Valentine M. Moghadam: Globalization and Social Movements: Islamism, Feminism, and the Global Justice Movement

Book Review

Reviewer: Alina Shymanska

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ISBN: 978-1442214187
Author's page: Valentine M. MOGHADAM

Valentine M. Moghadam: Globalization and Social Movements: Islamism, Feminism, and the Global Justice Movement

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Despite this book not being a recent publication, the various issues that it brings to the table are still relevant topics for debates within academia. Globalization and Social Movements: Islamism, Feminism, and the Global Justice Movement by Valentine M. Moghadam examines three cases of three transnational social movements emerging as a response to liberalism and the globalization-from-above, which is defined by the author as ‘the latest stage of capitalism on a world scale’ (p.27). Conceptually the book establishes connections between ‘globalization-from-above and globalization-from-below’, while ‘politically it seeks to build a bridge between globalization studies and progressive global movements’ (p. 29).

Current transnational social movements are exceedingly diverse and touch upon a vast number of global issues, including the supremacy of the West, which is viewed as a core problem in Islamism, gender inequality and human rights violation as a main obstacle as defined by feminism, and the capitalistic neoliberalism which is affecting economies in developing countries according to the Global Justice Movement. For this reason, Valentine M. Moghadam does not limit her theoretical framework only to the social movement theory but also makes references to the world-systems theory, polity theory, and the feminist theory in order to analyze the roots of the social movements´ evolution. With this in mind, the author calls her theoretical approach to an integrated framework drawing

The book begins with Valentine M. Moghadam elaborating on the changes in the global political economy which have provoked the emergence of these social movements. These conditions include the markets becoming more integrated and less regulated as well as the relocation of sites from the first world to third world countries, which leads to the involvement of women and migrants in low-paid labor jobs. According to the author, these are the main causes of the feminization of poverty. While referring to Paul Streeten, Jeffrey Sachs, and Joseph Stiglitz, Moghadam draws on the idea that in an economic sense, globalization is ‘Janus-faced’ rather than positive, since it favors developed nations, men, and professionals. At the same time, it negatively affects poor countries, women, children, and uneducated workers. The author also brings the feminist concept of hyper-masculinity, dividing the global society into masculine winners and vulnerable losers, and interpreting Samuel Huntington's clash of civilizations as a clash of hyper masculinities, using the example of the United States and violent jihadist. This feministic tone is carried throughout the entirety of the book.

In the case study which is dedicated to Islamism, the author presents it as a transnational social movement against globalization. Moghadam notes that blaming globalization and the spread of Western values for the emergence of jahiliyyah is the main idea of Islamism, and both the moderate and violent Islamists are the antagonists of globalization with the only difference being that the moderate wing strives for a peaceful regime change through parliamentary means. The author defines the two categories of Islamism, which are the militant Salafi Islamists (or Salafi jihad) that share conservative world views, and individuals and collective groups who cling to the ideas of Liberal Islam, which includes the new religious intellectuals from Iran and Malaysia’s Sisters in Islam (SIS).

Moghadam continues to elaborate on the emergence and role of the feminist transnational movement and also touches upon Muslim feminists specifically. Moghadam underlines the peacefulness of the movement, which favors medium such as research, advocacy, and lobbying. The author also emphasizes the capacity to acknowledge the democratic practices as a strength of feminism. For instance, Malaysia’s Sisters in Islam (SIS) is a Muslim feminist organization that describes their agenda of fighting the marginalization of women through the means of liberalism. The organization mainly consists of highly educated women-specialists from upper-middle-class families. Here we can make a distinction between the liberal upper middle-class Muslim feminist intellectuals and militant Islamists who mostly come from lower-middle-class families. 

Finally, the author provides an analysis based on a case study concerning the Global Justice Movement. This movement consists of various subdivisions concentrating on a vast number of issues, including anti-poverty, anti-corporate governance, the labor market, environmental policies, and feminism. Having started with research and seminars, the antipoverty, debt relief, and free trade movements tried to gain attention with anti-government protests around the world. For example, from 1976 to 1992 the Anti-Structural Adjustment protests took place in 38 countries all over the globe. Given the number of networks included, the author calls the Global Justice Movement ‘the movement of movements’ (p. 201). Here the author also puts emphasis on the importance of the internet in transnational movement emergence, makes some suggestions, and looks for the prospects of transnational social movements. Ironically, the digitalization of society, which is a byproduct of globalization, has propelled various anti-globalization movements because it has provided affordable tools capable of mass communication, which includes the use of social media.

This book is a valuable piece of literature as it shows the reader different perspectives on the variety of effects that globalization can produce. The main argument that the author makes is that the current neoliberal globalization-from-above is the last stage of capitalism, and thus it evokes the response from below in the form of transnational social movements. Moghadam was able to support her argument with logical explanations based on the previously discussed cases studies of Islamism, feminism, and the Global Justice Movement. While she distinguishes the differences of each social movement’s evolvement and political views of the people involved, the author proves that their grievances, despite not being monolithic, are all somehow connected to the process of globalization, especially in regards to its economic means. The author also suggests that globalization justifies great powers’ involvement in peacekeeping operations in the Middle East.

According to Moghadam, the Muslim nations are affected by the results of globalization even more so than other countries. In this regard, Moghadam provides a very detailed explanation on the emergence of the Islamism movement as an opposition to the globalization-from-above, noting that the economic problems and lack of secure perspectives among the university educated youth who found themselves either unemployed or stuck in low-paying jobs had a big influence as well. Yet, the author not only blames the West, but she also points out that the violent authoritarian government in the Middle East, which oppressed freedom of speech and eliminated all the institutions that could create a dialogue between the government and the people also played a significant role in the development of this problematic situation. This culminated in both smart and talented, but desperate and unheard young people having nothing to do but look for answers in sharia and dream of the utopian Islamic State.

2020 - Volume 14 Issue 2