I’m not surprised that Donald Trump won the American Presidential election. It is evidence again of the new political space, now approaching a chasm, that has been opening up between the rich and powerful and the rest in the Western world since the economic crisis of 2008.
As I see it, that crisis was evidence of the failure of the sovereignty delusion and the biopolitical system with which it has culminated. As I expose in my research, peace does not come through sovereign power exercised by the rich and powerful through violent military force, diplomacy, law and money in its various transformations throughout the history of the West. This despite the late twentieth century attempts of the Chicago economic school of neo-liberal capitalism embraced by Thatcher and Reagan to let loose the supposedly benevolent hand of the market to create billions of pounds to provide loans to global companies, the commercial property sector, the financial services sector and private property mortgages. That led to rampant globalisation and resulted in primary and secondary industries shifting to where the highest profits could be made. At the same time it created a property bubble that inflated house prices to the point that mortgages were so large that those at risk through the globalisation shifts, job losses and income insecurities could no longer pay the interest. So the banks and government-backed mortgage companies like Fannie Mae in the USA were threatened with bankruptcy together with the nation states who were their direct or indirect security. Hence the government bailouts, austerity, foreclosures and cuts that have left significant sections of society either actually outside the mainstream socio-economic world or at least consciously struggling to stay within it.
The tragedy is that for those who desperately desire change both in the UK and the USA, and voted for Brexit and Trump, the assumption remains that gaining or regaining sovereign power is the means to achieve it. But it’s not, and Trump with his tower of wealth cannot make America great again in sovereignty terms any more than Brexit will benefit the socially and economically disenfranchised of the UK. The truth is that what is happening is the long drawn out death of empire and there’s no stopping it. Actually this is not all bad, although there will be much pain in the short term.
But there is another way, and the constant recourse to sovereignty simply emphasises how much we need to find it. We need to cultivate this now enormous emerging political space not with the dark forces based on scapegoating perceived aliens and enemies and reconfiguring sovereignty for the promotion of me and mine, but with a completely different kind of power. Rather we need to recognise that the sovereignty system is incapable of bringing peace and is now in terminal breakdown and embrace another direction and lifestyle within and despite it.
Today the Richardson Institute for Peace Studies (the RI) are holding an Infrastructures for Peace day here at Lancaster University with the express purpose of exploring and strengthening other ways than sovereignty with which to cultivate the emerging new political space. Since 2013 the RI has taken up the concept of positive peace developed by Johann Galtung to pre-empt the kind of conflicts currently rampant in many parts of the world. Via the RI Critical Thinking Group we are working to develop a culture of positive peace locally across the region of Morecambe Bay as the means to transcend our current impasse and cultivate the new political space that has opened up. My friend and colleague Dr Jim Paris has laid out our strategy in his two helpful papers that trace the outcome of our meetings and discussions over the last two years. Based on Galtung’s approach we are working for:
- A well-functioning government
- A sound business environment
- An equitable distribution of resources
- An acceptance of the rights of others
- Good relations with neighbours
- Free flow of information
- A high level of human capital
- Low levels of corruption
- Securing development within and between regions and states that recognises the limits of the earth’s resources
The aim of the day is to progress a culture of peace locally by profiling and developing infrastructures that facilitate the terms of positive peace in Morecambe Bay and to be a catalyst that will inform and encourage others.
One key initiative which we hope will help further these goals locally is the newly forming Morecambe Bay Poverty Truth Commission with its wonderful strap line “nothing about us without us is for us” which exists to place first-hand experiencers of the social alienation we are talking about here at the head of the movement for change.
But alongside all this I am becoming increasingly convinced that kenarchy is an important potential component of positive peace. It is very encouraging to have both national and local community partners of the RI joining us for the Infrastructures for Peace day who have completed the Political Theology for Peace module that specifically investigates and evaluates this. (Still time to enrol for this coming Lent Term). While based on the Western Christian narrative it deals with the displacement of the kind of love that the neo-Marxists Hardt and Negri call for in their analysis of the Western sovereignty system in order to motivate a new movement among the multitude. John Burton, one of the early pioneers of Peace Studies and founders of the Conflict Research Society called for a return to the same in the final years of his life.
Today I shall make a call for a politics of love more strongly than ever. Our current situation in the West demands it. Nothing less will deeply transform our socio-political culture. As I’ve previously made clear I really like Thomas Jay Oord’s definition of the word for love found in the testimony of Jesus where he calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. “To love is to act intentionally out of sympathetic/ empathetic response to God and others to promote overall wellbeing.” As I have emphasised in Discovering Kenarchy this love needs to extend to our enemies real or supposed if we are to transform the increasingly conflicted social world of the sovereignty delusion. But we need more than a theoretical definition, or moral imperative. We need to discover love as the apostle Paul describes when he says that love has got him in its grip. We need to discover love as power, as an actual socio-political cultural force.