The Transnational InstituteÂ (TNI) in the Netherlands is issuing an open call for essays/short papers for its forthcoming State of Power report launched in late January 2016 to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos. In 2016, we are particularly looking for accessible, engaging essays that interrogate how power relates to democracy.
TNIâ€™s annual State of Power reports have, since their launch in 2012, become a must-see reference point for citizens, activists and academics concerned with understanding the nature of power in our globalised world. With a mixture of insightful essays and compelling infographics, State of Power has examined the changing nature of power (economic, political, cultural, social), exposed the key players who control power, and highlighted counter-power movementsseeking to transform our world.
For the second year running TNI is opening up the call to the public, particularly academics engaged in and supportive of social movements and activists keen to step back and reflect on their struggles, in order to pull in the best analysis on power.
Power and Democracy
For a long time, the powerful in our world were happy to preach the messages of â€˜democracyâ€™ as it seemed to coincide with their interests particularly in a Cold War context. Advocating democracy and deregulation of markets were seen as synonymous, even though elites were careful never to embrace the application of democracy to issues of economic control.
In more recent years, though, democracy seems to be ever more an irritant for elites and something they are happy to ignoreâ€“ in Europe at least reflected most powerfully this year in the complete dismissal of the Greek elections and referendum by the Eurozone group. As the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, put it bluntly, â€œThere can be no democratic choice against the European treatiesâ€ . Even if Greece had gone its own way and left the Euro straitjacket,Â it is doubtful the international financial markets would have given the Greek any more democratic room to manoeuvre.
Meanwhile at a global level, one can see similar trends in governance as bodies like the World Economic Forum push for self-selected multi-stakeholder forums to decide on critical issues, arguing that democracy and states no longer deliver effective solutions and embracing corporations as the new global citizens of our age. Throughout the world, movements struggle continuously against government elites that constrict democratic choices and repress autonomous civil society movements. This is true too of progressive governments that rose to power on the back of social movement struggles and yet now face growing criticism for limiting democratic debate and undermining critical social movements.
These experiences prompt a number of important questions that we would like to interrogate:
- Where worldwide is entrenched economic power currently threatening democracy and how?|
- What are the forces and dynamics that are leading to this collision of power versus democracy? What shape is this likely to take in the future?
- How has the rise of corporations and financial markets impacted on democracy?
- Where else is democracy being challenged worldwide?
- What within the institutions of states impedes democracy and what enables it to flourish?
- What room does democracy or popular will have in our current global order? Where are the key battlefronts? Are there weaknesses/openings for democracy that need our support? How best can we challenge this clampdown on popular will?
- How has power shaped democracy in fields of culture and society?
- How can we expand democracy in order to regain power â€“ for example over the institutions of the state or over the economic sphere? What would that look like?
- Is democracy still relevant as a slogan and banner for movements involved in fighting for social and environmental justice? Do we need new concepts to enrich and motivate our struggles?
TNI is also open to other reflections on the issue of power and democracy that may be of use to social movements involved in fighting for social and environmental justice. Although many of these questions are theoretical in nature, the most useful analysis will use concrete examples and case studies to illustrate their points.
TNI is particularly interested in essays that relate to areas we most closely work on such as corporate impunity, trade and investment policies, land and agrarian issues, resource grabbing, public services, security and civil liberties, social movements and counter-power (see https://www.tni.org/en/
To encourage submissions from activists on low-incomes and people from the Global South , we are also offering a few grants ofÂ 600 euros for selected essays from individuals that fit this category. Please indicate in your submissions whether you would like to apply for this grant, providing some evidence that you do not have a sufficiently salaried position that would support you writing the essay. The full amount will only be distributed if your essay is shortlisted for the main report, although a smaller discretionary amount will be made to those who applied for the grant whose essays make the long list. Abstracts will receive no remuneration. Final decisions on grants remain with the Editorial Panel.