[ note ]
the relationship between resistance, advocacy, and doing for self
so that something can emerge out of this, bigger than what any of us is capable of bringing
Ed Whitfield’s talk here makes for a nice complement to the previous post’s look at Michel Bauwens’ big-picture program for socio-economic transition. Whitfield too is concerned with emergence and with understanding that in a period of sweeping change, things of determinative significance are bound to be moving in more than one direction at the same time.
More particularly, Whitfield wants people organizing for change in the context of increasingly wobbly global-capitalist order to discover how to manage ‘resistance, advocacy, and doing for self’ — organizing’s three essential parts — for real impact. To that purpose, he discusses a couple of matters critical to seeing these three elements in practical relationship.
The first is that it’s important not to end up working against substantial change, change that actually matters, when in signing on with others in joint effort we find, sooner or later, that words key to coming together to get something done don’t attach straightforwardly or universally to the meanings our commitments to justice first led us to them in hope of realizing. ‘Our words have the capacity to carry meanings some of which are unintended.’ Collaborative frameworks, then, require ongoing re-examination. Examination, in turn, drives us to new reflection. It’s not all about action.
The other is that to accomplish what matters, we have to have a good eye for ‘the times,’ and have to develop some ability to be deliberate and adaptable in our attitude toward economic and political power.
For all of us the issue of power is: How do we make the changes in the world that need to be made? Because on the one hand I want to argue that power is what’s required to change something that needs to be changed — and everybody has some power, because we’ve all been able to change something in our life. So this hyperbole that folk use, which is ‘all and none,’ like there’s some people that have all the power and some people have no power — give me a break. We have to be really careful what we’re saying and thinking. But one of the things about power is that some things are already changing. There’s some things that are part of dynamic systems that are going through changes of coming into being — periods of relative stability, periods of chaos and then dying, just like any other living system — and so one of the things for us to understand … is that the role that power plays is dependent on where you are in that system, because what power can do in a period of stability and equilibrium and what power can do in a period of chaos and rapid change and what power does at a point of system collapse are different kinds of things.