustice and the evolution of post-socialist ideology within contemporary movements for global social justice. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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The protests against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle in 1999 have been described, along with the development of World and European Social Forums (WSF/ESF), as the beginning of a new Global Movement for Social Justice (GMSJ). This movement has been argued to represent a ‘new type of politics’ with an unprecedented ideological and organisational character based on new fragmented power relationships that have undermined traditional class and national relationships and consequently have undermined the relevance of classical socialist theory. In place of nation state-based socialist strategies for delivering social justice, the GMSJ has been established on the principles of autonomy and an absence of representative structures of any kind. Often, these movements are described as (transnational) New Social Movements. This thesis challenges these concepts and argues they fall within a post-socialist orthodox approach to social science. It compares socialist concepts relating to power, class, nations and political organisation with post-socialist concepts, and in so doing, argues that post-socialist ideas have gained an orthodox status in a period when Stalinist models of (national) state planning have collapsed and social democratic parties have capitulated to the demands of globalised neo-liberal capitalism. Under such conditions, it has been possible for post-socialist theory to reflect observed failures of socialist movements and the thesis argues that underlying post-socialist theories of power, globalisation and a fragmentation of material power relations are often excessively abstract and unconvincing. These arguments are developed through the presentation of research into GMSJ activist organisations, part of the movements that affiliated to the London round of the ESF in 2004. In presenting analysis of in-depth interviews with participants and key organizational leaders, the thesis examines how the contemporary GMSJ remains sceptical that class based socialist theory can mobilise contemporary mass movements. However, it also develops a better understanding of how activists in this new global social movement reflect socialist theories relating to power, property relations and class in their conceptualisation of patterns of social injustice. Overall, the research suggests post-socialist theories have failed to provide a programme or strategy for building a mass movement for social justice. It argues that, contrary to often stated claims about its Marxist foundations, post-socialist ideology has not been able to outline the systemic foundations for another world. However, the research suggests that the central concepts of Marxist theory relating to power, property relations, class and political organisation nevertheless remain relevant to the GMSJ and that democratic socialist planning is the only coherent systemic alternative to capitalism that has been placed before the GMSJ. The thesis will argue that the GMSJ could help to develop an ideological alternative to global capitalism by engaging with a rich history of socialist theory.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Social Sciences, History & Philosophy > Department of Geography
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 04 May 2016 11:06
Last Modified: 04 May 2016 11:16

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