Autumn 2023 #43

Interview Carlo Invernizzi Accetti with Jonny Gordon-Farleigh

Why is there such dissatisfaction with democracy? Why does there appear to be so little difference between political parties? And why do politicians claim to represent ‘everyone’? In Technopopulism: The New Logic of Democratic Politics, political theorists Carlo Invernizzi Accetti and Christopher Bickerton contest many of the assumptions about the origins of the crisis of democracy, and argue that we need to move beyond the “simplistic idea that in the right ‘dose’ populism and technocracy can counterbalance one another.”

In this interview, we discuss the absence of ideological platforms in contemporary politics, why we need more mediation not less, and how the paradox of inclusion – claiming to represent ‘everyone’ – is actually anti-pluralist.

The role of AI in democratising the economy — Daniel Stanley

Worries about the rapid rise of AI are widespread, with even the founders of the companies profiting from the technology calling for safeguards to be put in place. Dealing with this is an urgent priority, but as the increasing presence of AI in our future economy becomes an ever more inevitable prospect, those working for more just social outcomes must also consider the opportunities that the technology might present. Daniel Stanley explores the actions needed to take advantage of these opportunities as they emerge, as well as how the undemocratic business models and extractive approaches to data of most major AI systems drive their most damaging externalities - and what we might be able to do to tackle this.

How to Save the City: A guide for emergency action — Paul Chatterton

In How to Save the City, out this month with Agenda Publishing, Paul Chatterton invites the reader to engage with the challenges of living and working in cities at a time when several conflating emergencies have become more pressing and connected. While the climate crisis is the most urgent, we also face deep social crises in housing, gender and race inequalities, the breakdown of our natural world, our energy consumption, and the deep ripples resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. These emergencies are playing out in acute ways in urban areas. The city has to change, but how and by whom? 

Democratic Business Series: Capital Gap – Financing the transition to a democratic economy — With contributions from GMCVO; Joseph Rowntree Foundation; Local Trust; Power to Change; Kindred

Excerpt: A Nation of Shopkeepers: The Unstoppable Rise of the Petty Bourgeoisie (Repeater Books, 2023) — Dan Evans 

The petty bourgeoisie – the insecure class between the working class and the bourgeoisie – is hugely significant within global politics. Yet it remains something of a mystery. A Nation of Shopkeepers sheds light on this mysterious class, exploring the class structure of contemporary Britain and the growth of the petty bourgeoisie following Thatcherism. It shows how the rise of home ownership, small landlordism, and radical changes to the world of work have increasingly inculcated values of petty bourgeois individualism, and, most importantly, what the unstoppable rise of the petit-bourgeoisie means for the left.

The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing — Grace Crabtree

Taking their name from the Roman military commander Fabius Maximus who defeated advancing armies through delay and attrition, the Fabian Society, a socialist organisation founded in 1884, favoured a non-revolutionary approach: their recommendations for reform were to gradually percolate through to government policy, rather than through violent overthrow. The Fabians founded the London School of Economics, and their recommendations for nationalisation – such as for a health service – eventually materialised with the post-war Labour government. In this article, Grace explores the Society’s approach and influence at a time of great political change and experimentation, and reflects on its continued legacy today.

Self-management: workplace democracy or a more subtle-form of exploitation? — Iain Cairns

Management theory has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent decades. Driven by managerial concerns over employee engagement, productivity, and efficiency, there has been a paradigm shift towards self-management that has increased worker autonomy and flexibility. As this evolution continues to unfold, a compelling question arises: are there opportunities to build alliances between proponents of self-management and democratic ownership?

Comic – Future Natures: A primer for the curious — Tim Zocco and Amber Huff, Centre for Future Natures

How did the world get into this mess? What does commoning look like and why is it needed? Through empires and colonisation to their existing forms in modern capitalism, nature has been commodified, privatised, and enclosed. But alternatives are all around us, already present or struggling to emerge. Other ways of thinking and making sense of the world are sorely needed – through art, storytelling, the imaginaries of speculative fiction, and from the practices and places that create and sustain existing commons in all their forms.

The radical potential of commoning is the subject of the first comic published by the Centre for Future Natures, an excerpt of which features in this issue of STIR.

Case study: Kitty's Launderette, Liverpool’s community washroom and social space — Grace Crabtree/Stir to Action

Launderettes are not usually the most beloved of locations: faulty dryers, sticky floors, expensive cycles eating up large stacks of pound coins. But in the Everton/Anfield area of North Liverpool, there is one that is doing things differently. Kitty’s Launderette is a community launderette and social space which offers affordable (or free) laundry services in a warm and welcoming space, alongside a programme of arts and social activities. We spoke to Grace Harrison, founder and project coordinator at Kitty’s Launderette, to find out more about the organisation and to discuss what it would take to replicate the model in other communities.

The resident-led campaign to #SaveOurWarehouse — Friends of the Warehouse Group, Barking and Dagenham

#SaveOurWarehouse is a campaign run by the Friends Of The Warehouse Group, a group of local residents who want to save Everyone’s Warehouse in Barking and Dagenham from closure, following the end of Participatory City’s ‘Everyone Everyday’ project. The warehouse – one of the UK’s biggest free maker spaces – was the only free community space in the ward south of the A13, and provided a roof for creative social businesses and access to facilities like wood working, textile making, pottery, and event space for residents. But residents have been campaigning for the council to keep this important space open.

Community-owned music venues: A conversation with Sister Midnight & Music Venues Trust Maxwell Jeffery

In South London, Sister Midnight are campaigning to create a space for live music and creative community. Their project shares many of the motivations and challenges faced by music venues across the UK. Emerging from the pressures of lockdown with a determination to secure themselves against the precarity of the industry, they have championed the community ownership model as a means to creating a resilient space to foster their local music scene. Elsewhere, established venues are being transformed into community owned spaces and demonstrating the value the model can provide. We spoke to Lenny Watson of Sister Midnight, and Matthew Otridge of Music Venue Trust to discover their story, and envision a future where grassroots music venues can become anchors of their local community with all the benefits that can bring.

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