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Caruso, Giuseppe (2007) Organizing global civil society: The World Social Forum 2004. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The World Social Forum (WSF) was started in Brazil in 2001 to challenge the World Economic Forum. It has since generated a number of regional to local forums, and become the most conspicuous expression of global civil society (GCS). The WSF has been characterised as a space that facilitates the gathering of people with the objective to create alternatives to neoliberalism. The aim of this thesis is to assess the nature and viability of the vision of the WSF. I identify its ideological contours, the immediate political objectives of its activists and the instruments they devised to achieve their goals. In order to do so, I studied the organisational process that led to the WSF annual event held in India in 2004 (WSF2004). By focusing on a specific national expression of the WSF I question some of the analytical tenets of the WSF discourse. In particular I assess the claims that it is a global "public sphere" or a global "open space" as defined in its Charter of Principles (Charter). Rather, I claim, the WSF, both as local instantiation and as global projection, is an expression of conflicting interests and ideological aspirations generated by specific social structures that shape it in ways that do not immediately fulfil the ideals defined in its Charter. The findings of my research do not argue against the global scope of the WSF and for a national approach to the concept of civil society. Rather they show how the global dimension attributed to the WSF is outcome of a recursively constitutive process involving, on one side, ideological aspirations and, on the other, actual social and political relations performed on multiple stages (from the local to the transnational). On the basis of the findings of this thesis, I claim that interests, power dynamics and social structures (considered in this thesis as the specific conditions of existence of the Indian WSF) can assume new shapes in the wider space of GCS. This makes GCS, and the WSF in particular, the privileged arena where the economic, the political, the social, the cultural and the personal can be peacefully and democratically exposed, negotiated, contested and challenged.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:12

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