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This week's editor


Guest editor Ronan Harrington introduces this week's theme: Spirituality and Visionary Politics.

Ronan is a freelance political strategist and co-creator of Alter Ego, a gathering exploring the future of progressive politics.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Why the monster Grendel has no place in activism today

I was at the anti-fracking protest at Balcombe in the UK when another activist said austerity is "a beast bigger than all of us". Then I started to see monsters everywhere. 

The Battle of Algiers: a formative influence on Moroccan cinema

Algeria partnershipLaying bare the social and economic structures of oppression to reconstruct a national psyche from the ruins – how an idea caught on.


An artist’s duty: an interview with Ai Weiwei

Still denied his passport after nearly three years, Ai Weiwei exists in a strange purgatory. In this exclusive openDemocracy interview, the dissident Chinese artist speaks truth to power, as China’s exploitative processes of development demand great responsibility from the nation’s intellectual and artistic currents. Interview.

When is citizen participation transformative?

When is participation empowering and transformative? What is the relationship between ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ modes of participation? At a conference on the theme of ‘Participatory Cultural Citizenship’ in Aarhus, last November, keynote speaker Leah Lievrouw shared her thoughts on this with Participation Now. Interview.

Volatile, stable and extractive participation

At a conference on the theme of ‘Participatory Cultural Citizenship’ in Aarhus, Denmark last November, Participation Now asked keynote speaker Chris Kelty about questions posed by his current research project: Who gets to decide what participation should be like? Who should be deciding? How might they decide this? Interview.

My transformative icon: UA Fanthorpe

Unofficial poet laureate UA Fanthorpe is an unlikely icon, having left her prestigious career for a job as a receptionist. But she understood that recording the everyday - the often ignored - can help people to connect, to see the importance of everyone's story. She changed both society and my life. 

Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or racism? Anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racisms and the question of Palestine/Israel

Both anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish racisms have become part of daily ‘common sense’ constructions everywhere in time of global crisis, expressing insecurity and hostility against ‘the Other’, ‘the terrorist’, ‘the usurper’. The Palestine/Israel question has helped to encourage these conflations and racialisations. Conference report.

Mandela and Cuba: another memory hole

Recognition of the role of Cuba in aiding the ANC whilst the western powers backed apartheid is hardly serviceable in maintaining the conventional Cold War narrative. Hence the media's impressive avoidance of the context of the Castro-Obama handshake and its significance. 

Who’s afraid of partisan politics?

Bi-partisan deal-making is often celebrated as progress, but is it any basis for transforming politics in America? This is the final article in our series on trans-partisan politics.

Shifting tides for Egypt’s bloggers

Egypt's blogosphere and twitter world was buzzing with reminders of how the army and the ministry of interior violated human rights on various occasions. On the other hand, the mainstream media was buzzing with songs cheering the army and the Minister of Defense.

The martial arts of social justice

Turning reaction into response and being flexible in their moves, Californian campaigners use capoeira tactics to fight zero-tolerance in schools.

Anti-Semitism and the Jewish future in Europe

An oft-quoted new survey seems to suggest that many Jews in Europe are not living with the peace of mind and sense of security that every ethnic and religious group ought to enjoy. This survey, however, has several limitations.

Pondering participation

Is there a profound contradiction between subjective expression and effective political deliberation, such that the first type of participation should be described as superficial? 

Postcards from a horizontal world

New social movements are different. Instead of asking for alternatives, they are bringing them to life.

Singapore migrants riot, websites chill, but Yale-in-Singapore keeps warm

The fallout from these abuses of labor and freedom of speech casts a long shadow on Yale-NUS' hopes to become an international hub for liberal education.

Democracy and plutocracy: the great American class war

There is a difference between democracy and plutocracy. Listen! That sound you hear is the shredding of the social contract. 

Mandela: explaining the magnetism

While the world stops for Nelson Mandela’s departure from it, his iconic status is unquestioned. Yet there is a more complicated underlying narrative to tell.

From guns to gardening: ending the illegal arms trade

Illegal firearms, mostly smuggled in from the USA, are fuelling violence in Mexico. In response, thousands of guns have been transformed into gardening tools, musical instruments and public art.

Why the UN needs our support this Human Rights Day

Many report a determined pushback from quarters which deny that universal human rights even exist, let alone admit that a growing international framework for upholding these standards is necessary.

For my Dad: on what’s wrong with, ‘Being liberal’

The historical misdirection involved in 'being liberal' persists today and affects those vulnerable to ideological revisionism. We must protect them.

Mandela, icon

What is it that we see when we look into its smiling eyes?  Above all, it is for his humanity and what I would like to call his historic warmth that Nelson Mandela will be remembered.

Is slavery invincible?

The right not to be enslaved is one of the two absolute human rights that cannot be violated on any ground whatsoever. However, 65 years after its denunciation, slavery continues to resist the corpus of human rights. Why the asymmetry ?

In defense of Otpor

When they claim that Otpor was an American operation to unseat Milosevic, they do not bother to explain why all these other organizations were fighting Milosevic, some for years before Otpor joined the fight. Were they all American puppets?

Alternative horizons - understanding Occupy's politics

Occupy is to be assessed, firstly, in terms of the alternative public space that it creates and the mutual recognition between individuals that (in however fragile a fashion) it brings into existence. 

Inspired by the public

Experimenting with public participation at the Kröller-Müller Museum, 2010-2014.

Bradford’s Community University: co-producing knowledge for a change

This is a year-long experiment in knowledge exchange and co-production, aimed at exploring what emerges when academics and community participants try to learn from each other.

Smashing egoism: against flashpoint action

For many anarchists, real liberation manifests itself through flashpoint: sudden, unannounced acts of violence. These people see themselves at war with the world, and are often derisive towards broader organizing. But successful resistance movements - whether violent or nonviolent - need community or solidarity to succeed. 

The two ends of Cowley road: Diversity and its challenges

Kerem Öktem is one of the co-authors of the recently published booklet, Freedom in Diversity. Ten Lessons for Public Policy from Britain, Canada, France, Germany and the United States. Here, for openDemocracy, he brings the lessons close to home.

Bring it on! Russell Brand and revolution

The revolutionary left denounces Russell Brand, but the poor know he is right. His lack of a proper alternative doesn't hurt his analysis of what is wrong. People must realise how many skills are available on the street that should be used to replace the old, corrupt system.

The failure of international summitry

How can cooperation be designed to be in every nation’s best interests in the long and short-term? And how can we, citizens, make failure so costly that politicians have no choice but to cooperate?

'Marca tu voto' for a constitutional assembly: Direct democracy in Chile’s 2013 presidential election

‘Marca tu Voto’ has been accused of being a leftist movement that wants to transform Chile into a Chavez-like political project. These claims are hotly contested, and 410,000 people marked the first ballot - the biggest instance of political activism since the student protests of 2011. 

Who is the biggest supporter of Ukraine?

Oleh Kotsyuba (Krytyka, Ukraine) speaks with Sławomir Sierakowski (Krytyka Polityczna, Poland) about the events in the aftermath of Ukrainian President’s decision not to sign the Association and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

Dancing, alert and electrified: Bulgaria through the looking glass

We are on the right path as we see the formation of a new national identity that is fundamentally European; and we know that we all have a part to play, whether at home or abroad.

Universal message sent from Taksim: Hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders

Protesters are concerned with asserting that they ‘exist’ and furthermore that they ‘exist with their own ideas, beliefs and ways of life’. But, why?

A flashpoint action reading list

Today Transformation published the first article in our debate on flashpoint action. Yalla Matame argued that flashpoints are a way of creating and radicalizing larger social movements. On 6th December we will publish Bellamy's response. Here is a reading list for the interested reader to find out more.

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