The World Social Forum (WSF)

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The World Social Forum (WSF) is an emerging agent of social change representing the struggle against neoliberal globalization policies. WSF is a forum for civil society groups to coordinate actions and a shared vision towards global change. Epistemology of the South refers to the new production process, knowledge valorization, and new relations among various types of knowledge based on the practices  of the social classes and human groups subjected to discrimination and oppression neoliberal globalization principles as capitalism. Many innovative and transformative projects have been emerging in the South amid distinct social, political, and cultural realities. The epistemological distance between theory and practice evidenced in the South need to transcend western thinking by understanding scientific knowledge and how it legitimizes social power and the sociology of absences produced by the global North to pursue its hegemonic interests in the South. Epistemological concepts such as scientific knowledge are used widely in the global South, facilitating the reproduction of systemic domination and marginalization of the knowledge that exists in the global SouthScientific knowledge in the South reinforces the hegemonic interests of the North by suppressing knowledge and human experiences in the South.


WSF has given a new perspective to the mutual blindness that scientific knowledge has become a hegemonic concept in the global South. At the outset, the South is a metaphor for human oppression caused by global capitalism and colonialism. The epistemology of the South is premised on understanding the global space in a larger context, in ways not conceivable by western thinking. Western thinking postulate that social change can occur through western-based modern science (Santos 12). WSF counters this thinking and suggests that social change is attainable through alternative means.   The global space is diverse, encompassing different types of knowledge such as western-based scientific knowledge. Conversely, the WSF argues that the world’s geniality and interaction are mainly squandered in the global South because the theories and concepts of scientific knowledge are developed and formulated in the global North. The author writes that the scientific knowledge is “produced in the countries of the developed North and, however presumably neutral, promotes the interest of these countries” (pg 13).   This assertion implies that scientific knowledge focuses on increasing the global North’s systemic domination and increasing oppression and economic inequalities. Western-based scientific knowledge is a hegemonic force aimed to dominate the global South with powerful forms of meaning-making.

Further, increased reliance on scientific knowledge by the south economies limits their power of using southern knowledge in the economic process. As a result, the south countries continue experiencing social injustices and modern colonialism. Western modernity provides the knowledge that continues the long cycle of colonialism and global capitalism. Historically, western modernity marginalizes the knowledge that exists in the global South. Santos notes that this scientific knowledge turns south countries into “raw materials” (Santos 13). The south countries are turned into raw materials, factors of production to reproduce the interests of the North.   

To counter the marginalization of south knowledge, Santos suggests that alternative thinking is needed to build the epistemologies of the South.   The South countries need the sociology of absences to reproduce their knowledge, which is considered non-existent by the hegemonic scientific thinking (Santos, 14). Scientific wisdom ignores that the South has its specific knowledge that could be used to achieve social change. It has been marginalized, suppressed, and hindered from existing. Scientific thinking creates unfair and discriminatory social relations, leading to the invisibility of the South’s knowledge. Santos’s sociology of absences serves as a sociological framework to understand the ways human existences made absent by western science, which render every experience that does not align with its principles non-existent.

WSF postulates that to reconstruct the epistemologies of the South, countries need to acknowledge that the South’s knowledge exists and incorporate some of its concepts into scientific knowledge to maintain common ground. Western-based science has yielded a production process characterized by inaction and lack of understanding that the entire process is defined by neoliberal globalization. Since the South does not adhere to the parameters of neoliberal globalization, it is subjected to social absence. South countries need the sociology of absences to affirm their legitimate existence globally. Additionally, scientific knowledge has dragged knowledge of humanity into its absence. Scientific knowledge lacks the common sense to understand the effects of marginalization on society. Sociology of absences offers a new perspective into social reality, understanding the many knowledge and human experiences suppressed by modern science.

To build epistemological South, it is important to counter the monoculture of knowledge that continues the hegemonic interests of the North. Santos highlights that the monoculture of knowledge and rigor of knowledge is “the most powerful mode of production of nonexistence” (Santos 15). It serves as a measure of social disqualification founded on discriminatory reason because it discriminates against any knowledge that does not align with the canons of western-based science. Such thinking wastes social wealth, increasing the likelihood of social injustices.

Santo’s sociology of absence serves as an epistemological work of rescue, aimed to inform about the logic and legitimate knowledge of the South ignored by the hegemonic scientific knowledge. The knowledge of the South is considered inferior and unproductive to benefit the north countries. To attain a social change in the South, it is imperative to think about how to maintain the existence of the South through the transposition of reality. Social justice must be perceived as a social transformation that considers the ecology of scientific knowledge in place of monocultures of knowledge. It is thus paramount to give voice to the marginalized South and its aspects that have been made absent in the social scene by neoliberal globalization policies. Still, Santo’s WSF emphasizes that the reinvention of social justice must learn from the South’s experiences by transcending the western-thinking produced in the North. Epistemologies of the South should seek exteriority to modernity by rethinking the implications of hegemonic globalization in scientific knowledge. 

In conclusion, the scientific knowledge produced in the South is based on neoliberal globalization principles, which reinforce the hegemonic interests of the North countries, leading to marginalization of knowledge and human experiences in the South. Western-based science is often used as the model of determining the truth and quality of production processes in South countries. Failure to align to this model of rationality leads to the production of sociology of absences that render the knowledge of the South and human experiences invisible. The global North countries produce wealth by imposing scientific knowledge principles on South countries, turning them into a tool of generating social inequality and standardized thinking. It is important to develop alternative thinking to counter Western thinking and ensure social justice globally.

Works Cited

de Sousa Santos, Boaventura. “The World Social Forum: a users manual.” University of Wisconsin, Madison (2004), PP 12-24.