Fire / Feu



camouflée ou
fin de la

Commentaires de
David Orton sur
un livre

Les commentaires
de David Orton
l'importance qu'il
accorde au livre
"Global Showdown
- How the New
Activists Are
Fighting Global
Corporate Rule"
(Épreuve de force
mondiale :
Comment de
nouveaux partisans
combattent le règne
mondial des
entreprises) par
Maude Barlow et
Tony Clarke.

Orton explique la
logique de "Global
Showdown" et
souligne quelques
soulevées dans ce
livre (pour le
influencé par

Orton déclare que
Showdown" passe
sous silence le
dilemme auquel
font face les
écologistes de
longue date. Il
explique qu’à
mesure que le
monde devient
plus complexe,
la plupart des
citoyen(ne)s ne
semblent pas
vouloir prendre le
temps de le
comprendre et de
travailler pour le
changer... pourtan
la démocratie exige
un tel engagement.
























































is nothing
more than
the product
of the
search for


Globalization from below, or ending industrial civilization?

David Orton,
July 2001


Commentary, Book Review

"Global Showdown: How the New Activists Are Fighting Global Corporate Rule"
by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke,
Stoddard Publishing Co. Limited,

Toronto, Canada, 2001,
hardcover, ISBN 0-7737-3264-0.

This commentary will outline why I think this book is important, explain the critique in "Global Showdown", and bring out what seems to me to be some of the important questions this book raises for the radical, deep ecology-influenced environmental movement.

First, one has to say that this book is an excellent source of information on the various corporate structures which are trying to make the world safe for international capital– (for example the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank) and the ideas of the mainstream groups in opposition to this. I agree with the authors when they note that "civil society politics are the politics of the twenty first century." (p. 5) Although most of us reading this commentary share an opposition to the belief that trade is the supreme good, there is an ongoing discussion on what will be the nature of such politics. This book advocates a mainstream view of civil society politics that ultimately can be accommodated within industrial capitalism. (The People's Summit in Quebec City in April of 2001, was partly financed by the federal and Québec governments.)

"Global Showdown" shows the historical emergence of global economic institutions and, following the ending of the Second World War, how United Nations supervision of such institutions was replaced by US control, with what has come to be called "The Washington Consensus."

"Led by American business interests, the free-market doctrine would eventually force most governments in the world to give up controls on foreign investment, liberalize trade, deregulate their internal economies, privatize state services, and enter into head-to-head global competition." (p. 57)

Because of the necessary exposure of the labyrinth corporate and bureaucratic structures which underpin the ever expanding globalization of capital, this book is not easy, although it is essential reading.

Tony Clark and Maude Barlow, 1998

(photo: Public Citizen)

Maude Barlow is the chairperson of the Council of Canadians. Barlow has played a major role in educating and arousing Canadians to fight back against the forces of globalization and increasing corporate governance. Anyone who has heard her speak knows she is a very effective and knowledgeable speaker, who "eats up" the apologists for more unrestricted free trade. Tony Clarke is the director of the Polaris Institute of Canada. This institute, which emerged in 1997, describes itself in its mission statement as seeking "to provide a compass for social movements", in order "to bring about democratic social change" in this era of corporate driven globalization. Both authors know their stuff, and reading this book bringsabout a growing rage at the sell-out, and its extent, of the interests of the Canadian (and the world's) people to a transnational corporate agenda.

Barlow and Clarke do not basically oppose globalization; they seek "fair" trade, not free trade. The authors want "Canada to help bring democratic governance to the operation of the global economy." (p. 176) They want to democratize, not dismantle, the institutions of global economic governance. Taken for granted is the spread of capitalist industrialism all over the globe. Barlow and Clarke want to control globalization from below, not the corporate control from the top. So they do not oppose global trade, foreigninvestment or capitalism. They support "compensating" corporations when the state expropriates. 
(p. 193) Their book reflects the Declaration of the Second People's Summit of the Americas in Québec City (April 19, 2001), which said:

"We want socially productive and ecologically responsible investment. The rules applied across the continent should encourage foreign investors who will guarantee the creation of quality jobs, sustainable production and economic stability, while blocking speculative investments."

Barlow and Clarke do not share the anarchist critique of the state, which they essentially dismiss without discussion. They even give support in the book to arresting anarchists involved in property damage at the Seattle demonstration in 1999! (p. 13.) (Anarchism advocates some type of stateless society, that is a society without government, or at least extremely limited government, and sees attempts to work within existing states as futile activity.)

The authors' view seems to be that we once had "democracy" in Canada and that the state was in control of the economy. I think this assumption is false. They want the nation state to become strengthened and "redemocratized".

This is a progressive book, but it stays within a "human" context. The Earth itself and the millions of nonhuman organisms are largely excluded from the authors' human-centered vision of democracy. The primacy of the Earth is absent. There is no fundamental ecological critique in "Global Showdown". There is no sense of having exceeded the ecological footprint of industrial humankind. The "democratic rights" put forward as desirable, presuppose a high standard of living. There is no understanding that socially worthy measures may be just as ecologically harmful and unsustainable as socially unworthy ones. There is no understanding that the ecological question is deeper, and of a different nature, than trying to democratically control the global economy. Human history shows much waste and ecological destruction, so a politics of controlling globalization, or for that matter a politics of anti-globalization or anti-capitalism, while important, is not sufficient. There is no sense that there are too many people and that the existing lifestyle "role model" in North America or Western Europe is a recipe for ecological disaster for the rest of the world. There is no sense that economic growth and consumerism need to be ended, for a sustainable planet to exist for all species, not just humans. Finally, there is no sense that, even from a social perspective, for us to achieve global sustainability means focusing on redistributing wealth nationally and internationally, not promoting more "investment" and economic growth.

The radical ecocentric activist who is also socially aware sees that the forces of globalization and increasing world trade attack all the social buffers from the marketplace as "impediments" to trade, but also sees how these forces undermine the ecological integrity of the planet. In "Global Showdown" and in the anti-globalization movement in Canada, it is the first concern which is overwhelmingly dominant.

Final Reflections

I think it important to try and think outside of the existing paradigm and the self-destructive industrial growth society that seemingly overwhelms us. We do not have to accept thinking within the framework of the current society. (This is what Arne Naess referred to as "shallow" ecology.) A major issue is how to deal with "property" , a human- and class-centered concept. Governments and corporations want to turn everything into private property, as in the fishery. (Yet even many inshore fishermen, while theyoppose ITQs [Individual Transferable Quotas], see no apparent contradiction in "selling" lobster licenses for hundreds of thousands of dollars.) To preserve Nature's "Commons" we need to move to "usufruct rights" and to see the concept of private property as a social fiction used to justify Earth exploitation. Usufruct rights, in a society that is Earth-centered and socially just, would be accountable to an all-species community of life forms and not privately transferable.

To corporations and the governments that serve them, anti-globalization activists have become the new subversives and are being defined as "non-persons" against whom very severe measures can be used. "Democracy" can always be withdrawn in the interest of capital. If rubber bullets and tear gas do not suffice, then live ammunition will be used, as was the case recently in Sweden, the home of social democracy. Corporations want consumers not politically active citizens.

"Global Showdown" ignores the dilemma that long-time activists face, that as the world becomes increasingly complex, most citizens do not seem to want to spend the time to understand and work to change it. Yet democracy requires such an involvement.

In a recent book by Hugh Brody, "The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers And The Shaping Of The World", he points out that until 12 000 years ago, all of us lived as hunter-gatherers, and that in such societies the material wellbeing of people depended on KNOWING, rather than changing their environment. Such societies were spiritual, with worldviews of respect for Nature, grounded in animism. Somehow we must reorient to this. It is quite a task that we face, more encompassing than the theme of this edition of "Elements": "Localization versus Globalization." Rather than trying to tame industrial globalization, as in "Global Showdown", with its underlying destructive belief that all of Nature is subject to human control and exploitation, we need to mentally revisit and reorient towards those cultures which, for 90 percent of our human history, served us well.

"Global Showdown" presents a social democratic, "nonviolent" model for reigning in the global economy, with a major role for labour unions. The overall thrust of the book is reformist but with hints of a more radical agenda. The deep green and deep ecology alternative to this model, urgently awaits conceptualization.