Emancipating Transformations: From controlling ‘the transition’ to culturing plural radical progress

Working Paper
  • Published 29/05/14

Current global environmental policy reverberates with talk of a new “Anthropocene epoch” defined by “human domination”, in which a “perfect storm” of catastrophic threats is forcing “the great transition” towards “planetary management”. Under growing “environmental authoritarianism”, democracy is increasingly seen as a “failure”, a “luxury”, or even “an enemy of nature”. If charge is to be taken of the “control variables of the Earth”, democracy must be “put on hold”. So, knowledge itself is increasingly imprinted by the age-old preoccupations of incumbent power with rhetorics of control. It seems there is ‘no alternative’ but compliance – or irrational denial and existential doom.

Yet there are alternative ways to understand the gravity of these threats – and act against them. It can be recognised, for instance, that democratic struggle is the principal means by which knowledges of Sustainability were shaped in the first place. In this view, concentrated power and fallacies of control are more a problem than a solution. Here, history shows that the greatest ongoing forms of radical progress (like freedom from slavery, colonialism, racism and patriarchy), owe more to unruly hope-inspired political struggle, than orderly technical transitions based on fear-driven hierarchical control. Combining knowing and doing, a necessary step is the emancipation of transformation itself.

Download this paper (870 kb)