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GLOBALIZATION—the apparent integration of the world into a single economic space through the redistribution of labor and capital across the political boundaries of nation-states—is often represented as an inevitable and irreversible phase of capitalism. The globalization of production and consumption by transnational corporations, actively assisted by the international financial institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) and the World Trade Organization, is generally viewed as a force that transforms all the economic, political, and cultural forms it encounters. This account of globalization has no doubt been persuasive, but its weaknesses are also increasingly apparent. Scholars have contested the insistence that this force determines all others and that there is no alternative (e.g., Zeleza, 2002; Bergeron, 2001). Advocates of globalization base their arguments on the tenets of free-market neoclassical economic theory. The tendency to focus on technical and abstract economic processes denies the power relations at play at the same time as it renders invisible the forms and practices that disrupt the presumed order of globalization . The denial of power relations and globalization’s differential effects on diverse social categories of people, differentiated by nation, class, gender, race, ethnicity, is not new. The same ideological basis underpins the structural adjustment programs (SAPs) implemented during the 1980s in many countries in SOCIAL RESEARCH, Vol. 69, No. 3 (Fall 2002) Configuring “Global,” “National,” and “Local” in Governance Agendas and Women’s Struggles in Nigeria BY CHARMAINE PEREIRA Africa and Central and South America, and the apparently more “participatory” character of today’s poverty-reduction strategies. Vociferous popular protests against the imposition of SAPs have led to the belated recognition, on the part of the global financial institutions, of the intimate connections between economic and political power. The IMF and World Bank discourse of “good governance ” was partly a response to this recognition. In 1989, the World Bank defined Africa’s crisis as one of “governance.” By this was meant the particular character of the political and legal framework operating in African countries—factors such as widespread corruption, lack of judicial autonomy and rule of law, and unaccountable government human rights abuses. The problem, from this perspective, was that the SAPs had not turned out to be as successful as originally envisaged by the global financial institutions . The social costs of adjustment became increasingly difficult to evade in the wake of mounting criticism from organizations such as UNICEF (see, for example, Cornia, Jolly, and Stewart, 1987). The solution, as the World Bank and the IMF saw it, was the implementation of economic liberalization in conjunction with political democratization. “Governance” was the technique for ensuring the requisite political change—“the exercise of political power to manage a nation’s affairs” (World Bank, 1989: 60). That many African states do face a crisis of governance, of one form or another, cannot be denied. Unlike the rhetoric, however, the governance agenda of the global financial institutions has not been about the enhancement of democracy, but the promotion of a neoliberal agenda. The aim has been to promote the private market as the key to social and economic development. The obstacle from this perspective was the state, which had to be “rolled back” and from which civil society had to be liberated. The hypocrisy of this position is evident in the way in which the neoliberal project relies on a profound use of state power to actively suppress and disrupt civil society, as it actually exists (Beckman, 1992). The global financial institutions, renowned for their con782 SOCIAL RESEARCH demnation of the state and calls for its curtailment, rely on the coercive powers of the same state to impose structural adjustment on reluctant populations (Ibrahim, 1997). The extent to which women’s lives are configured by large-scale “global” considerations, as opposed to more “local” concerns and practices, is not clear-cut. Freeman (2001: 1008) draws attention to the “erasure of gender as integral to social and economic dimensions of globalization when framed at the macro, or ‘grand theory,’ level and an implicit masculinization of these macrostructural models.” A hierarchical and dichotomous relationship is set up such that the “global” is gendered masculine while the “local” is gendered feminine. Ong (1999) argues that “a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 781-804
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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