If the WTO protesters were right, why didn’t they win?

Yesterday, The Atlantic published an article that declared “Seattle’s 1999 Protesters Were Right.” Author Noah Smith correctly explained that they were mocked and maligned. He writes “the Seattle protests came to seem as not only silly, but also misguided.”

But Smith explains that nonetheless history has shown the WTO protesters were “mostly right.” “Almost everything the Seattle protesters have warned us about has come to pass, much of it a direct result of the WTO’s actions in 2000,” he writes.

So what are the reasons we didn’t succeed and they did?

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Thoughts on Paul Hawken and Blessed Unrest

Thoughts on Paul Hawken and Blessed Unrest by Ben Brucato, September, 2009:

One Big Movement

In Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken discusses the history of ideas and action of “a broad nonideological movement” that “has come into being that does not invoke the masses’ fantasized will but rather engages citizens’ localized needs” (18). This movement offers “thousands of practical and useful [ideas]” and “processes, concerns, and compassion” and is “eminently pragmatic” (ibid.).

The movement that Hawken is dealing with “has three basic roots: environmental activism, social justice initiatives, and indigenous cultures’ resistance to globalization, all of which have become intertwined” (12). He explores dozens, if not hundreds, of examples of environmental destruction, human rights abuses and the decimation of aboriginal culture, some with passing comments and others with great elaboration. However, we see few mentions of particular organizations or coalitions of organizations mobilizing against a particular offender or groups of offenders with a particular single-issue campaign or as part of a broad reform or revolutionary movement. The avoidance of particulars of the movement while being particular about what they oppose is deliberate. The more he veils the conglomeration of thousands of organizations and corporations comprised by hundreds of thousands of individuals, the easier it is for him to suggest they are part of one great whole. We should, as Hawken suggests, see that “the movement’s key contribution is the rejection of one big idea,” (18) but that this is one big movement.

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