Book Reviews and Book Notes
This section includes book notes of 150-300 words as well as some book reviews of 600-900 words on books of particular interest to the members of our group. If you have either suggestions for books you would like to review or see reviewed (including recent books of your own), please contact our new book reviews editor, Andreas Umland [firstname.lastname@example.org], at the National Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv, Ukraine.
Andre Gingrich and Marcus Banks (eds), Neo-Nationalism in Europe & Beyond: Perspectives from Social Anthropology, New York & Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2006, 312 pp., GBP 16.99, ISBN 1-84545-190-2 (pbk).
Reviewed by Matthew Goodwin (University of Manchester, UK).
As the authors of this latest contribution note at the outset, both the puzzle and challenge posed to the social sciences from neo-nationalism remains. This text represents an attempt to respond to the challenge through the lens of social anthropology, a discipline which the editors argue is more than capable of making a distinct methodological and conceptual contribution to the field.
In line with recent trends in the literature on extreme-right parties agency-orientated explanations are awarded significant attention. An actor-orientated approach is adopted which, it is argued, provides researchers with an ability to see the world as neo-nationalists see it. Yet historical and structural approaches are also included. The primary interest lies with “far right, neo-nationalist parliamentary parties”, with neo-nationalism defined as “the current phase of transnational and global developments”. The discussion of competing terminology will no doubt invite debate. Though predominantly concerned with Western Europe, the editors are also careful to include additional contributions, focused both on Europe-wide trends, as well as separate chapters fixed upon the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India, and ‘Hansonism’ in Australia.
The over-riding questions which drive this book are familiar to us all, and concern the interplay of structure and agency; is neo-nationalism to be understood as an outcome of the current phase of accelerated transnational interaction and global developments? Or, conversely, is it to be understood as a socio-cultural process introduced and performed, but also opposed and negotiated, by more or less creative agency? Thus, in regard to the latter, significant attention is devoted to the dynamics of social charisma, the social power of performance, and the aesthetics of social action. It is precisely in examining these realms that the strength of social anthropology in this field becomes particularly apparent. Also important is the examination of historical dimensions. For instance, the contributors on the Netherlands highlight the role of the long-standing political culture of negotiating consensual practices, rooted in a tradition of denominational coexistence between Protestants and Catholics. Likewise the role of Italy’s late national consolidation is emphasized in reference to the emergence of local, regionalist and autonomist movements. In other words what becomes apparent is, in some instances, the important role played by long-term historical and cultural processes, often neglected in extant theoretical models.
In terms of its weakness, though some studies (in particular those on the Netherlands, India, and Austria) underline the benefits of actor-orientated approaches, few contributors engage directly with neo-nationalist politicians and activists themselves. Also, the text may well have been strengthened had the contributors consulted the wider literature on contemporary right-wing extremism. Unquestionably anthropological tools hold much value in this field, and thus steps should be taken to develop a more integrated analysis.
Michael Kellog, The Russian Roots of Nazism: White Émigrés and the Making of National-Socialism 1917-1945, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, xiii + 327pp., USD 75.00, ISBN 0-52184-512-2 (hbk).
Reviewed by Andreas Umland (National Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv).
The various interconnections between Germany and Russia in contemporary history have become a recurring subject of research after the end of the Cold War. For instance, there has been a new wave of books and articles on the comparison between Nazism and Stalinism as well as on the Nazi-Soviet co-operation of 1939-1940. Another example would be the recent talk about ‘Weimar Russia’ when interpreting post-Soviet developments.
With The Russian Roots of Nazism, an extremely dense and well-researched text, Kellog provides an important new study on a still insufficiently explored aspect of the history of contemporary German-Russian relations. His book focuses on the years 1918-1923, and details at length the connections that a number of prominent émigrés from the former Tsarist empire had with the early Nazi elite, in general, and Adolf Hitler, in particular. The central theme of the study is the rise and fall of the short-lived, yet important émigré association Aufbau: Wirtschaftspolitische Vereinigung für den Osten (Reconstruction: Economic-Political Organisation for the East). With such an intriguing subject, Kellog will find many readers among historians and the interested public of both Russia and Germany as well as other countries.
Kellog’s analysis suffers from an overemphasis of the pro-Slavic tendencies in the German extreme right and an insufficient consideration of the deep roots of the Nazis’ rabid anti-Slavism. More generally, Kellog could have considered in more detail rival influences on Nazism such ‘scientific racism’ or occultism in order to make a better case for his thesis about the ‘Russian roots’ of Nazism. While he, at one point, puts his position on the nature of Nazism close to Ernst Nolte’s (p. 199), he, in fact, succeeds in providing arguments against Nolte’s assertion that fascism is essentially anti-Marxism. Kellog’s many quotes show that the ‘bolshevik’ part in the Nazis’ talk about ‘Jewish Bolshevism’ was secondary and that the Nazis instead thought that the bolsheviks were guided by ‘Jewish finance capitalism’ (e.g., p. 226) - thus, oddly, making the Nazi interpretation of communism somewhat similar to the communist interpretation of Nazism.
George Michael, The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006, 397 pp., USD 34.95, ISBN 0-70061-444-3 (hbk).
Reviewed by Chip Berlet (Political Research Associates, USA).
The enemies referred to in the title include Jews, Israel, and the United States. It is antipathy towards these enemies—often seen in bigoted caricature as a single powerful Octopus strangling the world—that provides the ideological pheromones of attraction for these strange bedfellows.
Michael explores the topic calmly, probing the pros and cons of such an alliance gaining serious traction, while taking the reader on a historic and geographic tour that spans decades and continents. From Arab nationalism, National Socialism, and the Third Reich, to Aryan Nations, militant Islamic terrorism, and the Oklahoma City bombing—it’s all here. The author interviewed ideological leaders of several right-wing tendencies, including Willis Carto, David Duke, Nick Griffin, Ahmed Huber, Tom Metzger, Mike Piper, Jared Taylor, and John Tyndall; and lengthy quotations from these and others are included in the text.
The careful dissection of how various sectors of the political right paint a picture of sinister machinations involving Jews, Israel, Zionism, neoconservatives, and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, (pp. 238-259) would be a useful primer for anyone considering a paper that carelessly uses the term “Israel Lobby,” given its meaning in Extreme Right lore.
At times (from my left-wing POV) I cringed at the way Michael uncritically embraced relatively right-wing frames and assertions from analysts including Samuel Huntington, Claire Sterling, and Steven Emerson; but this did not overshadow the rich detail, substantial original research, and analytical depth in Michael’s study. The notes are extensive and useful and the selected bibliography deftly leaps ideological and historical chasms.
Anyone seeking a full immersion in the history and practice of how Islamic militants and U.S. ultra-rightists view the world through the lens of antisemitic conspiracy theory will find this book compelling and informative.
Henrik Steglich, Die NPD in Sachsen – Organisatorische Voraussetzungen ihres Wahlerfolgs 2004, Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2005, 155 pp., EUR 34.00, ISBN 3-89971-262-5 (pbk).
Reviewed by Andreas Klärner (Max-Planck-Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany).
In September 2004 the German extreme-right party Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD) won an unexpected 9.2 per cent in the elections of the state of Saxony. That was the first time since 1968 that this party gained access to a parliament of one of the Bundesländer of the Federal Republic of Germany. The political public and the mainstream media were equally shocked by the “triumph” of the NPD - a party, which in the last years has sought close contact to the subculture of violent Skinheads and militant neo-Nazis.
Henrik Steglich in his book analyses the organizational prerequisites for this electoral success. After a short introduction into the history of the NPD and their relationship to the neo-Nazi scene, he examines the election campaign and the social profile of NPD-voters in Saxony. After that he gives a critical outline of the foundation and development of the party in Saxony after the Wende in 1989/90, of their political personnel and their supporters. Another chapter deals with the regional embodiment of the NPD in some parts of Saxony - one factor that often has been accounted for their massive success. Finally, Steglich gives a short overview of the first year of parliamentary presence of the NPD and a (very cautious) preview of the party’s future development. Steglich concludes that the NPD could become a steady factor in the political landscape of Saxony albeit with little practical effects. This study is a convincing, detailed analysis of the factors influencing the further development of Germany’s most important party of the extreme right.
Reviewed by Michael Whine (Board of Deputies of British Jews, London).
9/11 and 7/7 marked a turning point in the terrorist threat to the West and the West’s perception of that threat. From then on we really began to realise that those who preach hate mean what they say, and that our failure to curb them has dire consequences for us all. In this collection of essays Cohen-Almagor looks at how the media also had to change its attitudes. The low point was the 1970s, when elements of the French press not only cooperated with FLQ terrorists in Quebec but also failed to adequately reflect the view of the Canadian government. Media responsibility hardly improved during the 1980s when some journalists paid Palestinian terrorists for granting interviews. Latterly others have knowingly carried false or distorted reports of the Palestinian Intifada.
In the chapter on media coverage of terrorism, he debunks the dangerous notion that one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. It is an important lesson for many in the media and public life, who have seemingly lost their moral compass. Cohen-Almagor raises the question of what therefore should be the boundaries observed by the media, and generally provides a thorough and thoughtful discussion of the issues. He reminds us that democracy’s health has to be safeguarded and that the popular assertion that human rights outweighs human responsibilities has its cost and that every country has to devise its own mechanisms to protect it, and to combat incitement to hate.
This is therefore a timely exposition at a time when the EU German presidency is seeking agreement during its current term of office on the long delayed Common Framework decision which would criminalise hate crime, Holocaust denial and the public display of the swastika. What might be appropriate for Germany might not necessarily be so for others, as the UK and Ireland are currently arguing.
He begins however with a brief tour around the writings of John Stuart Mill and other philosophers who generally agreed that tolerance and freedom should be the ideal for a developed and humane society but points out that they discussed the principles, not the exceptions to them. How far does the right to privacy extend in the modern age when the media is ever more intrusive, usually shouting about the publics’ right to know every aspect of a celebrity’s life? And do public figures have a greater right to privacy than private figures? He answers these questions by concluding that what we generally understand as the common good outweighs other considerations, but that democracy has an interest in protecting the privacy and tranquillity of the home.
Later he compares and contrasts two different case studies in this regard. The first is the tabloid press intrusion into the late Princess Diana’s life - to such an extent that the government was forced to commission several reports on the effectiveness of the non statutory self regulation system of media self governance, even though she encouraged the publicity to her advantage. In the second case, a private person, the Canadian Ms Aubry, successfully sued a magazine for publishing a picture of her sitting on the steps of a building without her permission, thereby breaching her right to privacy.
The author then turns to incitement and argues that the offence to sensibilities sometimes takes precedence over free expression. He outlines briefly the limits to free expression, then continues with specific examples where the argument may justify grounds for limiting free expression. His chapter on incitement centres on the vituperative campaign by the religious right against Yitzhak Rabin who planned to return Palestinian territory seized during the 67 War, and which led to his assassination. After Rabin’s death the Israel Attorney General warned the Israeli press against interviewing inciters of hatred on the grounds that their interviews might lead to further violence, a move rejected by the National Union of Israeli Journalists on the grounds that each case must be dealt with on its own merits and that he had sought to remove the public watchdog role the media ascribes to itself.
Here he is thorough, rehearsing the arguments for both sides. He is however weak when he comes to dealing with hate speech in Canada, and Holocaust denial. The examples he cites are out of date and the current situation presents a different picture. Canada has done more in the last four years than any other state to prosecute hate speech and Holocaust denial while simultaneously strengthening its free speech protection.
Sabrina Citron’s unsuccessful attempt to silence neo-Nazi propagandist Ernst Zundel using ancient ‘false news’ legislation, inherited from Britain, was later rectified by the government’s successful criminal prosecution. It has since gone on to prosecute many more incitement cases, particularly those occurring online, with imaginative use of its Human Rights Act and Criminal Code.
Cohen-Almagor understands that re-interpreting aspects of the Holocaust does not necessarily constitute denial but fails to examine properly the motives of those perennially engaged in denial or trivialisation. They are generally against democracy, or they just hate Jews. He also fails to press home the connection with hate speech and its intended consequence: hatred or violence against the targeted group.
Emilio Gentile, Politics as Religion, trans. George Staunton, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006, 194 pp., GBP 29.95, ISBN 2-00504-449-8 (hbk).
Reviewed by Matthew Feldman (University of Northampton, UK).
Vital studies on the resacralisation, or better, neo-enchantment of the modern world – one that history shows works alongside the disenchantment that Max Weber saw as a fundamental process in shaping modernity – are finally making a return to academic disciplines. To name but two relevant here, within history and political science a kind of interior remodelling is now fully underway, particularly insofar as scholarship increasingly recognises that elements of belief and ritual often continue to condition a great deal of modern experience.
Especially in the work of the increasingly pivotal Weber, a thread of political sociology from Rousseau and de Tocqueville through to Erik Voegelin and Raymond Aron has pointed to a redirection of ‘the sacred’ in the modern world, away from established religions like Christianity and toward political building blocks like nationalism. These latter organising principles, in turn, have spawned various political ideologies of extreme left and right in the twentieth century and beyond. Such revolutionary movements have correspondingly employed a variety of symbols (the red flag, the swastika), myths (The March on Rome), personality cults (the Stalin Cult), mass mobilisation (May Day parades), charismatic leadership (Mao’s Great Leap Forward) and rituals (Nuremberg Rallies). As suggested by these bare examples, radical regimes like Stalinism, Maoism, Fascism and Nazism use such ‘fideistic’ traditions in order to both mobilise and govern a secular state. In doing so, they act as ‘political religions’ (with honourable mentions to alternative taxonomies like ‘secular religion’, ‘civic religion’, ‘pseudo-religions’, and so on). These political religions may also be characterised as ‘totalitarian’, insofar as they make claims to absolute truth, consequently demanding individuals’ total devotion. In short, this reading suggests that the political history of the twentieth century cannot be properly understood through sole reference to facts and figures, but only by incorporating research into this ‘sacralisation of politics’: myth and utopianism, secular belief and/or a messianic mission.
Emilio Gentile’s immense contribution to modern historiography is almost single-handedly responsible for the view of radical ideologies expressed above. Alongside Hans Maier, Michael Burleigh, Roger Griffin, Anatoly Kazanov, Robert Bellah and a handful of other contemporaries, Gentile has forced us to look again at ‘pagan’ or ‘atheist’ ideologies that – although intrinsically secular in that each is based around ‘earthly’ values like race or class – act as a form of “religion of politics” (to use Gentile’s umbrella term for both democratic and autocratic regimes that “refer to a sacralized secular entity inspiring faith, devotion, and togetherness among believers”, p.138). In recognition of his groundbreaking work, especially on Italian Fascism, Gentile was awarded the 2003 Hans Sigrist Prize for “Political Religions as a Characteristic of the Twentieth Century”. Much of the judges’ decision was based upon the Italian original of this monograph from 2001, Le religioni della politica: Fra democrazie e totalitarismi (Guis. Laterza & Figli: 2001); of which this version, Politics as Religion, is admirably translated by George Staunton.
Unmistakably, Politics as Religion is dense, difficult and important. Indeed, the initial chapters exemplify all three in Gentile’s largely theoretical survey. These explanations, roughly comprising the first half of this book, employ a fascinating array of interwoven quotations to resurrect, as it were, an eclectic European heritage critiquing – to a greater or lesser degree - the ‘metamorphosis of the sacred’ (p.13) in political terms. Included is an impressive panorama of authors, including French thinkers (Rousseau, Durkheim, Weil), a wide range of German critics (Burhardt, Neumann, Tillich); Anglophone figures (Ben Franklin, Melville, Keynes, Laski, Bertrand Russell), as well as a host of Italians from Sturzo and Amendola to Gramsci and Croce. Regrettably, brevity dictates only an insightful and representative example from 1938 by one of many lesser known observers of this phenomenon, the Italian philosopher Adriano Tilgher:
The period after the [First World] War witnessed one of the most startling outbreaks of pure numinousness ever recalled in the history of the world. We witness the birth of new deities [numines] with our own eyes. You would need to be blind and deaf to all current realities if you were unable to realize that for very many of our contemporaries State, Fatherland, Nation, Race and Class are objects not just of enthusiastic veneration but also of mystical adoration [….] The twentieth century promises to add a few interesting chapters to the history of religious wars…’ (p.11)
Also regrettably, Gentile’s attempt to incorporate his view of ‘civil religion’ (that is, ‘religions of politics’ by liberal democracy) into this ‘numinousness’ is far less complete and convincing than his sophistication on totalitarian regimes. For while chapters 4 and 5 cover some specific examples (especially the latter, with its survey of communist regimes such as the USSR, Communist China, and North Korea), relatively little space is given over to democratic sacralisation. This would doubtless be less problematic were the introduction’s first sentence not something of a promissory note: “An American dollar bill, with its portrait of George Washington, is a religious symbol” (p.xi). While the nearly 400 years since John Winthrop’s praise for the newfound Americas as the ‘city on the hill’ are the focus of Gentile’s newest offering, God’s Democracy, the paucity of discussion on this area means ‘civil religion’ is relegated to baby-brother status vis-à-vis ‘political religion’. Given the heightened self-reflexivity – not to mention, arguably, the heightened sacralisation too - of democratic states after 9/11 (a period not treated by Politics as Religion, despite what the inside cover promises), this really is a disappointment.
But at the same time, Politics as Religion is massively significant and pioneering. Thanks to such scholarship, we are light years away from the Rankean tradition of rational actors playing Realpolitik, and even further from that unsatisfactory canard about modern secularisation destroying anything and everything sacred, leaving only the profane in its wake. Indeed, Gentile’s discussion of the “transfer of the sacred” (p.21), if rather skeletal in terms of ‘civil religion’, nevertheless opens up remarkable horizons in the study of contemporary history. As Gentile notes, “[t]he relationship between the sacralization of politics and traditional forms of worship is very complex and varies considerably according to historical circumstance and the nature of the movements and regimes that sacralize politics” (p.141); for Gentile’s fast-growing crew of shipmates, Politics as Religion is simultaneously a powerful battleship for wave-making theories in the political sciences, as well as a massive carrier for empirical sorties into otherwise well-charted historical territory.
A. James Gregor, Mussolini’s Intellectuals. Fascist Social and Political Thought, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2005, 282 pp., GBP 12.95/USD 19.95, ISBN 0-691-12790-5 (pbk).
Reviewed by Philip Morgan (University of Hull, UK).
If there is still anybody out there who thinks fascism in general, and Italian Fascism in particular, were like a bolt from the blue or a flash in the pan, with no intellectual antecedents and no ideology worth a mention, then they should definitely read this book. Its author, A. J. Gregor, believes that there are still historians out there who think that Italian Fascism was ‘just’ an irrational, violent nemesis, and this book is for them, too. There is a tilting at windmills quality to the book, since many of the outcomes of the work of historians of ideas like Gregor, Zeev Sternhell, and others, now appear in some form in the general text book histories of Italian Fascism. If like me, you are familiar with Gregor’s huge range of work on Italian Fascism, then there is nothing much new here, and it is, effectively, another version or summary of previously published output.
Gregor provides a survey of the thinkers and the thinking behind the nationalism, national syndicalism and corporativism, and neo-Hegelian idealism, which from the start to the finish of Italian Fascism, were its characteristic and consistently-held ideological foundations. He writes lucidly and authoritatively, even when elucidating Giovanni Gentile’s Actualism makes the intellectual going particularly tough, and with some passion and élan; one might say, over-authoritatively, since Gregor writes with the conviction of someone who knows and can demonstrate that he is right. Some of the book is overdrawn, because his concern throughout is to emphasise the coherence, seriousness and rationality of these Fascist thinkers. I am not sure that we need to know in quite as much detail how Sergio Panunzio differed from Gentile, when they agreed on the core elements of idealist philosophy and its place as the philosophical basis of Fascism.
There is a really interesting dissection of the writings of Julius Evola, targeted by Gregor because of Evola’s current standing among post-war neo-fascists, and because, in Gregor’s view, he represents the doctrinal distortions of racism which in the late 1930s and wartime undermined the ideological integrity of Fascism. You only have to attempt to summarise Evola’s views to realise that he is closer to Ron Hubbard and David Icke than to Gentile. The connection that Evola claims to detect between past and present terrestrial racist philosophies and the transcendent, cosmic racial ‘soul’ of those supernatural and superterrestrial occult forces into which only he is initiated, is, shall we say, unprovable, one way or another. It was no wonder that Evola formally or philosophically distanced himself from Italian Fascism and German Nazism, though he did not object to having his amazing books published under both regimes. He could only ever be a party of one. But Gregor’s justifiably cutting analysis of this philosophical garbage does give us some understanding of why the terrestrially-based parts of his thinking might be appealing to contemporary racists.
It is clear from Gregor’s book that from the early 1930s, his chosen Fascist intellectuals were commentating on the Fascist system of rule as it developed and were providing philosophical rationalisations for Fascist rule which Mussolini was only too glad to endorse. Ideology was, at this point, not so much the inspiration behind Fascism, as its ex post facto justification. Gregor can argue that Fascist corporativism had not ‘failed’ because Panunzio and the rest had never actually in their writings anticipated anything other than a consultative role for the corporations. But other Fascist corporativists, working at the ministerial coal face, like the first junior Minister of Corporations, Giuseppe Bottai, certainly did expect and want the corporations to become a kind of strategic high command of the Italian economy. In reality, the regime improvised economic agencies to rescue Italian business and finance during the Great Depression, which remained in place to see through the drive to autarky and war, in parallel with a pretty much redundant corporate structure.
The other arguable aspects of Gregor’s book can be found at its edges. Gregor believes that Italian Fascism was the first and only fascism, or if that is putting it too strongly, that it was the paradigmatic fascist movement and regime, a model of twentieth century revolutionary ‘modernising’ dictatorships. So it is consistent with his view of Fascism that Gregor argues that biological racism was what distinguished German Nazi ideology from ‘pure’ Fascist ideology, and implies that Nazism was not really a ‘fascism’ at all. Those of us who study fascism as a generic historical phenomenon, and see some form of racism, cultural or biological, as a common element of European fascist movements’ ideologies, would have some problems with these aspects of Gregor’s argument.
Donatella della Porta, Massimiliano Andretta, Lorenzo Mosca, Herbet Reiter, Globalization From Below. Transnational Activists and Protest Networks, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006, 300 pp., GBP 17.50, ISBN 0-81664-643-0 (pbk).
Reviewed by Pascale Dufour (University of Montreal).
Globalization from Below presents systematic empirical research based mainly on two events of transnational protest, the G8 protest in Genoa in July 2001 and the first European Social Forum in Florence in 2002. The book addresses one central issue: is the Global Social Justice movement a social movement or is it just a collection of separate movements?
To provide an answer, the authors build on three distinct body of research: the construction of collective identities, the mobilization of resources and the structure of political opportunities. In the demonstration, they consider three dimensions of the supposed movement: a micro-dimension referring to the characteristics of the activists, a meso-dimension involving the organizational networks and their activities and a macro-dimension concerned with the interaction between the movement and its environment. The research relies mainly on surveys, direct observations and qualitative interviews, offering an exceptional bank of data.
The authors offer a detailed –and convincing- analysis of how the movement is being produced and how these dimensions interact. In their perspective, the answer to why this movement exists is included in the how it works (alliances, decision-making process, complex protest repertoires).
From the organizational point of view, the movement is a network of networks, “connecting different political identities and organizations structured in differentiated ways, through weak links” (p.58). In this context of heterogeneity, the questions of internal organizational dynamics and decision-making processes become central. For the authors, solving such practical problems has pushed the movement and its activists towards innovative practices of internal democracy, which depend for a large part on the use of the Internet. In chapter 3, they demonstrate that the work on meaning and identities building is also central to understanding what is at stake in the movement. But what they found “is not a uniform collective identity (…), but a strong identification with a collective process (as opposed to a collective subject)” (p. 91). With this chapter focusing on symbolic issues, the book largely deepens the research on transnational social protest, often reduced to its strategic dimension without considering the complexity (and also the novelty, as it is argued) of the political work at stake inside the movement.
Relationship to the environment is considered first through the angle of public order. What is the relationship between the police and the movement? In the European context, this dimension is crucial, as the 2001 Genoa demonstration ended with one death on the activists side, making the question of the quality of democratic system in Italy a central question (pp.194-195). Second, the authors considered interaction between movements and politics. As the authors stress, “the self-definition as “a movement for a globalization from below” emphasizes the stigmatization of a top-down representative democracy” (p.199). As a result, the movement is highly critical of political parties and alliances with left or center-left parties remain very problematic. On the other side, the question of how the movement’s demand about more participatory politics will reach the institutional heart of the political system is not yet resolved and the problem of building political alliances within institutions remains.
Globalization from Below appears as the most exhaustive research on European transnational social movements published in the recent years, mainly because it offers a comprehensive view of activists and networks, but also political dynamics inside the movement, in relationship with the outside. Furthermore, the lead of the book (is there a social movement there) is for sure a key question not only for researchers, but also for activists. In that respect, this book is a must for those who work on transnational protest. Nevertheless, we can discuss the conclusions reached by the authors. They conclude that a “real” global movement is there and that it is not just a collection of disparate collective actions. I do not dispute the conclusion in itself, but I dispute the scope of it. What they have shown is true for European mobilizations and especially for the two events considered (Genoa 2001 and Florence, 2002). But the book did not tell us what happened between events (is there a movement in abeyance in national societies with transnational dimensions?), and as the research is based on the short term, we are not able to understand how it transformed (or continued) in time? In 2007, we know that the Global Social Justice movement has changed dramatically. More coloured by South countries today, North countries, which were at the forefront of its emergence, are now losing ground. Instead of telling stories of convergence between networks, I wonder if we should not try to focus on differentiation of trajectories in the fight for other globalizations at all levels of analysis. This, then, is a worthwhile (though in parts slightly out of date) study for academics and practitioners alike, containing some useful case studies.