Living in Hope: People Challenging Globalization

Posted December 30, 2011

Categories: Books, Non-Fiction

Praise for Living in Hope

“Living in Hope is an Inspiring collection of stories about people who are creating economic alternatives on the ground. Their work and their lives are a sign of hope for us all.”

SUSAN GEORGE, author of The Lugano Report

“There is no better way to understand globalization than to listen to the voices and pain of the globalized, and to scrutinize the discourse and wealth of the globalizers. This collection furthers our understanding and debunks notions of neutrality or resignation in the face of globalization.”


“When the advocates of globalization declare “there is no alternative”, they ignore a few billion people who are building alternatives in their own communities around the world. To learn their inspiring story, read this exciting book.”

JEREMY BRECHER, author of Strike and Globalization from Below

The numbing template of globalization has proved to be economically devastating for people worldwide. Individual economic systems are now replaced by global assembly lines. Economic growth, free trade, deregulation, privatization all mechanisms that benefit the powerful, but further hamper the poor.

How to reckon with this rough beast that continues to slouch forward? A piece of the daunting puzzle is addressed in a new book called Living in Hope: People Challenging Globalization, published by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The book proposes the creation of human-centered economics as an antidote to the sweeping, often destructive exchanges wrought by globalization. A compilation of nine essays profiles communities throughout the world, their struggles with the twin specters of globalization and technology, and solutions found in the sphere of alternative economics.

The book is particularly relevant in light of recent developments in South America, specifically in Venezuela and Brazil. While controversy swirls about the suitability of Hugo Chavez’s presidency in Venezuela, it is evident that the U.S. cannot tolerate the anti-capitalist stance of the current administration. Leftist President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who unlike Chavez enjoys the support of his constituency, may eventually prove to be an even greater challenge to the U.S. goal of a single Western Hemisphere trade area.

Yet alternatives to globalization are necessary if the billions of ordinary people are to survive. Living in Hope is a comprehensive handbook about these alternatives with a commentary on globalization and its historical roots. A compendium of acronyms listed alphabetically provides a user-friendly aspect to a complicated subject. The book is clearly set up to instruct; through its essays it addresses different levels of globalization, i.e., local, regional, transnational, and multilateral: The authors, all representatives of AFSC, provide scenarios that reflect the machinations of a particular community whether that is a small-scale farmer in Honduras, migrant labor in the Andes, the urban poor in Bosnia, Cambodian woodcutters, and Mexican textile workers.

The publication of Living in Hope evolved from an AFSC program called International Affairs whose mission is to counteract the impersonal yet debilitating effects of globalization on poor communities by putting the human at the center of a alternative economic system. AFSC is focused not on building things, but on building relationships, says Martin Garate, Associate General Secretary for International Programs in the book’s preface.

While all of the essays provide important insights, one in particular stands out in terms of historical content and current events. In her essay, titled “Constructing Economic Solidarity: COMAL in Honduras,” Mary McCann Sanchez uses the Portillo family, small-scale farmers who have watched the goods they produce fall in value, as a touchstone into the larger issues of war, free-trade policies, and globalization. Sanchez has a facile knowledge in these areas and shows how each is affected by the other: the effects of prolonged war in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by demilitarization, the acknowledgement of human rights, and suspension of economic rights as determined by a global economy.

As the author begins to analyze the problems in her Honduran community, she finds, “the common thread in the discussion was rural peoples marked exclusion from economic decisions and processes on a practical, business level as well as on the policy level.” This is a particularly interesting passage, especially in light of current leftist political and economic developments in other parts of South America, namely Venezuela and Brazil. These socialist leanings, an anathema to free trade and an aggressive global agenda, are also threatening to U.S. policies. What emerges from the ongoing discussions with the Honduran community is a project called COMAL where a network of social organizations from the productive sector would market fairly priced basic grains and staple items to margin- alized rural and urban communities. COMAL’s multi-disciplinary agenda includes as its goals: to establish an efficiently run network of local organizations, to become economic and political players, and to practice solidarity and justice. Furthermore, as a safeguard- against exclusion from decision making in the market place, COMAL requires that prospective members participate in training sessions in organization, marketing, gender in community economics, and administration.

While Sanchez provides a window into the world of small-scale producers in South America, Arnie Alpert explores the world of large-scale consumers in North America. In his essay called “Bringing Globalization Home is No Sweat”, Alpert links the subjects of sweatshop labor, lower prices, and abuse of workers’ rights to globalization and multinational corporations. He targets a major shopping center in Manchester, New Hampshire that is also home to J.C. Penney, Nike, and Disney, corporations that run sweatshops overseas for purposes of mass production. The Manchester mall, which became a rallying point for activists distributing leaflets about the exploitation of workers, proved to be a potent symbol for a couple of reasons. It not only raised awareness about the sweatshop problem overseas, but pointed to homegrown problems as well, namely the abandonment of American workers by employers in search of cheap, non-union labor.

Corporations like Nike often set up shop in countries that are under military rule instead of a democracy, Alpert says in his essay. For example, Nike was a major producer in Korea and Taiwan when these countries were under military dictatorships, but avoided the Philippines in the 1980s, when democracy predominated.

Other essays address such issues as the importance of cooperatives as a way of reconciliation in a divided society, i.e., the Community Gardening Project in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and a credit program in Vietnam to serve provinces excluded during the transition process to a market economy. In her essay Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due, Le Thi Hoai Phuong describes how this lending program for the poor puts humanity back into the concept of economics. This revolving credit program, which makes low interest loans to some of the poorest members of the community, enables them to dig a well, buy groceries, and send their children to school. Furthermore, the repayment rate in two of Vietnam’s poorest districts is over 98 percent, according to the author.

Living in Hope is an adaptable text, one that could be used for study groups or in the classroom. It is especially pertinent in the 21st century as the Janus face of globalization and technology continues its march into the heart of people’s lives across the world and that includes us.”

Z Magazine, February 2003, by Andrea Kleinhenz


Click Here to buy Living in Hope.

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