As the year draws to an end, I am reminded of how it started when the Class of 2018 arrived. They were asked to create clay images as statements, and this is what one of them wrote: How do we enable the development of active hope in a world filled with suffering? ‘Active hope’ – what a great phrase! As I look back on a productive year, I see much of what I achieved as ‘active hope’. In April, at the Resilience Cities Conference in Bonn, the report Weight of Cities was published, which brought together the work of an international interdisciplinary team that I coordinated over a four year period. Prepared for the International Resource Panel, this co-authored report presented a hopeful image of how the future of cities could be if we make big decisions today to transform them. In August the co-authored book Shadow State: the Politics of State Capture was published, building on the work of a great academic team that published Betrayal of the Promise last year. I also published in August the report on state capture at SASSA. Although both these reports are about depressing content, they do reflect much that is hopeful about South Africa: we are not yet a failed state, and this has got a lot to do with the fact that there is still space to mount alternative narratives to those propagated by kleptomaniacal elites. Civil society mobilisation with Churches playing a key role, together with a somewhat independent media, uncorrupted courts, whistle blowers, a few corporates who now and then have the guts to stand up to power rather than acquiesce (like many did, such as KPMG, McKinsey, SAP, T-Systems, Nkonki, etc), and a critical mass of politicians and officials who have overcome fear to stand up against corruption, all contributed to the widening of this space. Academic research plays a key role in creating a narrative for waging the ongoing battle against state capture. Finally, I managed to complete 80% of a new book while on sabbatical at Yale which looks like it will be entitled The Age of Sustainability: Just Transitions in a Complex World, that Routledge has agreed to publish in various formats. I hope to complete this by early 2019. This is the book I have dreamed about writing for a decade or so – a book about the dynamics of transition at multiple levels, and what this means for how we understand knowledge (epistemology) and reality (ontology). Ultimately, it is a book about what it means to be human in a rapidly changing world facing an unprecedented polycrisis that is going to change everything over the next two decades. I am aware I will be completing this book in a world where Trump is thriving, a lunatic fascist has been elected President of Brazil, China’s President has elected himself ‘president-for-life’ to pursue his grand Belt and Road initiative (the largest infrastructure project in human history), Putin tightens his grip on pieces of the world that he requires to prop up a sick economy, fundamentalists rule in India, and middle and working class people in all sorts of countries turn to the populist right because the left has failed to find a way of communicating alternatives in the twitterscape that replicates mass stupidity. There are some hopeful bright lights on the horizon: Ethiopia and Mexico come to mind, albeit they face many challenges. How we fight state capture in the post-Zuma era in a world where looting has become the norm is clearly a challenge. More importantly, how we fight for our democracy when it is clear that capitalism is evolving into a post-democratic norm across the world becomes our greatest challenge. Rabid ‘tooth and claw’ capitalism driven by the unbridled ‘animal spirits’ of a new generation of capitalists schooled at the best Universities in the ‘greed is good’ creed have been let loose on the world – for them, if democracy is an obstacle, get rid of it. For us, our challenge is clear: there is no other example of a country that has managed to redistribute asset wealth democratically – it usually entails violence of some sort (revolution, invasion or civil war), or simply internal collapse as everything gets stolen, and/or simply rots. Can we strengthen our democracy and redistribute asset wealth, including the creation of new wealth for those who don’t have? And how does the global sustainability crisis (especially regarding climate, water and food) become an opportunity for making this happen? Yes, indeed, we need ‘active hope’ – truckloads of it!
- Can economic policy escape state capture? on
- Reflections on Experimentation, Futuring and Incrementalism, with special reference to the African context on
- Global trends, SA context – the centrality of the global renewable energy revolution on
- Renewables, oil peak and the crisis of banking on
- Weight of Cities, Experimentation and Transdisciplinarity on