Intelligentsia, Academics, Students and Other Participants at the World Social Forum

 

UCR Transnational Social Movement Research Working Group at the WSF-Nairobi

 

Christopher Chase-Dunn, Ellen Reese, Toi Carter and Roy Kwon

 

Department of Sociology and Institute for Research on World-Systems

University of California, Riverside

Riverside, CA 92521-0419

 

 

To be presented at the  2007 annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems cross-listed session, “Sociologists Do the World Social Forum: Tensions Between Scholars and Activists and Within the Scholar-Activist” organized by Marina Karides and Ellen Reese. This session is co-sponsored by Sociologists Without Borders and the Global Section of the SSSP.

Draft v. 8-7-07, 4820 words. This is IROWS Working Paper #37 available at http://irows.ucr.edu/papers/irows37/irows37.htm


 

Scholars, whether they are professors, teachers, or students, make up a surprisingly large portion of participants at the World Social Forum (WSF). While many of these scholars are also activists, their occupational roles as producers and distributors of knowledge and ideas may lead them to differ from other activists attending the WSF in important ways. This paper reports findings from survey data collected from participants at the WSF to explore the similarities and differences among scholars and other participants at the WSF in terms of their social background characteristics, political opinions, levels of social activism, participation in various social movements, and reasons for attending the WSF. A future version of this paper will draw on our participant observations of the 2005 and 2007 WSF meetings and the U.S. Social Forum meeting in Atlanta in 2007, where we will also reflect upon observed tensions regarding the role of scholars during WSF events and the multiple ways that scholars and scholar-activists have used this “open space.” [1]

 

            Those who study social movements have long observed that most of the leaders come from families who have more education, income and social status than do followers. Mao Tse-tung was school teacher. Marx was ABD. It has also long been recognized that this poses a challenge for movements that seek to represent the interests of the poor and oppressed. Leaders may end up representing their own interests or the interests of their class rather than the interests of the poor and oppressed. Movements differ with regard to the extent to which they claim to represent the poor and oppressed, and to the extent to which they worry about the problem of leaders having different interests than followers. Those that worry about this the most employ organizational, educational and political instruments to increase the likelihood that leaders will act in the interests of the groups that they claim to lead.

            Roy Kwon’s (2007) paper on “the World Scholars Forum” discusses the history of the labor movement as a struggle over attititudes toward power and authority and the authenticity of leadership have been major issues of contention since the First International. Kwon discusses the critical and sociological literature that has analyzed vanguardism (Karabel 2005; Szelenyi 1982) and the role of intellectuals as a new class. This literature is an important part of the class analysis of modern societies and has important implications for counter-hegemonic social movements.

            Roberto Michels (1915) pointed to the oligarchical tendencies of political parties in which old leaderships, regardless of their original class background, tend to end up mainly protecting their own interests. The solution to this problem, as Thomas Jefferson pointed out, is to have a revolution every twenty to thirty years. Newly risen leaders are more likely to remember why they were motivated to take the risks of rebellion.

            These issues of loyalty and leadership effectiveness are intertwined with many other issues of substance and form and there is a long history of bad relations between competing movements and popular leaders that has produced a historical legacy that affects political developments in the contemporary global justice movement.

            Both critics and friends of the World Social Forum agree that, despite its formal denial of any claim to represent the peoples of the Earth (WSF Charter of Principles), it gains what moral capital it has by the effort to be truly global and to represent the global south (see Santos 2006: Chapter 5). Alvarez et al (2007) have analyzed the racial composition of attendees at the World Social Forum meeting in Porto Alegre in 2005 and the problems encountered by a group of scholars from the United States who sought to systematically study race relations at the meeting in Brazil. The dimension of social class at the WSF has been discussed by Santos (2006), and Chase-Dunn et al 2008 have examined how north/south issues and the origins of attendees from the core, periphery and semiperiphery are related to differences in political attitudes.  This essay is about the participation of educated people, intellectuals, scholars and academicians at the World Social Forum. We discuss evidence about how over-represented these groups are and we examine hypotheses that they have political attitudes and social characteristics that are systematically different from those of other participants. We will also report on our own observations as social scientists who are both political activists and are doing research on the social forum process in a later version of this paper.

            Regarding educational level, the Fundacao Perseu Abramo’s (FPA) survey of participants at the 2001 WSF  found that most of their respondents were highly educated, with 73% having begun or finished their university education and that 75% were trained in the social sciences (Schönleitner 2003: 137).  Similarly, we found that 51% of the WSF05 attendees that we surveyed had at least 16 years of education and that 51% were students, mostly in universities. We also found that nearly 51% of those with educational degrees were trained in the social sciences.

            All these findings support the contention that academics and those with relatively high levels of education were greatly over-represented at the World Social Forum when compared with the world population. And this is consistent with the notion that the emerging contemporary global left is a subsector of global civil society, which is itself a group of people who are relatively privileged in world society. This is important to the extent that the World Social Forum itself, or political groups that spin out of it, claim to represent the poor and oppressed of the Earth.

            But a further question is how do the better educated and higher occupation people who attend the World Social Forum compare with those with less education and less skilled occupations, and how do academics compare with non-academics with regard to attitudes toward issues in world politics. Are academics less or more radical than non-academics?  Are academics more or less likely to want to reform or abolish, or abolish and replace global institutions such as the IMF and the WTO? The following tables based on the University of California-Riverside survey of attendees at the World Social Forum meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2005 address these questions.

Academics vs. Non-Academics

Table 1 shows the distribution across occupational categories of the respondents to our survey. We coded these categories from an open-ended question about the respondent’s current occupation. Our written survey was carried out in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French so we had to translate the written responses, and some of the answers were uncodeable. [2]


 

 

Table 1:

Current Occupation

 

Frequency

 

Percent

(total sample excluding unclear and non-responses)

 

Percent

(excluding students, unclear and non-responses)

 

Occupation

 

 

 

 

     Academic/Professor

69

11.9

18.9

     Media: TV director,

     Journalist, etc.

30

5.2

8.2

     Educators

26

4.5

7.1

     Activist/Organizer

23

4.0

6.3

     Consultant, analyst

22

3.8

6.0

     Services

21

3.6

5.8

     Researcher

14

2.4

3.8

     Health Field: Doctor,

     Nurse, etc.

13

2.2

3.6

     NGO worker

13

2.2

3.6

     Artist, Designer,

     Musician

12

2.1

3.3

     Manager, Executive, etc.

12

2.1

3.3

     Technical/Engineer

11

1.9

3.0

     Public Employee

10

1.7

2.7

     Skilled Worker:

     Electrician, Welder, etc.

9

1.6

2.5

     Lawyer/Attorney

8

1.4

2.2

     Communications

8

1.4

2.2

     Farmer

7

1.2

1.9

     Secretary/Office   

     Worker

7

1.2

1.9

     Banking/Financial

6

1.0

1.6

     Clergy

6

1.0

1.6

     Architect

5

.9

1.4

     Sales

5

.9

1.4

     Business/Entrepreneur

3

.5

.8

 

Miscellaneous

 

 

 

 

     Unemployed/Retired

20

3.5

5.5

     Other

5

.9

1.4

     Students

213

36.9

N/A

 

Total                

 

578

 

100

 

100

 

 

Note that the largest occupational category in Table 1 is that of student with nearly 37%

of the respondents who clearly answered the question. The second largest category is that of academic/professor with nearly 12%. In order to compare academics with non-academics we selected out students and designated a group of “academics” who answered the question about their current occupation to indicate academic specialties as their occupation, as well as professors who work at universities. This category does not include teachers who work in schools that are not colleges or universities, nor does it include researchers who are media professionals. We computed a series of tables to see if students and academics differ from non-academics with regard to demographic and social characteristics and political attitudes. The results are presented below in Table 2.

 

Table 2: Demographic Characteristics of Students, Academics and non-Academics

                                                            Students          Academics                              Other

Sample Size                                        213                  69                                            276

World-System Position

(Country of residence)

Core                                                    11.8%              13.0%                                      34.4%

Semiperiphery                                      85.3%              81.2%                                      53.3%

Periphery                                              2.8%                5.8%                                        12.2%

Gender (Female)***                          50.5%              59.4%                                      44.6%

Educational Degree Subject

% Social Sciences                                51.7%              50.0%                                      51.6%

% Arts/Humanities                                22.1%              35.9%                                      31.5%

% Natural Sciences                              15.2%              10.9%                                      9.9%

% Technology                                      11.0%              3.1%                                        7.0%

Age***                                              

under 18                                               11.4%              0.0%                                        0.4%

18-25                                                   78.7%              11.6%                                      15.3%

26-35                                                   9.9%                33.3%                                      43.4%

36-45                                                   0.0%                23.2%                                      19.3%

46-55                                                   0.0%                13.0%                                      15.0%

56-65                                                   0.0%                17.4%                                      5.5%

over 65                                                0.0%                0.0%                                        0.7%

Race/Ethnicity**

White                                                   43.9%              54.7%                                      33.6%

Black                                                   8.0%                14.1%                                      16.0%

Mixed/Multiracial                                  17.1%              3.1%                                        6.0%

Latina/o                                                9.1%                3.1%                                        6.0%   

Asian                                                    2.1%                1.6%                                        9.2%

Indigenous                                            1.1%                0.0%                                        2.8%

None/Human                                        2.7%                6.3%                                        2.8%

Languages spoken

Speak one                                            35.7%              33.3%                                      27.9%

Speak two                                            35.2%              46.4%                                      34.8%

Speak three                                          18.8%              5.8%                                        19.2%

Speak four or more                              10.3%              14.5%                                      18.1%

Number of protests last year

No protests                                          14.9%              13.8%                                      13.3%

One protest                                          25.2%              13.8%                                      19.0%

2-4 protests                                          38.1%              46.2%                                      30.0%

5 or more protests                                21.8%              26.2%                                      37.6%

Attending a prior WSF***                 23.4%              43.1%                                      39.8%

Funding for WSF trip

Personal funds  ***                              48.8%              39.1%                                      46.2%

Family***                                            26.8%              2.9%                                        7.6%

Educational institution*              15.8%              11.6%                                      5.3%

Other                                                   14.4%              11.6%                                      17.4%

Work**                                               6.7%                11.6%                                      23.5%

Political organization**             7.2%                11.6%                                      12.1%

Friends                                     5.3%                2.9%                                        7.6%

Business organization***                      0.5%                2.9%                                        0.8%

Reasons for attending

Learn about the issues                           81.6%              79.4%                                      70.1%

Research                                              45.6%              45.6%                                      31.3%

Network***                                        29.1%              41.2%                                      52.2%

Organize                                               23.3%              22.1%                                      25.7%

Work***                                             18.5%              30.9%                                      27.9%

Other                                                   22.8%              22.1%                                      17.9%

Reporting back to about WSF          

% at least one group                             35.8%              44.9%                                      66.9%

% SMOs                                              36.1%              36.7%                                      37.3%

% Other                                               33.3%              16.7%                                      24.3%

% NGOs***                                        19.4%              33.3%                                      40.1%

% unions***                                        13.9%              26.7%                                      13.0%

% parties                                              5.6%                10.0%                                      6.8%

%Government Agency              4.2%                0.0%                                        2.8%

(1)   Do you think we need to reform capitalism or abolish it? Check one.

           

Reform it                                              47.7%              36.8%                                      39.1%

Abolish it and replace                           51.8%              60.3%                                      60.9%

Chose both answers                             0.5%                2.9%                                        0.0%

(2) In the long run, what do you think should be done about the existing international financial and trade institutions such as the IMF and the WTO? Check one.

Negotiate with them                              15.8%              7.4%                                        12.7%

Abolish them                                        28.6%              23.5%                                      22.5%

Abolish and replace                              53.2%              66.2%                                      61.0%

Chose more than 1 answer                    2.5%                2.9%                                        3.7%

(3) Which of the following approaches would best solve the problems created by global capitalism? Check one.***

Strengthen local communities                 50.5%              41.8%                                      56.6%

Strengthen nation states             12.1%              1.5%                                        7.9%

Create democratic global inst.               29.3%              37.3%                                      16.6%

Choose more than one answer  8.1%                19.4%                                      16.6%


(4) Do you think it is a good or bad idea to have a democratic world government? Check one.**

Good idea, and it’s plausible                 23.9%              23.3%                                      33.2%

Good idea, but not plausible                  38.8%              50.0%                                      36.3%

Bad idea                                               36.3%              26.7%                                      29.7%

Chose more than one answer                1.0%                0.0%                                        0.8%

(5) "Overall the world needs less economic growth."

Agree                                                   59.6%              58.8%                                      56.9%

Disagree                                               40.4%              41.2%                                      43.1%

(6) "The World Social Forum should remain as an open space for debate and should not itself take public positions on political issues."

Agree                                                   50.2%              35.8%                                      50.9%

Disagree                                               49.8%              74.2%                                      49.1%

            The demographic and geographical results are somewhat mysterious. Academics and students are far more likely to be from the semiperiphery than non-academics. This make sense for students because many of them who attended the meeting in Porto Alegre were local residents who came to see what was happening. But why should only 13% of the attendees from core countries be academics while 34.4% of non-academics were from the core? And why is a far larger percentage of academics women (59.4%) than non-academics (44.6%)? Kwon (2007:21 Table 2A) shows that 15.5% of the Brazilian attendees were academics, while on 8.8% of the non-Brazilian attendees were academics. This may account for the unusually large percentage of academics from the semiperiphery, because Brazil is a semiperipheral country. But these gender and geographical characteristics do not make much sense and suggest that there may be measurement issues in the cross-national study of occupational categories that are confounding these results.[3]

            The age distribution is as expected, with a larger number of academics than non-academics in the oldest age group and the students in the appropriately younger age groups. And a much larger percentage of academics are white than are non-academics, a result that is entirely plausible. But the results for linguistic skills indicate that many more non-academics than academics speak three or four or more languages. Why should that be?

            Regarding indicators of political activism the results for academics are mixed. More academics participated in from two to four protests, but more non-academics participated in five or more protests (?). Forty-three per cent of the academics have attended a previous WSF meeting, while for non-academics that percentage was 39.8%, probably not a significant difference. More research on levels of political involvement and activism needs to be done.

            A larger percentage of academics report research as a reason for attending the WSF (45.6%), whereas for non-academics it was 31.3% even though researchers were included in the non-academic category. This result makes sense and increases our confidence in the operationalization of academics as a occupational category.

            But the results for demographic and geographical characteristics and for political activism are mysterious or mixed. We also compared academics with non-academics on several items that indicate political attitudes. Regarding whether capitalism should be reformed or abolished there were no large differences between academics and non-academics. For both groups about 60% favored abolition. This does not support the notion that academics are less militant than non-academics.  Regarding negotiation with, or abolishing of, institutions such as the WTO and IMF, more non-academics favor negotiation, but the percentage favoring abolition is about the same, and more academics favor abolition and replacement than non-academics. Again there is little support for the idea that academics are less militant.

A larger percentage of academics than non-academics favor the creation of global democratic institutions to solve the problems created by capitalism (37.3% vs. 16.6%). But on the question about whether or not a democratic world government is a good idea or a bad idea the result is complicated. A larger percentage of non-academics (33.2%) than academics (23.3%) say democratic world government is a good idea and it is plausible, but a larger percentage of academics (50%) than non-academics (36.3%) think that democratic world government is a good idea but is not plausible. The percentages who say that a democratic world government is a bad idea are 26.7% for the academics and 29.7% for the non-academics.

The response to the question about the world needing or not needing more economic growth was about the same for academics (58.8%) as for non-academics (56.9%). But the responses to the question about whether or not the WSF should remain an open space or should take political stances reveal a big difference. Only 35.8% of academics supported the open space option, while 50.9% of the non-academics were for open space. This implies that academics are more in favor of the project to generate a coordinated and formally organized global political organization for confronting neoliberalism than are non-academics.

Intelligentsia vs. People

Roy Kwon (2007) used the responses to the occupation question to divide the attendees into a group called the “intelligentsia” and another group called the “non-intelligentsia.” Students, unemployed, and retired respondents were put in another category called miscellaneous. Recall that students represent 36.9% of the respondents.

Kwon created two different divisions between the intelligentsia and the non-intelligentsia the he calls the low measure and the high measure. The occupational categories for the low measure are shown in Table 3, and those for the high measure are shown in Table 4. The low measure included NGO workers and activist/organizers in the non-intelligentsia category, while the high measure includes these in the intelligentsia category.

 

 

Table 3:

Low Measure

Intelligentsia vs.

Non-Intelligentsia

 

Frequency

 

Percent

(total sample)

 

Percent

(excluding students, unclear and non-responses)

 

Non-Intelligentsia

 

 

 

     Activist/Organizer

23

4.0

6.3

     Services

21

3.6

5.8

     NGO worker

13

2.2

3.6

     Public Employee

10

1.7

2.7

     Skilled Worker:

     Electrician, Welder, etc.

9

1.6

2.5

     Farmer

7

1.2

1.9

     Secretary/Office Worker

7

1.2

1.9

     Sales

5

.9

1.4

 

Intelligentsia

 

 

 

     Academic/Professor

69

11.9

18.9

     Media: TV director,

     Journalist, etc.

30

5.2

8.2

     Educators

26

4.5

7.1

     Consultant, analyst

22

3.8

6.0

     Researcher

14

2.4

3.8

     Health Field: Doctor,

     Nurse, etc.

13

2.2

3.6

     Artist, Designer,

     Musician

12

2.1

3.3

     Manager, Executive, etc.

12

2.1

3.3

     Technical/Engineer

11

1.9

3.0

     Lawyer/Attorney

8

1.4

2.2

     Communications

8

1.4

2.2

     Banking/Financial

6

1.0

1.6

     Clergy

6

1.0

1.6

     Architect

5

.9

1.4

     Business/Entrepreneur

3

.5

.8

 

Miscellaneous

 

 

 

     Unemployed/Retired

20

3.5

5.5

     Other

5

.9

1.4

     Students

213

36.9

N/A

Total                

578

100

100

 

 

 

Table 4:

High Measure

Intelligentsia vs.

Non-Intelligentsia

 

 

Frequency

 

Percent

(total sample)

 

Percent

(excluding students, unclear and non-responses)

 

Non-Intelligentsia

 

 

 

     Services

21

3.6

5.8

     Public Employee

10

1.7

2.7

     Skilled Worker:

     Electrician, Welder, etc.

9

1.6

2.5

     Farmer

7

1.2

1.9

     Secretary/Office Worker

7

1.2

1.9

     Sales

5

.9

1.4

 

Intelligentsia

 

 

 

     Academic/Professor

69

11.9

18.9

     Media: TV director,

     Journalist, etc.

30

5.2

8.2

     Educators

26

4.5

7.1

     Activist/Organizer

23

4.0

6.3

     Consultant, analyst

22

3.8

6.0

     Researcher

14

2.4

3.8

     Health Field: Doctor,

     Nurse, etc.

13

2.2

3.6

     NGO worker

13

2.2

3.6

     Artist, Designer,

     Musician

12

2.1

3.3

     Manager, Executive, etc.

12

2.1

3.3

     Technical/Engineer

11

1.9

3.0

     Lawyer/Attorney

8

1.4

2.2

     Communications

8

1.4

2.2

     Banking/Financial

6

1.0

1.6

     Clergy

6

1.0

1.6

     Architect

5

.9

1.4

     Business/Entrepreneur

3

.5

.8

 

Miscellaneous

 

 

 

     Unemployed/Retired

20

3.5

5.5

     Other

5

.9

1.4

     Students

213

36.9

N/A

Total                

578

100

100

            In his 2007 paper Roy Kwon refers to the non-intelligentsia “the people.” Perusal of the occupational categories included in the intelligentsia and non-intelligentsia dichotomy in Tables 3 and 4 reveals a division between less-skilled working class occupations, and more professional and certified middle class occupations. Undoubtedly these categories are correlated with income and level of education. The “academic” category examined in the previous set of tables is one of the constituent elements of the “intelligentsia” categories specifed by Kwon.

            Kwon used his high and low versions of the intelligentsia/non-intelligentsia distinction to produce the results contained in the following tables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 5:

Summary of Low Measure

 

 

Total Sample

 

   N           %         % excluding

                               students

Non-Intelligentsia

95

16.4

26.0

Intelligentsia

245

42.4

67.1

Miscellaneous

238

41.2

6.8

     Students

213

36.9

N/A

Total

578

100

100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 6:

Summary of High Measure

 

 

Total Sample

 

   N           %         % excluding

                               students

Non-Intelligentsia

59

10.2

16.1

Intelligentsia

281

48.6

76.9

Miscellaneous

238

41.2

6.8

     Students

213

36.9

N/A

Total

578

100

100

            Recall that the miscellaneous categories includes the students. Tables 5 and 6 support the general result already known from earlier studies that many more middle class people attend the WSF than do working class people and those from less skilled occupations. Kwon does not examine demographic, geographical or social variables such as country of origin, gender, age or educational levels, as was done above with the academic/non-academic distinction, so we do not know if the intelligentsia/non-intelligentsia distinction is as mysterious in this regard as the academic/non-academic distinction was.

Reform vs. Abolish Capitalism

 

Reform

  High               Low

Abolish

  High               Low

Non-Intelligentsia

27.3%

31.0% 

72.7%

69.0%

Intelligentsia

40.8%

41.3% 

59.2%

58.7%

Students

48.0%

52.0%

Table 7

            Table 7 indicates that the non-intelligentsia group is much more radical than the intelligentsia group, although a majority of both groups favors the abolition of capitalism. Since we have already shown that there was no difference between the academic and non-academic groups, this raises the question of what accounts for the difference between the intelligentsia and non-intelligentsia groups with regard to their attitudes toward capitalism.

Best way to solve the problems created by global capitalism

 

Strengthen Local Communities

  High            Low

Strengthen Nation States

 

  High            Low

Democratic Global Institutions

  High            Low

Choose more than one answer

 

  High            Low

Non-Intelligentsia

63.2%

63.7%

7.0%

4.4%

17.5%

16.5%

12.3%

15.4%

Intelligentsia

51.9%

50.0%

6.7%

11.8%

23.0%

16.7%

18.5%

17.4%

Students

50.5%

12.1%

29.3%

8.1%

Table 8

            Table 8 indicates that the non-intelligentsia thinks that communities are a more important arena for addressing the problems created by global capitalism than the intelligentsia group does. Regarding attitudes toward the global level, the results are mixed.


 

What should be done about the IMF and the  WTO

 

Negotiate

 

 

    High        Low

Abolish

 

 

    High        Low

Abolish and Replace

 

    High        Low

More than one Answer

 

    High        Low

Non-Intelligentsia

12.5%

12.1%

28.6%

22.0%

51.8%

58.2%

7.1%

7.7%

Intelligentsia

11.7%

11.7%

22.2%

23.8%

63.2%

62.3%

3.0%

2.2%

Students

15.8%

28.6%

53.2%

2.5%

Table 9

            Table 9 does not show much difference in the attitude toward negotiating with the IMF and the WTO, nor with regard to abolition, but the abolish and replace response indicates more approval by the intelligentsia than by the non-intelligentsia.

Good or bad idea to have a democratic world government

 

Good Idea and Plausible

 

  High            Low

Good idea but not plausible

 

  High            Low

Bad Idea

 

 

 High         Low

Chose more than one answer

 

   High            Low

Non-Intelligentsia

31.5%

32.6%

29.6%

34.9%

38.9%

32.6%

0%

0%

Intelligentsia

31.2%

30.9%

40.6%

40.3%

27.1%

27.9%

0.8%

0.9%

Students

23.9%

38.8%

36.3%

1.0%

Table 10

            Regarding the desirability and plausibility of a democratic world government there is little difference, while big differences are found for both “good idea but not plausible” and “bad idea.”

Good or bad idea to have a democratic world government

 

Good Idea

   High            Low

Bad Idea

  High            Low

Non-Intelligentsia

61.1%

67.5%

38.9%

32.6%

Intelligentsia

71.8%

71.2%

27.1%

27.9%

Students

62.7%

36.3%

Table 11

            Table 11 collapses the categories and this shows the same differences more sharply. The intelligentsia is more favorable toward world government, but a majority of both groups holds this view.

Overall the world needs less economic growth

Agree

       High                Low

Disagree

         High                       Low

 

Non-Intelligentsia

59.3%

59.2%

40.8%

40.9%

Intelligentsia

56.6%

56.2%

42.3%

43.3%

Students

59.6%

40.4%

Table 12

 

            Table 12 shows no significant differences between intelligentsia and non-intelligentsia regarding the attitude toward economic growth.

The WSF should not take positions

 

Agree

       High                Low

Disagree

         High                       Low

Non-Intelligentsia

54.5%

54.0%

45.4%

45.9%

Intelligentsia

46.6%

45.7%

52.0%

52.7%

Students

50.3%

48.8%

Table 13

            Table 13 shows that a larger percentage of the intelligentsia group disagree with the idea that the WSF should remain an open space and should not take political positions. A similar result was obtained for the academic/non-academic distinction.

 

Conclusions

          The coding of the current occupation response from our WSF05 survey needs to be re-examined given the mysterious geographical and demographic results of the analysis of the academic/non-academic distinction. Similar tests for validity need to be made for the intelligentsia/non-intelligentsia distinction.

            Regarding differences in political activism there are no consistent findings. In most studies political activism is correlated with social class, but participation in the World Social Forum may reduce this general tendency by self-selection. 

            The tables above indicate that non-intelligentsia are more likely to support the abolition of capitalism than intelligentsia, but that this difference is not due to the academic/non-academic distinction because academics want to abolish capitalism as frequently as non-academics do. This raises the question as to what accounts for these different findings. It must be the other occupational groups included in the intelligentsia category that account for the more conservative attitudes, but which ones? Overall the contention that academics and intelligentsia are more conservative than their opposites receives only mixed and inconsistent support. There is support for the hypothesis that academics and intelligentsia are more globally and less locally oriented than their opposites. and that both academics and intelligentsia are more likely to favor concerted political action at the global level. These findings have important implications for counter-hegemonic movements who seek to base their political legitimacy on claims to represent the interests of the poor and oppressed and of the Global South. Firm conclusions are unwarranted until more analyses have demonstrated the validity of the categories coded based on the open-ended question about current occupation. And crosstabulation tables need include Chi-square statistics that indicate the level of statistical significance of differences that are found. Enough support for the idea that there are some significant political differences based on occupation and class position to warrant further research on this topic.

            We also will look for differences between academics, students and intelligentsia with regard to their participation in different kinds of social movements (e.g. labor, environmentalism, womens movement, etc.) And we will report our own observations as social scientists who are studying the social forum process while also participating as activists and militants.  Luta continua.


 

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[1] Our impression from attending the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta is that the presence of academics and researchers was much reduced compared the WSFs in Porto Alegre and Nairobi that we have studied. This may be because the organizers of the USSF made a huge effort to focus the meeting on the internal “Third World” of the United States and to include and focus attention grass roots movements. Whether or not this impression is true awaits the analysis of our survey data from Atlanta.

[2] The survey instrument is at http://www.irows.ucr.edu/research/tsmstudy/wsfsurvey.htm

[3] It is possible that the term “profesora” means different things in different countries. Most spanish dictionaries give it as both professor and teacher.