November 26th, 2011

Tahrir Square, Cairo (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The world’s financial crisis is deepening, and protests are spreading across the world in the face of increasing marginalisation. As these processes unfold, it is increasingly obvious that political leaders are bereft of ideas about how to address the problems – and, even more stunning, find it impossible to comprehend that fundamental change is needed (see “A world in protest“, 17 November 2011).

In parallel with these economic and political failures, authorities are incapable of recognising the approaching crisis of environmental limits with climate change at its heart. There is little hope of the climate-change summit in Durban on 28 November – 9 December 2011 setting even modest targets for the coming period, and negotiations on a post-Kyoto treaty will probably extend over several years before coming to a conclusion. Thus, the next treaty is unlikely to come into force much before 2020 – at least a decade too late in relation to what is needed.

In addition, the overwhelming scientific case on climate change (and those engaged in research, dialogue and policy about how best to understand and cope with it) are faced with attacks from campaigners seeking to deflect attention from the core issues (see “The climate peril: a race against time“, 13 November 2009). The mass release of another tranche of emails and documents hacked from the University of East Anglia is timed to sabotage the Durban conference, a direct echo of the pre-Copenhagen “climategate” in December 2009.

The problems are intensified by the clear disinterest in climate change among many governments, for example the Conservative-Liberal Democrat one in Britain. The public language aside, ministers’ off-the-record comments are hostile to any action to cut carbon emissions, and they regard the modestly positive decisions of the predecessor (Labour) government as little more than annoyances. Chris Huhne, the minister responsible for climate-change policy, may be well-intentioned but he does not direct policy in the ways needed.
Indeed, most political leaders across the world have “turned off” climate change – a tendency that also reflects the persistent influence of the powerful fossil-fuel industry. in near-permanent alliance with free-market think-tanks.

The ideas

The combination of the global financial and environmental crises makes for a bleak outlook – at least at the level of political leadership. The primarily technocratic responses to the eurozone problems, with non-elected officials appointed to head governments in Greece and Italy, show little awareness of the scale of the problem. Both the endemic failings of late-stage free-market capitalism the global dangers of climate change need a far larger, more radical and imaginative response.

In short, change has to come from elsewhere and this will have to be mainly in the form of sustained pressure from below. This in turn makes it essential that there are many resources of innovative thinking which can show multiple ways forward – especially over the absolutely crucial period until the mid-2010s.

Among the existing, valuable examples are the New Economics Foundation’s The Great Transition project and the Oxford Research Group’s work on Sustainable Security. There is also a healthy revival of cooperative organisations (see José Domingo Guariglia, “Co-ops: ‘A Compelling Model of Economic Enterprise’ “, IPS/Terra Viva, 29 October 2011; and Elizabeth Whitman, “Frustrated with Big Banks, More Turn to Cooperatives“, IPS/Terra Viva, 10 November 2011).

The diverse and widespread protests against the inequities of the current market system and its political masters – such as the demonstrators in Egypt, with their extraordinary courage – are hugely significant. But far more is needed, and as this understanding spreads so will the relevance of ideas rooted in non-violent social change through people power.

The change

Two timely additions to the corpus of writings on this theme could help to accelerate the process. The first is Tim Gee’s book Counterpower, which presents a coherent and positive view of how change can be achieved (see Tim Gee, Counterpower: Making Change Happen [World Changing/New Internationalist, 2011]).

The idea of “counterpower”, at the centre of the book, is expressed by the author thus: “When governments, corporations or other ruling institutions yield power, it is not through the goodness of their hearts. It is to save face when the people have already claimed power”. He develops this theme in a highly readable and in many ways inspiring text that draws on a wealth of examples.

The second contribution is by April Carter, one of the world’s leading scholars of non-violence. Her book People Power and Political Change (Routledge, 2012) looks rigorously yet sympathetically at the many examples of people power over the past forty years: from Iran in the 1970s, through Latin America, Asia and east-central Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, to the Arab world in 2010-11.

The main focus of the book is society-wide reactions to undemocratic regimes; what makes it particularly valuable is the that this is extended beyond the level of the nation-state to encompass transnational trends – including the use of new media, an approach of increasing resonance and relevance. But April Carter also frankly examines the failures and the multiple problems of translating protest into genuine and transformative social and economic change, an approach that reinforces the authority of her analysis.

In their respective activist and more academic perspectives, the books of Tim Gee and April Carter complement each other beautifully. Together they are powerful tools for understanding the change that has to come – and how it will come.

About the author

Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University. His books include Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: @ProfPRogers

Originaly published in openDemocracy, 11/24/2011

Source URL:

Related posts
    Interview with Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, president of Iceland since 1996, or how a large financial sector can ruin a nation, and how to avoid it. ...
    What are the main social dynamics of the waves of revolt in the Arab world in 2011? Jean-Pierre Filiu, scholar and author of "The Arab Revolution: Ten Lessons from the Democratic Uprising", discusses the question with Paul Hockenos....
    One striking consequence of the disintegration of the public sector has been an increased difficulty in comprehending what we have in common with others. We are familiar with complaints about the ‘atomizing’ impact of the internet: if everyone selects gobbets of knowledge and information that intere...
    When opposing political interests are using the same terms and tactics in diametrically opposed agendas, Lisa Veneklasen asks how we can transform the power of citizen action into sustained change for justice and equality...
    As UK citizens are being told once again to "trust" the gatekeepers of the global banking system and as US citizens are realising that, despite a first amendment that guarantees freedom of speech and assembly, they are facing potentially lethal rubber bullets in Oakland and police brutality ranging ...


  1. This is the beginning of my Internet Life. I have reitred from the grind. I am reading blogs on many topics, and commenting too. I think I really appreciate the basics of what you have here in this blog. I am approaching this from all sides, sonce I recently started my own website with its own blog. I have incuded a website and email address. Is this acceptable? I hope this is allright. TheVeryBest2You 13 10

  2. cheap [URL=]karen millen outlet online[/URL] and check coupon code available oElFXfwK [URL= ] [/URL]

  3. look at [URL=]discount prada[/URL] , for special offer JuShJHtZ [URL= ]– [/URL]

  4. click [URL=]burberry polo[/URL] to get new coupon OMXfGujM [URL= ] http://www.burberryoutlet– [/URL]

  5. The client Units Display is going to be stepping-out special event for many several kinds of systems. Typically smartphone audio providers might be long-time experts pertaining to CES (so they generally add spanking new choices in a showcase), guaranteeing providers [url=]cheap toms[/url] less difficult additional unfamiliar with golf. Previously it was only a few these days any time you are Joe Mulally made the size of his really CES keynote handle, although numerous other makers became busy prepping towards the Detroit A vehicle Screen, shying out from the additional electronics-oriented activity. Currently were unique, as more auto creators accepted CES, strengthening generous pretty stands, and this we will roamed these halls to cover. Quite often, Tom’s Hardware components editors in along the territory (and even our society) take a flight inside Nevada, Vegas, during our company’s well-known editor-in-chief, John Angelini, discs within in Bakersfield on his own. Right now had become alternative, yet. In view that we’ve been coating guaranteeing technological innovation with greater frequency, our company awarded this popular pals here at # keyword # World a telephone call to get working another thing a small flashier [url=]toms shoes cheap[/url] relating to the drive. The organization graciously on the market to pay day loan Tom��s Component a very The year 2013 GT-R Schokohrrutige Rendition for all our weekend around Sin City, on the other hand we have been cost reduction the run information of that particular new car for an entire write-up out soon.

  6. Plenty of good reasons to discover ways to do your home improvements, which includes that it’s economical. If you know how you can do stuff correct, creating your own personal improvements could help you save cash on stuff that will increase the worth of your home. Here are some smart tips for carrying out your house improvement jobs.

    Exterior lighting effects gives you reassurance through the night, and put splendor to your landscape designs.[url=]sac longchamp pas cher neuf[/url] Take into account movement sensor lights, simply because this will lessen the amount of power used if the outdoors are not occupied, and will also frighten out undesirable wildlife and even prowlers. Mount the lamps in strategic locations, such as the precise area noticeable for your needs from your home window, as well as the course out of your automobile to the front door.

    If you’re piece of art your property, you should ensure that you just painting the clip very last.Moldings can actually be reduce to size and painted prior to placing them on with a finish nailer in order to avoid any drips, but it is wise to wait until the conclusion. Artwork these initial will lead to you having to go back over them.

    Make the restroom or home back again-splash, shimmer with new tile.[url=]sac a main longchamp pas cher[/url] You can buy the tiles reasonably quickly and cheaply and try it for yourself or engage a porcelain tile man to get it done for yourself, if you just do not feel like it. In any case, the final result will likely be nice and clean, sharp and very appealing.

    If you are searching to add some value to your house, you may create a whole new looking kitchen by resurfacing your kitchen cabinets.By just sanding across the older cupboards at your residence and staining all of them with a new new finish, you can increase value of your own home pretty considerably.

    While you are replacing your siding with veneer some optimistic things to remember about that material are the useful benefits to other sidings. The veneers can safeguard your own home very well from injuries,[url=]sac pliage longchamp pas cher[/url] they may be very simple to setup, and call for little to just about no upkeep which is vital.

    One of many most recent trends for redecorating is piece of art the ceilings in each area.Instead of a generic white-colored, it is extremely valuable, calming, and really ornamental to color the ceilings of each room several tones less heavy the exact same coloration as being the wall surfaces. Accomplishing this brings the space a lot more jointly and makes for a more comforting and calming atmosphere.

    It is a bad idea to make any key property makeovers when you find yourself planning to promote your own home. The best thing to function on is how the house looks from the outside given that a great deal of prospective buyers will glance at the curb appeal as being the initially indication of whether or not they like a home or otherwise.

    Even though it is far less expensive to work with your own home yourself, making faults or not obtaining the determination to finish a task can rapidly add to the cost. It is essential to think through what you need to accomplish this write-up is supposed to be a starting place to suit your needs while you start to collect your thinking as to what you wish to do.

  7. I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and amusing, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy that I came across this during my search for something relating to this.

Leave a comment