[p2p-research] a new politics in the uk?

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Thu Nov 5 10:53:40 CET 2009

From: TriumphOfContent at yahoogroups.com
[mailto:TriumphOfContent at yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Steven Brant
Sent: Monday, June 01, 2009 7:01 AM
To: steve at trimtabmanagementsystems.com
Subject: [TriumphOfContent] Beyond Westminster's bankrupted practices, a new
idealism is emerging (Guardian.co.uk)


Series: A new politics: blueprint for reforming government

Beyond Westminster's bankrupted practices, a new idealism is emerging

Progressive politics will take root from the rubble of a Labour
defeat. The Transition movement is giving us a glimpse now

Madeleine Bunting

Sunday 31 May 2009 20.30 BST

Something remarkable has happened. Politics has become entirely
unpredictable. Suddenly all manner of political reform is back on the
table, a new urgency has been infused into tired debates about
political disengagement and apathy, and radical reforms are being
proposed to reinvigorate the hollowing out of political institutions.
While the detail is vague, the scale is sweeping: Cameron talks about
a massive redistribution of power; a cabinet minister urges a
referendum on electoral reform; even an architect of Blair's third
way, Anthony Giddens, calls for a political revolution, and talked
last week of needing new utopias to inspire a new politics of climate
change. In a recent article, Martin Jacques comments on how New
Labour, which built its fortunes on "there being no alternative", is
now being forced into the humiliating circumstances of having to find

This last task is a tall order, but given the febrile nature of the
times, let's sketch out how that might develop, and offer Giddens a
first draft of what a 21st-century utopian politics might look like.

The first step will be defeat. The only uncertainty about the
European elections this week is whether people are so angry that they
don't bother to vote or so angry that they cast a protest vote. The
most useful vote this week would be for the Greens - a protest vote
that will help push the environment up the agenda. But this week is a
mere sideshow compared with what Labour will receive at the general
election next year - and for its brand of politics to be thoroughly
discredited, it needs a drubbing.

Apart from a few diehards, it will be hard to mourn the defeat in
2010 of a political party that lost its moral bearings in its bid to
woo middle England, slavishly reflecting back what it believed this
narrow constituency wanted to hear. It won ballots by flattering and
indulging a mythology of the good life as individualistic aspiration
and material enrichment, and never challenged the multiple erroneous
assumptions on which this was based. On the two vital progressive
issues of its age - inequality and the environment - it wasted a
crucial decade and squandered parliamentary majorities on
contradictory and inadequate gestures.

What it palpably failed to grasp was how crucial political reform was
to regenerate progressive politics. A party that had been
professionalised and managerialised in the 80s, not surprisingly, did
not understand how to respond to people's appetite to participate,
and author their own lives. It only knew how to manipulate and manage
public engagement, and earned deep resentment for doing both. Only
out of the rubble of defeat in 2010 will a new progressive politics
begin painfully to emerge well beyond the bankrupted conventions of
Westminster politics.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the kinds of places outside the
political mainstream where that new politics might be incubated, take
a look at the Transition movement. Ed Miliband, the energy and
climate change secretary, was one of the first to spot its potential
when he described this young and fast-growing movement as "absolutely
essential". Other politicians have been similarly intrigued, and last
year The Transition Handbook came fifth in MPs' list of summer
reading. It isn't hard to see why politicians are so interested. The
Transition movement is engaging people in a way that conventional
politics is failing to do. It generates emotions that have not been
seen in political life for a long time: enthusiasm, idealism and
passionate commitment.

Within three years it has gone from an idea to having 170 towns,
villages and cities signed up as transition communities, working in
30 countries, and thousands more all over the world using the
transition model. It is viral, catching on faster than its founder,
Rob Hopkins, can track. Its message is that peak oil and climate
change demand dramatic changes in the way people live, and, given
that no one has the answer, communities themselves must start working
out how that change might come about. It offers no answers, no
solutions, only some tips in a handbook for how to get started.
Transition lays the challenge squarely at the door of everyone. This
is too big and difficult for government alone to tackle, too
overwhelming and depressing for individuals to face alone.

Transition is rooted in a new politics of place: geography matters
again as people look to the community immediately around them to
devise the solutions for sustainability and resilience. At one level
it works as a way of regenerating social capital, building up
relationships with neighbours, working out how to collaborate again
on common interests - community gardens, recycling, waste and
strengthening the local economy. At another level it is about
educating people about the challenges of peak oil and climate change,
but the mobilisation and consciousness-raising is directed towards
optimism and hope, not despair: how can this community use its skills
and imagination to build its future?

The result is a proliferation of experiments, all of which are
charted on their wiki websites: the collaboration is both local and
global. Communities in Somerset can swap ideas and get inspiration
from Brazil, Australia or the US. It's a world away from the smooth
presentation of party politics, and transitioners are quick to point
to the disclaimer on their site - they have no idea if the movement
will work. They're organising local food festivals now, but tomorrow
it could be community renewable energy. The emphasis is always on
conviviality and enjoyment; on learning skills that have been lost
over the last few decades - how to cook, grow food, repair and make
things. Scotland has funded several transition organisers to work
across the country. This is an unusual thing: local grassroots
environmentalism that is full of hope for the future.

Their meetings don't have agendas or presentations - Miliband came to
their annual conference recently as a keynote listener. They use
what's called open space technology, in which everyone brings their
ideas and everyone participates. Humble, self-organising, the
movement owes much to the idealistic thinking of the early 70s. This
is a time for revisiting those alternatives, which have been so
contemptuously dismissed for a quarter of a century.

Part of its growing success is how it meets several needs
simultaneously. It tackles social recession - the sense of
disconnection and fragmentation of community - at the same time as it
collaborates on the huge behavioural change that will be required for
a low-carbon society. The latter is far more likely to come about in
the context of personal relationships than as a result of discredited
politicians dictating change. It is fulfilling an unexpected appetite
for political engagement at a time of widespread disillusionment with
the conventional political processes.

Hopkins is emphatic that transition groups refuse all political
affiliation; they must build alliances to work across all parts of
their community. But it is intriguing to see how the movement is
experimenting with the sorts of ideas those in conventional politics
are talking about - localism, decentralisation of power to
communities, an environmental politics that is utopian and hopeful
rather than gloomy. Of course detractors can point out its wholemeal
worthiness, but it is stubbornly swimming against the tide of
pervasive political pessimism, and given the unpredictability of the
times, who knows where it will end up?

Work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhurakij_Pundit_University - Research:
http://www.dpu.ac.th/dpuic/info/Research.html - Think thank:

P2P Foundation: http://p2pfoundation.net  - http://blog.p2pfoundation.net

Connect: http://p2pfoundation.ning.com; Discuss:

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