Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Keck and Sikkink. 1998. Activists Beyond Borders.

* Keck, M. E., & Sikkink, K. (1998). Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press.

Keck and Sikkink focus their work on TANs - transnational advocacy networks, defined as including "those relevant actors working internationally on an issue, who are bound together by shared values, a common discourse, and dense exchanges of information and services" (p. 2). They write:

"Such networks are most prevalent in issue areas characterized by high value content and informational uncertainty. At the core of the relationship is information exchange. What is novel in these networks is the ability of nontraditional international actors to mobilize information strategically to help create new issues and categories and to persuade, pressure, and gain leverage over much more powerful organizations and governments. Activist networks try not only to influence policy outcomes, but to transform the terms and nature of the debate... their goal is to change the behavior of states and of international organizations" (p. 2).

Then they write that TANs frame issues "to make the comprehensible to target audiences, to attract attention and encourage action, and to "fit" with favorable institutional venues" (p. 2-3). Interestingly, they refer to these networks as embodying "elements of agent and structure simultaneously" (p. 5). They are structures insofar as they are "patterns of interactions among organizations and individuals" but as actors the networks have agency (p. 5). Keck and Sikkink choose the term networks "to evoke the structured and structuring dimension in the actions of these complex agents, who not only participate in new areas of politics but also shape them" (p. 4).

Networks are "forms of organizations characterized by voluntary, reciprocal, and horizontal patterns of communication and exchange" (p. 8). The found that "Transnational advocacy networks appear most likely to emerge around those issues where (1) channels between domestic groups and their governments are blocked or hampered or where such channels are ineffective for resolving a conflict, setting into motion the "boomerang" pattern of influence characteristic of these networks... (2) activists or "political entrepreneurs" believe that networking will further their missions and campaigns, and actively promote networks; and (3) conferences and other forms of international contact create arenas for forming and strengthening networks" (p. 12).

The boomerang strategy (p. 12-13) is one in which an NGO in state A that cannot achieve its goals through domestic advocacy alone works with an NGO in state B. The foreign NGO then applies pressure to state B, which directly or through an intergovernmental organization applies pressure to state A. For example, this could occur in the case of human rights, when local activists cannot get their own government to end its repression, so they work with foreign activists. The foreign activists pressure their own government, which in turn puts pressure on the repressive government to improve its human rights record. In fact, Keck and Sikkink say this pattern is often used in human rights advocacy.

When using the boomerang strategy: "For the less powerful third world actors, networks provide access, leverage, and information (and often money) they could not expect to have on their own; for northern groups, they make credible the assertion that they are struggling with, and not only for, their southern partners. Not surprisingly, such relationships can produce considerable tensions" (p. 12-13).

Transnational advocacy networks work by using "the power of their information, ideas, and strategies to alter the information and value contexts within which states make policies" (p. 16). Keck and Sikkink divide their tactics into four categories: "(1) information politics, or the ability to quickly and credibly generate politically usable information and move it to where it will have the most impact; (2) symbolic politics, or the ability to call upon symbols, actions, or stories that make sense of a situation for an audience that is frequently far away; (3) leverage politics, or the ability to call upon powerful actors to affect a situation where weaker members of a network are unlikely to have influence; and (4) accountability politics, or the effort to hold powerful actors to their previously stated policies or principles" (p. 16).

The information in the first category, information politics, must be reliable, well-documented, timely, and dramatic (p. 19). They often rely on testimony "stories told by people whose lives have been affected" and then they often "interpret facts and testimony, usually framing issues simply, in terms of right and wrong" (p. 19). An example given of how activists dramatize the information is that they reframed what was called female circumcision as female genital mutilation, which "resituated the practice as a human rights violation" (p. 20). Activists find it important to link both testimony and technical and statistical information, because the testimony puts a human face on the statistics that motivates people to seek changed policies (p. 21).

Leverage politics find a way to link cooperation with them to money, trade, or prestige. Often they use shame, because "governments value the good opinion of others" (p. 23). In accountability politics, they try to get a government to publicly change their position on an issue and they pressure them to live up to their promises (p. 24).

Keck and Sikkink outline stages of network influence: "(1) issue creation and agenda setting; (2) influence on discursive positions of states and international organizations; (3) influence on institutional procedures; (4) influence on policy change in "target actors" which may be states, international organizations like the World Bank, or private actors like the Nestle Corporation; and (5) influence on state behavior" (p. 25).

They found that TANs are most effective when two characteristics are present: "(1) issues involving bodily harm to vulnerable individuals, especially when there is a short and clear causal chain (or story) assigning responsibility; and (2) issues involving legal equality of opportunity" (p. 27).

This is just a synopsis of the book's introduction. What follows are three case studies of human rights, environmental, and anti violence against women networks.

Kay. 2005. Labor Transnationalism and Global Governance

Kay, Tamara. 2005. Labor Transnationalism and Global Governance: The Impact of NAFTA on Transnational Labor Relationships in North America. American Journal of Sociology Vol. 111 No 3 pp. 715–56

Kay applies political process theory to transnational activism, specifically to a case of labor activism and NAFTA. Political process theory was developed for national social movements. It relies on the concept of political opportunity structures. Kay makes the point that political process theory's ideas about political opportunity structures are specific to national activism. Transnational activism also has political opportunity structures, but they are different from national social movements.

Kay writes:

"Synthesizing key scholars’ conceptualization of the term, McAdam (1996, p. 27) highlights four primary dimensions of political opportunity at the national level: (1) the relative openness or closure of the institutionalized political system, (2) the stability or instability of elite political alignments, (3) the presence or absence of elite allies, and (4) the state’s capacity and propensity for repression" (p. 721-722).

These factors require a state: repression by the state, the political parties within a state, and electoral politics within the state. In the case of transnational activism, Kay says, the political opportunity structure is not determined by a state. Additionally, the four dimensions named above assume one nation state, and in the case of NAFTA there are three.

This seems specific to the types of activism Kay is referring to in which there is an global governance institution that creates the arena for activism. In cases where transnational activism uses a boomerang strategy (Keck and Sikkink) to target one state government using activism from abroad, there are multiple states involved, or at least activists in multiple states who are perhaps targeting just one state, but there may not be a global governance institution involved.

In the case of NAFTA and other political opportunity structures created by global governance institutions, Kay's work applies. NAFTA has no elected representatives or political parties nor does it have a capacity for repression. Kay identifies three dimensions of political opportunity structures at the transnational level:

"Here I offer three primary dimensions of political opportunity structure at the transnational level that explain how power is established at the transnational level: (1) the constitution of transnational actors and interests, (2) the definition and recognition of transnational rights, and (3) adjudication of rights at the transnational level" (p. 722). She adds that "At the transnational level, political opportunity structures are embedded in rules and bureaucratic processes rather than electoral processes" (p. 723).

In the case of NAFTA and its labor agreement NAALC, their creation created transnational actors and interests. Previously, labor activists in each nation saw their interests as purely national. Activists in each nation wanted to keep the jobs in their own country, and saw labor in other nations as competition. Each nation has its own labor laws, institutions, and adjudication processes. Essentially, the arena for activism was purely national. When NAFTA was under negotiation, this changed. Suddenly labor activists in all three nations had a common interest - opposing NAFTA - and they began working together as transnational actors to oppose it. Following its passage and implementation, they continued to have shared interests in protecting and expanding labor rights in all three NAFTA countries. Or, as Kay describes the shifting of interests from national to transnational: "The goal of the campaign was not to keep jobs in the United States; rather, it was to maintain decent labor rights and standards in North America" (p. 730).

Part of the reason for the continued activism after the passage of NAFTA was newly established adjudication process through which activists could file complaints against labor violations in the three NAFTA nations. The complaints must be filed outside one's own country. In order to file complaints, activists in the country in which the labor violation occurred worked with activists in the nation where they were filing the complaint.

Thus, the creation of NAFTA established both a definition of transnational rights - the labor standards that the three NAFTA nations were to uphold, giving rights to labor in all three nations - and an adjudication process at the transnational level when violations occurred.

Kay writes, in summary:

"In this article I show how global governance institutions facilitate a process that constitutes transnational actors and interests. NAFTA forced labor unions in all three countries to recognize the common threat to North American workers if the free trade agreement stimulated a reduc- tion in jobs and wages and in health, safety, and environmental standards. Although it is commonly thought that NAFTA only created a common market, my data suggest that it also created a transnational political opportunity structure through which national unions in North America could identify their common interests as North American unions and advocate for them by developing a transnational political action field.

"The second dimension of transnational political opportunity structures expands upon the first by emphasizing the importance of defining and recognizing transnational actors’ and social movements’ rights in the transnational arena. This dimension is similar to Tilly’s (1984) assertion that national social movements target nation-states because they have the power to grant or deny legitimacy. In the transnational arena, global governance institutions have the same power" (p. 723).

Kay also introduces two other terms, political mobilization effect and institutional effect.

The political mobilization effect occurred when the threat of NAFTA created a common interest (preventing its passage) among labor activists in all three nations. The institutional effect occurred when NAFTA created institutions that "define and recognize transnational rights, and adjudicate violations of these rights at the transnational level" (p. 724).

Kay provides five stages in a process of creating a cooperative transnational relationship and institution building: "(1) contact, (2) interaction and the coalescing of interests, (3) growth of confidence and trust, (4) action (e.g., joint activities and actions to address mutual needs and interests), and (5) identification (e.g., recognizing mutual interests)." (p. 725).

In her case study of three unions that work together, one from each of the three NAFTA nations, she provides examples of how the three unions work together. They initially worked to oppose NAFTA. After its passage, they worked to organize workers in Mexican factories; they set up a fund for striking workers in Mexico; they worked together to organize Mexican workers in the U.S.; and they worked together to file complaints when labor violations occurred in any of the three nations.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Biersteker. 1994. "The Triumph of Liberal Economic Ideas in the Developing World."

* Biersteker, Thomas. 1994. "The Triumph of Liberal Economic Ideas in the Developing World." in Global Change, Regional Response: The New International Context of Development, edited by Barbara Stallings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Biersteker describes the world before neoliberalism as an era of global Fordism, "a regime of accumulation characterized by mass production, a sharing of value added between capital and labor, and corporate profit stability" (p. 193). This was combined with embedded liberalism - "Keynesian intervention, extensive social legislation, and the construction of the welfare state" (p. 193).

Both Bierstaker and Harvey refer to the 1950s and 1960s as embedded liberalism, and both say that it began to fall part with the stagflation of the 1970s. Harvey points to a backlash from elites who did not like having a smaller share of the pie during the 1950s and 1960s, who used neoliberalism as a tool to increase their own wealth and power. Biersteker does not.

Biersteker says that the 1960s and 1970s were decades of "unprecedented economic nationalism, a growing role for state intervention in the economy, and experimentation with variants of socialism and self-reliance" (p. 174). The development thinking of the 1970s was basically dependency theory: "A basic premise of much development thinking during this period was that the structure of international economic relations was biased against the countries of the developing world. The structure of the international system, rather than characteristics internal to developing countries, was identified as the principle source of underdevelopment. Development was viewed as qualitatively, even profoundly, different in the North and South, to the extent that laws of neoclassical economics were assumed not to apply equally in the developing world" (p. 176).

To get from there to neoliberalism, Biersteker points to a confluence of ideas, interests, and institutions needed to bring a new school of development thinking to the fore. He says the biggest shift was the notion that "the principal obstacle to development was to be found within developing countries themselves" (p. 177). Modernization Theory also blames underdeveloped nations for their own underdevelopment, but Modernization Theory blames their traditional values. Neoliberalism instead blames it on "decades of unwise government intervention in the economy... Violation of the basic (universal) laws of neoclassical economics was considered the source of the main problems" (p. 177).

Under neoliberalism "development was increasingly defined in terms of the growth of productive capacity, and concerns with distribution and the provision of basic needs were shunted to the side - at least for the time being. The first imperative of development was to eliminate the distortions of state intervention and enable the "magic of the market" to run its course." (p. 178). This meant a shift away from ISI (import substitution industrialization) toward promoting exports of any kind (industrial products or otherwise). Here, Biersteker gives an explanation of the policies that essentially make up the Washington Consensus - currency devaluation to promote exports, trade liberalization, cutting subsidies,

Within academia, neoliberalism "gained new force, visibility, and legitimacy" during the late 1970s and early 1980s (p. 183). That alone did not lead developing nations around the world to adopt neoliberalism. What ultimately did it was the global recession of the early 1980s. Biersteker mentions a number of factors, including a collapse in commodity prices, and says "Because this system-wide shock was transmitted to different parts of the developing world through various filtering mechanisms, depending on their mode of integration with the world economy, it affected different countries in different ways at different times" (p. 185). This goes to his point that the adoption of neoliberalism was uneven.

However, the recession of the early 1980s coincided with a sense that "the policies of the past had not worked and something new should be considered" (p. 185). But the ideas needed interests and institutional bases of support. It was the IMF and the World Bank who gave these ideas a "crucial international backing" (p. 186).

Here's how Biersteker sums it up:

"On reflection, three factors were especially important: (1) the shock of the early 1980s recession, (2) the fact that the system-wide shock coincided with a historical opening because of the perceived failure of the policies of the past, and (3) the presence of a reinvigorated set of liberal economic ideas, backed by critically placed domestic interests within the state and reinforced strongly by international institutions" (p. 186-187).

I am mentally interpreting that as more or less the same as David Harvey's summary of it - that the embedded liberalism of the 1950s and 1960s were no longer working by the time the stagflation of the 1970s hit, so something else was needed, and banks were awash with petrodollars that they were loaning willy nilly to developing nations' governments, so when the Volcker shock hit, many countries were unable to pay back their loans, and the IMF hit them with structural adjustment programs requiring them to implement neoliberal economic policies.






Sunday, July 1, 2018

Williamson. 1993. Democracy and the "Washington Consensus."

Williamson, John. 1993. "Development and the "Washington Consensus"." World Development 21(8):1329-36.

Three years after outlining the Washington Consensus, Williamson published again. He begins by walking back his term "Washington Consensus" and suggesting a better name is "universal convergence." Of course, the former stuck and the latter did not.

He notes that he intended to capture what was "conventionally thought to be wise" rather than his own opinion of what was wise, but adds that he agrees with it himself. However, if he were writing up a list of his own opinions, he says it would have been a bigger list because he would have added an equity component. He left out anything redistributive because he felt Washington at the top would have opposed it. I find it interesting that he conflates equity and redistribution of wealth.

Williamson sees the Washington Consensus as good economic sense that ought to cease to be political. He compares the matter to a political party taking the position that the world is flat, or promoting racism. There is no good reason any party should take the position that the earth is flat, because we all know it isn't. There is no reason to have a pro-racism party just for the sake of ideological diversity because racism is wrong. He sees any alternative to the Washington Consensus as equally irrelevant or harmful in politics. He adds that having a stable agreement among political leaders in favor of the Washington Consensus over time is necessary because it will encourage the wealthy to repatriate their money since they have confident that the current, wise economic policies of the day are going to last over time.

I just want to add here that this is infuriating nonsense. Williamson is trying to depoliticize a radical economic agenda that absolutely is and should be seen as political.

He goes on to slightly walk back his idea that the Washington Consensus should be universally accepted by all political parties by noting a few reasons why it must be open for debate. First, because any sort of suppression of debate will create a situation ripe for conspiracy theorists. Second, because there should be some degree of debate in order to assess whether the current conventional wisdom ought to remain so in the future. If there is no debate about the Washington Consensus, then we lose the ability to adapt it to future needs or improve it over time. He concludes: "Thus my position is not that democracy should be in any way circumscribed so as to promote good economic policy, but rather that both economic policy and democracy will benefit if all mainstream politicians endorse the universal convergence and the scope of political debate on economic issues is de facto circumscribed in consequence" (p. 1331).

Williamson sees the old debates over economic policy as irrelevant. Neoliberalism has won out as the "correct" way to run an economy, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. Greed should be harnessed in a competitive market because altruism does not work, and socialism does not work. He sounds like he's been reading Ayn Rand. It's also interesting that he doesn't mention Keynesian economics here as a potential alternative to neoliberalism. Either you're with him, or you're a socialist, and if you're a socialist, you are wrong. The collapse of the Soviet bloc proves that.

Honestly, I don't see the need to keep reading this article. He's not going to say anything new worth reading.