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From controlled transition to caring transformations - Stirling


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Presentation from Week 2 of the System Change HIVE that presents some questions to guide thinking about transformation and power.

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From controlled transition to caring transformations - Stirling

  1. 1. From Controlled Transition to Caring Transformations some big issues for practical thinking and action Andy Stirling SPRU & STEPS Centre University of Sussex talk for session of the ‘System Change Hive’ University of Brighton 13th February 2019
  2. 2. TRANSITIONS? TRANSFORMATIONS? Might ideas of transformation be a main obstacle to transformation? What if the thing to be transformed (Modernity) is a ‘cult of control’? Might then ideas of control themselves be a big part of the problem? Would not then ‘controlled transition’, mean no real transformation? How about caring for transformation instead? What might that mean?
  3. 3. What’s the Problem: Modernity? Injustice, oppression and war are perennial. What is distinctive now: Modernity? (climate disruption, ecological destruction, resource depletion, toxic pollution, nuclear risks, weapons of mass destruction)? And hasn’t Modernity always been about control? (individualism, rationality, colonialism, capitalism, science, industrialism, nations, bureaucracy, democracy, disenchantment from tradition)?
  4. 4. Modern Stories of Control? Fixations, fallacies and failures of control … over: private lives, political domains, modes of production, ways of reasoning, organisational behaviours, future directions? But outside of machines, do ideas of control actually work? Is society more like an inanimate ‘system’… or a living, wanting, thinking, being? Aren’t ideas of ‘systems’ needing deliberate ‘transformation’, just another fantasy of control?
  5. 5. What is Control? But what about power? Isn’t this at least about control? Take power, make transformation? Isn’t ‘control’ just like flying a plane: steer a turn – and this is precisely and all that happens? But what of experience of power – “events, dear boy, events!”… “don’t let a crisis go to waste”? Is power less like a pilot controlling direction; more like privilege surfing whatever happens?
  6. 6. How to Reorient Power? If power is less like driving and more surfing – can we take it at face value? Wouldn’t desperate stories about a cockpit that isn’t there, simply reinforce the lie? Might not then efforts to steer power, simply strengthen power surfing its own way? Perhaps the best way to transform power is to surf it, not use it – move another way?
  7. 7. The Way Forward? Core to Modernistic control: there is no other way! ’evidence based, sound science, pro-innovation’ policies? One-track ‘race to the future’ stories: control ‘progress’ as whatever comes out of the machine? Space for politics is reduced to ‘how much?’, ‘how fast?’, ‘what risk?’, ‘who leads?’ Leaves questions that cannot even be imagined around: ‘which way?’, ‘who says?, ‘why?’
  8. 8. The Grand Transition? How different is this in top-down visions of ‘sustainable’ or ‘zero carbon’ transitions? Just like ‘one-track progress’? Yet another ‘road map’ with only one road? Doesn’t ‘the transition’ assert the same presumptively singular self-evidently desirable future? A technocratic ‘s-curve’ from ‘here’ to ‘there’ … a ‘trajectory’ determined before it even starts?
  9. 9. Transforming Power Think instead about what drove the great progressive transformations of history (by serfs, slaves, workers, colonies; oppressed races, genders, sexualities)? … culture more than structure? … solidarity more than hierarchy? … values more than expertise? … action more than evidence? … unruliness more than order? … care more than control?
  10. 10. Controlling Climate Change? Instead a cockpit view: reduces messy diversities of politics to single parameter of carbon? ‘Controlling climate change’ rather than caring for Earth’s climate – resisting its disruption? Authoritarian rhetoric (“five years to save planet”; “no alternatives”;… “put democracy on hold”) sets the stage for ‘planetary geoengineering’ technologies already waiting in the wings? Instead of expert-based aims to control model-calculated planetary mean temperature, why not directly substitute polluting activities – as in values-based environmentalism of past?
  11. 11. How to Reorient Power? Perhaps then, transformation is less about courting power, and more about challenging control? Culturing transformation, not controlling transition – in myriad ‘knowing doings’: ‘political judo’? ‘keep it complex’ ‘playing edge balls’? ‘use a crisis?’ ‘talk about power?’ ‘opening up expertise?’ ‘Trojan horses?’ ‘rebound adversity?’ ‘civilising hypocrisy?’ ... Less about asserting control, more about caring – for each other, the Earth, our futures?
  12. 12. Controlling Transitions Caring Transformations Transition or Transformation?
  13. 13. Controlling Transitions singular calculating theories separation of knowledge then action imposes assertively concrete categories performances of ‘visionary leadership’ emphasises technological solutions directed under incumbent structures tightly disciplined top-down expertise often driven especially by fear Caring Transformations plural deliberative ways of knowing to know is to act; action shapes knowledge recognises open-ended mutual relations many contrasting and contested values social innovations, cultural creativity shaped by unruly subaltern agency multiplicities of bottom-up movements best motivated most by hopes Transition or Transformation?
  14. 14. Controlling Transitions Caring Transformations Transition or Transformation?