Role of Universalism and Neoliberalism in the New Social Movements Essay

Role of Universalism and Neoliberalism in the New Social Movements Essay

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In the past few decades, increasing attention to social issues has risen and the development of new methods to address this demand for change implemented, with varying degrees of success in the overall scheme. Methods of engaging in the new social movements of the twenty first century take different forms ranging from environmental and sexual reforms to religious revolutions and alternative ways of addressing globalization. As a result, a diverse number of interests groups have sprung up, each with their own agenda, making adhering to a single, universal cause difficult and oftentimes a point of contention. The conflicts of interest arising between grassroots movements and state involvement illustrate the larger issue of attempted collaboration local and international bodies in order to incorporate all parties. Unfortunately, such collaboration has instead fallen into a state of corporate control dominated by states of the global North. Exacerbating the North-South divide is the idea of “universalism”; while at face value an all-inclusive concept, upon deeper examination it reflects Western thinking and structures of neoliberalism and capitalism in maintaining the status quo. Consequently, recent localized, action-based response movements seeking to challenge the status quo are still entrapped within the context of a world dominated by neoliberalism under the guise of universal equality.
Universalism as a concept is not inherently hierarchical or exclusivist, yet the term which originates from Western ideas inevitably has a decidedly Western influence, and therefore takes on a dominating role in application to global social movements, many of which cannot identify with the same cause (Nussbaum 446). As in the new sexual politics,...

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...the rigid neoliberalist constructs, but the methods and tools at their disposal are often those allocated to them by the existing systems of inequality. Therefore, by operating within neoliberalism’s previously defined constructs, such organizations not only stay stagnant within the world system, but also contribute to the systems of power and money. Under this exploitative structure the system of law and governance does not apply universally to all parties, and thus exacerbates the North-South divide. The economic, political, and social advantage of nations at the top of the hierarchical global economy grow stronger when institutions overpower the representation of the local in even the venues for reform. Consequently, the overwhelming presence of neoliberalism in purported reform movements attest to the lingering effects of capitalism on modern day social reform.

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