Global citizens movement

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In most discussions, the global citizens movement is a socio-political process rather than a political organization or party structure. The term is often used synonymously with the anti-globalization movement or the global justice movement.[1]

Global citizens movement has been used by activists to refer to a number of organized and overlapping citizens groups who seek to influence public policy often with the hope of establishing global solidarity on an issue. Such efforts include advocacy on ecological sustainability, corporate responsibility, social justice, and similar progressive issues.

In theoretical discussions of social movements, global citizens movement refers to a complex and unprecedented phenomena made possible by the unique subjective and objective conditions of the planetary phase of civilization.[2] The term is used to distinguish the latent potential for a profound shift in values among an aware and engaged citizenry from existing transnational citizens movements which tend to focus on specific issues (such as the anti-war movement or the labor movement).[3]


The concept of global citizenship first emerged among the Greek Cynics in the 4th Century BCE, who coined the term “cosmopolitan” – meaning citizen of the world. The Stoics later elaborated on the concept. The contemporary concept of cosmopolitanism, which proposes that all individuals belong to a single moral community, has gained a new salience as scholars examine the ethical requirements of the planetary phase of civilization.[4]

The idea that today’s objective and subjective conditions have increased the latency for an emergent global civic identity has been argued by the authors of the Global Scenario Group’s final report Great Transition: the Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead.[5] Similar arguments for the existence of a latent pool of tens of millions of people ready to identify around new values of earth consciousness have been put forth by such authors as Paul Raskin,[6] Paul H. Ray,[7] and David Korten.[8] Organizations, such as Oxfam International believe that a global citizens movement rooted in social and economic justice is emerging and is necessary for ending global poverty.[9]

Visions of a Global Citizens Movement[edit]

In the last chapter of his book Red Sky at Morning, Gus Speth describes the potential for a new type of social movement composed of "we the people, as citizens" rooted in the principles of the Earth Charter to lead the transition in consciousness and values necessary for the emergence of a new planetary civilization.[10]

Orion Kriegman, author of Dawn of the Cosmopolitan: The Hope of a Global Citizens Movement, states, “Transnational corporations, governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) remain powerful global actors, but all of these would be deeply influenced by a coherent, worldwide association of millions of people who call for priority to be placed on new values of quality of life, human solidarity, and environmental sustainability.”[11]

Kriegman distinguishes this “coherent, worldwide association of millions” from the existing fragmented social movements active in the World Social Forum. These movements tend to be issue-specific – focused on labor, environment, human rights, feminist issues, indigenous struggles, poverty, AIDS, and numerous other interrelated but “siloed” efforts. Coherence among these movements would require a reframing of their work under the rubric of the struggle for a socially just and ecologically sustainable global society and the establishment of an institutional structure to defend the rights of humanity, future generations, and the biosphere.

Critiques of a Global Citizens Movement[edit]

The major critique of the notion of a global citizens movement centers on the potential for the emergence of solidarity on issues at the global level. Nationalism, racism, and the dominance of the Westphalian state system are considered antithetical to the adoption of a global civic identity. However, some scholars point out that the historical emergence of nationalism must have felt just as improbable in a time of warring city-states,[12] and yet in retrospect it appears inevitable.[13]

A more radical critique stems from the arguments put forth by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in their book Multitude and enshrines Michel Foucault’s notion of a “plurality of resistance”[14] as the only legitimate path forward. This argument asserts that an organized movement among the vast multitude is both undesirable and impossible. Instead of leadership and organizational structures, Hardt and Negri put faith in the emergence of spontaneous coherence due to increasing self-organized networks among various autonomous resistance movements. They critique the notion that there could be legitimate leaders, democratically chosen through a formal network of grassroots structures, acting on behalf of a big-tent pluralistic association of global citizens to directly confront the entrenched power of transnational corporations and state governments. However, it remains unclear how a network of autonomous movements would differ in practice from the vision of an authentic global citizens movement.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Susan George, "Global Citizens Movement: A New Actor for a New Politics," Conference on Reshaping Globalisation: Multilateral Dialogues and New Policy Initiatives, Central European University, Budapest, October 18, 2001,
  2. ^ Orion Kriegman, Dawn of the Cosmopolitan: The Hope of a Global Citizens Movement (Boston: Tellus Institute, 2006),
  3. ^ J. Guidry, M. Kennedy, and M. Zald, eds., Globalizations and Social Movements: Culture, Power, and the Transnational Public Sphere (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003; Daniel Jakopovich, "The Construction of a Trans-European Labour Movement," Capital & Class 35, no. 1 (February 2011): 63-79,
  4. ^ Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006).
  5. ^ Paul Raskin, Tariq Banuri, Gilberto Gallopín, Pablo Gutman, Al Hammond, Robert Kates, and Rob Swart, Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead (Boston: Stockholm Environment Institute, 2002),
  6. ^ Paul Raskin, World Lines: Pathways, Pivots, and the Global Futures (Boston: Tellus Institute, 2006),
  7. ^ Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000).
  8. ^ David Korten, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007)
  9. ^ Oxfam International, Towards Global Equity: Oxfam International's Strategic Plan, 2001 – 2006 (Oxford, UK: Oxfam International, 2001).
  10. ^ James Gustave Speth, Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment. A Citizen's Agenda for Action (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).
  11. ^ Kriegman, Dawn of the Cosmpolitan.
  12. ^ Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991).
  13. ^ Chella Rajan, Global Politics and Institutions (Boston: Tellus Institute, 2006),
  14. ^ Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality (New York: Vintage Books, 1980).


Florini, A. The Third Force: The Rise of Transnational Civil Society. New York: Carnegie Endowment, 20000. ISBN 0-87003-180-5

Gelder, Melinda. Meeting the Enemy, Becoming a Friend. Boulder: Bauu Press, 2006. ISBN 0-9721349-5-6

Mayo, Marjorie. Global Citizens: Social Movements and the Challenge of Globalization. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. ISBN 978-1-84277-138-9

Smith, Jackie. Social Movements for Global Democracy. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8018-8744-4

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