In its assessment of the origins and early development of the World Social Forum this article challenges traditional understandings of the Forum as representing ‘globalisation from below’. By tracing the intricate relations among elements of business, civil society and the Workers' Party in the first years of the Forum, this article reveals the major role played by a corporate movement stemming from the Brazilian democratisation process in the 1980s, and how this combined with the transformed agenda of the Workers' Party as it gained higher political offices to constrain the Forum's activities from the outset. In so doing, this article challenges not only widespread conceptions of the Forum as a counter-hegemonic alternative but also current critiques concerning its subsequent limitations. Furthermore, it reveals how traditional understandings of the World Social Forum and of global civil society are underpinned by flawed assumptions which typecast political activities in the global ‘South’.
- World social forum
- Global governance
- Civil society
- Workers' Party
- Corporate social responsibility