Effecting Meaningful Change in the Global South Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Future of Global Neoliberalism

One of the harsh realities of life in the 21st century is that the vast majority of the world's population continues to struggle to survive in the face of dwindling arable land and governmental policies that serve to constrain rather than promote economic development. To determine the facts, this paper provides a review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature to explain why some theorists have maintained that the state continues to be a central agent that facilitates the advancement of global neoliberalism. A discussion concerning the rationale in support of this position, including an analysis of the possibilities and barriers that neoliberalism creates for genuine long-term sustainable human development; the objectives, strategies, and achievements of social movements as well as the barriers they face; and state-led models of development that run counter to the neoliberal agenda. Finally, a summary of the research and important findings concerning these issues are provided in the conclusion.

Review and Analysis

Possibilities and Barriers that Neoliberalism Creates for Genuine Long-

Term Sustainable Human Development

With a majority of the world's population still engaged in agriculture, many of the same nationwide problems that are being encountered in developing, newly industrialized countries such as South Africa represent a significant barrier for genuine long-term sustainable human development. For instance, according to the South African Association for Rural Advancement "Around the world the poorest of the poor are the landless in rural areas. They make up the majority of the rural poor and hungry, and it is in rural areas where the worst poverty and hunger are found" (The emergence of the landless people's movement in SA, 2002, p. 5).

These disturbing trends are taking place during a period in history when agricultural technology has helped defy Malthusian predictions that the world population growth would soon outpace the ability of the world to feed itself. The fundamental problem, it seems, is the manner in which this agricultural technology is being applied in countries such as South Africa. In this regard, the South African Association for Rural Advancement emphasizes that, "The expansion of agricultural production for export, which is controlled by wealthy elites who own the best lands, continually displaces the poor to ever more marginal areas of farming" (2002, p. 5).

Indeed, already struggling farmers in South Africa have been increasingly compelled to resort to subsistence farming on unsuitable land, creating a vicious cycle of impoverishment. For example, the South African Association for Rural Advancement points out that, "As they fall deeper into poverty, and despite their comparatively good soil management practices, they are often accused of causing environmental degradation" (The emergence of the landless people's movement in SA, 2002, p. 5).

Likewise, the organization, War on Want (n.d.) reports that, "The majority of black South Africans still live without land. The roots of this inequality lie in the country's history of colonialism and racist apartheid policies, but it is now exacerbated by the policies of the IMF and World Bank" (Landless in South Africa, para. 2).

Indeed, apartheid may be a thing of the not-so-distant past, but its legacy remains firmly in place in many parts of South Africa, especially with respect to agricultural lands. For example, Cox (2005) reports that, "Stock theft, farm murders, arson and illegal land occupation characterize relations between Africans and white farmers over significant parts of the country" (p. 1). While economic development remains a high priority for the South African government today, there remains less emphasis on forging truly sustainable human development in the country. As Cox points out, "The background to this includes: a highly racialized distribution of land ownership rooted in the country's colonial past; a land reform program which has raised African expectations; and failures to implement that program" (2005, p. 1).

Objectives, Strategies and Achievements of Social Movements

In most cases, the objectives of social movements concern gaining a fair share of national resources, or a return of resources that have been taken from them in some fashion. The strategies that are being used range from formal legal petitions to taking action. For instance, in a petition to the South African Parliament, Pilane (2004) reports that it is the position of the landless peoples of South Africa that they have a fundamental right to have their voices heard concerning the direction that the country's agricultural policies will follow in the future. According to Pilane, "The landless people of South Africa . . . should be given a chance to raise our concerns about The Pace of Land Reform in South Africa" (2004, para. 1).

In other cases, the strategies used by disadvantaged peoples include actively interceding on their own behalf. For instance, Dougherty (2014) cites the predicament faced by the Indigenous people of Paraguay due to the illegal confiscation of their lands by the Paraguayan government. According to Dougherty (2014), these people "have been living precariously on the side of a highway in Paraguay's remote Chaco region for more than 20 years, ever since a German cattle rancher and the Paraguayan state illegally kicked them off of their ancestral lands" (para. 2).

Notwithstanding a decision by the Inter-American Human Rights Court in 2006 that found the Paraguayan government responsible for this transgression, the court only ordered the return of a small percentage of the land to these people (Dougherty, 2014). Despite this ruling, the Paraguayan government was either unwilling or unable to effect the return of the fraction of the original lands to Sawhoyamaxa and the Indigenous people were compelled to resort to reclaiming the land on their own (Dougherty, 2014).

Barriers Faced by Social Movements

There are institutionalized barriers to social movements in many developing countries such as South Africa that represent profound barriers to progress. In this regard, Pilane (2004) reports that, "We continue to suffer from forced removals and evictions from the farms we have worked for generations, and from gross violations of our basic human rights through the abuse at the hands of the farmers who own these lands" (para. 3). While many other former European colonies have succeeded in overcoming the legacy of colonialism to join the international community in meaningful economic ways, some countries such as South Africa have systematically implemented policies that serve as barriers to social and economic development. For instance, Mngxitama (2009) emphasizes that, "In 1996, two years after the birth of democracy, the new political elite abandoned the progressive, yet market-oriented, Reconstruction and Development Programme in favor of the new conservative macroeconomic strategy, the Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy (GEAR)" (para. 2).

In sum, the GEAR structural adjustment program has been a disaster for many of the people of South Africa which has consistently failed to provide the promised outcomes. In this regard, Mngxitama (2009) concludes that the GEAR, which was based on "neo-liberal assumptions and prescriptions of the Washington Consensus, including deregulation, export-orientation, privatisation, liberalization, reliance on Direct Foreign Investment and curbing budget deficits by cutting social expenditure, GEAR has delivered neither growth, nor employment, nor redistribution" (para. 3).

In some cases, the barriers faced by social movements are so intractable as to defy easy solutions. For example, in India, Butt (2013) reports that, "While the government claims it has succeeded in eradicating the problem, almost each day, thousands of people, including children, in India are trapped, and very few are rescued from the ages-old trap of forced labor in the country" (para. 2). Taken together, social movements in developing nations are confronted with a number of barriers that limit their ability to effect meaningful change, and these limitations are further compounded by state-led models of development that run counter to the neoliberal agenda, and these issues are discussed further below.

State-Led Models of Development that Run Counter to the Neoliberal


Promoting sustainable economic development through the promotion of free trade and open markets in any country is a challenging enterprise to be sure, but the process has been constrained by some state-led models of development that are contrary to the neoliberal agenda. For example, McKelvey (2012) reports that, "Although Cuba has well developed tradition of popular participation in mass organizations and in the electoral process, many feel that these structures are not fully utilized by the people, especially the young" (p. 41). As a result, there are growing calls for a reintroduction of these resources as well as increased participation and control of the political process by the people (McKelvey, 2012).

Likewise, Mngxitama (2009) emphasizes that, "2001 was the year of the further consolidation of South Africa's neo-liberal transition. But 2001 also witnessed the beginning of a new era of social mobilization against the effects of these neo-liberal policies" (para 3). This social mobilization is comprised of the landless people of South Africa that are in opposition to the guiding principles of the South African Structural Adjustment Programme (Mngxitama, 2008). Indeed, notwithstanding their stated goals to the contrary, it would seem that some governmental policies have been specifically formulated to place further hardships on those that are already struggling to…

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