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Feminism, Social Movements and the Globalisation of Democracy

Eschle, Catherine and Shaw, Martin (2000) Feminism, Social Movements and the Globalisation of Democracy. PhD thesis, University of Sussex.

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This thesis explores the relationship between social movements and democracy in social and political thought. It does so in the context of arguments about the exclusions and mobilisations generated by gender hierarchies and the impact of globalisation. Two interrelated questions are considered: what is the role and significance of social movements in democracy according to social and political theorists? Conversely, in what ways do social movements disrupt the assumptions of social and political theorists and point towards alternative understandings and practices of democracy? These questions structure an examination of longstanding 'modernist' traditions of thought, 'new times' postmarxist and postmodernist innovations, and recent efforts to devise global normative theoretical frameworks. Most of these are shown to rely on reductive understandings of the movement form and simplistic assessments of the impacts of movements on democracy. Their prescriptions for democracy are correspondingly limited. Further, gendered marginalisations remain largely unchallenged. More satisfactory answers emerge from a discussion of feminist theory and practices. The thesis examines feminist democratic theory, which aims to construct a more woman-friendly polity, before turning to debates about the democratisation of the feminist movement itself. Particular attention is paid to black and third world feminist contributions to the latter and their accompanying arguments about the operations of power, the scope of democracy, the nature of political agency and the possibility of change. The thesis sketches out the ways in which such arguments are increasingly being worked out on a global scale as feminists grapple with the implications of globalisation for movement organisation. This process, it is concluded, points toward the possibility of a global democratic framework which has social movements at its heart.