Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: As Marx reminds us in the Eighteenth Brumaire, when classes of society, elements within modern states (e.g., the military, judiciaries/police), political parties, corporations, oligarchies, professional organizations, and social movements struggle to gain control and influence, they do so always in terms of the scale they each seek to stake out vis-à-vis contesting antagonistic groups. Marx characterized the National Assembly that brought together the class elements opposed to the proletariat in France in May 1848 as reducing ¨the results of the revolution to the bourgeois scale” (p. 23).
In this panel, papers address the tumultuous politics of scale. In the conflicts among political parties, state agencies, social movements on the right and left, private corporations, and civil organizations, strategies of scale become central. For example, corporations may “scale up” through supply chains to the global scale to undercut regulations at the national scale. Obviously, in contestations such as the links of the U.K. to Europe, battles over the scale of political decision-making have riven through political parties. Unlike 19th century France, we must also take into account the roles that social media and electronic finance now play in scaling politics.
Strategies to shape the spatial and temporal scales of political action can take a variety of forms, e.g., the 1990s alt-globalization movements attempted to limit the global corporate economy; corporations make claims favoring one scale of legal jurisdiction over another (e.g., the WTO versus national governments); labor unions seek cross-local solidarities to outflank employers’ lockouts in collective bargaining; anti-corporate movements create online transnational alliances between protesters to evade nation-states; fascist groups seek to suppress the range of political actions among racial and religious minorities; migrant demonstrations contest the boundary making and definition of nations; corporations evade labor obligations by subcontracting to companies in countries with laxer standards (e.g., the brand-name garment companies that subcontracted to a Bangladesh firm located in a building that collapsed, killing 1,000 workers); and social movement activists extend their bases of solidarity in order to bring in new allies and form coalitions, as in the protests at the Standing Rock reservation. These are all the stuff of the politics of scale. The objective of this panel is to bring authors working on different processes and strategies deployed within the politics of scale into conversation with one another.