• 23 February 2016

    Seminar Series 12: Lecture 4 - Geoffrey Pleyers

    Location: The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, G1 3NU
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    Geoffrey Pleyers, FNRS Researcher & Associate Professor of Sociology, Universite de Louvain, Belgium

    'Mobilising Dissent: Social Activism in a Global Age'

    In this lecture Geoffrey Pleyers addressed the following question:  if we are discontent with the present order of things, particularly the overarching structures and mindset of neoliberal globalisation, how can we become effective agents of change when decisions that matter are as likely to be taken in Washington, New York, Beijing or Brussels as they are in London, Edinburgh or Govan?  

    Since 1999, Pleyers has conducted extensive field research exploring this question in practice in Europe, in Latin America, at numerous World Social Forums and most recently amongst young people across Europe following the financial crisis.  His book Alter-Globalisation describes the tension he has observed in all progressive social movements between ‘the way of objective reason’ and ‘the way of subjective experience’ – both plausible ways to change the world.

    The way of reason might lead to expert activism, which marshals data and argument to make the case for change to those in authority.  Or it might lead to mobilisation and protest, working through regular democratic channels to get the right policies adopted and then protesting if they are not.   The way of experience might lead to experiments in direct democracy, demonstrating that there are other ways of arriving at decisions that do not defer to hierarchy, traditional power relationships or indeed to party politics.  Or it could prompt people to adopt transition practices in daily life, where people live the change they want to see in the world as an example and demonstration to others. 

    These are four distinct cultures of activism.  In practice all four are usually in play at the same time, at both the local and global levels.  And they are all democratic.  The lecture explored the characteristics that distinguish these approaches, how they might better complement each other as routes to social change, and invite discussion and reflection on how these cultures of social change are now experienced in Scotland in the aftermath of the independence referendum.

    Geoffrey Pleyers is FNRS researcher and Associate Professor of Sociology at the Université de Louvain (Belgium) and the president of the Research Committee 47 “Social classes and social movements” of the International Sociological Association. His research focuses on social movements, democracy, young people political participation, critical consumption, food movements and environmental movements in Europe and Latin America. He is the author of “Alter-Globalization. Becoming Actors in the Global Age” (Polity Press, 2011) and “La consommation critique” and the editor of “Open Movements: for a global and public sociology of social movements”.

    If you would like to follow or contribute to the seminar on Twitter, please use the hashtag #GCPHSem12

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