Posted by: rogermitchell | November 8, 2014

stewarding the new political space

Yesterday, Saturday November 8th 2014, I led a workshop at the Leeds for Change Summat New day event entitled Stewarding the New Political Space. The basic content follows. I would love to get your feedback please!

political shifts since the economic shake up of 2008

  • austerity isn’t working: As Seamus Milne concludes in Thursday’s Guardian (November 6th 2014): “The lesson from across Europe is there are no political prizes for embracing austerity – it spells failure in opposition and disintegration in government”
  • gross inequality is increasing: since the financial crisis, the ranks of the world’s billionaires has more than doubled, swelling to 1,645 people. At the start of 2014 the richest 85 people on the planet owned as much as the poorest half of humanity (Oxfam
  • According to the Observer, today Sunday November 9th, the UK is now officially the most unequal society in Europe.

the impact of austerity on the poor and marginalized

  • at last Monday’s Morecambe Faith in the Community event (November 4th 2014) the local Citizens Advice Bureau presented a detailed critique of the 2012 Welfare Reform Act based on their own client experience concluding that many people in genuine need no longer meet the prescribed eligibility criteria
  • many are having to adjust to a big drop in income or monthly benefits, with increasing use of food-banks and borrowing from high interest rate lenders (Wonga has increased interest to 5583%)
  • more people are falling into absolute poverty

why austerity isn’t working

  • it uses the same underlying market principles that caused the crash to resolve its effects
    some would see this as effect of Thatcherite/ Adam Smith economics of the supposed benevolent hand of the market
  • research reveals a more ancient genealogy on which the liberal capitalist Western democratic system is overlaid (see my Church, Gospel & Empire and The Fall of the Church available from or amazon
  • unwritten and written constitutions and functions of nation states take for granted peace through sovereign power which basically means preferencing the rich and powerful for leadership and financial reward
  • austerity’s failure is exposing new and deep political space in a way that hasn’t happened for generations

recognizing the new political space

  • framed by all the ‘posts’: post-Christendom, post-modern, post-secular, post-political, post-material…
  • opposite to the ‘tame’ xenophobia of UKIP, and the brutality of ISIL that holds up a mirror to the covert roots of Western sovereignty
  • signaled by the increasing, if uncertain success of radical political parties that question the accepted status quo: Podemos, Syriza, Sinn Fein, (SNP?)
  • signaled by the Occupy movement such as last month’s (October 2014) Occupy Democracy Parliament Square event
  • new, inclusive presence of Faith Communities in the public forum (including within Occupy:

starting points for personal & corporate action

  • taking popular buzz phrases like ‘people matter’ really seriously
  • initiating actions that are egalitarian and other focused, not hierarchical and autonomous
  • embarking on a radical politics grounded in enemy love
  • regarding authority as kenotic not sovereign
  • sharing whatever gifts and opportunities you have to mutually empower the poor and marginalized

enacting the politics of Jesus/ kenarchy

  • instating women
  • prioritizing children
  • advocating for the poor
  • welcoming strangers
  • reintegrating humanity & creation
  • freeing prisoners
  • caring for the sick

possible applied research project

  • to map, investigate and steward the new political space for the common good
  • bringing together academic researchers and political activists, together with charities and agencies for compassion and justice
  • hopefully with EU funding
  • please let me have feedback on your own possible involvements, thoughts and ideas in the comment box below


  1. Hi Roger, my current research for my PhD is looking at networks and relationships etc. in rural areas of Latvia and Estonia. The idea is that by knowing what already exists should aid creative development initiatives and open doors for collaboration. I would also hope that this gives a voice to the rural hinterlands. This is going against the current model of top-down initiatives that seek to invite rural inhabitants to come to hear pre-determined development plans. Hopefully with additional funding I shall be doing work further afield. I see this very much in the field of bringing justice by correcting the vision of urbanites with regards to the important rural areas – after all, much food still comes from these areas.

  2. I’m reading Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’, so I’m a little absorbed by the ‘reintegrating humanity and the creation’ question from the kenarchic hit list. As someone admittedly late onto the climate change agenda, Klein’s thesis is that the problem is so welded to our political/economic system that there is no hope of mitigating the inevitable coming disasters (since the chance of prevention is now behind us) without a radical change in way we do our politics and economics. The climate change ‘wave’ has begun to roll and promises the kind of disruptive tsunami almost certain to sweep over many of our relatively parochial issues of national borders and nation state or continental intrigues, leaving chaos in its’ wake. Though it is a slow wave in terms of our own lifetimes, it adds a little urgency to the need to occupy this emerging political space, don’t you think?!…

    However, I was particularly taken by her line of thinking about the ‘post-rational’ nature of the problem in the book’s introduction. Klein notes: “The problem of [climate change] has a lot less to do with the mechanics of solar power than the politics of human power… I have come to understand that the shift [needed] will require rethinking the very nature of humanity’s power – our right to extract ever more without facing consequences, our capacity to bend complex natural systems to our will. This is a shift that challenges not only capitalism, but the building blocks of materialism that preceded modern capitalism…”. I find this an intriguing acknowledgement that the roots of the problem go far deeper than the material/rational to something both preceding and pre-empting the world system that presently holds sway.

  3. I was at the workshop and am very pleased to be in touch. One thing that impressed me was the quality of the dialogue that was happening there, the sense of people really listening to each other and a sharing of concerns and ideas even though we might not yet have a shared vocabulary. Certainly the theology of kenosis is new to me, and yet I feel I recognise it well! I missed some of the conversation, but someone mentioned John Holloway and I wondered whether more of a link had been made to his work? His book ‘Crack Capitalism’ (“the question of revolution is not how to destroy capitalism, but how to stop creating it and do something sensible instead”) is a favourite political resource for me.
    I really agree with what Phil says above about climate and have also been reading Naomi Klein and making similar connections. I’m fascinated by the confluence of so many reasons to change ‘the system’, and how open people seem to radical change, rather than just trying harder within the status quo. Climate activists would say ‘we need to build a mass movement’, and we do but that movement will be made up of people who care about other things: Palestine, schools, air quality, jobs, surveillance, austerity, mental health, birds, asylum seekers, poetry. None of these are competing single issues any more, even if they ever were. So how to collaborate? Some vision of the positive, some name for what it is we desire?
    I will connect you on Facebook with a couple of people, Roger… looking forward to more conversation on this.

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