Counter-Hegemonic Projects and Cognitive Praxis in Transnational Alternative Policy Groups

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:10
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
William CARROLL, University of Victoria, Canada
Elaine COBURN, American University of Paris, France
Since the mid-1970s, and particularly since the 1990s, alternative policy groups have generated ideas, both visionary and strategic, for a ‘globalization from below’ in which transnational social movements have been leading protagonists. This paper presents a comparative analysis of eight transnational alternative policy groups (TAPGs) along with a basic conceptual framework for understanding them as sites of cognitive praxis: producers and mobilizers of knowledge for social transformation. We explore how, in contrast to neoliberal think tanks (NTTs), TAPGs endeavour to expose private interests’ problematic role in the global political economy. Their remit is not to centralize knowledge within elite policy networks but diffuse it, and promote dialogues that strengthen processes of democratization by building the capacity of counter-hegemonic publics. And although both TAPGs and NTTs mix, in different degrees, research, analysis, advising, lobbying, persuasion, deliberation and advocacy, there is a key difference: NTTs are vehicles for dominant class interests; TAPGs align with subaltern classes and groups.  Taken together, the TAPGs introduced here represent an important source of alternative knowledge production and an illuminating contrast to hegemonic think tanks. They matter because they create new critical sources of knowledge and mobilize that knowledge within projects aimed at social justice, human thriving and ecological well-being. TAPGs remind us that enlarging such spaces is a practical matter. It means critically analysing, but always doing so in close cooperation with actual on-the-ground struggles towards a different and better world.