Revisiting the lessons of the Battle of Seattle and its aftermath

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.1, 2017


Revisiting the lessons of the Battle of Seattle and its aftermath



Walden Bello


This is the speech the author delivered at the opening plenary session of the 111th Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Washington State Convention Center, August 19, 2016. It has three parts. The first part includes some reflections on the meaning of the Battle of Seattle for change in knowledge systems. The second is a discussion of how, despite the deep crisis of neoliberalism, finance capital has managed to retain tremendous power. The third is an appeal for a new comprehensive vision of the desirable society. The Seattle underlines the very critical, if not decisive, role of collective mass action in displacing knowledge systems. The rollback of the neoliberal paradigm is only half the story. Even with its ideational crisis, the forces of global capital have waged a fierce rearguard battle. An example of this is the case of finance capital’s successful effort to resist any change in the face of the naked necessity and social consensus for comprehensive reform. It is urgent that we flesh it out, a task which marries some of our intellectual critique of capitalism with the highly charged emotional appeal to return to an idealized past of white homogeneity, cultural purity or religious uniformity.