The global justice movement and struggles over knowledge

Sky Croeser

University of Western Australia Bluestocking Institute for Global Peace and Justice


This paper explores the contributions that struggles over knowledge are making to the global justice movement, with a focus on the digital liberties movement and the Indian movement against genetically modified crops. These struggles include attempts to shift the path of technological change, redefine science, and argue for democratic access to information. Such struggles constitute an important strand of activism within the global justice movement by encouraging a shift towards more democratic and diverse systems. In exploring the relationship between struggles over knowledge and the global justice movement the paper emphasises the inherently fluid and amorphous nature of social movements, highlighting the challenges involved in attempting to map social movements.


Introduction The global crisis currently underway reaches significantly beyond the financial sector. Neoliberalism itself seems to be facing a crisis of legitimacy, evidenced by the shift in rhetoric being employed by political elites. It is also becoming increasingly clear that solutions to climate change will need to involve radical changes to the contemporary form of capitalism. However, the dominance of neoliberal ideology over previous decades has been accompanied by claims that there are no viable alternatives to the liberal democratic state and the neoliberal world order, most notably by Francis Fukuyama (1992) and Margaret Thatcher. This would seem to leave us severely impoverished when it comes to imagining and working toward political and economic systems that are more sustainable and equitable.

Despite these claims, there are in fact a range of actors that are imagining or building alternatives to neoliberalism. Some, such as those promoting fundamentalist

interpretations of Islam or Christianity, do not provide us with progressive alternatives to the current system. Others have been more successful in developing political and economic models that offer some hope for a better future. In this latter category is the global justice movement (GJM), a 'movement of movements' that has grown from the confluence of struggles from both the Global North and Global South. The GJM does not offer a monolithic vision of a utopian alternative to neoliberalism. Instead, the many different actors from which it is constituted are attempting to create 'one world with room for many worlds' (Marcos 1997), as the Zapatistas put it: a world that allows for a healthy ecosystem of alternative social, political, and economic models. Some of these models will fail, others will be wrought with deep and fundamental problems. A few among them may offer viable alternatives, or the materials from which to create them. Struggles over


centreless. pursuing 'global justice'.knowledge. and are well-supported by the empirical research. 2006. Almost all commentators recognise the heterogeneity of this global web of movements. which lists 'ecological sustainability' as one of ten core principles for societies that offer an alternative to neoliberalism. none of these issues and struggles can. indeed. define the movement. Klein 2004). and fluid. or even the. At the same time other readings of the movement's work are possible. It is the fact of their interconnectedness that makes the GJM what it is. although there are slightly different interpretations about what defines it and what it is calling for. 77 – 100). 'diversity'. A number of overlapping and interconnected strands form the warp and weft of the GJM. 2004. or. A second strand which is notable within the movement is the commitment to exploring more direct forms of 3 . alone. Analyses of the movement which characterise it as anti-capitalist (Callinicos 2003). there are a number of common strands that stand out. which is multiplicitous. 'food security and safety'. While observers highlight different aspects of the movement. as well as drawing on ecological ideas in their discussion of other principles such as 'the precautionary principle'. and a 'common heritage' (Anderson et al. anti-neoliberal. The first of these is the attempt by global justice activists to critique our existing relationship to nature and offer alternatives. 'movement of movements' (cf. della Porta et al. including attempts to reconfigure science and technology. are an important aspect of this work. and it is often referred to as a. This is enabled by the nature of the GJM. There have been numerous attempts to theorise the GJM. Such an attempt is exemplified by the International Forum on Globalization's report on Alternatives to Economic Globalization. As in a tapestry. are all accurate representations of the movement. anticorporate (Starr 2006).

Finally. gender. evident in the many proud proclamations that the movement is 'resonating across borders of nation. 202). and biological diversity. class. 89). and elimination of unprofitable species' (Anderson et al. The authors of Alternatives to Economic Globalization argue that diversity 'is key to the vitality. Activists within the reformist sections of the movement have focused much of their critique on the growing power of corporations and international financial institutions. 2004. which activists proudly describe as being 'without leaders […] without clear organizational structures. resilience. contrasting these with the what they see as corporations' attempts to 'reduce costs and increase market control through cultural homogenization. So too for human societies' (Anderson et al. which has taken taken on both radical and reformist guises. 64). and are manifested in a wide variety of local and transnational struggles. 2004. 2004. economic specialization. Others argue that what is needed is a more serious challenge to the existence of both capital and the state (Graeber 2004. [and] age' 4 . This has also been linked to critiques of the enclosure of the commons through privatisation. These strands are present to a greater or lesser extent throughout the movement. Diversity is also valued within the movement. economic diversity. arguing that these should be reined in by governments.democracy: activists argue that elections alone are not enough. and innovative capacity of any living system. [and] without a command and control centre' (Notes from Nowhere 2003c. which has both radical and reformist expressions. race. it must be emphasised that diversity is at the heart of the GJM. A third strand running through the GJM is the critique of capitalism. They argue for the importance of cultural diversity. 79). and that decisions should by made by those who will bear the consequences (Anderson et al. The commitment to direct democracy is also embodied in the lived practices of the movement itself. 89 and 94).

constituted by struggles over knowledge. ecological values. reconfigure the ways in which we create and legitimate knowledge. Attempts to preserve and nurture diversity are a continuing strand within the movement. just as there are few actors that identify as only or primarily promoting direct democracy. 21). Croeser 2006). but are also more than that: diversity is at once the basis of the movement's structure. and an end-goal. Notes from Nowhere 2003b. Graeber 2004. if any.(Notes from Nowhere 2003a. These case studies also give concrete examples of the importance of struggles over knowledge to global justice activists' attempts to build and promote alternatives to neoliberal globalisation. I argue here that struggles over knowledge are an important and under-researched thread within the movement. 205. are woven through the GJM. therefore. a tactic. There are few. The Indian movement against genetically-modified crops As I have argued in previous work (Croeser 2007. 'zero- 5 . as well as of the complex networks that constitute the GJM. The case studies examined here offer an opportunity to show how struggles to reshape the path of technological change. or even predominantly. Rather. Examining the roles and contributions of each case study allows us to develop a more nuanced understanding of the work that the GJM is engaged in. including organic farming. or diversity. and define rights of access to that knowledge. connecting with and reinforcing other strands of activism. the Indian movement against GM crops involves both resistance to GM crops and Green Revolution agriculture and the promotion of alternative forms of agriculture. does not claim that the GJM is only. 312) as well as in the frequent recounting of the wide range of struggles that constitute the movement (cf. This paper. actors within the GJM that would define their role as 'contesting knowledge'.

For example. Other actors are primarily engaged in grassroots work promoting or developing alternatives to GM crops and Green Revolution agriculture. Starr 2006. the KRRS has also been involved in promoting alternatives to GM crops. These actors include organisations such as the GREEN Foundation and Navdanya. There are some actors within the movement that focus on resistance. 99. While the movement does not have the same iconic place within the GJM that the Zapatistas have attained. includes several references to the Indian movement (cf. a publication written by GJM activists to chronicle the movement's work. Patel cites the KRRS as amongst those with dissenting voices and visions of agriculture (2007. it is frequently cited in movement publications and has a high level of visibility within the GJM. or Karnataka State Farmers' Association (KRRS). Notes from Nowhere 2003d. We Are Everywhere (Notes from Nowhere 2003). Notes from Nowhere 2003. Bello 2004. Claims that the Indian opposition to GM crops is part of the GJM are unlikely to be controversial. 64. 81 and 131). 456. and traditional agricultural techniques. as in the case of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.budget' agriculture. Groups and individuals from the Indian movement are certainly seen as belonging to the 6 . a prominent Indian anti-GM activist and founder of Navdanya. Achbar and Abbott 2004). 13). occur with similar frequency and tone (cf. and members of Navdanya have played an important role in antiGM demonstrations. There is significant overlap between the work carried out those engaged in resistance and those promoting alternatives. and the group is described in an account of La Via Campesina as providing some of the earliest and largest displays of farmer opposition to neoliberal globalisation (Desmarais 2003. Mentions of Vandana Shiva. 42). which is characterised by reliance on a limited number of crops and depends upon commercial seed production and inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides. de Marcellus 2003.

said. Resource constraints combine with 7 . For example. The Indian movement is integrated with the GJM through a wide variety of alliances and communications. And we feel that our views are the same and we have a common enemy. the Environment Support Group. I don't know if we are part of the left but I think certainly in most positions we are taking we're anti-globalisation. Many of the participants in the Indian movement also identify with the GJM. it's also imperialist.GJM. Because the way we see globalisation. Since our enemy has globalised. Therefore I think we're also anti-capitalist in that sense. it is useful to disrupt the straightforward claim that the Indian movement is 'part of' the GJM. Chukki Nanjundaswamy. but when you look into what the mechanisms of it are it works through consumerism.comm.. 25 Jan). the problem with globalisation is that it's quite a right- sounding name. Leo Saldanha. 19 Jan). through Indian activists' self-identifications and through other activists' perceptions of the Indian movement. not in abstract. comm. so we are for control which is located locally. said in 2006: 'We feel that our voices have been part of the international anti-globalisation movement. member of an NGO that has been involved in the opposition to GM crops. This discussion also demonstrates an engagement with long-running debates within and surrounding the GJM about the movement's orientation and goals. it works through taking control of resources [. However. that makes sense for anti-globalisation also (2006 pers.] So they're taking control away from the people. we must also globalise our struggle' (2006 pers. it works through trade barriers.. […] See. leader of one faction of the KRRS. and are often referred to as inspirational examples. remote sense.

165. When it comes to travel and involvement in international events. although this is to an extent eased by the number of people who speak several languages as well as their mother-tongue. Featherstone 2003. Nanjundaswamy and Vandana Shiva. At times. pers.D. With the death of KRRS leader M.D.. The constituent-base claimed for the Indian movement. the number of different languages spoken inhibits the ability to form national movements. is predominantly made up of extremely poor farmers. and particularly of the KRRS. even within India. Feb 7). the tendency towards nationalism present in some sections of the Indian opposition to GM crops has also worked to exclude others and alienate Indian activists from others within the GJM. they are likely to remain limited and easily broken by the incapacitation of movement leaders or personal disagreements. as well as its role in the Indian anti-GM struggle (Raghunandan 2006. movement leaders become the only movement participants who are capable of making and sustaining international connections. North and South' (Ainger 2003. As long as international connections continue to be channeled through one or two movement leaders in this way. but also by other factors such as the difficulty of obtaining visas (Ainger 2003. Effectively. Language also creates a significant barrier. the KRRS's involvement in transnational coalitions and protests tapered off. Nanjundaswamy in 2004. 169). This was particularly the case during the Intercontinental Caravan. comm. In the international sphere. an event in which several bus-loads of farmers from the Global South travelled around Europe in what one participant called 'perhaps the most ambitious attempt yet to connect up different traditions of struggle. 412). These leaders became the nodes that connect different groups and movements. participants are limited not only by their lack of money.other obstacles to create bottlenecks in the relationship between the Indian movement and the GJM. the only activists to have garnered significant visibility are the late M. This was 8 .

and partly through merges of and changes within communities that have existed for the swastika symbolises a maize mill which functions by getting rid of the bad parts of the maize and keeping the good parts. that use and develop ICTs.. an Indian guy got up and started talking about how wonderful Hitler was. 9 . 414) also mentions opposition from members of the Indian delegation to Nepalese participants speaking at events. claiming that it was an 'Indian not a Nepalese Caravan'. including the free/libre and open source software (F/LOSS) movement and the hacker community... They also highlight the fluid and incomplete nature of the Indian movement's relationship with the GJM: while the Indian movement certain overlaps significantly with the GJM. The digital liberties movement The DLM has emerged partly in response to elite attempts to (re)gain control of information and communications technologies (ICTs)1. It can be difficult to exactly define what constitutes a 1 For a more comprehensive discussion of this issue. One account of the Caravan describes an Indian activist approvingly discussing the links between Hitler's nationalism and Hindu tradition: On the very first day. they do undermine claims about solidarity between Indian activists and movements of the oppressed from other parts of the world.possibly one of the few times in which activists from the Indian anti-GM crop movement other than leaders well-versed in the language and ideals of the GJM interacted in an unstructured way with European activists and others from the Global South. by getting rid of the problem elements. it is not simply 'part of' the movement. While incidents such as these are by no means the rule. and now India has to do the same” (Do or Die 1999) Featherstone (2003. It is primarily concerned with retaining citizens' control over ICTs in the face of corporate and government power.. see Croeser 2008.Hitler “defended the German nation state when it was in crisis.

that regularly addresses copyright. many other movement leaders and thousands of unsung movement participants whose activities remain largely unseen. At first glance. BoingBoing. and other matters at the heart of the movement's work. and is one of the authors of a group blog. The frame that ties the 10 . F/LOSS. and in many cases their political dimensions are unclear. These activists are increasingly tying together issues as wide-ranging as online civil liberties. as well as being involved in key court cases relating to US copyright law. and framing these issues as political. This problem becomes more acute in the case of movements. it is difficult to see the connection between these issues. While it is undeniable that a movement is emerging. and Lessig has been involved in setting up FreeCulture. There are a number of organisations and individuals which form the core of the movement. as in any other social movement. It should therefore be noted that the characteristics and boundaries of the DLM as they are described here remain fluid. civil liberties. There are movement. digital rights management. which has a number of student chapters around the world. and intellectual property rights. Establishing that there is a connection. and in each case one could dispute whether 'digital liberties' are really the focus of their activism. Lawrence Lessig has also played an important role through his academic work and advocacy. one could easily posit its locus and membership differently. Lessig's The Future of Ideas (2001) and Free Culture (2004) have proved highly influential within the movement. constitutes a large part of the DLM's work. such as the Cory Doctorow has been involved in activism around these issues for a number of years now. which have not yet received significant attention in the media or within academia. online surveillance. and even more difficult to draw the boundaries around a particular social movement.

D. it is useful to think of these websites as organisational nodes within the network. While Boingboing has a clear set of bloggers who post. which was founded in 1990 and fights for 'our freedoms in the networked world' (EFF 2008). a Swedish organisation engaged in 'reflection over questions regarding copying. or Piracy Bureau. the interactivity of the Internet allows 'information to blend into recruitment and mobilisation' (2001. editors. it is likely that this work will not only gain more visibility. In coming years. the network structure of the movement is still developing. particularly Boingboing and Slashdot. 131). These NGOs and websites form the backbone of the movement. Similarly. tying this control to democratic principles and ideals of personal freedom. and there are comment threads attached to each post in which readers can hold discussions.-based public interest group working to defend citizens' rights in the emerging digital culture' (Public Knowledge 2008). but will help activists to develop a more durable and cohesive sense of their place in the struggle which they are engaged in.movement together is the attempt to build an understanding that citizens (rather than corporations or governments) should control ICTs and the online spaces which they have created. and official authors. Public Knowledge.C. and communication and dialogue between different actors within the movement are growing. the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) and the Piratbyrån. 'a Washington. including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). information infrastructure and digital culture' (Piratbyrån 2007). There are several organisations that form nodes in this nascent network structure. and Slashdot has a cadre of developers. 11 . both include mechanisms for readers to suggest items. For this reason. Websites have also become important spaces within the movement. As Kreimer notes.

which uses peer-to-peer technology to share 'material that deals with or is relevant to issues of social justice. Jordan and Taylor 2004). Movement texts from the GJM tend to make scant reference to Linux. and other issues at the heart of the DLM. however. and 'indigenous anti-globalization protests' from Eucador (Jardin 2006). key digital liberties activists have taken steps towards acknowledging the GJM's work. Starr 2006. For example. There are also tantalising glimpses of projects emerging that cross the divide between digital liberties issues and GJM activism. progressive and radical politics. a key figure within the GJM. For example. From the other direction. as well as the lack of information on activists and groups from the DLM in accounts of GJM events. online civil liberties. although again this is difficult to adequately prove. framing the story in terms favourable to the GJM activists (Doctorow 2009). has compared F/LOSS to 'open' seeds. 12 . it is usually within a discussion of 'hacktivism' as a tactic (cf. Absences are hard to map. When they do mention digital liberties activism and issues. including police violence at London's anti-G20 protests. Vandana Shiva. saying that F/LOSS is 'a way of spreading prosperity and knowledge in society' in the same way as saving and swapping seeds (Shiva in Elsedoudi et al. independent media. 2009). links between the DLM and the GJM are few and far between.In contrast to the Indian movement. but there are at least some signs of the chasm that lies between the two realms of activism. One example of this is the 'One Big Torrent' website. the relationship between the DLM and the GJM is not as simple as it appears at first glance. BoingBoing has occasionally covered GJM events. Participation of digital liberties activists in GJM events is also limited. This claim is predominantly based on my experience of the Nairobi and Pakistan WSFs. file sharing. Just as in the case of the Indian opposition to GM crops. 77-78. and activists from within the GJM have begun to make links with digital liberties activism.

The GJM is constituted from struggles underway in multiple spaces around the This would seem to indicate that digital liberties activism is becoming incorporated into the GJM. the available data does not adequately address questions about the scale of collaboration between digital liberties activists and the GJM. It highlights two aspects of these movements' work: attempts to (re)gain control over the technologies of everyday life. or perhaps that the DLM overlaps in part with the GJM. Contributions to the global justice movement Both the Indian movement against GM crops and the DLM make vital contributions to the GJM's work. Kate Milberry argues that examples such as these. The celebration of diversity that runs through the GJM discussed earlier is conducive to the emergence of a movement of movements that does not require individual actors to sign up to the movement's manifesto or become part of an overarching organisation in order to promote globalisation from below. as well as the use of F/LOSS for the Indymedia site. despite the complexities of each movement's relationship to the GJM. through local struggles and international networks. However. and Bangalore's Janastu. and to develop critiques of capitalism. Other aspects. such as the 13 . More research is still required to adequately understand the relationship between the DLM and the GJM . legal actions and direct action. riseup. one that moves beyond simply using technology toward particular ends to include the modification and transformation of technology itself' (2006). including the Resist! collective in Canada . demonstrate that the GJM 'has broadened to include a new brand of activism.ecology' (One Big Torrent 2009). The following discussion highlights the ways in which each movement contributes to the GJM's attempts to build a more democratic and diverse world. and the struggle to preserve diversity in the face of spreading monocultures. There are also a variety of organisations that provide ICT support services to GJM activists.

creation of peer-based knowledge systems and resistance to the enclosure of the commons. in the leadup to India's accession to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). and as seeds are at the centre of farmers' lives and work. has been underway since the Green Revolution: farmers came to depend more and more on purchased hybrid seed. Democratic control over the technologies of everyday life Both the Indian movement against GM crops and the DLM are involved in attempts to retain or gain user control over important technologies. While some of this activism has been directed at national governments. activists from the Indian movement have also been instrumental in raising awareness of the effects of international institutions surrounding intellectual property rights. In the case of the Indian movement. are also relevant. as does the framing of what constitutes 'science'. 208). technology. the struggle is focused around seed as a symbolic reference and a basic need. In doing so. Activists argue that the alienation of seeds from Indian farmers. In 1993. and information have political implications. five hundred thousand 14 . declaring that control over seeds was as symbolic of India's current struggles as the spinning wheel had been during the Independence struggle (Assadi 2004. and GM seeds continue this trend. The Beeja (Seed) Satyagraha launched by the movement in 1992 attempted to work against this trend. which did not perform well if re-sown. Movement activists have continued to assert that as seeds are a necessity for life. The movement has been involved in extensive resistance to attempts to create legal barriers to the sharing and saving of seeds. they have emphasised that questions of access to knowledge. but cannot be addressed here for reasons of space. and indeed farmers throughout the world. farmers must have access to them. for example.

Gene Campaign. who then harvest and return seed to the bank. These seed banks focus on in situ seed conservation. GREEN Foundation emphasises the importance not only of access to seed. The development of seed banks and research into the knowledge associated with traditional seed varieties has also been an important part of this struggle. and when and under what conditions to sow (GREEN Foundation 2009). as well as that of other peasants' and indigenous peoples' movements throughout the world. but also the preservation of knowledge about seed selection. has been vital in preventing the wholesale privatisation of agricultural knowledge in the Global South. although this is a battle that is still very much underway. such as millets and rice varieties that are integral to food sovereignty. Ex situ seed conservation. The work of the Indian rallied in Bangalore in protest (Borowiak 2004. In contrast to this approach. Several of the organisations involved have made community seed banks a centrepiece of their work. such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. reversing thereby the burden of proof' to require that multinational corporations prove that they have any rights over agricultural knowledge (Assadi 1995. and the GREEN Foundation. conserve seed varieties as 'back ups' in case of biodiversity loss or as static libraries to be drawn on for research (Ministry of Food and Agriculture 2009). Movement activists have also worked to reconfigure the language of rights. arguing that they 'reserve the right to punish those who are guilty of pirating the common intellectual property rights. These seed banks provide access to seeds. as well as to 15 . 203). 520). and to indigenous knowledge systems more generally. in situ conservation focuses on seeds as part of a holistic system. All three organisations have focused their efforts on crop and medicinal varieties used locally. including Navdanya. Protests such as these have politicised the application of intellectual property rights to seeds. in which seeds are used by farmers.

This is expressed in a concern to preserve or establish user control over software. farmers. local control of a significant proportion of food production is vital to attempts to build a world in which local communities have meaningful autonomy. As well as 16 . is increasingly under the control of a few large transnational corporations. Many movements within the GJM composed of peasants. These struggles contribute significantly to the GJM. including those involved in PGA and La Via Campesina. By encouraging people to avoid relying on and contributing to corporate control over agriculture. Just as the Indian movement is reviving traditional agricultural systems and experimenting with new agricultural systems that are alternatives to large-scale monocultures. One example of this is the development and promotion of creative commons and other copyleft licences. the DLM is working to preserve and create alternatives to digital monocultures and elite-controlled technologies. and others who rely on agricultural production for an income. Agricultural systems that remove or decrease reliance on the market strengthen the position of those within these movements. Most fundamentally. which provide an alternative to the restrictive approach to copyright currently in ascendancy. and information flows. ensuring the continued existence of alternatives to commercial seed. hardware.the knowledge necessary to use them well. the DLM is working to retain control over the technologies of everyday life (albeit for rather different lives). As in the case of the Indian movement against GM crops. these movements nurture alternatives to capitalism and create spaces in which the power of corporations is diminished. Patel (2007) provides convincing evidence that the world food system. There are numerous ways in which activists with the GJM benefit from a decoupling of food production from this global food system. from seed to table.

A number of publications associated with the GJM are being given copyleft licences. noting that this may help to make the Internet 'a better place' (2009). providing one possible model of a way to balance creators' interests with a vibrant culture open to reuse and remixing. the New Internationalist). For those who want to avoid supporting multinational corporations or the controls on user behaviour that are frequently attached to Apple and Microsoft's software. Indymedia websites. even software such as this serves an important role in resisting the privatisation of cyberspace. including Google and Yahoo!. writes on the extension's 'Frequently Asked Questions' page that 'widespread adoption of ad blocking software will make intrusive ads economically inefficient until they become as rare as pop-up windows already are today'. including software and peer-to-peer networks. including books (cf. However. and online content from magazines that focus on GJM activism (cf. and more importantly. The DLM has also been instrumental in developing and promoting a range of tools. these licences are also increasingly being used on content-sharing sites such as Flickr and on search engines.being used for a wide range of F/LOSS. Secondly. they give content creators a means by which they can retain some control over their work without participating in the system of overly-restrictive copyright. F/LOSS provides vital alternatives. the 'Adblock Plus' Firefox extension was developed to allow users to block pop-up and side-bar advertisements from websites (Palant 2009). Firstly. Notes from Nowhere 2003). that allow users to evade or resist government and corporate controls. these licences provide both a critique of dominant copyright practices and alternatives to them. Some of these may seem trivial at first: for example. the creation of peer-to-peer tools such as Bittorrent and sites like The Pirate Bay create 'temporary autonomous zones' (Bey 1991) that are relatively free of government 17 . Wladimir Palant. creator of Adblock Plus. Licences such as these serve two purposes. As well as software.

In the case of the Indian movement. Each of these movements is working in concrete ways to ensure that citizens control the technologies that shape their lives. particularly in the context of the 'War on Terror'. BoingBoing (2009) also provides a guide to getting around online censorship and surveillance which provides links to useful software. This is important not only for activists in authoritarian states. and state security known as traffic analysis' (The Tor Project 2009). evading government attempts to censor or gather information on citizens. The most notable of these is The Onion Router. particularly tools designed to evade government censorship and surveillance. 'a free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy. Tools such as these enable activists (and ordinary people) to retain control over communication technologies. guides. create. and communicate. and networks. They are raising awareness of some of the manifold areas in which it is necessary for people to control the means of production: but also the means of communication. struggles to (re)gain control over ICTs support the democratisation of the technologies that many of us use to work.and corporate control. confidential business activities and relationships. Finally. digital liberties activists also provide a number of tools that are aimed directly at activists. In the case of the DLM. and the information and cultural content that we build our lives on and 18 . but also for GJM activists who may be engaged illegal activities. Each of these movements recognise that it is not enough to have a democratic political system if other factors limit citizens' ability to exercise meaningful control over their lives. activists are working to retain people's control over seeds and agricultural systems in the face of increasing corporate control.

If one fails. they increase the ability of activists to organise. By setting up or maintaining systems preserving local seed varieties and developing a multiplicity of organic and low-input agricultural systems. At their most effective. Extending diversity in the face of emerging monocultures The daily work of many activists within the Indian anti-GM movement is centred around preserving diversity in the face of every-spreading monocultures. Even when this ideal is not achieved. to build alternatives to the dominance of neoliberalism and to preserve the local and particular in the face of globalising trends. in which alternatives can be explored. Those within the movement also use these systems as concrete examples on which they base their arguments against GM crops and industrialised agriculture more generally. a charitable trust that published reports advocating the use of GM crops in the Global South.around. we have many others we can use if we have only one and it fails. Activists combine practical action to preserve and develop a diverse range of agricultural systems and crop varieties with attempts to highlight the value of diversity. these movements are creating autonomous spaces in which corporate and government power is diminished. all fails' (in Ainger 2003. however. to communicate. Domestic crop diversity also provides farmers with food security by providing a range of nutrients in the form of varied food crops. activists ensure that a range of alternatives to Green Revolution agriculture exist. As one activist on the Intercontinental Caravan put it during a discussion with the director of Nuffield. 168). '[w]hat about our ecological and cultural biodiversity? When you limit seed varieties to one or two? Now we have 100 varieties. and strength gathered. or even absent. as well as presenting arguments against the monocultures associated with the Green Revolution and biotechnology. 19 .

I think we will become disenchanted with the glamour of globalization' (Shiva 2008). If you get a mono-culture that has just one genetic line then the first plague can wipe it out.These arguments are also broadened by activists to refer more generally to the struggle between diversity and monocultures. intellectual property regimes. For example. Vandana Shiva's work provides the clearest example of this. I would like to see more diversity in the open source community'. Eric Raymond. has said that he would like to see alternatives to Linux 'succeed more than they are currently because mono-cultures are vulnerable. proponents of F/LOSS sometimes draw an analogy between the software ecosystem and agricultural systems. and imperialism. At times. '[t]he main threat to living with diversity comes from the habit of thinking in terms of monocultures. 5). a key proponent of the open source position. as well as the GJM more broadly. going on to describe alternatives to Linux as important to 'the whole Open Source ecology' (1999). Discussions such as these resonate strongly with the language adopted by the Indian anti-GM movement. these arguments resonate with those used by the Indian movement. and eucalyptus plantations to analyses of North-South relations. Monocultures of the mind make diversity disappear from perception. Participants in the DLM also put forward arguments for diversity. Shiva's (1993) Monocultures of the Mind uses the opposition between monocultures and diversity as a framework for connecting discussions of Green Revolution agriculture. These arguments help to connect local struggles to the work of the GJM as a whole. Shiva argues that. from what I have called 'Monocultures of the Mind'. 20 . '[t]he kind of global monoculture in which everyone feels as if they have to run faster than they are running to stay in the same place cannot continue. arguing in an interview that. GM crops. Shiva has also linked monocultures of the mind to globalisation. and consequently from the world' (1993. privatisation.

the emergence of digital monocultures. The most glaring example of this has been the critique of Microsoft's domination of the software market. as of February 2009 230. the preservation of diversity is important to the GJM both as an intrinsic good and instrumentally. 1993). This is manifested clearly in the emerging F/LOSS ecosystem: for example. although Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales' attempts to develop an open source search engine alternative to Google have foundered (ABC News 2009). in recent years. and resisting.000 software projects were making use of SourceForge. for example. Shiva argues that 'disappearance of diversity is also a disappearance of alternatives – and gives rise to the TINA (there is no alternative) syndrome' (5. This work plays a vital role in raising awareness of. Digital liberties activists the availability of a diverse range of seeds that are suited to local conditions preserves a space apart from the increasingly integrated and homogenising world food system.Digital liberties activists are also working to create a healthy digital ecosystem. They also provide vital resources to activists. As argued above. been brought to bear on Google. In the case of the Indian movement. This mistrust of monopolistic power has. which has long been a target for F/LOSS advocates. raised concerns over the possibility that Google's Book Search settlement would give Google 'a monopoly over the largest digital library of books in the world' (Samuelson 2009. allowing those who participate in alternative food production an amount 21 . It is also shown in the digital activists' critiques of emerging digital monopolies. This syndrome can be resisted through the development and promotion of alternatives. von Lohmann 2009). Activists have also raised concerns about Google's ability to act as a gatekeeper for Internet searches. whether these are embodied in a multiplicity of agricultural systems or of operating systems. the leading F/LOSS development website (SourceForge 2009).

and alternatives to the current food system (such as those experimenting with freeganism). I hope that this short exploration of the presence and importance of struggles over knowledge has added to and complicated understandings of the GJM. All too often. 22 . alternatives to the capitalist economy (such as those experimenting with reputation or barter economies). to save spaces for the voices of bloggers and amateur coders. in turn. Nevertheless. The DLM. provides resources that may be taken up by activists. the inherent complexities and uncertainties involved in the study of social movements are elided in published work. I have also explored some of the difficulties involved in mapping social movements. including software that remains outside the control of corporate power. Further. I have not touched upon the alternative models of community embodied in the lived practices of each movement. including those exploring alternative ways of providing shelter (such as the cooperative housing and squatter movements). Conclusion The DLM and the Indian opposition to GM crops are only two of the many movements throughout the world engaged in building alternatives to neoliberalism in one way or another. In this paper. I have glided over other strands present within their activism. For example. of course.of autonomy. In attempting to preserve diversity online. I have attempted to avoid this tendency by highlighting the many different strands that run through the GJM and bringing attention to a hitherto under-researched strand of activism: struggles over knowledge. There are others. in highlighting the fact that both of the case studies discussed here are engaged in struggles over knowledge. the DLM is also preserving space for those whose voices are under-represented in the mainstream media and in the corridors of power.

including movement events or NGOs.emphasising the problems involved in understanding the relationship each case study has with the GJM as a whole. more comprehensive analysis of the DLM is likely to allow a better understanding of how the movement relates to the GJM and other strands of activism around the world. and fleeting individual interactions. It is possible to sweep much of this messiness under the carpet by focusing on tidier aspects of the movement. but also through a vast tangle of networks. as is the case with any attempt to neatly delineate movement boundaries in the face of shifting participation. Other difficulties are inherent to the study of social movements. Some of these difficulties may fade as a result of forthcoming research. but it is precisely this tangle that contains many of the most interesting experiments and alternatives that the GJM has to offer. Analysis that recognises the inherent messiness of social movements is more likely to engage productively with the challenges and opportunities raised by the GJM. the GJM is constituted not only of these tidier elements. For example. However. This may seem daunting at first. overlapping movements. 23 . informal communications.

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