The Battle of Seattle: The New Challenge to Capitalist Globalization: Edited by Eddie Yuen, George Katsiaficas, and Daniel Burton Rose, 400 pgs. By Maddy

Feb 02, 2011

Let’s cut right to the point. This is the best book on the anti-globalization movement I have read. If you’re looking for a wide range of opinions, debates, and issues surrounding the Battle of Seattle and beyond, you need to read this book. If you’re at all involved in the anti-globalization movement, you need to read this book. The editors collected dozens of essays from everyone from Alexander Cockburn and Naomi Klein to less-known community activists. Plus drawings by Seth Tobocman and, of course, the required Noam Chomsky interview (!).

The book covers the international globalization movement, the differences between activists today and in the 60’s, the ever-popular property destruction debate, new alliances between labor unions, community groups, and other organizations, the controversy over NGO’s, post-Seattle protests, and the controversy surrounding race issues within the movement. Along the way, many more issues get drawn into the bigger picture as well.

The sections on the anti-globalization movement in Third World countries and the differences between the activism of the 60’s and today are the most interesting and well-done. With such an international social movement, ideally we should all be as up-to-date on activism in Venezuela as we are in Seattle. This book gets the reader a step closer to that point.

The writers in the 60’s section provide an excellent analysis of the differences and similarities between the movement today and forty years ago. In particular, they are eager to comment on the positive differences between the two. In her essay “Not Your Parent’s Protest”, Barbara Epstein writes, “The most important difference is that movements of the sixties, especially the anti-war movement, were directed against the state; the Seattle mobilization was directed against global corporations.” Epstein convincingly argues that today’s protesters are taking on serious, complicated economic issues and forming alliances with labor unions and community groups that would have been unheard of in the 60’s. 

All too often, the movement gets bogged down by comparisons to the past. In this book, anti-globalization is explored in its contemporary context, without trying to make it fit a pre-existing mold. After reading this book, it’s impossible not to feel like you’re in the middle of an entirely new, exciting, and challenging social movement. If you’re looking for an introduction to globalization, this isn’t the right book for you. But if you already know about the actual protests and want to explore the underlying issues and debates within the movement, you couldn’t find a better book. –Maddy (Soft Skull Press, 71 Bond Street, Brooklyn, NY11217)