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The theme of transnational governance has become again a hot topic at this years’ conference of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE). The SASE’s 24th Annual Meeting is taking places at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge on June 28-30, 2012. It brings together academics from various disciplinary backgrounds to discuss the issue of “Global Shifts Implications for Business, Government and Labour”. One of the mini conference themes within SASE (“Regulating Labor and Environment: Beyond the Public-Private Divide“) explicitly deals with the dynamics and impacts of transnational governance arrangements and their relationship towards national regulation (see also  other recent blog entry).

This mini conference brings together a variety of contributions dealing with the question of how transnational standards are effectively enforced locally. While several contributions discuss the “top down” implementation of rules one panel in particular looks at the domestic mobilization of private and state regulation. The panel “mobilization of private and state regulation” addresses the question of the relationship between state and other forms of regulation by examining how citizens and communities make use of and try to mobilize national and extraterritorial judicial, non-judicial and/or voluntary mechanisms in order to seek redress for local grievances: Scholars present ample empirical evidence from different countries and continents including China, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Brazil and discuss the following questions:

How do local societal actors make use of and employ transnational and national regulation? When do local actors fail in their attempts to mobilize domestic and transnational regulation, and why? And in general, what do we learn about the role of domestic citizens, workers or non-governmental organizations for putting regulatory regimes into practice and broader contextual conditions which either enhance local redress mechanisms, or undermine their capacity to address grievances?

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This is the third and final part of a small series of blog posts presenting the empirical findings of a study about the Pirate Party movement, which Leonhard and I carried out in January 2012. In particular, we aimed at exploring the transnational context of the German pirate party.  Previous posts dealt with the State of the Pirate Party Movement and Issues and Campaigning. This time we are dealing with local organizational ties of Pirate Parties.

Local embeddedness of Pirate Parties is not only important in terms of issues and campaigning but also with respect to (inter-)organizational relations. In our brief survey, almost every registered Pirate Party (13 of 14) reported ties to partner organizations at the local or regional level. Together with lower barriers to entry in local representative bodies, this localization strategy also tends to result in better election results at lower political levels (see Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: Average election result in % of registered Pirate Parties by level (2006 – 2011)

Sources: http://www.kommunalpiraten.de/ ; http://wiki.pp-international.net/Main_Page [retrieved Feb. 10, 2012]

Figure 2: Number of elected officials by level (2006 – 2011)

Sources: http://www.kommunalpiraten.de/ ; http://wiki.pp-international.net/Main_Page [retrieved Feb. 10, 2012]

In addition to the development of local branches, the sampled parties mostly operate within a local network of organizational supporters and partners. The majority of registered parties named local branches of active NGOs, including organizations operating transnationally such as Wikimedia and the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as local activist groups as well as think tanks (see Figure 3). Read the rest of this entry »

Last week we started a small series of blog posts presenting our empirical findings of a study about the Pirate Party movement which Leonhard and I carried out in January 2012 (see “Transnational Pirates #1“). In particular we aimed at exploring the transnational context of the German pirate party. We understand transnationality as the combination of practices of actors who are simultaneously engaged in a global context and local network.

We operationalized the local context of Pirate Parties in three dimensions: the local roots of issues, the (inter-)organizational embeddedness in the local, and related to the latter the participation in elections (we will come back to that in Part 3 of the series). We intended to reveal how the parties build on various local opportunity structures and adapt to different local conditions. The following analysis focuses on our sample of 14 officially registered Pirate Parties.

The integration into both a global and a specific local network can be shown in terms of themes and issues pursued by the respective Pirate Parties. Asking for the rationale for establishing a national Pirate Party in the first place paints a rather consistent picture. While this was an open question, all 14 registered parties only refered to four main objectives:

  1. Pursuit of themes of the global Pirate Party movement in their respective countries (8)
  2. Transformation of political structures, towards more transparency and participation (8)
  3. To live up to earlier success and attention of Pirate Parties (7)
  4. To tie on concrete political issues in their respective countries (6)

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As Leonhard has written on this blog some days ago, the recent success of the Pirate Party in the Saarland state election in Germany is remarkable. The Pirates received 7,4 percent of the votes right from the start. Just days after the election, the party has even raised its acceptance on the federal level. Current opinion polls count them at 12 percent among German voters.

In addtion to its success in regional elections, the German Pirate Party also consciously operates within a transnational context. The transnational perspective of the German pirates can be illustrated with a recent statement of Bernd Schlömer, vice chair of Pirate Party Germany, who points out that his party is part of a global movement. This movement, Schlömer added, might help to develop international positions, for example, on Foreign Affairs and Security Policies issues, which then could be brought back into national politics.

This recent example illustrates the two perspectives of the transnational context of the Pirate Party movement, which Leonhard and I aimed to further examine in a study pursued in January 2012, which will appear as a book chapter in the German edited volume “Unter Piraten“.

We would like to present our empirical findings in three short posts, starting with a general description of the project, the data collection and first results concerning the state of the global Pirate Party movement. We will then move on to post #2 on Issues and Campaigning and post #3 on Global Movement and Local Networks. Read the rest of this entry »

The anti-sweatshop movement has been revitalizing and exploring a new form of localized transnational collective action: A Peoples’ Tribunal on the Minimum Living Wage and Decent Working in Cambodia. The idea of People’s Tribunals is not new and has originated in the human rights area. Among the first international People’s Tribunals, which examines and provides judgments on violations of human rights was the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal founded in 1976 in Italy. Since then People’s Tribunals have spread as an action repertoire for human rights activists through a range of countries in order to promote justice and mobilize victims of human rights abuses independently of the state judiciary. Its goals have been about popularizing the notion of justice; educating the public; encouraging debate on human rights issues and democratizing legal processes.  Therewith it is a legalistic, but soft instrument to provide justice in cases where the state has failed to do so.

In the area of labor rights violations, it is a rather new adoption of this instrument. In Cambodia it has been used to investigate the violation of labor rights, in particular the poverty payment. Its aim it to improve the working conditions and raise the wage level in in the Cambodian garment industry.

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Last week consumers around world learned about the place our mobile phones, ipods, iPads and PlayStations are produced: In production facilities in China, owned by a Taiwanese company called Foxconn, which produces for brands such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung and Dell. Consumers learned that Foxconn is the biggest producer of electronic goods, employs over 400.000 workers in the Shenzhen province, 11 workers committed suicide this year. Consumers also learned that the official annual suicide rate in China is 13 per 100,000 workers. And Terry Gou, the founder of Foxconn recapitulates that his factory is below the official norm.

The rising protest inside China but also abroad which followed these tragic incidents, reveal a lot about the new dynamics in the fight for improvements of working conditions in Chinese factories: a dynamic which combines strong local critique, which does not leave the government untouched, with international outrage against the major customers.

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„Obama Lies, Grandma Dies“, „Obamahdinejad“  or „euthanasia bill“ are slogans you find on protest poster angry people hold up at town hall meetings, where the US health care reform is debated.  In general, everybody in a community is invited to attend Town Hall meetings to discuss political issues with elected officials. Such meetings are usually seen as a good way of giving voice to people in decision-making, therefore making politics more democratic by enhancing its input legitimacy. That is why social scientists like to take it as an example for studying public deliberation and discursive participation.  But in the current health care debate, there is not a lot of deliberation taking place. Instead, you see an explosion of emotions, fierce resistance and conflict. Mailing-lists and websites give advice on how to best disrupt those meetings. Here are some examples:

“The objective is to put the rep [representative] on the defensive with your question and follow-up. The rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the ‘Socialist agenda’ in Washington…If he blames Bush for something or offers other excuses – call him on it, yell back and have someone else follow-up with a shout-out.” (rightprinciples)

anti Health care reform protest

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Yesterday the Swedish “Pirat Partiet” (“Pirate Party”) actually made it into the European Parliament with 7.1 percent of the vote (see press release). According to exit polls, the Pirat Partiet got 19 percent of the votes cast by young voters (18-30 years of age). This is remarkable for a single-issue party. But while the Swedish results can to a large degree be explained by the enormous attention for copyright issues around the Pirate Bay trial, the German “Piratenpartei” got nearly 1 percent (about 230.000 votes), as well. There, the pirate party reached its best results in urban areas with large universities such as Bremen, Frankfurt or Gießen (read about the results of the German pirate party at heise.de (German) or in Google English).

Given the fact that the Swedish Pirat Partiet as the first pirate party was founded not before 2006, the global proliferation of pirate parties is impressive: Currently, the international pirate party site (pp-international.net) lists 23 countries “where you can find a Pirate Party, or where one is starting up”. All pirate parties share a principle opposition towards the prevalent copyright regime in general and criminalization of peer-to-peer file-sharing in particular. Read the rest of this entry »

“Epistemic Communities and Social Movements: Transnational Dynamics in the Case of Creative Commons” is the title of a new MPIFG Discussion Paper that Leonhard and I released last summer (PDF). The abstract reads as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
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