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Nepantla: Views from South 4.1 (2003) 1-4

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An Other Globalization
Toward a Critical Cosmopolitanism

Gabriela Nouzeilles and Walter D. Mignolo

With this issue Nepantla begins a reorientation pointing toward the formation of a truly transdisciplinary and transnational forum open to reflections and debates on current sociopolitical issues and the ethical responsibility that all research and teaching carry with them. Underlying this endeavor is the urgency of reexamining the meaning and feasibility of utopian thinking at a time when dominant macronarratives have proven painfully insufficient, if not recklessly erroneous. Expressions such as “participatory democracy,” “participatory budget,” and the like circulate not only in conversation and in writing but especially in social practices. They allude to the more radical forms of democracy that become possible when multiple avenues for negotiation and dissent, ones that lead vertically and horizontally, are simultaneously opened. Political representation has become increasingly controversial. “Being represented” is less and less a conviction, a belief in democracy that people cherish. Faced with the reality that the state often is not defending their interests but rather siphoning off their rights, their savings, and their dreams, people are becoming less likely to endow their “representatives” with unconditional trust (Krugman 2002; Lewis 2002).

One of the questions we have begun to ask is whether we can envision our work in institutions of higher education as “participatory intellectual work,” looking for roads to connect education and training in the social sciences and the humanities with social and political projects aimed at [End Page 1] changing the predatory tendencies of financial capitalism and constructively channeling the mounting rage that, as a consequence, is spreading all over the world, from Israel and Palestine, to Russia and Chechnya, to the United States and Iraq. How can we engage in “participatory knowing and understanding” that will contribute to opening up the narrow perspectives of international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank? It is often assumed that the humanities and those who anchor their work in them are impotent when it comes to interacting with the media or with economic or legal institutions that are beyond the scope of the humanities. We intend to make Nepantla a forum for debating the critical role of the humanities in generating knowledge and understanding that can help build a more democratic, just, and equitable world.

Nepantla will encourage contributions and conversations driven by the desire to imagine spaces of globalization that are not those taken for and managed according to the goals of capital accumulation or the national agendas of strong states seeking to enforce a world order that responds only to the designs of an economic and political minority in control of the economy and the law, a minority backed by military power. It is not enough to oppose neoliberal globalization. Since the world is growing increasingly and irreversibly interconnected, we must envision alternative global world orders. The myriad grassroots organizations acting (internationally and locally) all over the world are part of the struggle for an other globalization: one that is plural and diverse rather than homogenous, one that does not look at the world according to a fixed set of rules and principles, but rather embraces a world composed of many worlds. The project we are setting for ourselves could be seen as an attempt to practice “utopistics,” a word invented by Immanuel Wallerstein as a substitute for “utopia.” Utopistics is, for Wallerstein (1998, 1–2), “the serious assessment of historical alternatives, the exercise of our judgment as to the substantive rationality of alternative possible historical systems. It is the sober, rational and realistic evaluation of human social systems, the constraints on what they can be, and the zones open to human creativity. Not the face of the perfect (and inevitable) future, but the face of an alternative, credible better, and historically possible (but far from certain) future.”

“Utopistics” emerges as a fundamental task at a time when the world (and here we are referring to the “world” that has emerged from the World Social Forum at Pôrto Alegre)1...


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