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About Paul Kingsnorth

Paul Kingsnorth is co-founder and Director of the Dark Mountain Project, a growing global network of writers, artists and thinkers dedicated to challenging the myths which underlie our civilization. He is also the author of two books of non-fiction and a collection of poetry. His first novel, The Wake, will be published in January 2014. His website is www.paulkingsnorth.net.

Articles by Paul Kingsnorth

This week's editor

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The age of endings

Our myths of progress are killing us. Where can we find a new set of stories to inspire the work of the future? Only through the creative imagination of writers, artists, storytellers and musicians. Perhaps only poetry can save us now. 

From ecocide to ecocentrism: a response

Paul Kingsnorth’s personal-radical farewell to green-movementism - the essay "Confessions of a recovering environmentalist" - generated a rich and earthy response. Andrew Dobson, the pioneer of “ecologism” and of green political thought, questioned the key choice the essay offered. Now, Paul Kingsnorth develops his case that “ecocentrism” is the practical heart of good human society.

Confessions of a recovering environmentalist

"Environmentalism, which in its raw, early form had no time for the encrusted, seized-up politics of left and right, has been sucked into the yawning, bottomless chasm of the 'progressive' left." A personal, twenty-year journey through the world’s wild places and the movements to protect them is also, for Paul Kingsnorth, an education in the limits of a project that has forgotten nature and lost its soul.

The blizzard of the world

The exhaustion of the planet and existing ways of life presents a creative challenge: exploring “uncivilisation”. Paul Kingsnorth introduces the Dark Mountain Project.

Englishness is a cultural identity

Paul Kingsnorth responds to Mark Perryman's call in Breaking up Britain for a progressive English identity.

‘What is Englishness?' is a question I have always studiously avoided answering. I can't stand the kind of lists that are sometimes drawn up by people trying to define ‘our national character', which always seem to come down to either a list of things that an English person should feel an attachment to (real ale, the countryside, David Beckham) or a list of Brownite-style ‘values' (tolerance, democracy, love of queuing) to which all English people should apparently feel equally committed.

But having read Mark's chapter, ‘a Jigsaw state', I am left with the feeling that perhaps we need to start trying to answer the question after all. Whether or not Britain ‘breaks up' in the political sense - and I am less convinced that it will ‘inevitably' do so than Mark seems to be - it is clearly already breaking up in the cultural sense. Scotland and Wales today feel more Scottish and Welsh than they did ten years ago, and so it seems do their people. The English, meanwhile, still struggling out from under ‘greater England', as Mark correctly calls the modern British identity, are in something of a fix. Still confused about the difference between Britishness and Englishness, always reluctant in any case to explain and define themselves, changed by immigration and the resulting policy of ‘multiculturalism', the English seem confused.

The ugly economics of immigration

Paul Kingsnorth (Oxford, author): In a recent, and very interesting, post here on OK, in which he dissects Enoch Powell’s views on ‘cultural essentialism’, Sunder Katwala of the Fabian Society first agrees with me and then takes me to task about a recent blog post in which I addressed the impact of mass immigration on population pressure in the UK.

Here’s what Sunder wrote

The impact of immigration is back in Britain's headlines. The new Minister Phil Woolas taking a good deal of flak for talking about the need to restrict immigration in a downturn. Woolas may have got the tone wrong, but a recession will surely affect immigration flows and government policy too. Picking up on this, the writer Paul Kingsnorth, a progressive critic of globalisation, challenges the idea that the correct left-liberal position is "open borders". He is right. Social democrats take a liberal position on cultural diversity, but need to manage migration so that it does not exacerbate inequalities. We need a politics of solidarity to protect standards and avoid exploitation at the bottom. However Kingsnorth's quest for a progressive Englishness could be fatally undermined by his ugly language of "shipping in millions of cheap foreigners ripe for exploitation in order to keep the markets happy". The language of swamping continues to derail a rational migration debate. 

England, Britain and multiculturalism: an OurKingdom exchange

What kind of country has Britain become; does multiculturalism enrich or damage its people's lives; and is English national identity a route to political progress or a journey away from inclusive belonging? These questions are being freshly posed in a society seeking new frameworks to understand both itself and the major forces - post-colonial unsettlement, neo-liberal globalisation, autonomist processes in Scotland and Wales, and dynamics of racism, communalism and immigration - that are combining to reshape it. They underlie a vigorous exchange between Paul Kingsnorth and Vron Ware originally published here in openDemocracy's OurKingdom. In engaging with the arguments of the other's book, the authors highlight their sharp differences of perspective; in continuing the conversation, they enlarge a field of debate often confined by academic specialism or political tribalism.

Kingsnorth responds to Ware

This is the second part of an exchange on national identity and belonging sparked by Paul Kingsnorth's review of Vron Ware's book. We will be publishing Vron's reply tomorrow.

Paul Kingsnorth (Oxford, author): My recent review of Vron Ware's book Who cares about Britishness? has evidently upset the author. I can't deny a twinge of guilt: as a fellow writer, I know the frustration of a bad review, and the things it can make you say. So I'm not surprised to read Vron's retaliation about me, my review and indeed my own book, Real England, on OurKingdom.

I don’t respond from pique, but because this is, at heart, a crucial debate about the future of England and Britain, and about two competing understandings of what constitutes 'belonging.' More than anything else, perhaps, it is about how that dread term 'multiculturalism' has, in my view, undermined a shared sense of community in both England and Britain, and continues to do so.

Who cares about Britishness?

Paul Kingsnorth reviews Who cares about Britishness? by Vron Ware.

(Ware, Arcadia Books, July 2007, 180pp)

It doesn’t seem an especially good start to this book-length exploration of the fading essence of ‘Britishness’ that even its author openly admits to not caring very much about the question posed by its title. That title, writes Vron Ware, ‘wasn’t even a question, it was more of a reply.’ When she began the project, she explains, she didn’t care about Britishness herself. The trouble is that she doesn’t seem to care by the end either, and along the way she hasn’t persuaded us that we should. Quite the opposite, in fact: if this confused and self-negating book is the best that ‘Britishness’ can do, then the long-heralded end of the union might turn out to be rather a good thing. One suspects that the book’s sponsors, the British Council, were hoping for rather a different conclusion.

Ware lays her cards on the table in the first few pages. Britain, she writes, ‘may be a country, but it is not really a place.’ When you come through the channel tunnel, you are informed that you have arrived in England, and the signs at Heathrow welcome you to London. Britain is not a nation at all, but a composite of four nations. It has, she observes, ‘a standing army but not a football team. It has an anthem, a flag and a queen’, but no patron saint and no constitution. These are all good points, but Ware goes further. Britain, she reckons, is essentially rubbish. The most noticeable things about the Brits are their ‘flaws’: ‘they drink too much, swear too much, blame the government for everything and laugh at themselves when things get rough.’ Pretty much the only good thing about this poor bloody country, in fact, is ‘its record of functioning multiculturalism.’ In other words, the best thing about Britain is the bits that aren’t British.

The European Social Forum: time to get serious

Will political and commercial dogma crush the liberating energies of the world’s social justice movements? The European Social Forum in London leaves Paul Kingsnorth with mixed feelings.

A shaft of light at the European Social Forum

Amidst the litter-strewn floors and hard-left headbangers at the 2004 European Social Forum, Paul Kingsnorth raises his eyes to the stars.

Can 'active citizens' transform British politics?

A combination of alienation, awareness, and anger among British citizens is leading them to protest in ways that echo political trends worldwide. Paul Kingsnorth reports on the formation of a new grassroots movement that aims to channel their energy to revivify democracy from below.

How to save the world: poverty, security, and nation-building

A recent conference at London’s LSE drew on the agenda of the high-level panel appointed by the United Nations secretary-general to address the most difficult challenge of the post-9/11 world: guaranteeing security, sustainable life and progress to the world’s peoples. Paul Kingsnorth reports for openDemocracy, and participants Frances Stewart, James Putzel and Johanna Mendelson Forman offer their conference reflections.

West Papuans: neither lads nor cannibals, but humans

The western half of New Guinea is seeking to follow East Timor and win independence from rule by Indonesia’s military and global corporations. When media stereotypes add insult to injury, its campaigners find creative ways to protest.

Making a new world - Part Four: From the US to West Papua

The global movement for change – decentred, multivocal, democratic – has a right to expect the same approach from those who seek to understand it. Paul Kingsnorth has travelled the world, to track the ways that diverse social, political and environmental struggles combine into the search for a world of fairness and freedom. Here, he talks to Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy about American consumer culture and the struggle for freedom in West Papua – seemingly disparate issues connected by the thread of global corporate power.

Making a new world - Part Three: Apartheid: the sequel

Post-apartheid South Africa promised a new, fairer country. But Paul Kingsnorth, author of “One no, many yeses – a journey to the heart of the global resistance movement”, tells Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy that the African National Congress’s pro-globalisation policies are making many activists feel the country is in an even worse position than before.

Making a new world - Part Two: From Genoa to Cochabamba

Global activists find the Zapatista movement in Mexico an inspiration. But a campaign against water privatisation in Bolivia and state violence at the 2001 Genoa summit, show the scale of the challenges they face. Paul Kingsnorth continues his world tour in conversation with Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy.

Making a new world - Part One: Roads to Chiapas

Today's global movement for change - networked, with many voices, democratic - demands an equivalent type of engagement from observers. Paul Kingsnorth has travelled from Mexico to Italy, from Bolivia to South Africa and from Brazil to West Papua to track the ways that diverse social, political and environmental struggles combine in the search for a world of fairness and freedom. His interview with Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy starts in Chiapas, Mexico. 

The end of the beginning?

The tide is turning and the times a-changing. The second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre is no longer simply an ‘alternative’ to Davos’s illustrious jamboree – it is a phenomenon in its own right, a key channel for making the arguments and longings of global protest and radical movements into a coherent force for a different social order.

The next clash of civilisations?

To travel through the ‘developing’ lands during the current war is to encounter a level of anger and protest against the West that reveals a core fissure in global politics. Not the terrorist challenge to the civilised world, but rising opposition from communities across the globe to the stifling embrace of materialist consumerism.

What now for the anti-globalisers?

The US-led advocates of borderless trade want to press on with their mission in the wake of the WTC assaults. From the perspective of a Bolivian conference of grassroots campaigners, such moral blindness may be the prelude to intensified revolt.
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