A New Politics for an Age of Crisis

By Shelley Tanenbaum
Out of the Wreckage cover

GREAT MINDS AND SAVVY organizers repeatedly stress that we need to articulate a vision if we hope to build a successful movement for political and cultural change, yet rarely do those great minds articulate a vision themselves. I am happy to lift up George Monbiot’s latest book, Out of the Wreckage, containing a powerful and succinct vision and a roadmap for getting there.

Monbiot describes two world views that dominate our political and cultural worlds. Most of us prioritize community, friendship, and equality, and seek to make the world a better place for all. Some of us are more interested in individual reward, and value competition over cooperation. Our economic system favors the latter, and makes the assumption that competition is our natural human state. Monbiot argues that instead, our natural state is one of altruism and community.

Based on our mutual respect for each other and the planet, “by reviving community, built around the places in which we live and by anchoring ourselves, our politics and parts of our economy in the life of this community, we can recover the best aspects of our humanity.”

Part of rebuilding our communities is to understand that neither Keynesian nor neo-liberal versions of economic theory will work for this new vision. Economics is embedded in our society, which in turn is embedded in the planetary ecosystem. Economics must be beholden first to the needs of society and ultimately to the limits of our natural world.

I was inspired and energized by his clear description of why we are in such a mess, what we would prefer, and how to get there, all in 186 pages. May it help you build community and reinforce the value you place in friendship and equality.

Shelley Tanenbaum is QEW’s General Secretary.

An Excerpt from Out of the Wreckage by George Monbiot

COMMUNITY PROJECTS PROLIFERATE into a vibrant, participatory culture that transforms the character of our neighborhoods. New social and commercial enterprises strengthen our sense of attachment and ownership.
A flourishing community stimulates our innate urge to cooperate. It helps immunize us against extremism and demagoguery, and it turns democracy into a daily habit. Community is the place from which a new politics begins to grow.

Communities come to own and manage local resources, ensuring that wealth is widely shared and that the sense of belonging to place and people is strengthened. Using common riches to fund universal benefits provides everyone with security and resilience. A kinder world stimulates and normalizes our kinder values.
By gaining control of public investment, we take ownership of both our localities and our lives. We come to see ourselves as political agents, rather than as supplicants. These shifts help to embed a new economics, whose purpose is to allow us to thrive without destroying the Earth’s living systems.

By reclaiming democratic power, we build a politics that belongs to all of us. A real democracy is one that allows the people to design the system. New methods and rules for elections ensure that every vote counts and that financial power can never vanquish political power.

Representative democracy is reinforced by a participatory democracy that allows us to refine our political choices. The tussle for sovereignty between parliament and people is resolved in favor of the people.

Global bodies that have seized power without a democratic mandate are either disbanded or democratized. Decision-making is returned to the smallest political units that can discharge it. Wherever power resides, it is accountable to the people, through elections and participation. Power becomes a function of community.

By reclaiming democratic power, we build a politics that belongs to all of us. A real democracy is one that allows the people to design the system. New methods and rules for elections ensure that every vote counts and that financial power can never vanquish political power.

George Monbiot