Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons






Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons analyzes the gendered character of both corporate and popular agendas and practices. The volume chronicles the gendered and feminist precursors of the new millennium movement for popular global policies and practices in opposition to the narrow profit-maximization agenda of the corporate regime. In this regard, Angela Miles argues that ³international organizing and solidarity-building have been the realm of internationalizing feminist movements for decades² and further that ³the capacities that the women¹s movement has established should be explicitly recognized as feminist capacities which are serving as a basis for and are being elaborated in the struggle against corporate globalization.²      


Another prominent theme is globalization from below understood as the development of international alliances and linkages aimed at articulating alternatives to corporate globalization. Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons elaborates a conceptual framework which identifies globalization from below as the process by which the capacities of local civil commons ­ ³any social construct which enables universal access of members of a community to a life good² ­ are strengthened and linked to their counterparts in other parts of the world.#1   


The globalization from below movement experienced both repression and expansion in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Repression of the globalizers from below proceeded through an unprecedented legal and media campaign to conflate the movement against global corporate rule with an undefined international terrorism. The US government sought to curb debate with the president¹s all-or-nothing-fallacy that ³you are with me or with the terrorists.²   


With breathtaking doublethink US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick revealed the strategic criminalization of opposition to the global corporate regime :     


On 11 September, America, its open society and its ideas came under attack by a malevolence that craves our panic, retreat and abdication of global leadershipŠ This President and this administration will fight for open markets. We will not be intimidated by those who have taken to the streets to blame trade ­ and America ­ for the world¹s ills. (cited in Ainger 2001, p. 22)2  


Under cover of the false equation of dissent and terrorism, corporate chiefs moved rapidly to slash up to a million jobs, secure new military contracts and obtain corporate welfare bailouts in the circumstances of world recession. Their state representatives then fast-tracked more extreme global corporate rule provisions, notably at the November 2001 World Trade Organization meeting in Doha.3


However, in a strategically unexpected dialectic, the mobilization from below both deepened and widened following the September 11th watershed. To the millions resisting corporate globalization were added millions more opposed to the US war without end. The very conflation of protestors with terrorist spurred anti-war and anti-corporate globalizers to ever more sharply distinguish between the democratic and the crypto-fascist; between popular fighters for the civil commons and the new Satan which the US regime had constructed.


The studies in Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons address the hidden grounds of the emergent global crisis. Gendered class relations at the heart of the new Œdeath economy¹ are contrasted with those central to a global, democratic life economy. By foregrounding gender and elaborating an alternative conception of the civil commons¹, this volume opens understanding to the connected dimensions of the democratic movement for globalization from below. By offering a radical, gendered reframing of history into the present, the analyses construct across the horizons of containment and possibility, the theoretical links between popular fighters for the civil commons, their historical conjuncture and social scientific investigations.      


The practical relations of the civil commons are being rediscovered and advanced across national boundaries in a worldwide movement becoming conscious of its revolutionary meaning. Hardt and Negri (2000) argue that the incipient self-awareness of this world movement is evident in its articulation of three demands: global citizenship, a social wage for all, and the right to reappropriation by reparations. The feminist force within and shaping this Œworld transformed¹ is disclosed in the following pages as the inner mover of the world out of male corporate barbarism and into global life security and freedom.     




Foot notes


1.In late September 2001 the third conference of Peoples¹ Global Action (pga) brought together in Cochabamba, Bolivia, ³the embodiment of globalization from below² including ³Asian peasant unions a million strong; European and Canadian anarchists; indigenous peoples ­ Mapuche, Maori, Aymara and many others; landless movements from everywhere; South African activists against privatization; Thai sweatshop unionists; Chilean human-rights workers [and] other assorted grassroots radicals of many shapes, colours, sizes and beliefs. They were pioneers of global grassroots resistance to the World Trade Organization¹s free-trade agenda, and have been involved in the growing anti-globalization protests from Bangalore to Seattle to Genoa.² This ³embodiment of globalization from below [Š] challenges both the market fundamentalists and their pact with transnational finance, and the religious fundamentalists who, threatened by the power that pact has given to Western elites, respond with fascism and terror.² (Ainger 2001, p. 21)






Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons: Women and the Anti-corporate, Anti-war Movement for Globalization from Below   


Terisa E. Turner & Leigh S. Brownhill       



The thirteen contributions to Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons build on three bodies of previous scholarship. First is the vast body of work by Korten (1995, 1996) and Chossoduvsky (1998, 2000), which demonstrates that corporate globalization is inimical to the ecological and human project. These authors stop short of treating what c.l.r. James (1977) has called the future in the present or the groundings for response by a variety of social forces. They do not engender their analyses. Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons examines the deep history of the civil commons and the gendered class character of its reassertion.   


Second, Mies, Bennholt-Thomsen and von Werlhof (1986, 1988, 1999, 2001) have written extensively about the gendered class dimensions of capitalist growth. They along with many others including Shiva (1989, 1993, 2001) and Benjamin and Turner (1992) have established the centrality of nature along with women¹s labour and fertility to corporate expansion. Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons advances the discussion by focusing on resistance to corporate expansion by women, peasants, indigenous peoples and other unwaged social actors who produce much of their own means of subsistence; who find that the context and inputs for such self-sufficiency are being eroded by corporate rule; and, who are at the forefront of organizing both resistance and alternatives.  


Third, Waring (1999) has introduced a broad audience to the importance in economics of unpriced and unwaged productive activity. In so doing, she has drawn out the gendered qualities of pre-capitalist and local subsistence social and economic processes which Polyani (1944) has called the moral economy, and the embedded economy; and Chambers (1974) has called the economy of affection. Their conclusions, however, consign these expressions of human history to the dustbin, citing the overwhelming dominance of the global market and the information revolution. In contrast, Waring posits the theoretical critique in a brilliant paradigm shift but only begins to document the practice of reasserting a civil commons understood as the organized provision of the essentials of life to all. Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons documents the emergence and practices of key social actors who aim to legitimize, protect and expand this life-centred political economy. In so doing the collection builds upon Hardt and Negri¹s Empire (2000), Dyer-Witheford¹s Cyber-Marx (1999), the Dalla Costas¹ Paying the Price (1995) and Duffy and Benjamin¹s ground-breaking collection, The World Transformed (1994).   


We now consider some origins and definitions of the terms civil commons, gender, feminism, gendered class analysis and globalization from below.


The civil commons refers to any institutionalized human agency aimed at ensuring for all members of society the essentials of life and its development, or what McMurtry (1998) calls life goods. The civil commons has innumerable expressions, from vernacular language itself to public health care, regulated clean air and water, universal education, public art and architecture, open environmental spaces, nutritious food, adequate shelter and effective interaction. It is within the civil commons that women create and socialize human beings, the most critical product of human labour from the perspective of both capital and citizenry.


Angela Miles builds on the meaning of the civil commons by tracing its gendered history in Women¹s Work, Nature and Colonial Exploitation: Feminist Struggle for Alternatives to Corporate Globalization. She argues that the civil commons, as a concept and as a reality, has its origins in the unwaged work of women and in the theories and longstanding practices of the international feminist movement. The term embraces the concepts of use value and the subsistence perspective, both of which refer to humans¹ ability to satisfy their needs, see to their growth and ensure their well-being. In Defending, Reclaiming and Reinventing the Commons, Mies and Bennholdt-Thomsen outline the subsistence perspective, which encompasses other facets of the commons such as the negative commons and the reinvented commons.1# The civil commons opposes the now familiar concept of the global commons which denotes the knowledge, spaces, capacities and natural resources that are defined by corporate globalizers as available for private commodification and exploitation.    


Gender is understood throughout the volume as varied social constructions of people as women and men within widely differing structures of power. Depending on the social relations which shape them, gender constructions can be systematically invasive and dehumanizing or they can enable the flourishing life of women, men and their communities. Feminism in turn is understood here as the political recognition that women are exploited under monetized capitalism and a commitment to resist and overcome this exploitation. Under capitalism, the work of unwaged women is channeled into profit-making through men, who frequently are husbands or political designates such as chiefs. Exploited men, thus, often take part in the exploitation of women through what this volume calls a male deal with money capital. Men who break with this male deal and join women in gendered class alliances, undermine this exploitation and build alternatives of and through the civil commons. In African Jubilee: Mau Mau Women and the Fight For Fertility in Kenya 1986-2002, Turner and Brownhill elaborate on these concepts within a theory of gendered class struggle.        


Gendered class analysis gives particular attention to the ways in which class relations are gendered and ethnicized. Central here is the insight that capital¹s profits rely both on unpaid (surplus) work of employees and unpaid work of people, mainly women, who produce and service the employees. Men are structured into the hierarchy of labour power to be directly exploited but also, through the male deal, to discipline and organize the exploitation of subordinated women. In this way, exploited men are encouraged to accept their own subordination to their employers in exchange for the power they are allowed and required to exercise over women and in a practical way channel the products of women¹s labour upward to capital, thus enhancing profits.       


In gendered, ethnicized class analysis, a very wide range of resistance to exploitation becomes characterized as class struggle. Refusal by unwaged workers, whether women in the household or peasant producers, to work within these relationships is class struggle that undermines capital¹s profits. Struggles circulate or reinforce each other from locations as diverse as the sites of waged production, consumption, reproduction and nature (Dyer-Witheford 1999). Transformative action by the unwaged, such as defense of the environment by indigenous peoples, can be understood as action to build the civil commons. Gendered class analysis is an extension of Marx¹s historical materialism theory that gives weight to the gendered and ethnic character of class relations, and includes both the waged and unwaged among the exploited. Hence it avoids a segregated analysis of gender and race and is able to explain social action by the approximately 80 per cent of the world¹s unwaged population. An example of the application of gendered class analysis is the study of contemporary social movements as expressions of class struggle rather than as mobilizations outside of class. Many such social movements are led by women, and, in particular, by women from indigenous, majority-world communities. These movements frequently deny supplies of cheap labour power, social space and nature to capital.      


Because the current drive by capital to recover and increase profits depends in particular on globalized and more intense access to labour and nature (natural resources such as petroleum, forests and water), popular social movements have proliferated. The explanation for this proliferation is that unwaged people depend for their very survival on nature, their own creativity and the social infrastructure they have made and, in the face of corporate parasitism, struggle to maintain. Yet nature and social infrastructure are considered by capital as free inputs which, under the contemporary regime of corporate rule, are in danger of depletion because they are not replenished or maintained by capital or states (Benjamin and Turner 1992). Indebted governments have been pressured in the name of free trade to enter the corporate-rule regime. Globalizing capital thus depends on commodifying the very basis of the livelihoods of unwaged peoples. The expansion of women¹s, peasants¹ and indigenous peoples¹ social movements is one of the results. This particular application of gendered class analysis is especially useful in helping us understand the prominence of women and other unwaged peoples in the rise of democratic social movements and in their international networking for coordinated action.        


Globalization from below is a term which, from the mid-1990s, was used to describe the increasingly global orientation of social movements (Korten 1995, 1996; The Ecologist 1992). A key background element to this development is the creation of a global corporate market through the shift from a bipolar to a unipolar world. Corporations have expanded and, in the process, have enmeshed all peoples more rigorously in the world market. This dual globalization of capital and of labour underlines the internationalization of social forces from above and from below. The late 1980s were dominated by a worldwide social, political and economic watershed that eclipsed the centrally planned economies of the Soviet sphere and galvanized democracy movements everywhere. The global corporate market was further consolidated through unprecedented buy-outs and mergers among major transnational corporations. One consequence of corporate concentration is greater unity of peoples and markets along with closer ties among those directly and indirectly employed by giant firms. Corporate merging itself fosters globalization from below.#2 Megafirms also promote divisiveness and reaction as the homogenization of values and commodities undermines local identities, reciprocities and democratic practices (Mies and Shiva 1993). The drive to unity prompted by corporate concentration is countered by corporate attempts to prohibit united action. For example, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (mai) specifically ruled out secondary boycotts against not only one company but also parties with whom it deals. But in Canada, an April 1998 court finding ruled that secondary boycotts are legal (Turner 2002, McMurtry 1998). Worldwide restrictions on united action and freedom of association reached a new zenith in the denial of democracy by 2001 anti-terrorism legislation (Daniels et al. 2001).


Another stimulus to globalization from below was the emergence in the late 1980s and early 1990s of international networks embracing Third World women, indigenous peoples, and policy-focused activists such as those in the anti-apartheid movement. Peggy Antrobus points out in this volume that majority world women generated the first gendered critique of structural adjustment programs in the lead-up to the 1985 Nairobi un women¹s conference. Indigenous peoples expanded regional and international coordination in the late 1980s around environmental and human rights issues. The human genome project and the rise of gene patenting promoted the self-organization of specific groups of indigenous peoples, some of whom were mobilized by the 500-year anniversary of Columbus¹ conquest of the Americas in 1992 (Tokar 2001). Especially in the 1980s, the anti-apartheid movement pioneered global campaigns to boycott transnational corporations profiting directly or indirectly from business with the South African apartheid regime. Coincident with this emergence of new social forces was the rise of a new labour internationalism on the part of waged workers in and out of unions. These new social movement actors convened international meetings and coordinated practical actions on a global scale to promote change in governmental and corporate policies. In 1993 Vandana Shiva characterized the Indian popular rejection of trade-related intellectual property rights (trips) as a simultaneously positive call for collective and community property rights. The Uruguay Round of gatt (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) accelerated the articulation of international trade regulations: the critiques of these regulations by those adversely affected by them mirrored the international scope of the new trade regime. 


As corporate rule consolidated itself, the popular responses to underdevelopment, inequity, political repression and dispossession increasingly focused on the analysis of and opposition to the global corporate agenda. The Mexican Zapatista (ezln) uprising of 1994 emerged from a Chiapas women¹s mobilization to defend subsistence culture against the North American Free Trade Agreement (nafta). It led to the organization of two global Encuentros (meetings or encounters) in which people from all societies were invited to propose alternatives to corporate globalization and the neo-liberal agenda. The Encuentros were accompanied by experiments with international referendums through which citizens were invited to vote on economic alternatives using the Internet. The partially successful 1997 international resistance to secretive efforts to formulate and impose the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (mai) was another milestone in the processes of globalization from below (Turner 2002, p. 194-198; Mies and von Werlhof 1999). Between November 1999 and January 2002, many international meetings to expand and administer corporate globalization have attracted hundreds of thousands of protestors. The protesters argued against anti-democratic trade and investment agreements while offering counter-conceptions of popular democracy.  


Local movements have taken on an international scope in a series of massive demonstrations beginning in Seattle against the World Trade Organization (wto) in December 1999. The Battle of Seattle spawned a chain reaction of demonstrations against the March 2000 Boston meeting on genetically modified organisms, the April 2000 Washington dc meeting of the World Bank and imf, the June 2000 Windsor, Canada meeting of the Organization of American States, the September 2000 Melbourne, Australia meeting of the International Economic Forum, the September 2000 Prague meeting of the World Bank and imf, The April 2001 Quebec City meeting of 34 heads of state for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (ftaa), the June 2001 Gothenburg European Union Summit, the July 2001 Genoa g8 meeting, the planned but cancelled September 2001 Washington dc meeting of the World Bank and imf, the November 2001 meetings in Ottawa of the g20 and in Doha, Qatar of the wto, and the New York City meeting of the World Economic Forum in January 2002. The long-standing popular responses to policies of structural adjustment and corporate rule in developing countries have now been joined by diverse voices from the developed world (Shiva 1999, p. 204-206).


The Internet has been a crucial asset in the constitution and expansion of the globalization from below movement. In the 24-month period after the December 1999 Battle of Seattle, an unprecedented international educational process framed in terms of corporate versus popular globalization has unfolded. Scholarly, policy and mass-media journals feature this debate as do university courses, research programs, academic and Internet conferences and policy negotiations. The expansion of debates on globalization from above and below is being further stimulated through campaigns to declare illegal the frameworks for trade embodied in the wto and regional trade agreements (Clarke 2000, Chossoduvsky 2000, Fogal 2000). Such challenges to the very legality of the framework for corporate globalization further legitimize the actions by those involved in globalization from below to establish an international life economy that prioritizes the subsistence needs of the earth and its inhabitants (McMurtry and Turner 2000, p. 6).


Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons      


The thirteen studies in Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons are organized into three sections: Theories and Histories; Corporate Enclosures; and Resistances and Transformations.        


i. theories and histories


John McMurtry¹s The Lifeground, the Civil Commons and the Corporate Male Gang argues that corporate globalization¹s principal victims and resisters are the women of the majority and minority worlds. It provides the conceptual bearings required to understand the expropriation and destruction of ecological and civil infrastructures by the transnational corporate system. The framework of analysis identifies the overlooked life-ground and civil commons, society¹s evolving social immune system and the life-value calculus by which to assess authentic social development and regression. This study distinguishes the civil commons and the life-ground from the radically different notions of the global commons (as propounded by the World Bank and other international bodies), the life-world (as understood by Habermas and his following), civil society (as understood from Hegel to current political rhetoric), and the global free market (the master slogan of the transnational corporate system).      


Angela Miles¹ Women¹s Work, Nature and Colonial Exploitation: Feminist Struggle for Alternatives to Corporate Globalization analyzes the ongoing global struggle against corporate enclosure and for a transformational society centred on feminist principles and practices. It argues that the civil commons, as a concept and as a reality, has its origins in the unwaged work of women and in the theories and longstanding practices of the international feminist movement(s). The emergence of a global feminist consensus indicates the universal, negative impact on women and on the earth of neoliberal policies. This consensus embraces the needs and demands of a cross section of humanity in the struggle against corporate globalization and for a feminist practice of reclaiming the global commons.


Joti Sekhon distinguishes feminist participatory democracy from limited liberal-democratic practice in Democratic Theories and Women¹s Practices. Conventional debates on democratic processes have focused primarily on political activities in the public sphere, where the participation of women is limited; and they have failed to adequately address patriarchal institutional structures that exclude the diverse range of women¹s activities that have political implications.      


Feminist rethinking of the concept of democracy is related to participatory democracy that broadens the concept to include active participation in decision-making in the community, in the workplace, in interpersonal relationships and in formal political institutions. This broader vision of democracy allows recognition of the efforts by the poor, the working classes, peasants, women, indigenous peoples, and other disadvantaged and dispossessed groups to participate in making decisions that affect them, and to challenge institutional structures and processes that constrain them.  


ii.  corporate enclosures        


Torry Dickinson¹s Labour¹s Window on the Global Commons: Non-Wage Work and Feminist Movements in a Changing World demonstrates that global economic development is not a process of global convergence that brings higher wage export manufacturing jobs to women who used to toil in the fields. This global economic process is not about gradually equalizing wages or offering expanded opportunities to a new generation of girls in the semi-periphery and periphery. It is about establishing new forms of inequality and restratifying world labor. The conclusion suggests that women- and community-centered economic relationships may be the only option for survival and development.       


In Genre et enjeux de securité humaine: bâtir un programme de recherche-action, Rosalind Boyd and Suzanne Boutin outline an ongoing research-action program to address the needs of civilians, especially women and children, who are adversely affected by violent political conflicts. This university-community cooperative program in Montreal is concerned with how to help war victims resume their lives and feel safe and secure within the borders of the post-conflict state, within the region or in their new countries of residence.        


Ana Isla¹s Enclosure and Micro-Enterprise as Sustainable Development: The Case of the Canada/Costa Rica Debt-For-Nature Investment demonstrates that debt-for-nature investment conforms to the neoclassical model of economic development, which itself underlies the current environmental, social and cultural crisis. The Costa Rican ngos funded under the debt-for-nature swap operationalize the ostensible commitment of the World Bank, the imf, and the ngo, the World Wildlife Fund Canada, to pursue ³sustainable development² and ³gender equity² by means of the capitalist market. A small fraction of Costa Rica¹s debt is relieved at the cost of criminalizing citizens excluded from the commons, newly legislated as parks, and by incorporating rural women into global market circuits that impoverish and disempower them. In documenting these practices and their consequences for local populations, Isla¹s research challenges the claim that debt-for-nature investment reduces poverty and ecological destruction and, instead, uncovers the inadequacy of market-based ³solutions,² which in practice worsen the problems they claim to solve.  


Peggy Antrobus¹ Women¹s Defense of Local Politics in the Face of Structural Adjustment and Globalization shows how socio-economic and political developments in the small island states of the English-speaking Caribbean (caricom) have always been shaped by global events and trends as these have been adopted, modified or resisted in relation to the specific conditions prevailing in these islands. This interaction between the local and the global, and the implications for securing the goals of sustainable livelihoods, are illustrated with reference to Peggy Antrobus¹ own experience in national planning in the late 1950s, in local and community development in the 1960s and in Women in Development (wid) programs from 1974 to date. One response to structural adjustment was wid programming, the success of which was limited by the overwhelming influence of macro-economic shifts towards neo-liberal policies. The emergence of a Caribbean women¹s movement in the context of the un Decade for Women marked the beginning of a new kind of politics in this region. This politics was much more aware of global events and trends. It forged a distinct identity for Caribbean women who demonstrated their capacities to strategize across regional and national borders. This identity as Caribbean women within a larger international women¹s movement enriched and empowered women in the region to promote their own agendas, pursue their own priorities and launch their own campaigns while drawing on the support and solidarity of women from other countries.      


Nick Dyer-Witheford¹s Nintendo Capitalism: Enclosures and Insurgencies, Virtual and Terrestrial develops the premise that the idea of the commons is today emerging as a crucial concept for activists and thinkers involved in myriad mobilizations around the planet. This follows from a shared experience of enclosure (the dispossession, expropriation and fencing-in, across a wide variety of economic, social and psychological registers) by the forces of a globally triumphant world market. A case study connects two aspects of this process. The first is the binding of minds and imaginations in the information spaces dominated by media corporations, using the example of Nintendo, a leading company in the video game business. The second facet of the contemporary enclosures is the incarceration of laboring bodies of dispossessed peasants and subsistence providers in the factory-spaces of these new planetary industrial zones. The specific case involves an assembly plant operated by a Nintendo subcontractor, Maxi-Switch, in the Mexican maquiladoras, where the destruction of a pre-capitalist peasant agriculture has created a labor force available for re-enclosure and multinational exploitation in the ³postmodern Satanic Mills² of globalized capital.       


iii. resistance and transformation  


Maria Mies¹ and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen¹s Defending, Reclaiming and Reinventing the Commons opens with the following questions: Who destroys the commons? Why have the commons to be reinvented? Can there be something like global commons? What can new commons be in rich industrialized countries? The authors argue that there can be no reinvention of the commons in the industrialized North without a defense of the commons in the largely subsistence-based South. They identify two opposed concepts of reinventing the commons: first, that which means to defend, to reclaim and to reinvent the commons from below, through grassroots action of local people for local people; and, second, the concept constructed and invented from above, namely the concept of global commons, which is being introduced by international agencies and global players, mostly for the benefit of tncs. The authors conclude that commons cannot exist without a community, but equally the community cannot exist without economy, in the sense of oikonomia, that is, the reproduction of human beings within the social and the natural household. Hence, reinventing the commons is linked to the reinvention of the communal or commons-linked economy.      


Silvia Federici¹s Women, Globalization and the International Women¹s Movement argues that globalization is an attempt to intensify the exploitation of labor through a worldwide process of expropriation of workers from their land, and acquired entitlements; disinvestment in the process of reproduction, and investment in warfare. As such, it is primarily an attack on women and reproduction. The study assesses the main forms of this attack, the struggles that women are making in response, and the prospects for the construction of an international feminist movement.        


African Jubilee: Mau Mau Resurgence and the Fight For Fertility in Kenya 1986-2002 by Terisa E. Turner and Leigh S. Brownhill, examines a key moment in the fight for fertility in post-colonial Kenya: the large-scale reappropriation of land by landless people across Kenya in the new millennium. This rebirth of the 1950s Mau Mau armed struggle for land and freedom is pursued through the 4.5 million-strong Congress (Mungiki in Gikuyu) and the Organization of Villagers (Muungano wa Wanavijiji). It is a struggle between subsistence and commodification, which is conceptualized as a fight for control over fertility. Fertility is understood as the capacity to produce people, food, cultural expressions, social networks, and natural and built space. The fight for control over fertility is a three-way struggle among (1) women producers and their male allies who seek to defend and revive subsistence, (2) Kenyan male dealers who seek to control women¹s labour and other production resources within commodified capitalist relations and (3) international capitalists and their governmental brokers. The study examines ten cases of land occupation and assesses the gains and losses for each of the three sets of actors in the fight for fertility. It concludes that women subsistence producers and their allies in gendered class alliances have gained much ground and that the Kenyan land occupations are part of the movement for globalization from below to rebuild the civil commons alternative to corporate rule.    


Marc Epprecht¹s ³What an abomination, a rottenness of culture²: Reflections Upon the Gay Rights Movement in southern Africa, focuses on the mid-1990s watershed for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people in sub-Saharan Africa. On the one hand, South Africa¹s 1996 constitution included the right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex, gender and sexual orientation. On the other hand, the presidents of Zimbabwe, Namibia and other African nations vehemently denounced homosexuality and equated gay rights with Western imperialism. The study examines the vibrant social movement that has sparked such antithetical developments. It focuses on the historical factors behind Africa¹s belated awareness of gay rights as a human rights issue, the nature of the reaction against it, and the achievements and strategies of the gay rights movement in (mainly) southern Africa today. It concludes that out gay activists are playing a disproportionately important role both in the transition to democracy and in the fight against hiv/aids. 


Gender, Feminism and the Civil Commons concludes with Habiba Zaman¹s Globalization from Below: Feminization of Migration, Resistance and Empowerment ­ A Case Study, which explores how the Philippine Women Centre in Vancouver has resisted the forces of neo-colonialism, imperialism and corporate globalization. The Centre¹s activities have ranged from programs to empower the Filipino women in Vancouver, and promoting the rights of domestic workers in Canada, to building strategies of resistance against Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (apec) and against the trafficking in Filipino women. The study examines the socio-economic-political forces that led to the establishment of the Centre; assesses its strategies for the advancement of Filipino women workers¹ rights around the world; and highlights its promotion of alliances across national boundaries to fight global corporate rule.     






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Bennholdt-Thomsen, V., N. Faraclas and C. Von Werlhof, eds., There Is An Alternative: Subsistence and Worldwide Resistance to Corporate Globalization, London, Zed, 2001.      


Bennholdt-Thomsen, V. and M. Mies, The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalised Economy, London, Zed, 1999.      


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Marx, K., C     






The Life-Ground, the Civil Commons and the Corporate Male Gang


John McMurtry 




Scientific and everyday language have long lacked generic concepts to identify the market¹s underlying systems of natural and social reproduction. In consequence, expropriation and destruction of these ecological and civil infrastructures by monetised capital expansion has evaded understanding. This investigation provides the conceptual bearings required to understand what has occurred and its modes of resolution by explanation of the long overlooked ³life-ground² and ³civil commons², their evolving ³social immune system², and a ³life-value calculus² whereby to assess authentic social development and retardation. At the same time, the analysis explains the causal structure behind a world-wide degradation and confiscation of life infrastructures whose principal victims and resisters are unwaged women. Finally, the argument distinguishes the civil commons and the life-ground from notions of ³the global commons², ³the life-world² of Habermas, and the now dominant concept of ³civil society.² Throughout, the analysis draws on real-life examples to demonstrate deep infrastructures of human life advance and regression which have eluded the received paradigms of social and political analysis.     




Depuis bien longtemps, il manque dans le langage scientifique quotidien de notions générales pour identifier les systèmes de la reproduction naturelle et sociale qui sont à la base du marché. Par conséquent, l¹expropriation et la destruction des ces infrastructures écologiques et civiles par l¹expansion du capital monétaire échappent à la compréhension. Pour expliquer ce phénomène et ces modes de résolution actuels, cette étude fournit une base conceptuelle des notions ignorées depuis longtemps, telles que la « base vitale », la « commune civile », le « système immunitaire social » qui en émerge, et le « calcul des valeurs vitales », notions par lesquelles on évalue le vrai développement social ou le retard. Par ailleurs, l¹analyse démontre la structure causale entre la dégradation mondiale et la confiscation des infrastructures vitales dont les principales victimes et opposantes sont les femmes au travail non rémunéré. Enfin, l¹analyse différencie la notion de la commune civile et de la base vitale de celles des « biens publics globaux », du « monde de la vie » de Habermas, et de la « société civile » qui dominent dans le discours présent. L¹analyse se sert des exemples actuels pour illustrer les infrastructures profondes des progrès et des reculs de la vie humaine qui ont échappé aux paradigmes de l¹analyse sociale et politique actuelle.     





The civil commons can be defined as any co-operative human construct that enables the access of all members of a community to life goods. Like everyday language, which is its base, the civil commons is normally presupposed as a given order of the world. It is also conflated in this way with what is not the civil commons ­ ancestral tradition, custom and law which are all assumed as the fabric of everyday life, ³our way of life.² There is no greater inertial block to social development than this conflation. It blinkers out the distinctive nature of the civil commons ground.    


A social practice, institution or obligation only qualifies for the civil commons insofar as its implementation in fact gives its social members universal access to life goods. Thus the instituted belief that one¹s own society¹s hierarchy of privilege is specially favoured by divine design is not a civil commons formation, nor is any customary practice like rite-of-passage mutilation or ³natural rate of unemployment² that may be assumed as ultimately necessary and good, but is, in fact, systematically life-disabling.   


On the other hand, a society¹s instituted provisions of means of life for those in need, for example the old and the ill, are quintessentially civil commons constructs. So are environmentally sustaining regulations that recognize and protect, by force of law, the life-values of natural commons. A foundational distinction arises here. The regulatory inhibitions protecting natural commons as sources of life goods make the natural commons a civil commons ­ a distinction that has been fatefully overlooked in historical and social scientific literature.1       


Because the civil commons of a society is usually assumed as an everyday substratum of life by its members, there is little recognition of it. In fact, a powerful vested interest combats this recognition as an unspoken threat to dominant privileges ­ especially if some own a great deal of private property while many go homeless or starve.2 Consequently, in any society of oppressive inequalities, the civil commons is blocked from view by official representations, or denounced as ³unaffordable² or ³socialist.²  


The fatal flaw of the dominant global market mind-set today is that it cannot, in principle, see the common life-interest which is the regulating base of the civil commons. This is because it cannot think past profit and priced commodities as a way of providing people with goods. In consequence, the market value-set cannot recognize the defence and the production of otherwise scarce means of life as the meaning of an economy. Accordingly, the civil commons infrastructures of non-capitalist economic formations have been the objects of genocidal invasion and war for five hundred years ­ from the continuous enclosures of the natural commons for centuries in Britain and its imperial colonies, through the age of the inter-continental slave trade, to the stripping of social sectors and public regulatory systems in the world with the post-1980 era of transnational privatization and corporate globalization.3   


i.  underneath global market absolutism


When Margaret Thatcher said, ³Society does not exist, only individuals and their families do,² she expressed the market metaphysic of atomic and self-seeking market agents by which the globalization ideology is programmed ­ a value-set in which the civil commons snuffed out a priori. At its most life-blind, this mind-set repudiates any civilly protected life-good that does not yield profit as a socialist provocation ­ ³regulatory invasion,² ³tax expropriation,² ³obstruction of the market,² and so on. The demands of the corporate market absolutism become warlike the more independent a society is in providing non-priced goods and life-spaces free of for-profit occupation. This deep-structural conflict of interest is an unseen war on society across such phenomena as the death squads in the Third World and the destruction of the welfare state.4  


Although civil commons institutions like national banks that loan to governments at low interest in place of private bondholders, public broadcasting without advertisers¹ financial control, public management of natural resource extraction, and public health insurance and tuition-free education all work very well for the common life interest, they also block out profitable control of these lucrative resources and markets for the corporate sector. In the majority world, community land title, political mobilization of the poor, union organization and, above all, public ownership of natural resources have been deemed ³communist,² and their leaders targeted for assassination.      


a. the unseen base


Yet no market can survive or flourish for long without the underlying life infrastructure of the civil commons sustaining its social life-host ­ as the lesson of the gigantically failed capitalist experiment in the ex-Soviet Union shows. The civil commons remains, nonetheless, unrecognized and untheorized as the unifying infrastructure of every successful social order through history. It does not even have a name.    


Undefined vague categories of the welfare state on the one hand, or social capital on the other, symptomize the problem. Their ubiquitous usage comes with no criterion to distinguish the life-serving civil commons from corporate subsidy schemes or bureaucratic empire-building masked in phrases of the public interest. In particular, no principle of distinction has been available to pick out public expenditures which enable citizens with vital means of life (the civil commons) from state outlays which merely bleed or oppress the citizenry with no gain in their actual life capabilities (eg., rug-ranking hierarchies, non-defensive military systems, or public porkbarrels for dominant political parties).5 Even market-critical social theory lacks a category by which to identify this underpinning life infrastructure of societies, and, more deeply, a general principle by which to distinguish expenditures on it from structures of state repression and bureaucratic waste.6       


The problem of civil commons blindness is therefore tridimensional: the unconscious presupposition of its means of life as an everyday given, selection against its community-owned resources by dominant private property and profit interests, and a general theoretical underdevelopment in matters of unpriced life-means sustaining daily existence. Even Marx¹s wage-centred paradigm is blind to the latter.7 The life infrastructure of the civil commons has in these ways remained blocked from conscious identification or recognition of its underlying normative ground of effective social life-organization across cultures and life domains.       



b. the life-ground under attack       


The problem is, at bottom, a market-induced block against seeing what is there. As long evolved and shared life-goods of universally accessible clean air and water, healthcare and education, public assistance and housing, community culture and communications, collective walkways and transit, and biodiverse life-spaces are rapidly degraded or stripped across the globe by a corporately-led program of defunding and privatization, there is no unifying concept by which to comprehend or to defend what is, in fact, being invaded and overrun. It is as if a society were to be occupied and its social life base appropriated and dismantled by a foreign invasion it cannot recognize because it cannot comprehend its own deepest structures of community life-organization. Marxian thought, ironically, conforms to this blocking out of the civil commons insofar as its theoretical base is productive forces and class struggle, not the social and environmental life-ground underlying both. Liberal thought is in principle far blinder because it is a doctrine for maximally limiting the powers of the collective, and granting ultimate sovereignty to rights of private property.8 These rights, in turn, no longer have any grounding at all in whether they protect or enable the actual life needs and capacities of community members.9


In these ways, society¹s life-ground of reproduction has been effectively lost in a conceptual amnesia. At the root of the blindness is a dominant economic paradigm which has no life coordinates in its econometrics of input and output revenues. While its ruling value of monetized growth escalates velocities and volumes of private money demand and strip-mines ecosystems and domestic economies across the planet, its value calculus cannot discern any problem. This is because the market paradigm has no life parameters of judgement by which to recognize the disorder.10    


ii.  natural versus civil commons   


a. londoners against enclosures (1542)


Before this time the towns about London ­ had so enclosed the common fields with hedges and ditches, that neither the young men of the city might shoot, nor the ancient persons might walk for their pleasure in the fields, except their bows be taken away [Š] or honest persons arrested or indicted [Š] a great number of the city assembled themselves in a morning, and a turner in a fool¹s coat came crying through the city, ³Shovels and spades!² and so many people followed that it was a wonder, and within a short space all the hedge walls about the towns were cast down, and the ditches filled, and everything made plain, the workmen were so diligent [Š] and so after the fields were never hedged. (cited from Hall 1984, p. 106-107)       


Here the natural commons become the social construct of the civil commons so far as natural conditions of life are protected for universal access to their life goods by all members of the community ­ in this case by a spontaneous collective uprising against private enclosures ³that were never hedged after.² If the young men with bows and arrows were themselves to privately appropriate the life goods of this socially protected commons so as to diminish its reproduction of natural life values, then, to that extent, these young men would have violated the civil commons, both as food providers and as host of fellow creatures¹ lives. 



b. turkwel river, kenya (time immemoriam before privatization)    


During the long dry seasons in the far north west of Kenya, the people of the Turkwel River keep themselves alive by feeding their goats on the pods of the acacia trees growing on its banks. [Š] The acacia woods are a common: a resource owned by many families. Like all the commons of the Turkana people, they are controlled with fierce determination. (Monbiot 1994)


Here again we can distinguish between the natural commons as an ecologically given land or resource and the civil commons that effectively protects it and life means, and ensures access of community members to its continuing vital means of existence. As with the traditional village commons of England before their private appropriation by agribusiness capitalism, the Kenyan acacia trees of the Turkwel River were regulated to sustain their provision of life goods for all. Here too, rationing defence of this communal access to natural means of life was an essential social construct for their reproduction through time ­ exactly the opposite structure of the commons projected onto it by the market ideology of privatization for protection (see note 1).      


In both Kenya and England cases of the civil commons in rudimentary form, there were strict community rules or customs to ensure both that the natural resources were preserved and that there was continued access of all members of the community to their life wealth. In the English commons, for example, there was an effectively binding rule that a commoner could only turn out as many head of livestock to the shared pasture as were kept in the household corral over the winter. This is the nature of the civil commons in its earlier forms, still conceived as the commons ­ or now with planetary ecosystem parameters, the global commons. It becomes civil commons insofar as the common life-good for which it provides is effectively protected by society from privatization or destruction.11       


The global commons is a recent coinage and fails as much as past commons concepts to recognize this protective dimension that is all-important to the sustainability of shared life means.12 The us-led failure of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change and its simultaneous exclusionary militarization of space make this deep-structural pattern of privatization and destruction all too clear underneath official market ideology and representations.13


c. costa rica (1941-80)


The Calderonista-Catholic-Communist alliance reflected [Š] a convergence of interests [Š] in an unusual historical conjuncture. [Š] The social security legislation passed in 1941 laid the groundwork for a national medical care system and provided obligatory health, disability, retirement, unemployment, maternity, and life-insurance ­ for salaries below 300 colones [Š]. The ŒSocial Guarantees¹ [a year later] included the formal creation of a national healthcare system, a broader system of retirement and disability pensions [Š] a low-cost housing program ­ a new Labor Code ­ minimum wage commission [Š]. The 1948 civil war [won by the social democrat party] ­ repressed the defeated communists and calderonistas as well as organized labor [but] ­ institutionalized the reform process [Š] with a 10% tax on capital ­ constitutional prohibition of a standing army [Š] [and] shatter[ed] the economic stranglehold of the powerful agro-export and banking families [Š] purchasing grain from farmers at guaranteed prices [Š] [and constructing] retail outlets providing low-cost foods [Š]. By the late 1970¹s, roughly one-third of all agricultural producers belonged to cooperatives [which with] a variety of public and cooperative research and extension institutions gave Costa Rica the highest per hectare yields in the world and assured that coffee production remained profitable in even times of depressed prices [Š]. By 1980, a remarkable 27% of the population of university-student age was enrolled in 30 institutions of higher learning ­ a large-scale program of family assistance [Š] established healthcare programs in rural zones and provided virtually all low-income students with nutritious hot meals. (Edelmann 1999, p. 53-56)   


I will not, here, labour the post-1980 attacks on this evolving civil commons of Costa Rica, except to observe that they were, by far, the same devices of civil commons stripping as elsewhere in the world ­ trebled oil prices, imposed debt crisis by us-multiplied compound-interest rates, and imf and World Bank loans to pay high debt loads on condition of privatizing reforms.14  


Global market advocates endlessly contend that all such government programs required restructuring for efficiency. However, the case of Costa Rica discloses the opposite ­ just as comparisons of Russia or Nicaragua or Yugoslavia before and after the private capitalization of their economies demonstrate more strikingly. Costa Rica¹s people were far more aware of this pattern of fact than state and market planners. Their civil commons fightbacks included a two-week public occupation of the streets in April 2000 to successfully reverse a government decision to privatize the nation¹s publicly owned electrical-power system, the Costa Rica Institute of Electricity. A bill was passed at the same time to include rights for transnational corporate access to and control of the genetic codes of Costa Rica¹s tropical-forest flora and fauna. (Rogers 2000, p. 2-5)        


In overview, what is of particular explanatory interest in these examples is that an underlying and unifying logic links very different cases of civil commons constructions across times, cultures and instances. All are structured to enable society¹s members a universal access to one or another vital means of life or life good in some form ­ a life good being formally distinguished from a commodity by (1) its freedom from price barrier, and (2) its property of enabling vital life-capabilities.    


Civil commons means of life are characterized by the following features. All are life-serving structures which reproduction is regulated by consideration of life rather than production or price gains. All are non-utopian, functional structures of cooperative, non-profit economic organization of the common life interest of society. And all are, predictably, attacked by corporate-state policies of defunding and by mass media vilification as ³wasteful cost burdens.²    


In sum, the organizing idea of the civil commons integrates all of society¹s protection and provision of unpriced life goods into a common supporting structure of social meaning shared by all cultures. The civil commons is, we might say, the long-missing link between the is of economic organization for ever-accumulating private-profit maximization, on the one hand, and the ought of social organization for citizens¹ vital life-needs and capacities, on the other. But unlike utopian and revolutionary ideals with which we are familiar, the civil commons is a long-evolved historical fact underlying our present without any received category to designate it.  


iii.  the civil commons as infrastructure of social evolution       


The roots of the civil commons are deeply entrenched. They begin with the origins of language itself, the prototype and model of both humanity¹s and the civil commons¹ evolution. The language of everyday life and community interaction is not only a ground and model of the civil commons, but its prime medium and universal organizer of human understanding. We know little of the origins of language, but most agree it distinguishes human social organization. The ability to communicate the properties, locations and relations of the world¹s creatures, plants and minerals by symbolic universals ­ food to eat, water and game sources, places to go or not, names of individual members and so on ­ confers on humanity its greatest advantage of life reproduction, enjoyment and expression. From the beginning, language has been the species¹ most important distinguishing tool. It is also the communicative field of humanity¹s evolving individual and social ideas, projects and creations. Its second-order world of signs, meanings and organizing concepts has lifted the species onto another ontological plane.    


What is most important about the nature of language for our understanding of human society and its development is something philosophers and scientists have failed to register. The signs and syntaxes of a language become ever richer for each the more others use and share them. Language is thus a moving margin of life-range, deepening and broadening the more people have and use it in common. Without its shared use, it becomes a dead language. Confined to a class or priest caste in its written form, as it has been through history, a language loses its powers of communication in direct proportion to its confinement. This has been seen in the past with the court-monopolized languages of Sanskrit, Latin and Norman French. Today, the civil commons of language is controlled in its public expression by a corporate agenda of copyright and dissemination that selects only what might profit corporate stockholders. It is thus debased into a conditioning mechanism of ad imperatives and slogans rather than being the interactive field of meaning that defines us as humans.      


The more the wealth of a language is accessible and disseminated to everyone, the more individual people are able to communicate by its expressive resources. The more they are able to differentiate and extend their conscious lives by the self-directed exchanges of its symbols and structures. In contrast, the global market system constructs, selects and communicates language¹s constructions only so far as they maximize shareholders¹ profits, increasingly deforming it into a one-way propaganda of sectarian signals.  


Language is, in this way, a model of the civil commons insofar as it grows in value for each the more it is universally accessible and shared by all. Yet, this is not a property of language that has been observed in numberless learned works on language. This lost consciousness of language¹s underlying nature as the communal basis of individuality is representative. Individuating wealth in common property is incoceivable to the metaphysic of the market. It can only comprehend the individual through what he or she appropriates in priced goods and private profit. ³Market man,² as Gauthier (1986, p. 177) declares in basing his morality on its principle, ³always seeks more.² 


The market¹s inner logic has been applied to the very conditions of life itself. As a consequence, the global commons of the air, the atmosphere and the oceans have become industrial sinks, while the world¹s forests and ocean habitats have been invaded and occupied as moving reserves of privatized stripping and extraction. At the same time, societies themselves have become increasingly restructured as corporate instruments and resource sites, and the genetic structures of life-forms themselves patented as private monopolies.15 But neither theory nor popular consciousness registers the civil commons¹ meaning as the common life-ground that underlies human individuation. Conversely, it does not recognize the systemic threat to life individuation by the homogenizing prescriptions of global marketization masked as an agenda of ³individual freedom.²   


iv.  the social immune system        


As we have observed, language is the primary layer of the civil commons. However, social life-organizations have always survived because they have evolved a multi-level system of institutional structures that protect and facilitate the lives of all their members. From the beginning of human culture, these social immune institutions have regulated the members¹ lives and functions so as to prevent or to expel what is perceived as dangerous to the community¹s health and well-being. Whether in ancient Jewish or Egyptian or Hindu or Melanesian societies, we find this underlying structure of organization as a cultural universal of enduring human social orders.  


Despite the primitive nature of the early development of these regulatory systems, their overriding organizing principle of keeping the unclean away from the clean to protect the social body from life-threatening disorders had many effective functions of social body defence.16 For example, infected or toxic or dysfunctional food products and practices were excluded from contact, ingestion or adoption, thereby preserving both individual and community life-hosts from infectious agents, poisons and maladaptive features. Even taboos, which contemporary medical science wrongly supposes as harmful to social welfare,17 are typically prohibitions surrounding the chief acts of life that have a life-protective value. Strict prohibitions against contact with corpses, or against harsh treatment of infants, or against promiscuous genital penetration, or against water-wasting livestock like pigs in desert regions have all given social-body defences to society and its members.


The invasion and spread of contagions in tribal societies were, in this way, an embryonic form of immune recognition on the social level of life-organization. It is, we argue, the defining nature of the civil commons to develop blind customs into effective social-immune competences. In contrast, social institutions that are not life-protective but life-destructive, as military institutions of mass sacrifice or free markets in children¹s lives, are not the civil commons, but its opposite. Such cultural disorders are precisely what the civil commons is structured to prevent as a regulating norm of human development, however much these pathologic structures may be revered as ³our way of life.² Since most life-destructive disorders of social organization are instituted to privilege a sect of the community, we see here an unseen meta-opposition within social institutions through history: the principles of the civil commons versus the principles of factional right to special privilege. Marx conceived this as an objective class opposition of productive workers and exploiting owners. But this is too narrow a concept because it misses the wider opposition of values at work.18      


A core strand of the civil commons is socially understood science. In its lead forms, it develops exact principles of test and falsification of what actually prevents disease, trauma or depredation of human and non-human life-hosts (e.g., rules of hygiene). Scientific public health systems, for example, originated in European city centres over two centuries ago. Their purpose was to respond to masses of propertyless humanity in urban markets. Its deprived life conditions caused a host of deadly social threats of runaway sewage, polluted water supplies, adulterated food products, contagious diseases, homeless people and abandoned children without familial or civil commons support systems ­ the very same kinds of degradation we see growing again in the ³global free market² today.  


In recognition of these dangers to the lives of society¹s members, the modern civil commons evolved in response. Increasingly universal life-protective programs and infrastructures were consciously developed and instituted. These include hygiene and sanitation systems of water supply, drainage and sewage (all being variously privatized again); isolation and regulation of disease-bearing slaughterhouses and cemeteries, and of infected life-hosts; development of medical societies, corps of doctors, clinics and society-wide systems of distribution of inoculations and vaccinations for recurrent diseases; and, despite fierce resistance from the privileged ones benefiting from market arrangements of disease and cure, the evolution of universal health-care systems and unpriced treatment of the ill and disabled (revealingly not yet achieved in the civil-commons backward, but market-leading usa).19 Women often led this great social development. For example, in the case of the cholera outbreaks in London in the 1850s, women campainged successfully to demand that the authorities ensure by public ownership the extension of clean-water pipes to the poorer districts of the city. As in other civil commons developments, it has been the gender-specific function of women to lead the mutual-support relations of the civil commons in the wider family of the community.     


Subsequent to the introduction of sanitary infrastructures and public health programs, a long development of non-profit social institutions further constituted the civil commons of the industrial age, regulating the market despite an endless ideology of invalidation of non-profit public enterprises. So far as I know, there is no history or study of these strikingly successful public enterprises as an historical pattern over centuries, so one has to deduce them from the present from beneath market culture¹s instituted blindness to the value of these civil commons formations. Over time, public regulations were clearly instituted to ensure the purity of food and milk as well as water supplies; inspection, disinfestation and condemnation of private as well as public structures deemed to be health hazards; the construction and maintenance of community systems of waste and garbage disposal; systematic testing, inspecting and screening of commercial products to validate their safety for human use and consumption; formation of publicly enforced workplace standards in private factories and places of business; provision of public centres, walkways and parks to ensure non-priced enjoyments of free movement and life spaces; and development over generations of non-profit public libraries, museums and education systems accessible to all and managed by public servants for whom price or profit demands would constitute a criminal offence. Quiet spaces free of corporate commodity machines, however, have almost been annihilated altogether without notice of what has happened.20       


Let us reflect upon the full range and depth of the architectonic infrastructure of evolved non-profit public enterprises protecting and facilitating the lives of all citizens free of profit tribute. Let us also examine both the quality of infrastructure¹s long-term achievements and its dramatically lower life-costs compared to the market. In so doing, we are left with a picture of public-sector efficiency, durability and good management. This is the very opposite of what is pervasively asserted by corporate market propaganda. In this light, we can see that market imperatives of deregulation and privatization are, in effect, campaigns to reverse historical human evolution. Public enterprise is, in truth, a far more efficient system of production and distribution of life goods than the corporate market in every area in which it has been permitted to democratically develop.21 Yet the short-term accounting parameters, for-profit management, cheap methods and self-maximizing priorities of the market model are still asserted as ³more efficient² in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Since life-values are excluded from the market¹s monetary computation, which lacks even a concept that refers to life needs, the doctrinal culture is correspondingly decoupled, and so can see no problem.22 What its prescriptions effectively demand is an abolition of human society.      


With all of the subsystems of the civil commons we may excavate, there is one unifying principle in opposition to the corporate value-set. Not one civil commons institution or practice is instituted or financed to generate money profit for private investors. All are publicly formed over time to protect and enhance the lives of community members as a value in itself. There is, however, no distinction to recognize this profound opposition within even government expenditures. State activities and outlays are increasingly funded and structured to serve corporate interests before all else ­ virtually all of the expenditures and subsidies on natural resource         






    1.      One must distinguish, here, between the literature that forms the ideological justification for corporate market privatization of various natural commons, notably Hardin¹s (1968) globally republished article ³The Tragedy of the Commons,² and Goldman¹s (1998) developed empirical studies. Those following Hardin project the capitalist market axiom of self-maximizing ³rationality² onto subsistence herdsmen or other commons users who are precisely regulated by social norms against privatized overexploitation. On the other hand, social scientists and historians like E. P. Thompson and Goldman investigate actual facts. Yet it is important to note that neither literature distinguishes the civil from the natural commons.


    2.      Jesus and the Old Testament prophets both inveighed against such unneeded property accumulations while others were destitute. Their themal calls to feed the hungry, protect the homeless and clothe the naked can be interpreted as early voices of the civil commons. On the other hand, their persecution and, in the case of Jesus, political execution can be read as archetypal illustrations of ruling structures of power selecting for the liquidation of such initiatives.  Liberation theology today may be seen as an extension of the pattern, both in its stand for the poor, and in the persecution of its stand by the established hierarchy of privilege ­ for example, in Latin American from 1975 to 1990.


3. The literature on this genocidal pattern is complex and extensive. McMurtry (1998) explains it in terms of the inner logic of the market paradigm which presupposes forms of existence which annul the right of any other form to exist. This analysis is furthered in Value Wars (2002) which shows the operation of this concealed program in the genocidal destructions of the social infrastructures of Iraq and Yugoslvia in particular, but also welfare state structures across the world.


    4.      The dominant role of u.s. foreign policy and covert campaigns of international terror since 1945 in this continuous campaign of civil commons destruction is documented by Blum (2000). Blum¹s documentation features the u.s. security apparatus¹s particular involvement in the narcotics trade as a financial basis of its covert terrorist operations alongside its overt military threats and armed invasions.



    5.      McMurtry (1999a) provides in The Cancer Stage of Capitalism (chap. 5, p. 223-226) formal criteria whereby to distinguish public administrative structures which are life-serving from those which are not.


    6.      Polanyi (1944) in his classic The Great Transformation, talks often of the ³human and natural substance of society.² He also speaks of specific provisions of means of life by society for those requiring them to go on living (e.g., the Speenhamland ³allowance system² from 1795 to 1834), but nowhere conceptualizes this social life infrastructure in exact or general principle, and proposes no precise parameters to comprehend its nature across specific instances or social orders.


    7.      There is an enormous literature of this kind, the most incisive being the analysis of Waring (1988, 1996), which exposes the failure of both neo-classical and Marxian economic theory to take into account the unpriced labour of women in sustaining priced as well as future labour, as well as familial life-systems in general.


    8.      Communitarianism is a falsely named theoretical challenge to liberalism which typically deploys the theoretical device of rights to apply to collectives (like ethnic groups) as well as individuals. Communitarianism in this sense has nothing in common with the concept of civil commons developed here.


    9.      Even when communitarian analysis becomes life-grounded rather than right-grounded, as it does in the work of MacIntyre (1981), there is no distinction between social practices, the core community good for him, which enable versus disable the community members¹ lives. For example, traditional and long perfected excellences of military and caste institutions qualify as quintessential moral goods under his criterion of practices, although he does not engage this criticism.


    10. The similarity of this invasive pattern of blindly reproducing private money sequences overrunning life sequences of social reproduction is documented and developed as an explanatory model in McMurtry (1999a). Interestingly, the life-blind autism of the mathematical models to which contemporary economics has become confined has been recently attacked by both eminent French economists and their students at the École Normale Supérieure as a ³pathological taste for a-priori ideologies and mathematical formalization disconnected from reality² (CCPA Monitor, 2001, p. 12).


    11. For an excellent source of concrete examples of traditional commons within ³sustenance economies,² see Mies and Shiva (1993).


    12. Mies and Beenholdt-Thomsen (1999) sense the problem here when they say that ³the concept of global commons is being introduced by international agencies and global players, mostly for the benefit of tncs [transnational corporations].² They insist instead on ³reinvent[ing] the commons from below, through grassroots action of local people for local people² (p. 156 ff). What this critique of the global commons concept does not provide, however, is a principle whereby the corporate-state-invaded global commons can be recognized and defended at a level of comprehension and action beyond ³the grassroots action of local people for local people.² One may support the local standpoint as far as it goes, but it does not speak to the deep problem. The concept of the civil commons as defined here, in contrast, recognizes the global commons as requiring a civil construct of protection to be sustainable ­ ³a global civil commons.²


    13.  The so-called Son of Star Wars militarization of space (National Missile Defence [nmd] Program) is not, as claimed for public consumption, a defensive project to stop incoming missiles from enemy states. According to the u.s. Space Command¹s own description in its officially circulated Vision for 2020 (my emphasis), ³the space dimensions of military operations is to protect U.S. [private corporate] interests and investments² (Slater 1999).


    14.  These external repressions of Costa Rica¹s civil commons by u.s.-led financial policies have been drawn from Edelman (1999, p. 60-95). It is useful to observe here as well that other more specific tactics in the stripping of Costa Rica¹s civil commons infrastructure were the flooding of corporate media by global market ideology and collateral financial expropriation of the Costa Rica social system by usaid terms for bailout and a parallel u.s.-funded system of agricultural research institutions


    15. Consider, for example, the following profile of planetary life destruction by private corporate depredation. ³The unbridled plunder of the world¹s forests by giant timber firms,² reports the Environment Investigation Agency of the UN Inter-Governmental Panel on Forests, ³is increasing at an alarming rate. [Š] The $100 billion timber industry is running out of control. [Š] Unless swift and decisive action is taken to control the intense pressures on the world¹s forests, the 20th century¹s legacy will be the extermination of most of the world¹s species and massive social disturbance.² The timber trade, the un Agency (Harrison 2000) reports, is 95% dominated by multinational firms who now control 45 million hectares of rainforest. All log illegally as well as legally. Mitsubishi leads the ³forest rapists,² Daishowa and Musa of Indonesia face charges of corruption. Samling of Malaysia, Hyundai of Korea, the us Boise Cascade, Rougier of France, Klunz and Karl Danzer of Germany and Macmillan-Bloedel of Canada are charged with systematically illegal practices. ³Deforestation is wiping out plant and animal species, increasing soil erosion and flooding and contributing to global warming,² the un report continues. ³27,000 species are made extinct each year in tropical forest alone.² (Harrison 2000)


    16. Much of anthropology can be understood as a decoding of tribal communities¹ beliefs and practices which confer survival advantage by protecting them from dangers and harms which would otherwise compromise their capacities to reproduce. A prolific contemporary expositor of this view is Harris (1974).


    17.  Dorland (1994), for example, defines a taboo as ³any of the negative traditions and behaviours that are generally regarded as harmful to social welfare.²


    18.  The conflict at the deepest level is between regulating value-sets. Value sets are infrastructural rather than superstructural insofar as they regulate material actions rather than rationalize them. The primarily opposing value sets of the contemporary world can be analysed as life sequences versus money sequences of value (McMurtry 1999a, p. 105 ff). This opposition occurs within class agents, and also outside them. Unwaged women¹s work too confronts this value-set opposition, as do governments.


19.  The private market of health-care in the u.s. is a paradigm case of this social backwardness at the heart of the world¹s leading corporate market system. ³The cost [of healthcare] is approaching 15% of the u.s. gross domestic product, and more than one-quarter of the population is not covered² (Brown 2000). What Brown does not observe is that this is over $1,000 more per capita than the public healthcare system of neighbouring Canada which covers all its citizens. The us ³health maintenance² system also kills over 80,000 people a year by malpractice (Nader 1996, p. 37). Nader¹s figures are from the Harvard School of Public Health.


20.  Franklin (1993) explains: ³Silence has to remain available in the soundscape, in the landscape, and in the mindscape. [Š] What we are hearing, I feel, is very much the privatization of the soundscape, in the same way in which, in Britain, the enclosure laws destroyed the commons [Š]. What does town planning have to say about silence?²


21.  The privatization of British Rail and California electricity have been catastrophic failures in productive and cost efficiency compared to their publicly controlled forbears, as Ontario Hydro is turning out to be. In matters of life services like health-care, the difference is not only increased costs and reduced services by privatization, but the loss of tens of thousands of lives. Market fundamentalism like other religious fundamentalisms is closed to fact. See note 19.


22.  Thus even when theorists refer to the Lebensvelt or lifeworld ­ as the continental philosophical tradition does from Husserl to Habermas ­ they do not mean any form of life beyond what is borne by communicative symbols. The eminent critical theorist, Jurgen Habermas (1984), for example, conceives of the ³lifeworld² as confined to the linguistic plane of existence. This ³lifeworld² not only precludes all life that is not symbolic, but excludes the market economy itself from ³civil society.² Habermas (1996, p. 366-72) writes ³What is meant by civil society ­ no longer includes the economy as constituted by private law and steered through markets in labour, capital and commodities ­ [and] has an influence only on the personnel and programming of the system.²


23.  An excellent article exposing the incoherence of current political and economic conceptualizations of ³social capital² is Ben Fine¹s (1999) ³The Developmental State is Dead ­ Long Live Social Capital?² But even the critically acute Fine does not penetrate this baseline distinction in principle.


24.  We need to distinguish this sense of capability from Amartya Sen¹s (1999, p. 75), which  means ³the alternative combinations of functionings that are feasible for her to achieve² or, more simply, ³the ability to achieve functionings² (Sen 1992, p. 49). Sen¹s definition could apply to a machine, and he does not provide a principle ­ as distinguished from examples ­ to indicate how capabilities for life-promoting functionings are to be distinguished from life-reductive functionings. My sense of capability is restricted to range of life function, and does not require alternative combinations. It is not clear that Sen¹s ³ability to achieve functionings² rules out snowmobiling or shooting animals as such a functioning, or counts the ability and air to breathe as a capability if there is no alternative available.


25.  ³Hog Nation,² Editorial, Earth Island Journal, Spring 2000, p. 23.


26.  While Canada¹s Trade Minister publicly promises that public education and health-care are not on the agenda of the World Trade Organization¹s General Agreement on Trade in Services, the government¹s own trade magazine, CanadExport, monthly enthuses about the need for more wto regulations to protect all the opportunities in foreign markets for Canada transnational businesses, with education and health-care procurement contracts a regular feature.


27.  See McLaren, (1996, p. 3). Such figures are typically suppressed, however. The European Union and the World Wide Fund For Nature, for example, suppressed, demanded rewrites and then pulped their own commissioned expert report on the state of the world¹s tropical rainforests after it reported that World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs required African, Caribbean and Papuan economies to sell their forests for cash to pay back debts to foreign banks (Brown 2000, p. 3).


30.  Hayek (1986) typefies market monotheism in his claim that ³our civilization depends, not only for its origin but also for its preservation, on what can be described only as the extended order of human co-operation more commonly, if somewhat misleadingly, known as capitalism ­ [but in fact] the competitive market² (p. 6-7). His curious conflation of competition and co-operation with no explanation is typical of a value-set whose totalization equates opposites as a given.


31. Charles Krauthammer (2001) writes in Time Magazine: ³America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, [corporate] America is in a position to reshape norms ­ How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will²(quoted by Lapham 2001, p. 32-3). An academic member of the corporate male gang, the author of its End of History, Francis Fukayama (as cited), adopts a negative tact. ³A country that makes human rights a significant element of its foreign policy tends towards ineffectual moralizing at best [Š] ²(p. 36).


    32.  Angell (2001) disassociates himself from this volume in which his work is republished.


33.  At the local level of the world-wide occupation, Turner (1994) defines and deploys the concept of ³male dealers.²


34.  The pattern of unilateral command is formalized in McMurtry (1999, p. 45-57; and 2001, p. 7-8).





Angell, I. O., ³Welcome to the Brave New World,² Alien Invasion, Toronto, Insomniac Books, 2001.


Blum, W., Rogue State, Monroe, ME, Common Courage Press, 2000.


Brown, J. R., ³Privatizing the University ­ The New Tragedy of the Commons,² Science, 1 December 2000.


Brown, P., ³Report on Forests Suppressed,² Guardian Weekly, 1-7 June, 2000, p. 3.


Cartwright, F. and M. D. Biddiss, Disease and History, New York, Dorset Press, 1991.


CCPA Monitor, ³French Students Fight Teaching of Neo-Classical economics,² December-January 2000-2001, p. 12.


Dorland, Medical Dictionary, 27th edition, London, W. B. Saunders, 1994.


Edelman, M., Peasants Against Globalization, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1999.


Federici, S., ³Women, Globalization and the International Women¹s Movement,² Canadian Journal of Development Studies, Special Issue Gender and the Civil Commons, 23, 2001, p. 1041-1052.


Fine, B., ³The Developmental State is Dead ­ Long Live Social Capital?² Development and Change, 30, 1, 1999, p. 1-20.


³Hog Nation: U.S. Wallows in Obesity,² Earth Island Journal, Spring 2000, p. 23.


Franklin, U., ³Silence and the Notion of the Commons,² paper presented at The Tuning of the World, First International Conference on Acoustic Ecology, Banff, 11 August 1993.


Gauthier, D., Morals By Agreement, New York, Oxford University Press, 1986.


Goldman, Michael, ed., Privatizing Nature: Political Struggles for the Global Commons, London, Pluto, 1998.


Habermas, J., The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 1, translation T. McCarthy, Boston, Beacon Press, 1984.


____, Between Facts and Norms, Cambridge MA, MIT Press, 1996.


Hall, E., ³Chronicle ­ A History of England from Henry IV to Henry VIII,² in Hampton, C., ed., A Radical Reader: The Struggle For Change In England, 1381-1914, London, Penguin Books, 1984, p. 106-107.


Hardin, Garrett, ³The Tragedy of the Commons,² Science, 1968, p. 1243-48.


Harris, M., Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches: The Riddles of Culture, Glasgow, Collins & Son, 1974.


Harrison, D., ³Loggers Out of Control in Forest Chainsaw Massacre,² The Observer, reprinted in the Guardian Weekly, September 15, 2000.


Hayek, F. A., The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, London, Routledge, 1986.


Higley, L. G. and D. W. Stanley, ³The Dark Landscape of a World with Ten Ounces to the Pound,² American Entymologist, Winter 1997, p. 210-11.


Hume, S., ³Bird Flu ­ The Next Pandemic?,² The Vancouver Sun, 13 December 1997, p. K9.


Karthammer, L., ³The American Rome,² Harper¹s Magazine, August 2001, p. 32-33.


MacIntyre, A., After Virtue, London, Duckworth, 1981.


McLaren, D. J., ³Reply to Colin Rowat,² Delta Newsletter of the Global Change Program, Royal Society of Canada, 7, 3, 1996, p. 3.


McMurtry, J., Value Wars, London, Pluto Press, 2002.


____, ³The FTAA and the WTO: The Meta-Program For Global Corporate Rule, Third World Resurgence, 129/130, 2001, p. 14-17.


____, The Cancer Stage of Capitalism, London, Pluto Press, 1999.


____, ³World Order By Trade and Investment Decree,² in Dorn, W., ed., World Order For a New Millennium, New York, St. Martin¹s Press, 1999, p. 45-57.


____, Unequal Freedoms: The Global Market As An Ethical System, Toronto and Westport, CT, Garamond and Kumarian Press, 1998.


Mies, M. and V. Bennholdt-Thomsen, The Subsistence Perspective, London, Zed, 1999.


Mies, M. and V. Shiva, ³Ecological Balance in an Era Of Globalization² in Low, N., ed, Global Ethics and Environment, London, Routledge, 1999, p. 47-69.


____, Ecofeminism, London, Zed Books, 1993.


Monbiot, G., ³The Tragedy of Enclosure,² Scientific American, January 1994.


Nader, R., ³It¹s Time to End Corporate Welfare,² Earth Island Journal, Spring, Southern Hemisphere, 1996, p. 37.


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Rogers, T., ³Costa Ricans Say No!,² Americas Update, 20, 3, 2000, p. 2-5.


Sen, A., Development As Freedom, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.


____, Inequality Reexamined, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1992.


Slater, A., ³The Big Guns Behind the Global War Machine,² paper presented at the WTO and the Global War System Forum, Seattle Washington, November 28, 1999.


Turner, T., ed., Arise Ye Mighty People: Gender, Class and Race in Popular Struggles, Trenton, NJ, Africa World Press, 1994.


Waring, M., What If Women Counted?, San Francisco, Harper and Row, 1988.


____, Counting For Nothing: What Women Are Worth, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1996.








Women¹s Work, Nature and Colonial Exploitation: Feminist Struggle for Alternatives to Corporate Globalization


Angela Miles




This article uses Hilkka Pietilä¹s reconceptualization of the economy as three spheres of production (free, protected and fettered) to illuminate the new ways in which neo-liberal globalization is intensifying exploitative capitalist processes. The study focuses on the particular vulnerabilities of women, the value of their unpaid work, and the transformative significance of their resistance.




Cet article utilise la réconceptualisation de l¹économie de Hilkka Pietilä, en trois sphères de production (la sphère libre, la sphère protégée et la sphère entravée) afin de mettre en évidence les nouvelles formes qui renforcent l¹exploitation capitaliste de la globalisation néo-libérale. L¹étude porte en particulier sur les vulnérabilités des femmes, sur la valeur de leur travail non rémunéré et sur l¹effet transformateur de leur résistance.




The corporate globalization facing us today has powerful links with earlier periods of capitalism. However, there are also important differences. Capitalism has always had a global reach, and the growth of capitalist markets has always and everywhere spawned not only a relative or absolute impoverishment of women, colonies, workers, marginal groups and communities, but also a decrease in cultural and biological diversity. In this article, I will draw on Hilkka Pietilä¹s interesting three-sphere reconceptualization of the economy to examine the new ways neo-liberal globalization is intensifying these exploitive processes. I will focus special attention on both the particular vulnerabilities of women and the unique importance of women¹s unpaid work and political resistance in this period.


Early increases in production for capitalist trade and profit came at the expense of production-for-use, because they removed the means of subsistence from individuals and communities (in core and periphery) and because they institutionalized, if not slavery and genocide, mens¹ dependence on wages and women¹s dependence on men (and now, more than ever, on low wages). From the beginning, a cross-class ³male deal² (Turner 1997) mandated higher wages for men, thus ensuring that women¹s dependence on and service to men persisted as earlier patriarchal patterns crumbled and entirely new modes of production emerged. The brutal processes of environmental and social enclosure, appropriation, disruption and destruction at the heart of market expansion in both ³old² and ³new² worlds reproduced patriarchal as well as capitalist power.


Dispossessed European populations (like the Scottish crofters forced into starvation when their common lands were enclosed to run sheep for profit in wool) fled or were deported en masse to ³new worlds² where indigenous populations suffered even more violent processes of enslavement, dispossession, ecological destruction and ­ ultimately ­ genocide. Today, these practices continue in both the ³developed² and ³developing² worlds.


In the economic south, forest dwellers are displaced by cattle ranchers, communities are destroyed by oil and mineral extraction, local populations are excluded from nature reserves for ecotourism and biodiversity prospecting. In the economic north, corporate offshore fishing is wiping out the inshore fishery, and family farms are being taken over by corporate agribusiness.1 Environmental degradation, much of it fueling and fueled by enclosure, is increasing everywhere. Ozone and soil depletion, water and air pollution, and global warming threaten the whole planet, though the most immediate and devastating consequences are felt by poor and powerless communities where toxic waste is dumped (Sydney, Cape Breton), uranium is mined (Western Shoshone), military overflying is practiced (Innu of Northern Labrador), and oil (Ogoniland) and chemical (Love Canal) destruction is sanctioned.2


Capitalist markets fuel the concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands. So, by 1997, 450 billionaires had assets equal to the combined annual income of the poorest 50% of the world¹s population. In this type of world, human and non-human life become commodities, valuable only when they contribute to profit for these few, expendable when they do not. Whole groups of people and whole communities are abandoned or actively delivered to their fate all over the world. Street children, single mothers, the homeless, the elderly, the disabled and the unemployed are written off. Canadian farming and fishing communities whose viability has been destroyed by corporate agriculture and fishing are declared redundant. Villages in the Upper Nile are razed to make way for oil development (Flint 2001). Indigenous and peasant communities in Canada, India and China, with aggregate populations in the millions are respectively destroyed by the James Bay, Narmada and Three Gorges Dam projects to produce hydro-electric power for ³development.²


The huge cost of this ³development² is masked by national and international accounting and policymaking practices that use the Gross Domestic Product (gdp) as the only measure of wealth and well-being. The gdp recognizes only market value. The value of non-market factors, such as nature, unpaid work and non-monetary production that are crucial to the real wealth and well-being of individuals and communities and to the survival of the planet is entirely omitted (Douthwaite 1999). Women¹s unpaid work is concealed. Ecological damage and social destruction or appropriation suffered by the many so that production can increase for the market (that is, a growing gdp) also remain invisible unless the destruction opens the way to profit (Shiva 1989, Waring 1988, Cobb and Halstead 1995).3


For instance, when local farmers who still grow crops mainly for their own use and for local trade are seduced or forced to produce for external markets and when local access to common land necessary for subsistence is lost to large-scale agricultural, resource, or industrial production for export, families start depending on money from unreliable crop prices or on meager wages to buy goods, whose prices are also unstable. These incomes often purchase less than the families previously produced. Worse, many individuals or families don¹t even get these inadequate incomes. In the end, though, their purchases and the value of the expanding commercial production still register as increases in wealth, while the displaced or superseded subsistence production and its losses are never counted. Neither is the cost of migration of individual community members or whole families in search of survival, nor the ecological and health damage caused by large-scale chemicalized monocropping, industrial production and resource extraction.


This sleight of hand allows increased profits for a few, even at great social and environmental cost, to be presented as increased wealth for all. It allows economic ³development² to be presented as a panacea for the very impoverishment it creates:


Subsistence economies that satisfy basic needs through self-provisioning are not poor in terms of deprivation. Yet, the ideology of development declares them so because they do not participate overwhelmingly in the market economy; that means they do not consume commodities produced for and distributed through the market, even though they might be satisfying those needs through self-provisioning mechanismsŠ


[S]ubsistence, as culturally perceived poverty, has provided the legitimization for the development process as a poverty removal project. As a culturally biased project it destroys wholesome and sustainable lifestyles and creates real material poverty, or misery, by the denial of survival needs themselves, through the diversion of resources to intensive commodity production. (Shiva 1989, p. 10)


i.  pietilä¹s reconceptualization


Using data gathered in a Finnish government study4, which ³sketched a comprehensive picture of our economyŠ including the value of unpaid labour and production in the households,² Pietilä (n.d., p. 6) has shown that even in advanced industrial nations, much individual and community sustenance and quality of life still depend on the health of the local environment and on non-market relations, activities, goods and services. Her important work broadens and redefines the economy to encompass three spheres of production, namely free, protected and fettered. These provide a useful frame for examining the qualitatively new processes of change driving neo-liberal globalization and the central place of both women¹s work and women¹s current resistance. She found that in 1980 in Finland:


    €        the free sphere, made up of all non-monetary production for local use including housework and volunteer work, accounted for 54% of the total work time and 35% of the total value of production;


    €        the protected sphere, including all private and public production of goods and services for the home market by individuals, private businesses and public services such as education, transportation and health, accounted for 36% of work time and 46% of the value produced;


    €        the fettered sphere, all production for international exchange, that is all production subject to the demands/fetters of international competition, accounted for 10% of work time and 19% of the value produced.5


The neo-liberal agenda we are facing today is essentially a corporate drive aimed at increasing the fettered sphere (and the profits of transnational corporations) at the expense of both free and protected spheres. In all national economies, even the most ³advanced,² production in the fettered sphere (though greater than in 1980) remains modest compared to market and non-market production for home consumption in the protected and free spheres. Still, national and global economic policies, rules and regulations pander more and more to the needs, desires and interests of transnational corporations. The fettered sphere fills the whole screen of popular and policy discourse. We are told, and most of us have come to believe, that the global market is the economy. We peoples of the economic south and north are told not only that our survival depends on private corporations¹ competitive success in this global market but, paradoxically, that we must be prepared to sacrifice a great deal to ensure successful corporate production for this market. This is very different from earlier periods.


The protected sphere as conceptualized by Pietilä is twofold, consisting of both public/state and private production for domestic consumption. Until fairly recently, this sphere had continually increased, primed initially by the enclosure/appropriation/transfer of labour and resources from the free spheres of both core and periphery. Historically, industrial capitalist growth mainly expanded domestic production and markets (protected sphere) fed by international ³trade² (fettered sphere), including trade among industrial nations and umpteen forms of colonial exploitation, some more obviously violent than others.6 Rising market demand in the metropoles came first from an expanding trading class with money and from the independent craftspeople, merchants, farmers and owners of capital who were getting richer serving their needs; the demand also came from the growing numbers of propertyless poor who were losing their subsistence livelihoods to others¹ search for profit and were being forced to provide for their own needs in the market (if they could). The propertyless¹ new dependence on money and on the market ensured their availability (originally whole families at desperately low wages) as workers in household service, in capitalist agriculture, in crafts and later, in industrial enterprises. The home consumer market expanded as some of these male workers won wages high enough to support a rising standard of living for family members, including dependent wives and children no longer in the labour force.


Creating and sustaining industrial infrastructure (canals, railways, roads, banking systems, hospitals, water, sewage and power systems) also enlarges the protected sphere. So, too, does providing the public and social services needed for a healthy and skilled (and compliant) work force. Years of women¹s and workers¹ struggles in industrializing nations for a share of the growing monetary wealth, and a better and more secure life have won public education, health care, libraries, parks, unemployment insurance, old age pensions, social assistance, safety protection and environmental regulation, all of which enlarge the protected sphere.


The growing (largely low-paid) female labour force that has emerged over many decades in crucial social services has reflected a gradual collective and public sharing of what remain largely women¹s unpaid responsibilities for individual and community health and for reproduction. Growing private service industries such as fast foods, largely supported as well by women¹s low wages, also bring women¹s traditional free sphere responsibilities and work into the protected sphere.7


Economic growth has never been cost free, and its costs and benefits have always been savagely unequal. However, in the years between the transitional devastation of early capitalist development and the triumph of neo-liberal agendas in the 1980¹s, this relative growth of the protected sphere of the economy in the industrial nations has tended to increase collectively and socially managed wealth as well as private wealth. Popular struggles over these decades forged an industrial form of the civil commons defined by McMurtry as ³any co-operative human construct that enables the access of all members of a community to life goods²(McMurtry 2001, p. 822).


In the decades following World War ii, economic growth was pursued in the name of the public good (understood as increasing personal and public wealth). Economic competitiveness and growth were sold by conservative as well as liberal and social democratic parties, not as ends in themselves but as means to enhance personal incomes and improve services and security. Harold MacMillan defeated the postwar Labour government in Britain with promises of higher personal incomes and personal consumption as well as better education, health care and transportation.


Since that time, the neo-liberal ideologues of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Brian Mulroney and their successors in all political parties have largely succeeded in reversing popular expectations of a better life through economic growth. People everywhere now expect to serve rather than be served by economic growth, which has moved from a means to an end in public discourse. Neoliberal ideologues no longer claim that economic competitiveness will improve the lives of the general population. Rather, they tell us we must sacrifice our wage levels, our social services and our social security to ensure the international competitiveness required for growth.


The supposedly urgent and unavoidable need to repay public debt and reduce government deficits is being used in both the economic North and South to legitimize and enforce the neo-liberal agendas responsible for this impoverishment. Structural adjustment programs imposed by the imf on indebted countries of the economic South as a condition for continued World Bank loans (desperately needed for debt repayment!) and selective fiscal austerity and downsizing by national governments and capitalist corporations in the economic North reflect these agendas. These also appear in the successive removal of social and political limits on international trade, and investment and on transnational production for profit in all regions through international free-trade agreements (such as nafta and ftaa), gats (General Agreements on Trade in Services) and trips (Trade Related Aspects of International Property Rights).


Governments are bound to these agreements once they have signed. Continuous and irreversible ³liberalization² is assured by ratchet mechanisms that compel governments to ³liberalize² ever more, never less. The provisions of these agreements are interpreted and applied not by national governments, but by supra-national bodies. These bodies have the power to nullify traditional practices and overrule elected governments¹ attempts to pursue social, environmental and other ends that might conflict with unbridled trade and profit (Palast 2001, Nader 2001).


In establishing these mechanisms, the g7/g8 nations are actively abetting the transfer of state power from national governments to international bodies. They are implementing a ³ruling ideology that centres on the replacement of government and state planning by corporate strategic planning, and the establishment of global corporate rule² (Shiva 1997, p. 22). Alain Touraine calls this the triumph of capitalism defined as ³a market economy that refuses to be controlled by external forces and institutions and ties and, on the contrary, uses the rest of society as resources for its rational economic action² (1998, p. 2).8


Earlier periods of relatively untrammeled capitalism have preceded this one. And capitalist relations have always been global in reach. Free trade is not a new aspiration or hypocrisy. In the nineteenth century, in the name of free trade, Britain did nothing to check price hikes or the export of grain during devastating famines in India and Ireland, even while brutally prohibiting local production and trade in goods that British manufacturers wished to sell. Likewise today, the world is being opened, not to free trade with a level playing field, but to unfettered trade by transnational corporations. Small producers of ³freely² traded goods are extremely vulnerable to falling world prices that leave transnationals untouched. Two years ago, coffee fetched $2 a kilogram; today it sells for less than $1 a kilogram and prices are still falling. The livelihoods of 20 million households that depend on coffee are collapsing, with devastating consequences. Meanwhile, the coffee chain Starbucks posted a 40% increase in profits for the first quarter of 2001. Nestlé, the world¹s largest coffee roaster, had profits exceeding $1 billion last year for its beverage operations and is expecting a 20% profit growth this year (Watkins 2001). José Bové, spokesperson for Confédération Paysanne, a French farmers¹ union and major figure in the developing international anti-globalization movement has asked:


who would dare to claim that the huge export of coffee, bananas, cocoa and rice to the countries of the North over many decades has improved the living conditions of peasants in the South? Who would ever presume to say a thing like that while looking such peasants straight in the eye, at a time when they face rising poverty? And who would dare tell African farmers who have been ruined by competition from subsidised European meat that the sweeping away of customs barriers has been a good thing for them? (Bové 2001, p. 30) 


However, despite the devastation of unequal and misnamed ³free trade² shared with earlier periods, the corporate globalization facing us today is not just more of the same. Today, not only goods but also services and capital are traded ³freely.² Local services and productive capacity are being sacrificed to transnational profit rather than enhanced by it. Hilkka Pietilä¹s conceptualization of three economic spheres highlights the significantly new logic of the neo-liberal agenda more clearly.


ii.  the fettered sphere raids the free and protected spheres


Unlike earlier periods when the protected sphere was the main engine of economic growth and beneficiary of international ³trade,² transnational capital is now, with the support of the national governments of the most powerful capitalist nations and the multi-lateral international agencies they control, brutally raiding the free and protected spheres of the economy to enhance the fettered sphere.


Encroachment and parasitism on the free sphere is intensified and expanded in new levels of exploitation that are colonizing life itself and, ultimately, the future. Legislated preference or protection for domestic producers is outlawed, and private companies along with public and social services easily become prey to non-productive transnational corporate buy outs (or give aways!). Any elements of the protected sphere that cannot be turned to profit by transnational corporations are being dumped on to the free sphere, where the increasing burdens of want and work, and environmental and social destruction are borne mainly by women. International agreements and domestic policies in almost all countries today routinely subordinate social, environmental and cultural considerations to transnational trade and profit. New levels of broader, more intense appropriation and exploitation countenance no limits on economic growth (Barlow 1996).


Under nafta, for instance, traditional collective landholding patterns and rights become illegal barriers to private ownership and profit. The Zapatistas in Chiapas are struggling to defend communally based livelihoods, and therefore indigenous and peasant survival, from this nafta sanctioned robbery. When the Canadian government banned the use of a gasoline additive hazardous to human health and the environment, its producer, Ethyl Corporation, brought a $251 million suit under the nafta for damages to its reputation and future profits. Canada settled out of court a year later, lifting the ban, apologizing publicly, and paying $13 million.


Under the gats and trips, transnational corporations have rights that are actually denied to local companies. They can challenge governments over any of their actions, or the actions of others within their jurisdiction, deemed to have infringed transnational property rights or ³unreasonably² limited their opportunities for profit. Cases are heard by unelected judges at the wto in Geneva, Switzerland, in closed hearings where neither the public nor the media are allowed, no transcripts are available and no appeals are possible.


The wto recently ruled that European preferential tariffs for bananas from small independent producers in the Caribbean infringe agribusiness rights to profit maximization. It also upheld the import rights of Monsanto and u.s. cattle and dairy associations against the European Union¹s attempt, because of the known health hazards, to ban beef with synthetic hormones.


Until the creation of the wto in 1995, few countries in the economic South had intellectual property laws. Now, however, all 140 wto members must conform to u.s. intellectual property rights legislation, which extends patent rights for 20 years. Thus, protection for monopoly production by transnational corporations sweeps around the world. When the South African government passed a law allowing cheaper generic drugs to be produced and sold, 39 pharmaceutical giants used international trade agreements in the courts to protect their 20-year patents and astronomical profits, despite the desperation of people and countries doomed to do without life-saving drugs at these high prices. World outrage at the drug companies¹ actions in this case have resulted in some face-saving moves on their part to make the drugs they produce available more cheaply in the poorer countries. But the patents, providing vast profits from 20-year monopolies, remain.


The g7/g8 governments are imposing neoliberal agendas favouring the fettered sphere domestically as well as internationally. Through the World Bank and the imf they have been forcing brutal ³structural adjustments² on poorer nations for decades, insisting that these nations maximize foreign-currency earnings (that is, earnings from transnational trade) above all other production needs or policy goals in order to repay their foreign debt.9 Each indebted nation of the South must accept a tailor made Structural Adjustment Program (sap) proposed by the imf to receive the World Bank loans it depends on to service its debt (Isla 1993a, 1993b). More recently, the specter of domestic debt and deficit has been used to legitimize the imposition of the same neo-liberal restructuring on the populations of the rich nations as well (Isla, Miles and Molloy 1996). Government subsidies to big capital remain intact10 and are even augmented as a panoply of austerity measures are introduced in the economic South and North. In this way, external economic pressure in the South and economic fear and mystification in the North fuel the rapid and unequal shift of public and private wealth from the protected (local and national) sphere to the fettered (transnational) sphere.


These policies include selling off emergency food stores, ending price controls on staples, liberalizing trade, privatizing state enterprises, ³downsizing² government offices, cutting back and privatizing social services, reducing corporate taxes, as well as weakening labour and wage protections including unemployment insurance, minimum wage and old age pensions.


In the rich industrial nations, public broadcasting, health care, child care, home care, public housing, welfare, unemployment insurance, education and research, transportation, environmental protection, garbage collection, public parks and amenities are cut, to name only some of the affected areas. The resulting deterioration is weakening people¹s confidence in state provision. Accompanying talk of ³crises² is fostering the idea that public services are always and necessarily ³inefficient² and ³unaffordable,² and ultimately not viable. Public wealth is redefined as public cost, as a cause of impoverishment. Privatization is then offered as a ³solution² to the bogus crises.


Railroads, mines, airlines, local transportation systems, postal services, water and power systems are being sold off to private owners, despite disastrous consequences.11 Public services and government responsibilities such as education, health care, air traffic control, environmental monitoring, waste disposal and correctional services are being farmed out to private transnational corporations with less skilled, non-unionized, lower paid workers and lower (sometimes dangerous) standards of performance.12 Even military functions are being privatized!13 Free trade and international trade agreements that prohibit preferential treatment of domestic businesses, ensure that ever larger, continually merging14 transnational corporations are free to acquire local businesses and privatized assets, and to provide services for profit anywhere in the world.


At the same time, new freedom of movement for capital, goods and services, though not labour, has allowed transnational corporations to shift their operations to little regulated, union free, low pay locations, undercutting wage levels and worker security in labour forces already threatened by aggressive business, by government ³downsizing² and by reductions in workers¹ rights and benefits.15 Even though profits were at a 45-year high, between 1980 and 1993, the Fortune 500 companies cut their payrolls by more than 25%, eliminating nearly four million secure well paying jobs (At Home 2001).


The impact of these business practices on the growing number of economic losers is heightened by the simultaneous shredding of social safety nets as the neoliberal ideology plunders the protected sphere. This appropriation of public wealth by corporate capital is legitimized in an ideological climate that denies all communal life and redefines all public wealth as personal impoverishment (³tax theft²). Margaret Thatcher¹s famous and extreme dictum that there is no such thing as ³society,² only ³individuals,² has become the defining orientation of governments that paint every group (except big business) as a ³special interest² and entrench corporate rights over human rights. The anti-human presumptions that follow from this logic have become so pervasive that they go unnoticed:


Lay off workers in Britain and move your factory to the other side of the world - where labour is cheaper, unions are weaker and regimes are more brutal - and you are hailed as an entrepreneur. Arrive in Dover on the back of a lorry with the intention of working long hours for low pay and you will be branded ³bogus² and labelled a scrounger. (Young 2001, p. 11)


Not surprisingly, in a system so skewed toward corporate interests, the power and wealth of large corporations now far outweigh all but the largest national economies. If the gross sales of corporations are considered as equivalent to the gdp of a country, we find that 51 of the world¹s 100 largest economies are internal to corporations (Korten 1999). General Motors¹ annual revenue is almost equal to the combined gdp of Nicaragua, Namibia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, New Zealand and Ireland (Hertz 2001).


Vulnerability to social disintegration and ecological destruction varies by region, race, class and gender and the poor, and powerless suffer disproportionately. But everywhere today, people are impoverished and environments threatened, because transnational processes appropriate and destroy the wealth of the free and protected spheres, all under the guise of economic growth (Waring 1988, Douthwaite 1999). Basic requirements for sustaining life ­ food, water and shelter ­ are threatened for increasing numbers of people in both rich and poor nations.


A few are managing to ride the wave swamping so many, and they are getting richer as the rest get poorer.16 In keeping with general trends, between 1979 and 2000 in the us, the wealthiest 1% of the population doubled its share of assets from one fifth to almost one half (Beckett 2001). In Canada between 1984 and 1999, the net worth of the rich grew by 39% while the poorest saw no increase at all. Little wonder, then, that in 1994 there were 51% more poor children in Canada than in 1989 (Carey 2001).17 Worldwide, the number of people living on $1 a day or less increased from 1.2 billion in 1987 to 1.5 billion in 2000 ­ 22% of the world¹s population. (Millenium Forum 2000).


As a result of this poverty, every single year 17 million people die of malnutrition and preventable diseases (Russell 2000). Millions of others must sell themselves or parts of themselves or their children to survive miserably, even for a short while. ³Trade² is growing in blood, in body parts, in babies, in brides, domestic workers, child soldiers and sex workers: 200,000 children a year are sold into Africa¹s modern slave trade (Fenkiel 2001); 7 million Filipino women have left their country in search of work in Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East; 2 million girls between 5 and 15 years are sold or entrapped, or recruited every year into the ³commercial sex market² (un Population Fund 1997).


Human and non-human life has always been expendable in the mad race for profit. Today, capital¹s parasitic relationship to life is mushrooming wildly as corporate globalization dismantles democratic controls built over many decades of struggle. All over the world, unchecked neo-liberal ³reform² is spreading deadly poverty and despair, provoking discontent and communal strife, and feeding militarism as it is at once violently resisted and more violently imposed.18


Not only are threats to life increasing everywhere, life itself is being controlled and commodified in entirely new ways through new reproductive technologies, genetic engineering and biotechnologies, the new frontier of patriarchal capitalist development. New intellectual property rights (iprs), allowing the patenting of seeds, plants, animals and human genes, transform the very basis of life into private property and legalize corporate theft of knowledge, seeds and plants from local populations who have known and used and developed them over centuries. Vast areas of land are being expropriated as nature reserves and local populations are being expelled to ³preserve² biodiversity for bioprospecting/biopiracy by or on behalf of corporations (Isla 2001). Attempts are being made to patent the neem plant and basmati rice in India, jasmine rice in Indonesia and brussel sprouts in the us, to name only a few of the already legion efforts to gain private ownership of existing popular knowledge and common wealth in genes and seeds.


Not all life patents, however, are for unchanged pre-existing life forms. New genetic forms are being manufactured. Monsanto corporation has developed and patented genetically modified seed designed to withstand the spraying of its proprietary weed killer, Roundup. It is illegal for farmers to re-use patented seed or to grow these seeds without signing a licensing agreement to pay royalties. This is strictly policed by toll-free snitch lines and private police who check farmers fields and crops. On March 29, 2001, in a case followed the world over, a judge ruled that a Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser, whose fields had been contaminated by Monsanto¹s genetically modified canola seed, must pay the company thousands of dollars for violating its patent on genetically modified canola seed (rafi 2001).


It is a small step from making it illegal for farmers and peasants to use and re-use seeds without paying a corporation, to developing a terminator seed, as Monsanto has done, whose sterility makes their use impossible. Although this ³terminator technology² has been disavowed in the wake of international horror, it clearly reveals that corporations are not interested in owning life in order to protect it or to overcome scarcity or feed the world!19 Quite the reverse in fact. tncs are actively removing the means of livelihood from individuals and communities all over the world as they construct a fragile, centrally owned and controlled global food system whose priority is profit, not food security for the rich or the poor.20


iii.  feminist struggles


Corporate globalization today is commodifying and colonizing not only the means of life, but life itself. Women¹s work and responsibility for the bearing and sustaining of (individual and communal) life has become the central ground of both patriarchal capitalist ³development² and the construction of alternatives. Women in both economic South and North are especially vulnerable to the harms of corporate globalization, but particularly active in resisting it and in articulating alternatives.


The enforcement of the same neo-liberal agenda everywhere in the world links the fate of women in the North and South more closely than before.21 The fettered sphere¹s theft from the free and protected spheres predominantly targets women (and their children) everywhere. When what cannot be turned to profit is downloaded from the protected to the free sphere, it is predominantly women who bear the extra burden, without pay. Thus, women¹s lives and livelihoods are disproportionately at risk today, and women themselves are suffering disproportionate increases in work.


In the economic South women are the protectors and propagators of the seeds being appropriated or patented by the transnationals. When subsistence resources are switched to production for the market, they generally shift from women¹s to men¹s hands. Young women provide the bulk of the labour in the maquiladoras and micro enterprises springing up to take advantage of cheap and unprotected labour. And women bear the brunt of social disintegration and poverty. They are sold (or sell themselves) into marriage and are trafficked (or traffick themselves) in the sex trade. They make up the vast majority of migrant workers and, with their children, account for 80% of all refugees.


When education is cut, more girls than boys lose access. Women depend more than men on social transfer payments and public services such as transportation, and they suffer unequally when these are reduced. Women everywhere are the ones who must care for the young, the sick and the old when child care, health care, mental hospitals and old age homes are not available. When social service, health care and education jobs are cut or contracted to the private sector, women lose a large proportion of their all too few ³good jobs² even as they shoulder the bulk of the unpaid work needed to compensate for the individual, communal and environmental costs of ³economic growth.²


Women in local communities around the world are challenging economic and religious fundamentalisms as they claim their freedom and affirm and protect life. They are resisting those who would steal their knowledge and seeds and transfer resources from subsistence production to production for profit. They are preserving social and public services, organizing labour in sweat shops, protecting the environment, opposing violence and war, confronting tyranny, and defending and extending democracy.22 What¹s more, feminists are building regional and global networks around all these issues; in the process, they affirm the core values of human and non-human life and of biological and cultural diversity in opposition to the homogenizing economic growth whose only catalyst is profit.


A few examples of these many regional and international networks include: aaword (Association of African Women for Research and Development), awran (Asian Women¹s Human Rights Network), cafra (Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action), dawn (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era), Diverse Women for Diversity, finrrage (Feminists International Network of Resistance to Reproductive Technologies and Genetic Engineering), Indigenous Women¹s Network, International Network Against Female Sexual Slavery and Trafficking in Women, International Women and Health Network, isis (Women¹s International Information and Communication Service), Latin American Feminist Encuentros, Network on Women¹s Human Rights, Women Against Funda-mentalism, wedo (Women Environment and Development Organization), Women Living Under Muslim Laws, Women¹s International League for Peace and Freedom.


As I have shown in my book Integrative Feminisms: Building Global Visions 1960s-1990s (1996), through these myriad locally grounded international networks, the global women¹s movement is building a new form of multi-centred movement that promotes solidarity through diversity rather than sameness. Feminists are imagining and thus creating the potential for new forms of non- homogenizing universality. The global feminist movement is neither unicentred, nor decentred and points to the possibility as it builds the capacity for alternative liberating global relations. Corinne Kumar calls this a ³new universalism²:


not a universalism that denies the many and affirms the one, not a eurocentric universalism; not a patriarchal universalism. A universalism that will not deny the accumulated experience and knowledge of all past generations [Š] that [Š] will not accept the imposition of any monolithic, ³universal² structures under which it is presumed all other peoples must be subsumed [Š] A new universalism that will challenge the universal mode, the logic of our development, science, technology, militarization, the nuclear option. A new universalism that will respect the plurality of different societies - of their philosophy, of their ideology, their traditions and cultures, one that will be rooted in the particular, one which will develop in the context of the dialectics of different civilizations, birthing a new cosmology (D¹Souza 1992, p. 44)


At the heart of these new human possibilities lies a rejection of the dominance of white western men, of western modernization and of capitalist ³development.² However, feminists affirming diverse knowledges and cultures being marginalized and destroyed by these processes are not simply defending tradition. They are promoting transformation and forward thinking, because at the same time they are affirming the knowledge and work of women, often devalued and disregarded in both traditional and modern cultures.


In the 1970s and early 1980s, feminists from the South (Anand 1980, Antrobus 1983, Dakar 1982, isis 1983) and North (Boulding 1980, Ehrenreich and English 1979, Leghorn and Parker 1981) from their different locations, rejected profit centred development and capitalism; they instead proposed alternative, women associated starting places and values for humanity as a whole. In the early 1980s, for instance, dawn, a third world women¹s network, articulated (among others) a feminist project grounded in female-associated values and priorities:


The women¹s movementŠ can have an ethic drawn from women¹s daily lives. At its deepest, it is not an effort to play ³catch up² with the competitive aggressive ³dog-eat-dog² spirit of the dominant system. It is, rather, an attempt to convert men and the system to the sense of responsibility, nurturance, openness, and rejection of hierarchy that are part of our vision. (Sen and Grown 1987)23


In the u.s., Deirdre English and Barbara Ehrenreich (1979) wrote similarly:


We refuse to remain on the margins of society, and we refuse to enter that society on its own termsŠ The human values that women were assigned to preserve [must] become the organizing principles of society. The vision that is implicit in feminism [is that of] a society organized around human needsŠ There are no human alternatives. The Market, with its financial abstractions, deformed science and obsession with dead thingsŠ must be pushed back to the margin. And the ³womanly² values of community and caring must rise to the center as the only human principle. (1979, p. 342)


Feminists in all regions are seeking to transform the dominant system rather than enter it on equal terms. They reject hierarchical, competitive, market ruled, patriarchal capitalism as less than human, even anti-human. They have come to see that what is called ³modernization² in the economic North and ³development² in the economic South depends on processes of often violent colonization of nature, women, workers, indigenous peoples and traditional cultures and communities. And they are articulating ecological and anti-colonial, women-centred perspectives that link all these struggles (Mies 1986, Mies et al. 1987, Shiva 1989).




The consensus emerging among the world¹s feminists on these transformative perspectives was evident in practice in 1991 when 1,500 women from 54 countries met in Miami at the World Women¹s Congress for a Healthy Planet. Building on earlier dialogue in an array of networks, participants produced a powerful and visionary set of regional statements and a collective analysis and set of positions known as Women¹s Action Agenda 21, in preparation for the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (unced or The Earth Summit) (World Women¹s Congress for a Healthy Planet 1992). Collections of feminist writing from Latin America (Oliviera and Corral 1992) and Asia (Second Asian and Pacific Ministerial Conference on Women 1994), to name only two of many, confirm that these world wide feminist visions and perspectives are shared and are shaping women¹s practice around the world.


Women are not the only group or movement criticizing not only economic growth as a measure of wealth and well being, but also colonialism and capitalism. But feminist perspectives are essential in designing alternatives to corporate globalization and have yet to be properly heard, understood, and acknowledged by other movements (Miles 2000). Women stand at the core of the beleaguered protected and free spheres. Their historical and mandated responsibility for individual and communal life anchors their diverse global networks, their resistance to patriarchal corporate globalization and their visions of a life-affirming future. A future fully human society will necessarily be a ³feminized² society, where women have more power, gender is less determining, and women¹s work and responsibility for sustaining life become a defining social priority shared by all.





1.  The average farm size in the UK today is 6 times that of 1967 (over 1,000 animals compared to an average of 100 in 1967). (Branigan and Brown 2001).


2.  A 1990 study of more than 3,000 U.S. cities and counties showed that pollution exposure is both shockingly widespread and shockingly unequal. 57% of whites, 65% of Hispanics, and 80% African Americans were found to live in areas with high air pollution (Laurel Rayburn 2001). Three out of five Black and Hispanic Americans live in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites (World Women¹s Congress for a Healthy Planet 1992, p. 35).

3.  Environmental and social destruction appear as pluses/benefits when they offer opportunities for profit; otherwise, they are unrecorded/invisible. So, for instance, a breakdown in community trust and safety will register as increased sales of household locks and alarms. The September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre will have increased the gdp of the usa.


4. Housework Study, Part viii, Official Statistics of Finland, SVTXXII (1981).


5.  Pietilä¹s research is reported in Waring (1988). See also, Pietilä (1993 and n.d.).


6.  These means include resource theft and extraction; forced labour including slavery; government imposed taxes (used not only to collect revenue but to force fully functional local economies into external trade to earn the required tax money); unequal terms of trade and forced colonial export and import relations.


To give just two among a legion of criminal examples: raw cotton was imported from India and cotton cloth was sold back to the subcontinent by the British who established this ³trade²by destroying the thriving indigenous industry. Anyone, caught producing cloth risked losing their thumb. China, which had no need or desire for any European goods available was nevertheless forced to ³trade² silks, pottery, spices and other goods demanded in Europe. To stem the unacceptable drain of silver to China that resulted from this lopsided ³trade,² the British introduced opium grown in India and sent gun boats to defend ³free trade² whenever Chinese authorities tried to refuse this ³import.²


7.  This change does not release women from their unpaid work and responsibility in the free sphere. It rather adds low paid work in the protected sphere to women¹s continuing unpaid work load. So, it cannot accurately be spoken of as a shift of responsibility from the private to the public sphere. Rather, private, largely female responsibility is shared socially with the development of services that are subsidized by women¹s low wages and rely on women¹s extremely demanding double work day (paid and unpaid).


8.  State power, far from being supplanted by the concentration of power in transnational corporations, is being used to serve that concentration. The dominance of the global market that restricts national options, and is used to justify painful restructuring in the name of competition, is itself the product of policies dictated and implemented by national governments of wealthy nations and the multi-lateral institutions they control, with the collaboration of powerful groups in the economic south.


9.  Because of deteriorating terms of trade and massive interest rate jumps, the foreign debt of these nations continues to rise, though they have repaid the principal many times over. Interest rates jumped from 2.2% in the 1970s when the debts were originally incurred to 16.6% in 1982. The World Watch Institute reports that in 1971 the debt of developing countries was $277 billion, by 1997 it had reached $2,171 billion (2000a).

10.  The Ontario Government, for instance, relieved Ontario Hydro¹s two main successor companies of $21 billion of debt (Martin 2001).


11.  In Cochabamba, Bolivia, recently local people rioted to force the government to take back newly privatized water services which had left them without water. The privatized rail service in Britain has cost lives and ruined the rail system. Privatization of power provision in California has led to energy blackouts and interrupted service.


12.  In Ontario, the provincial government¹s hasty off-loading of the water monitoring function to private labs has been implicated in a serious outbreak of e-coli that caused seven deaths and much serious illness (Brennan 2001, Harris 2001).


13.  When a Peruvian air force jet shot down a small plane on April 20, 2001 in the mistaken belief that it was carrying drug smugglers, it was revealed that the plane had first been spotted and wrongly identified by a us surveillance aircraft carrying employees of a private firm with a cia contract. The incident, in which a young mother and her child died, cast light on the privatization of the drug war. A great deal of the $1.3 billion allocated for Plan Colombia, the mixed programme of military and ³development² aid intended to fund the ³drug war² in Colombia is going to commercial ventures. DynCrop has a five-year $200 million contract to fly lethal crop-dusters over Colombia. Other private businesses conduct aerial surveillance and have trained Colombian officers (Monbiot 2001).


14.  Mergers of enormous conglomerates that would have been resisted earlier are now the norm, representing a concentration of already excessive corporate power. In 1970, some 50 conglomerates dominated the us mass media including newspapers, books, magazines, film, radio, television and recorded music; today, 10 corporations dominate (World Watch 2000a).


15.  In Ontario, Premier Mike Harris reduced social assistance by 22% as soon as he was elected in 1995. In Canada, the value of the minimum wage declined 48% between 1972 and 1992. In 1989, 87% of the unemployed were eligible for unemployment benefits; by 1996 tightening criteria had reduced eligibility to 40%.


16.  A new 15 country study by the international organization Social Watch, documents widening income gaps in every country since the advent of free trade (


17.  For extensive documentation of increasing economic polarization in Canada, see Yalnitzyan (1998).


18.  The United Nations Social Summit in Copenhagen in 1995 estimated that the cost of the absolute eradication of poverty would be $80 billion per year over 20 years, compared to worldwide military spending which was nearly $800 billion in that year alone.


19.  To counter the costly negative publicity of this terminator seed, corporations moved very cynically and very quickly (with public funding) to produce rice engineered with Vitamin A precursors. Extensive publicity billed this ³Golden Rice² as a solution for widespread vitamin A deficiency in the third world. Free licenses ³for humanitarian use² were granted for all intellectual property rights, and the rice is free to farmers earning under $10,000 per year. Unfortunately, to gain the necessary Vitamin A from this rice, people would have to eat 3kg (uncooked weight) of rice every day, whereas the normal ration is only 100grams. The re-introduction of traditional diverse intercropping, originally displaced by expanded monocropping of rice, would improve people¹s nutrition far more effectively than this genetically modified rice, but would be much less profitable.


22.  For accounts of women¹s local activism see: Bennholdt-Thomsen and Mies (1999); Davies (1983, 1987); Garland (1988); Kishwar and Vanita (1984); match International Centre (1990); Mbilinyi and Meena (1991); Morgan (1984); Ricciutelli et al. (1998); and Schuler (1986, 1990, 1992).


23.  This influential document was developed collectively by dawn members and circulated in unpublished form in feminist groups and at feminist gatherings before 1987.







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