Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Radical Returns

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Radical Returns

Article excerpt

Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change

This special issue arises out of the second annual Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change conference that was held at Auckland University of Technology over the first three days of September in 2015. Building on the success of the first conference held in September 2014 at Massey University in Palmerston North, the 2015 conference invited participants to share their learning about the possibilities, ideas and demands actually existing in present economic, political and cultural arrangements.

The 2015 conference provided a veritable mapping of the extraparliamentary left in Aotearoa. This special issue reflects some important moments in that vast tapestry. At the same time, the conference also served to deepen relationships across the left and forged many new connections. These relationships and connections were further consolidated with the third Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change conference in Wellington in September 2016. The conference has quickly become one of the most important events on the left calendar.

It is no secret that globally the left has been in a state of disarray for some time now. This is often attributed to the international assent to neoliberal economic and social policy on both the right and the left, in Aotearoa this being the legacy of the fourth Labour government which came to power in 1984. Equally, blame has been levelled at the left as unable or unwilling to practically respond to the current global capitalist crisis that started to unfold in 2007 and continues to this day.

Increasingly, however, there are signs that we are currently witnessing the dawn of a new political sequence emerging out of these defeats and this crisis. We certainly have been living for some time now in a period caught between different forms of rule, a time of which Antonio Gramsci famously noted 'the old is dying and the new cannot be born: in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear' (1971, p. 275). The timely book edited by Morgan Godfery explicitly takes the 'interregnum' as a diagnosis of the present moment (Godfery, 2016). If the events of 2016 are anything to go by, then the present is, as Finn Morrow puts it in his contribution to this issue, one 'occupied by the appearance of monsters' (2016, p. 114, in this issue). This special issue attests both to the need to find a way out of this interregnum, and beyond this identifies some already existing strategies towards such an exit through confronting the monstrosity of the present. What lies on the other side is by no means guaranteed, and many of the current signs of what the future might hold are monstrous indeed: segregation, nationalism, authoritarianism, ecological destruction. Yet in spite of this profound burden there is currently a renewed sense of possibility among the radical left in Aotearoa.

The short history of the Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change conference illustrates this burgeoning interest in radical social analysis and radical social change. The first gathering in 2014 attracted some 50 participants (see Alakavuklar and Dickson, 2016). The second conference in 2015, from which this issue emerges, attracted over 200 delegates. It's most recent iteration at Victoria University, Wellington, in September attracted more than 400 attendees, with many more turned away due to lack of space (see Taylor, 2016). Add to this the sense of momentum generated by events as diverse as the mass anti-TPP protests in February 2016, the immense efforts of the Matike Mai working group for constitutional transformation (see Matike Mai Aotearoa, 2016), the formation of the new Counterfutures journal and the establishment of the new left wing think tank Economic and Social Research Aotearoa (ESRA), increasing talk of the prospect of one or more new political parties, and one begins to sense the source of the 'cautious optimism' witnessed across Aotearoa's radical left (Taylor, 2016, p. …

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