Exploring a new 'politics of love' as a resource for the alter-globalisation movement [i] and for international development.
Please support this scholar-activist research project involving activists, economists, political theorists and development practitioners internationally.
We are witnessing an alarming rise in far-right xenophobic nationalism and authoritarianism across the globe, accelerated environmental destruction, deregulation for corporations, the crushing of trade unions and the privatisation of public services. The dominant political narrative is becoming one of hate, of migrants and refugees, of ethnic minorities, of the unemployed or those living with a disability, and many other vulnerable members of our society. Is there really no alternative?
This project will support the policy formation process of Operation Kindness, a global family of activists, communities and grass roots campaigns. Their purpose to imagine, articulate, implement and actualise alternatives to neoliberal globalisation [ii] based upon kindness, altruism and love. Alongside campaigning, Operation Kindness activist groups engage in positive direct action in order to bring the kinder world they wish to see into being right here, right now- developing youth cooperatives in Uganda, refugee solidarity work in Jordan, community permaculture projects in Mexico, peace dialogues and refugee solidarity groups in South Sudan and student activist groups in Turkey to name a few.
About the Researcher
Matt York is a development practitioner with a Master of Research degree in development practice from the School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK. He is currently a CACSSS excellence scholar at University College Cork, Ireland where he is working on a PhD in the department of Government. He has worked on a number of primary healthcare programmes and community development projects in Africa and Europe. In 2002 he founded the Mandala Trust, a UK based charity dedicated to 'simple acts of kindness' through supporting children and young people living in vulnerable situations around the world (see www.mandalatrust.org).
Whilst coordinating development projects in Africa Matt came face to face with a rapid escalation in development practices with funding priorities shaped by so called 'free market' economics. Such approaches were contrary to the experience, evidence and ethics of established international development theory and practice. This direct experience of the subversion of international development by market-driven globalisation and the subsequent increases in inequalities, injustices and violations of rights in communities on the ground led to his involvement in the alter-globalisation movement.
Matt's work in developing community action projects using the South African philosophy of Ubuntu [x] led to his current interest in love as politically transformative and in 2014 he co-founded Operation Kindness to further this work.
About the Research
Neoliberal globalisation has increased inequalities, injustices and rights violations, especially for workers and people in the Global South[iii]. This process has entailed economic, political and social destabilisation through the dismantling of institutions and narratives that promoted more equal distributive measures in preceding years, whilst creating a fertile environment for the current rise in far-right xenophobic nationalism and authoritarianism. In parallel, indigenous movements, anti-privatisation campaigns, women’s movements, progressive intellectual networks and alter-activists have linked multiple locally based campaigns into transnational networks around specific issues, contesting the legitimacy of this new world order[iv].
Social movement research suggests that within this diverse array of ideologies, identities and cultural norms, a cohesive framework is required which avoids the domination and hierarchy of previous structures yet allows the construction of a coherent collective identity[v]. Prior research undertaken by Matt indicates value in the concept of love as a lens through which to understand and transform the processes that reproduce such domination, whilst simultaneously providing the frame, motivation and energy required for social change[vi].
What are the key objectives of this project?
· To explore the thoughts, feelings, ideas and imaginings of a cross section of activists, development practitioners, economists and political theorists internationally, in relation to love in this specific form.
· To theorise (and plan to operationalise) a new political ethic through the synthesis of existing theoretical perspectives within academia and the movement, and the themes generated through the research project.
What overarching questions inform this research?
· Could a theory and practice of love be of value to the alter-globalisation movement and for international development and if so, in what ways?
· Could such a political ethic be operationalised as a transformative counterbalance to the forms of domination which underpin the current neoliberal hegemony?
The research will build upon work such as political theorist Michael Hardt's ‘politics of love’[vii] which explores a 'new love' with the power to generate social bonds and organise social relationships as property does currently, Croation philosopher Srecko Horvat's notion of 'revolution as love'[viii], and that of environmental researcher Duncan MacQueen's ‘love-infused development’[ix] which positions love as the causal factor for how values are pursued and therefore the subsequent trajectory that development takes, determining whether values are pursued for personal profit or the collective good.
A radical reversal of current development trajectories is essential if we are to realise a truly environmentally sustainable, equal and just world. This research can begin to legitimately explore love as a frame of reference within which a genuinely realistic and visionary set of transformations might be discovered, theorising a new political ethic in pursuit of non-violent revolutionary social change.
This research project will be conducted through a PhD at the Department of Government, University College Cork, Ireland.
The requested financial support will be used towards:
Essential Research Costs
Conference Travel and Participation
Please join us in making this important project a reality!
As a supporter you will recieve regular project updates and news of other Operation Kindness activities. There will also be a full listing of donor names on the project website.
Please contact Matt for further information at [email redacted]
[i] The alter-globalisation movement (from the French "alter-mondialisation") is the name of a social movement whose proponents support global cooperation and interaction, but oppose what they describe as the negative effects of economic globalisation, considering that it often works to the detriment of, or does not adequately promote, human values such as environmental and climate protection, economic justice, labour protection, protection of indigenous cultures, peace, and civil liberties.
[ii] Neoliberalism is the current dominant global political establishment concensus that society works best when the people and the institutions within it work or are shaped to work according to market principles. This has involved the introduction of extensive economic liberalisation policies such as privatisation, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society.
[iii] Dearden, N. (2015) ‘A manifesto for global justice’. Red pepper. 200: 12-13.
[iv] Pleyers, G. (2013) ‘A Brief History of the Alter-Globalization Movement’, translated by John Zvesper with the help of the Institut Français. Booksandideas.net. Available at: http://www.booksandideas.net/A-Brief-History-of-the-Alter.html
[v] Della Porta, D. Andreta, M. Mosca, L. Reiter, H. (2006) ‘Globalisation from below: Transnational Activists and Protest networks’. Minneapolis. University of Minnesota Press.
[vi] York, M. (2014) ‘Transforming Masculinities: A Qualitative Study of a Transformative Education Programme for Young Zulu Men and Boys in Rural Kwazulu-Natal’. The Journal of Pan African Studies. 7(7): 55-78.
[vii] Hardt, M. (2011) ‘For Love or Money’. Public open lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swMwDa_0Pc0
[viii] Horvat, S. (2016) ‘The radicality of love’. Cambridge. Polity Press.
[ix] MacQueen, D. (2013) ‘Love-infused development: in search of a development ethic to halt poverty and forest loss’. IIED. UK.
[x] The Ubuntu concept is best described through the Nguini proverb ‘Umuntu ngu-umuntu ngobantu’ meaning ‘I am because we are’. This sense of collective solidarity expresses Ubuntu through love, caring, tolerance, respect, empathy, accountability and responsibility.
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