Social Movements Essays


Below is the final essay I put together for my express class. For fear of being accused of plagarism, yes, CofC, this is my, Christopher Jackson's, own work. I posted it on my own blog for my own purposes!

A Critical Analysis of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship as a Social Movement

Class Struggle and Political Background
The crisis in Thailand is the consequence of a long-time struggle of the lower classes for representation in the Thai government. “Thailand is one of the most socially unequal nations in Asia” (Symonds 2010). In addition, the WSWS provides data that states 69% of wealth in Thailand is controlled by a mere 20% of the total population, whereas the bottom 20% of the population splits about 1% of Thailand’s total wealth. This divide in social class has formed immense animosity from the lower classes towards the elite classes as well as towards the political elite. In addition, the tension within Thailand can be accounted to tremendous political problems. The Thai poor have attempted to protest the current government, only to be suppressed by the Thai elite. This continuous suppression has formed substantial tension that eventually led to the violent outbreaks of the Thai lower class, or the “Red Shirts,” in 2010.
In order to have a sufficient understanding of the current Red Shirt movement, it is important to investigate the political environment that led to this current tension. In 2006, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was evicted from power in a military coup. He is currently exiled in a foreign country. In his five years of power between 2001 and 2006, he was able to gain steady popularity among the working and lower classes within Thailand. Prime Minister Thaksin was able to gain this popularity by enacting a new set of policies that both directly and indirectly favored the poor, such as funds for healthcare and education (Profile: Thailand’s reds and yellows 2012). However, despite enacting rural peasant-favoring initiatives, there is strong evidence suggesting that many of these programs were not necessarily enacted in hopes of appeasing the poor, but rather, to stimulate a struggling Thai economy. In addition, his reforms “alienated the country’s traditional elites – the army, the state bureaucracy and the monarchy” (Symonds). Regardless of Thaksin’s intentions, he was able to gain a newfound support in the rural voters of Thailand.
With that said, upon his ousting via military coup, the Thai rural and working class was outraged. No longer did they have a voice in the government and their needs, often those of human rights, were no longer being met. The Thai military has had a reoccurring issue of having its own agenda despite the demands or desires of the majority of the population. 18 months after the coup in which Thaksin was exiled, elections were held. Despite his exile, the rural class strongly maintained a Thaksin driven support (Profile). Inspired by continued support, many citizens from the north and northeastern parts of Thailand cast votes for allies of Thaksin, but through a series of political instability issues, the Thaksin-government failed (Profile). These actions were scene as illegal and abuses of power by the Thai military, and they sparked much tension among the Red Shirt movement. Tensions would soar until 2009 when violence was used in order to make a statement.

The 2009 Protests
The Red Shirts are a group of Thai civilians formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD). The majority of members are from rural Thailand and work rural jobs; however, there has been a shift of membership to include urban working-class citizens and well as some low ranking military officials. The specifics of the Red Shits dynamic will be investigated later in this analysis.
Prior to the outbreak of violence, it is reported that many of the Red Shirt protests were non-violent sit-ins; however, this trend did not last long and soon was amplified to include much more violent means of protest (Profile). In April of 2009 a group of Red Shirts united to carry out their first coordinated violent attack against the government. They chose to demonstrate by disrupting a conference put on by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The demonstration took place about 90 miles outside of Bangkok in a beach resort town known as Pattaya. The event included several Red Shirts breaching hotel security and harassing ministers of the conference. The demonstration ultimately left the Thai government no choice but to cancel the summit. The Red Shirts certainly made their statement. Their demonstration also sparked violence in Bangkok killing two people. Eventually, UDD leaders called off the Red Shirt demonstrations.
Furthermore, it is important to understand the motivations behind the 2009 Red Shirt demonstrations. The Prime Minister at the time of the demonstrations was Prime Minister Abhisit, who commenced his leadership in December 2008. Some commentators speculate that Red Shirt demonstrations, egged on by Thaksin, were carried out in hopes of Abhisit’s resignation. Abhisit, who is seen by the UDD as progressing the desires of the elite and ignoring the needs of the poorer population, stood in direct contrast of the UDD movement, therefore sparking the 2009 revolts. “[T]he relations among the most powerful groups in Thai society seem to be up for grabs: the military, the business elites, the middle class, the urban poor, and the rural poor. Each segment wants something; and increasingly it seems that their demands find expression in mass mobilizations in the streets of Bangkok” (Little 2009).
In addition, the 2009 revolts offer the first substantial glimpse of the UDD and Red Shirts as a social movement. In the article “Thailand’s redshirts and civil unrest,” several questions are raised:
·      “What are the forms of organization, leadership, and communication that support this extensive level of mobilization?”
·      “What kinds of networks have been established to permit quick and effective mobilization?”
·      “How are radio and television, cell phones, text messages, and Twitter feeds being used to rally supporters?” 
These questions are vital to understand the nature of the UDD as a true social movement, and as further protests occurred, a clearer image of the UDD and what the Red Shirt movement stands for begins to emerge.

The 2010 Revolt in Bangkok
Though UDD leadership eventually called off the 2009 demonstrations, tension created during the demonstrations did not simmer down, and by April of 2010 tempers had flared to a dangerous level. Prior to reaching the violence of the April 2010 revolts, smaller outbursts of violence began as early as mid-March 2010. The really began as a demand to oust Prime Minister Abhisit via immediate elections that month. Though the outcome of the rally was not entirely in favor of the Red Shirts, the movement decided to compromise and accept an election that would be help in mid-November. However, violence was not evaded entirely; tensions from this rally would spark the mass violence that occurred in the following month (Raybould 2010).
Following the March rallies, tensions erupted into violence. Between March and May 2010, 91 civilian protestors were killed and hundreds more were left injured (Robinson 2012). Red shirt protestors took to the streets of Bangkok to protest the government and demand change. Protests lasted for several weeks, but in early April they reached a climax:
On Saturday, the protesters surrounded the national police headquarters, the Four Seasons, Hyatt, Intercontinental and other hotels and six major shopping malls, which are connected by an elevated “skywalk” and together have five times the floor space of the Mall of America, the famed shopping center outside of Minneapolis. (Fuller 2010)
Clearly protestors were set out to send a message to the nation. Their protests disrupted tourism due to fears of violence and the nations economy will continue to be hurt by the demonstrations. Mentioned previously, the revolts “decimated the tourist industry” and also hurt consumer confidence. Seeing as “the tourist sector makes up only 6 percent of the economy but employs 15 percent of the national workforce,” shutting down the tourist industry is a major blow to the Thai economy. With all that said it is easy to assume that the Red Shirt movement acts in ignorance; however, some reports speculate that the Red Shirts intentionally tried to block certain sectors of the Thai economy:
But some of the protesters, who are largely from Thailand’s rural hinterland, also said they were trying to prove a point by blocking such an economically important part of Bangkok: 15 months ago, their archrivals, the generally more well-heeled protesters known as the yellow shirts, blockaded Bangkok’s two international airports for a week, stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers. None of the yellow shirts have been convicted for shutting down the airport, including Kasit Piromya, the current foreign minister who took part and reportedly said the protest was “a lot of fun.” (Fuller)
During the revolts, ordinary citizens were left to fight against the Thai military, leading to the mass violence. The 2010 revolts were the climax of Thai tensions, and little actually changed in the Thai government; however, by analyzing the history of the movement and observing current events surrounding the Red Shirts movement, one can determine whether or not the movement can be classified as a legitimate social movement as well as try to paint a picture of the future for the Red Shirts movement.

The UDD Red Shirts as a Social Movement
In an analysis of the Red Shirts movement, Tim Forsyth speculates: “This combination of influences meant that the conflicts of 2010 were not a unified class-based movement, but an alliance of actors using sporadic and not always successful tactics for influencing the Thai government.” Though I do see validity in Forsyth’s claim, I think that the Red Shirts movement does in fact have several qualities that would classify it as a social movement.

Systemic vs. Anti-systemic Movement
            In my analysis, the Red Shirts movement is moving in a direction that has anti-systemic goals; however, there have been challenges for the movement to carry these goals out successfully. Though it is clear that the movement wants political change, there is a wide array of how severe that change should be among Red Shirts protestors. While some protestors simply desire parliamentary reform, other protestors want to completely bring down the current government and begin a new government that is more representative (Raybould). However, it seems clear that the Red Shirt movement is united in being “fixated on achieving electoral democracy” (Taylor 2012). Exhausted from a lack of political representation, the Red Shirts have protested in hopes of reforming the government in a way that will be more democratic, and for this reason, I can classify them as trying to be an anti-systemic social movement. Unfortunately, attempts at changing the face of the Thai government have been relatively futile. The strength of the Thai military has been able to suppress the movement and block mass change. Despite this shortcoming of the movement, it has still been able to negatively impact the lives of those who they work actively against. Despite a lack of defined success, they have been working towards reforming the current system, and this alone is a noteworthy quality.

The Movement as a Social-Political Movement
            In my analysis, it seems clear that the movement is a social-political movement. Despite violence that was caused by Red Shirt protests, the majority of protests and protesters carry out action in a peaceful way. The Red Shirts surround vital parts of the capital city Bangkok to raise awareness of their dissatisfaction. As one protester mentioned in the April 2010 uprising, “there’s not a jail big enough to fit us all” (Fuller). Strength in numbers is a common feature of many social movements around the world. We can see this phenomenon in other and more successful social movements such as the MST and the pro-Chavez movements in Venezuela. Both movements used mass numbers of people to create strength and create a voice among protesters. The Red Shits movement uses a similar tactic as this in order to change a political system in hopes of gaining social justice. With that said, it seems evident that the UDD movement is characteristic of a social-political movement.

The Six Qualities of a Social Movement
1. Collective Action
            The first essential element of any social movement is collective action. When the Red Shirts movement is analyzed under the lens of this criterion, interesting claims can be made. Many of the protestors of the movement originate from farming villages in the northeastern parts of the country. In this respect, many protestors have similar backgrounds and very similar goals, which point to collective action within the movement. However, there is also speculation that suggests that the Red Shirts movement is composed of multiple autonomous groups with multiple interests. This suggests that despite a common protest location, the action is simply coincidentally collective. For example, one article speculates that the movement has “a 22-member leadership council and [doesn’t] always speak with one voice (Raybould).
However, other account depicts large groups of small Thai villages in the northeastern regions as collectively supporting Red Shirt ideology. If 70% of a village council votes to name themselves a Red Shirt village, the village will raise the flag of the Red Shirt movement and declare themselves as a part of a mass collective body (Robinson). This is seen clearly in the village of Napo. In my analysis, this strongly suggests that there is a sense of collective action among the Red Shirt supporters. Additionally, the northeastern region of Isan, home to about 1.8 million Thai’s has 400 declared Red Shirt villages (Robnison). This overwhelming popular support of the movement holds much weight of the Thai government. This behavior is also characteristic of a collective movement with collective action.
2. Social-heterogeneous Interrelations
            In terms of this criterion, the Red Shirts movement continues to develop. The vast majority of Red Shirt supporters originate from the north and northeastern regions of the country, and many of them are rural farmers. However, in recent times there is a shift in membership; in addition to rural farmers from specified regions, protesters include “students and activists who see attempts by the urban and military elite to control Thai politics as a threat to democracy” (Profile). The urban poor have also joined the movement, and shockingly, some members of the military’s lower ranks raise concern due to their potential sympathy for the Red Shirts movement (Symonds).
Though this movement is still primarily made up of a single united body of similar types of citizens, this is beginning to evolve, and as Symonds points out, “the ‘Red Shirt’ protests backed by ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire businessman, are far from homogeneous, but the vast bulk of the protesters come from the country’s poorer rural areas.”
3. Informality and Lack of Institutionalization
            The Red Shirts movement is completely a grass roots based movement. Tensions were initially sparked in 2006 when Thaksin was ousted in a seemingly unfair manner. Citizens were upset and demanded new elections. The movements continue to draw from individual citizens. These individual citizens have been collectivized, but not institutionalized. In fact, the movement still lacks much organization. As seen in my criticism on the movement’s collective action, it still has a far way to go before collective action is taken in its full ability. The movement solely wants more representation for lower class citizens.
However, one facet of the movement could present issues: the Red Shirts’ strong ties to ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra create the potential for movement institutionalization. However, in my view, I think that the movement is primarily concerned with the rights of citizens, therefore the threat of an institutionalized movement is somewhat mitigated.
4. Identity-Solidarity Motivations
            In my analysis, the Red Shirts movement makes no attempts to strip identity from its members. There are no criteria for joining, and members are from various parts of the nation. As seen previously, the movement has grown to include lower class urbanites as well as lower ranking military officials. These members are fully entitled to take part in Red Shirt protest. In other words, the movement is non-exclusive, and because of this, the movement is motivated by different identities.
            Unfortunately, I believe that the movement still struggles in terms of solidarity. The movement still does not have universally adopted goals, and the direction of the movement is not entirely stable. Because of this, it is hard to use solidarity as a motivating factor. I personally believe that the Red Shirts movement desires to move in a direction of solidarity. Evidence for this includes the self-proclaimed Red Shirts villages such as Napo.  As the movement gross, the potential for more solidarity-based motivation will increase. For this criterion, I believe time will be the deciding factor in this movement’s success.
5. Action of Critical Issues
            I think that it is clear that the Red Shirts movement is working to take action on critical issues. One such issue is the degradation of the rural class in Thailand. “Many educated Bangkok residents are notoriously aloof when it comes to rural kindred, whom they refer to with the disparaging adjective, "Baan-nok". This implies a derogatory sense of rustic, uncultivated, savage, and uneducated” (Taylor). The Red Shirts movement is working towards creating a government in which the lower class’ voice is heard. This will ultimately help curb the negative viewpoints of the upper class on the lower class. In my analysis, this is one example of a critical issue that the Thai Red Shirts are attempting to address. In any instance in which a large group is being silenced, a critical issue presents itself.
6. Promote and Defend Rights
            This final criterion is strongly related to the criterion pertaining to the action of critical issues. The Thai lower class has been historically voiceless within the government. This voicelessness manifested itself bluntly in the removal of Thaksin in 2006. For the first time in much of Thai history, the Thai lower class had a leader that they viewed as being at least somewhat representative of their rights. In a matter of weeks, the leader was eradicated and exiled from the country. Once again, the Thai lower class was left essentially defenseless. As Taylor describes:
The condition of voicelessness has been prevalent among the majority peoples as the state took away their media channels of autonomous (counter-hegemonic) sources of information, closing down locally influential community radio stations around the country which did not comply with the political order. The Red Shirts were described as being superstitious, backward, and concerned only with local issues rather than the "whole modern nation-state". Deprecating comments were made to the mostly rural Red Shirts as "buffaloes." (Taylor)
With that said, the lower class within Thailand finally decided to stand up for itself. This gave birth to the phenomenon that we now call the Red Shirts movement. The movement is entirely concerned with advancing the political rights of lower class Thai citizens who have been historically neglected. Therefore, the Red Shirts movement within Thailand is directly related to this criterion of the advancement of rights for people.

            After investigating the background of the political and social turmoil in Thailand, it seems evident the UDD Red Shirts movement grew from the desires of the lower class to make a change in their world. After the coup in 2006, citizens attempted to demand new elections. With their requests essentially ignored, the lower class began festering tensions that would later spiral out of control in 2009 and 2010. After initial and unorganized attempts at destabilizing the government in 2009, the Red Shirt movement had time to regroup. However, many questions pertaining to mobilization and communication within the movement remain unanswered. Once again, in 2010, the movement attempted an overthrow of the existing government. While managing to destroy tourism and harm the economy, the movement was unable to successfully remove the hated government. Though the violence and protests have subsided, the presence of the Red Shirts within Thailand has yet to be completely diminished. They still have a voice and are still working to support their rights. Only time can tell where the movement will progress form here. When analyzed from the perspective of the six essential aspects of a social movement, the Red Shirts movement certainly has various qualities that support its status as a viable social movement. In conclusion, my analysis suggests that the movement is still in its developing stages, but has great potential to become a strong social movement if it becomes more solidified.

Works Cited
BBC News . "Profile: Thailand's reds and yellows." BBC News. (accessed December 2, 2012).
Forsyth , Tim. "Thailand’s Red Shirt Protests: Popular Movement or Dangerous Street Theatre?." Social Movement Studies 9 (2010): 461-467.
Fuller, Thomas. "Protesters Turn Up Heat in Thailand -" The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. (accessed December 2, 2012).
Little , Daniel. "Thailand's redshirts and civil unrest." Understanding Society. (accessed December 2, 2012).
Little , Daniel. "Red shirts as a social movement." Understanding Society. (accessed December 2, 2012).
Raybould , Alan. "What’s going on in Thailand?." The Star. (accessed December 2, 2012).
Robinson , Gwen. "Thaksin nostalgia spurs red shirt movement." The Financial TimesFebruary 17, 2012.  (accessed December 2, 2012).
Symonds, Peter . "The class struggle in Thailand  ." World Socialist Web Site. (accessed December 2, 2012).
Taylor , Jim. "Remembrance and Tragedy: Understanding Thailand's "Red Shirt" Social Movement." SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia  27 (2012): np.


This is the first essay I had to write for my express course by Prof. Miranda. It is very, well, not-so-traditional. It is supposed to be written from a more left angle, so I am aware. For more background on the course check out my post Economics from a Philosopher

The Global Connection 

The modern world is connected more than it ever has been in the past. Though there are multiple ways in which the world is linked, people from different countries are able to interact in groundbreaking ways largely due to a technological boom that has been witnessed by the world over the past 60 years. With the advent of cell phones, Internet, and social media platforms such as Skype and Facebook, people from all over the globe are now able to communicate with ease in a way that has never been available in the past. Despite much of the Internet’s content being in English, many citizens of the world have the potential to utilize the interconnectedness of the web. Additionally, the potential for international travel has greatly increased due to technological advances in means of transportation. Air travel allows transatlantic and transpacific travel in a speed that is unrivaled in historical rapidity. 

However, the advent of technology and transportation has not unlocked the citizen of the world to all of the benefits of earthly wealth. As much as the world has become globalized, oftentimes economic globalization is forgotten. More times than not, the average person sees simply the cultural aspects of globalization – there is, however, yet another facet of this globalized world which has a hold over much of the world’s citizens. This isn’t to say that the cultural aspects of globalization are of no value – there is certainly value in the sharing of cultural values and ideals. It is solely important to recognize that the global economy is slowly but surely homogenizing into one universal system, one in which capital lies at the forefront of economic policy, and by extension, affects every person on this earth. 

Roots in Colonialism 

In order to understand how the globalization of capital began, it is necessary to discuss the colonial system that existed in Latin America. In Galeano’s work Veins of Latin America he writes extensively on colonial roots of globalization. Namely, Galeano focuses on the oppression of Latin America and Latin American resources by the European settlers. Galeano expresses disgust towards the behavior of the Europeans, and without due cause. However, in my personal opinion, some of Galeano’s commentary is unjustified and I believe he draws false conclusion very frequently. This portion of my analysis will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of Galeano’s argument, in my opinion. 

Galeano states that in “the mid-seventeenth century silver constituted more than 99% of mineral exports from Spanish America” (Galeano, 22). Galeano also touches on the shift of focus from Peru to Potosi due to the silver rush. I completely agree that the Potosi region was exploited for her resources. In terms of modern globalization, the silver rush serves as an example of the historic roots of Latin American oppression. This oppression that kept Latin American’s unable to produce their own materials is strongly linked to the current dismal nature of Latin American economics. Latin America was stripped of the right to her own land from a very early time in civilization, giving them a major disadvantage for the rest of the timeline of global development. Galeano goes on to say: 

The metals taken from the new colonial dominions not only stimulated Europe’s economic development; one may say that they made it possible. Even the effect of the Persian treasure seized and pour into the Hellenistic world by Alexander the Great cannot be compared with Latin America’s formidable contribution to the progress of other regions (23).

I personally find this quote to be very unfounded. Despite potential truth that Galeano may or may not be conveying, it is impossible to make such a swooping claim about transcontinental economics without providing a single number. Seeing as Galeano is Latin American, it is easy for him to take credit for the total development of European economics without lying out any evidence. Galeano’s claim may certainly have truth associated with it, but I think he failed to note that many factors outside of Latin America played into the “progress” of Europe. I think that Galeano oversimplified a very complex process, and in doing so failed to adequately outline the current system of the world via historical evidence. 

The last note that I want to make concerning the historical importance of the modern world in terms of capital and production deals with the mining conditions for native people in Latin America. Galeano graphically describes the following: “Inexorably condemned to poverty so that foreigners might progress, the ‘incapable’ mining communities moldered in isolation and could only resign themselves to scraping a livelihood from lands already despoiled of metals and precious stones” (57). I think that this quote excellently previews the current system of the world. Today people are still oppressed in their native lands due to the whims and desires of stronger powers. In colonial times the “foreigners” were after capital to make profits. This was clearly at the expense of those human beings already living in the areas that were considered to be hot spots for natural resources. In modern times we see this all over the world. And the negative impacts don’t stop with human life. Like in colonial times, superpowers (nations, industrial giants, etc.) vastly harm wildlife and damage the environment in their pursuits for capital. Galeano’s piece definitely has shortcomings related to a lack of evidence at times, but I do strongly agree that the treatment of native Latin Americans by colonizers set a certain pace of destruction that can still be felt in the crumbling economies of Latin American countries in the 21st century. 

The Debt Crisis of the Twentieth Century 

Latin American economies were at a high point prior to the 1930’s. This was not to last forever, however. With the onset of the Great Depression and World Wars, “western” powers converged and from the Bretton Woods pact, which essentially delineated the modern supranational organizations of the World Bank, World Trade Organization, and International Monetary Fund. In particular, Latin America would suffer at the hands of the IMF throughout the latter portion of the 20th century; however, it is important to inspect the implications of import substitution in Latin America. 

In response to the market system of the West, Latin America, namely Brazil, attempted to implement an economic policy of import substitution. As Duncan Green describes “the tale of the Brazilian disposable is a microcosm of what went wrong with much of Brazil’s industry, and it stems from the flawed model for economic development adopted in Latin America after the 1930’s” (Green, 19). The policy of import substitution essentially barred all internationally imports. Brazilian companies would be the only companies producing goods for Brazilian citizens. Despite good intentions, the policy wound up demolishing the desire for competitive production, leaving Brazilian industry to produce substandard products. The policy is often considered to go hand-in-hand with populism. Seeing as Brazil and Mexico were the two nations of the era that were strongly demonstrating populist leadership, they can be considered “success stories of import substitution” (24). However, despite the success in decreasing the need for certain products, Latin American nations with import substitution policies still needed to import technology and heavy machinery, only extending the trade deficit. In my opinion, Green does a phenomenal job dissecting the connection of import substitution to the current state in Latin American economics. Silent Revolution demonstrates the inability of countries to adopt their own policies. Capital and the flow of capital dominate the modern world, and even if a nation does attempt to break away from the capital dependent system, the ever-present forces of capital flow drag them down. 

After the failure of import substitution, Latin America could only turn to one source of money – the IMF and The World Bank. The IMF is designed to provide short-term loans to nations in order to avert crisis when international debt climbs too high. Though this is the purpose of the IMF, there are many flaws with the program. In Chapter 2 of Silent Revolution, Duncan Green details the many issues circulating around the IMF and The World Bank. The IMF began by lending money for domestic projects; however, as time went by, IMF loans came along with a bundle of structural adjustment policies. Put simply, the countries of Latin America who needed to borrow money from the IMF were subjected to an onslaught of policy adjustment in their nations. Moreover, The World Bank, which is synonymous with “deforestation, flooding out indigenous communities and supplanting peasant agriculture with large agribusiness schemes” (54), began massively supplying structural adjustment policy loans. Countries that borrowed from the World Bank were forced to cut spending in the public sector, their currencies were often devalued, and in essence, their economies were forced to become even more dependent on the market system. As Green details: 

In dealing with each country separately, they assume the rest of the world economy remains unchanged so that devaluing and boosting both traditional and nontraditional exports will improve a country’s trading performance. But if the whole third world follows the same policies, it risks flooding the market with new agricultural products, with the inevitable impact on prices; if Kenya and Vietnam and Guatemala all decide to compete in exporting coffee…it may be good news for shoppers in the North’s supermarkets, but leaves developing countries with failing incomes despite increased export volumes (58). 

Green’s description excellently encapsulates the shortcomings of the market system. In a world dominated by capital, capital becomes the sole obsession of the supranational lending organizations. These organizations lend money to developing countries with a basis in the market-capital system, leaving the third world to pick up their already broken policies and force them into something foreign. The market system leaves the poor in poverty and the rich in wealth. The policies of the IMF and The World Bank are prime examples of the negative effects of the shortcomings of market policy on the developing world. 

The Catch-22 of The Global System 

After considering all of the effects of the global emphasis of the market system, it is easy to see that the market system that is so prevalent in neoliberal economics works against developing nations around the world. The neoliberal system essentially forces all nations to take part in the globalization of capital focused economics, despite the previous inner workings of each respective country. If we look at the Latin American debt crisis during the 1900’s it is hard to deny that capital based institutions such as the IMF and The World Bank exploit third world nations. The loans provided by these organizations continuously pile up debt for debtor countries, creating a never-ending cycle of debt accumulation. 

Though this cycle is inherently linked to the development of the third world, the neoliberal, market-centered economic system affects those already living in the “developed world.” For instance, in the United States of America, which is perhaps the strongest proponent of the free-market laissez-faire system, the market and pursuit of capital strips workers of their rights and perhaps their jobs as well. As the US has outsourced many job in order to cut costs in the field of labor force, countless Americans have been left jobless. This is all in the name of capital accrual. In addition, if one examines the US’ nature of food production, the role of capital is evident. Disregarding the rights of animals and humans, food production companies continue producing food in a way that is prosperous to capital but harmful to just about every other aspect of the food industry. In short, though it is easy to say that capitalist nations rape and pillage the developing world, citizens of the developed world are also feeling the negative effects of the global capital-focused economy. 

However, it is important to note the strengths of capitalism as well. It is easy to blame those in charge for the problems of the world. Though there are certainly downfalls of the capital based system, there are also downfalls to systems such as socialism and communism. In Soviet Russia during the Cold War, most citizens did not have adequate means to produce a steady standard of living. Though the current way of life seems to be focuses around the acquisition of capital, there is no way to blame the world’s problems entirely on capitalism (for this reason I had many issues with the arguments presented in Galeano’s Veins of Latin America). In Waller’s Addicted to Virtue, she quotes Antonio Gramsci in a way that captures the essence of my argument: “The legendary Italian anti-fascist theorist Antonio Gramsci argued that the historical oscillation between Fascism and liberal democracy in the first sixty years of Italy’s existence as a nation state was symptomatic, not of their difference of each other but of their profound interdependence and their conceptual congruence” (Waller, 52). This idea captures the true underlying nature of the world: that of one that constantly blames whoever is on top. If socialist ideology dominated the planet, there would surely be many critics and many problems associated with the problem. As much as I can see and accept the many negative effects of the current global system, I think that reforming the system in a gradual and sustainable way is the best solution. “If we extend Gramsci’s argument to the relation between contemporary neoliberal economic policy and the positions of many of its critics, we can begin to see a similar co-dependence” (52). This argument strongly aligns with how I personally see the world. Regardless of who is in control, and regardless of what economic policy is being employed, there will be inevitable problems. 

In closing, I would like to reiterate that I do in fact understand and accept many of the issues that the current world-system is creating. The drive for capital accrual and profit increases at the expense of the environment and workers is detestable. For me, this aspect of the capital system across the glob is causing many problems. However, at the same time, I cannot accept that capitalism is the root of all evil in today’s society. Communism has historically failed. Socialism works in certain areas of the world, but I strongly doubt it could become a globally universal system. With all that said, perhaps the best way to run the world is to allow each nation to control their own respective economic system. Capital itself may not be the problem; rather, the global implication of the capital-based economic model is the current demise of the globe. 


Galeano, Eduardo. Open veins of Latin America: five countries in the pillage of a continent. London: Monthly Review Press, 1973. Print. 

Green, Duncan. Silent revolution: the rise and crisis of market economics in Latin America. 2nd ed. New York: Monthly Review Press ;, 2003. Print. 

Waller, Marguerite. “Addicted to Virtue: The Globalization Policy Maker.” 

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