At Transition Milwaukee, we’ve been talking about politics lately. Our conversation was precipitated by the visit from the City of Milwaukee’s new “Sustainability Director” at our last Hub Meeting, as well as some discussion about the possibility of “Progressive Radio” in Milwaukee.
The upshot from our listserv discussion, here at Transition Milwaukee, is that there is no consensus, not even the sort of operating consensus that Greer might agree to, about what the appropriate or tactically astute involvement of a Transition group in electoral politics should be. We also discovered quickly that, despite the fact that nearly everyone in the group has emerged from a progressive or liberal background (as traditionally defined), the notion of Transition being a “progressive movement” would be to misrepresent considerable aspects of our collective vision and mission. It would not, I think, be correct to suggest that Transition is simply a more radical manifestation of progressive politics, in the way that the civil rights movement involved a logical and long overdue extension of basic principles stated in The Declaration of Independence or Treatise on the Rights of Man. What we are witnessing now is not a mere enhancement or updating of progressive principles caused by the influx of new information about our climate or our fossil fuels. Something more substantial is afoot.
The unsettled reality of Post-Carbon Politics will likely upset our current political labels and disrupt our familiar political categories. I believe that we will witness, in the near future, a great realignment that will perhaps be as momentous as the one from which Liberalism was birthed and manifested near the beginning of the industrial revolution and during the age of colonial expansion. Indeed my very suggestion that Liberalism is a product of the age of fossil fuels, while not novel, is nevertheless a sign of nascent retrospectiveness--that we have begun the process of looking back on political Liberalism as a historical artifact.
Revolutions and realignments, alike, are fought in the streets, negotiated in the halls of labor unions or workers’ guilds, at the market and the banks, in the furrows of the fields. Without adopting a “crude materialism,” I generally agree with Marx that the organization of the means of production (and thus the way the prominent sources of energy are channeled and refined) is the ultimate and radical source of political consciousness. But, following Hegel, Marx also believed that such shifts demanded vast amounts of intellectual labor, to perform the work of articulating these underlying forces and changes, of giving language and imagery to new social relations and community organization as well as emerging practices of exchange and commerce, to provide an analytics and an dynamic iteration of economic tectonics and their political and social quakes and tremors.
It is to this task, at a modest level, to be assured, that I will turn my attention for a series of posts that will continue as long as I think I have something valuable to say (or until other convince me that I do not).