THE TRANSITIONS MOVEMENT. Chris James.

The Transitions Movement [also referred to as Transition Towns] is said to build resilience amongst small communities by returning them to a localized land economy.1 In this essay I argue that the most devastating impacts on life and land are caused by the desire for territory, raw resources and ongoing wars. I contend that localization will not create appropriate change it will merely allow for the re-territorialization of existing power relations. Further, in the context of escalating regional violence I argue that stand alone localization will enforce feelings of patriotism, nationalism and xenophobia. Localization puts a strong focus on resilience and protection for local communities by way of limiting consumption and growing local food. There is always justification for reducing consumption and improving domestic food productivity, but its necessity pales against the desperation felt by the world’s impoverished millions who must rely on the international community for support. Many of these people are the victims of government mismanagement, secret dealings, corporate greed and renewed colonization; added to this are the growing impacts of global warming. Most of these problems are caused by capitalism. The Transitions movement is not against capitalism it merely colors it green and calls it sustainable. Living with sustainable capitalism does not equate with a sustainable world. Undoubtedly, local communities need resilience and self-help is generally a good means of positive reinforcement and psychological uplifting when times are hard, but the local and the global are both important. The history of western development is one of exploiting the premodern world and global warming is not sufficient reason to abandon these now developing populations or for suggesting they fend for themselves. The world
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Rob Hopkins [2004] Transitions Handbook, Totness, Green Press, p8.
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needs a strong global social movement to combat poverty, aggression and climate change. Environment issues are global and the well being of the planet is contingent on the well being of all its global inhabitants. Globalization and corporatization run alongside in the growing condemnation of fast capitalism, but globalization need not be predicated on corporate greed and damage to people or the environment. The corporation is a feature of civil society and the western middle class. Corporatism grew out of the Capitalist

Revolution, the new mercantile class and the nation state, which stands in opposition to any kind of benevolent internationalism. It was inevitable that national capitalism would become global and this has produced damaging results for the western middle class and small business, yet the desire to make life small and simple is a return to nationalism and misplaced because it leads to the negation of bigger problems at hand. The Transitions Movement represents the reification of a declining middle class and the reinvention of capitalism via the green dollar; this is not the end of corporate greed and worker exploitation. Indeed, some of the world’s poorest people are being exploited to fuel the western green revolution. Green capitalism means more competitiveness not less and this brings additional hardships for the poor and disadvantaged. The new transitions discourses also include sophisticated forms of indoctrination used to bring about false consciousness; for example the idea that the impoverished can be lifted out of their misery via a western type civil society based on localization. Civil society is a meretricious system; it does not empower people to seek equality. Anti-Enlightenment and the De-Centering. The Transitions Movement shares with the eighteenth century antiEnlightenment Movement the trend of de-centering the subject in favor of a
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world viewed through a transcendent nature; this is the world imagined, not the world as it is. At the same time it allows for business as usual elsewhere. Odd though it may seem, some of the world’s biggest polluters are also the greatest advocates for the environment, but the aim is to make money and protect the elite not to improve the world’s ecosystems. As such, I contend that the proposed transition is also promulgating the existence of a green rich and a green poor, the same formula inherent in capitalism. To this end, I contend the Transitions Movement works to prop-up an old established and conservative order using ‘feel good’ philosophies and commodity fetishes. This, in my view, puts the Transitions Movement amidst the New Age Green Deal discourses and quasi-religious cults. Further, I contend this turns direct political action and ‘resistance’ into passive and subordinate ‘resilience’, which can only benefit a ruling class. Importantly, most people joining the Transitions Movement are well motivated and have genuine concerns for the future of the planet; but like every group and movement, the intentions of the masses might be well founded, but when power becomes concentrated amongst the few then it those in the higher echelons who will stand to benefit. History has shown that grass roots

movements all too often become top down, institutionalized frameworks coopted by governments and corporate interests. This leads to a discourse of doublespeak that leaves many people confused. The idea of a ‘transition’ has an appealing ring to it and there have been many forms of transition and community renewal mostly focused on skills development and education for example, the Australian Federal Government’s Learning Towns initiatives. The term ‘transition’ is used quite frequently in relation to health issues and it holds particular interest for psychotherapists who use the notion of a ‘transition’ for the treatment of abnormal anxieties. One can for instance,
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‘transition’ the internal narratives for more mindful, and sometimes more subordinate outcomes. ‘Transition’ is a double edged sword, it can empower people or it can be disempowering. The Role of Groups in Development. The Transitions Movement has developed into a popular brand and it has raised a number of questions about how we should develop Australian communities. Should there be class issues, hierarchy and attempts to further overlay European models of conservation onto a vast and very different landscape? How might a transition impact on Aboriginal peoples? For First Nation populations the word ‘conservation’ has a very different meaning. Indeed, the entire notion of conservation was formulated around colonization whereby museums were created to hold the trophies of colonial conquest including the shrunken testicles, heads and scalps of the tribal warriors. In many parts of the world conservation equates with invasion and genocide. Should we be desensitized to these terms or should we amend our language? The Transitions Movement with its British origins has resonated very strongly with previous colonization[s] especially in the selling of its brand overseas. Further, the Movement seems destined to target particular groups while excluding others. Importantly, transitions need resources and the poor lack the appropriate resources to take part in the high tech energy revolution so they get forced into subsistence living. There are many anomalies. As much as one might dislike the exploitation of global capital to suddenly remove jobs from the world’s poorest people would cause yet another humanitarian crisis. Any transition has to include workers’ rights and this means a commitment to radical politics.

Neo-Colonization. After reading Michael Perelman’s book, The Confiscation of American Prosperity I began to take a deeper interest in the more obscure forms of
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colonization. In particular, the way the right-wing revolution had occurred in America over the past thirty years and how it had divided society by deepening inequality. This has led to conspiracy theories claiming the existence of a secret plot to bring about a one world government whereby the response has been a return to localization and smaller governments. Many of these groups claim to be non-political, many are religious and/or Evangelical. I see no problem with a one world government in principle. It depends who runs it and whether it is a fair and just government. I envisage a lot of problems arising from government policies influenced by the church and/or the New Age quasi-religious groups. This could never happen, I hear people saying. It is happening. Undoubtedly, there is little justice in the world today. Over the past three decades the rich have confiscated the resources and income from the poor and middle classes creating an underclass of unemployed and/or cheap labor. Perelman maintains this situation leads to an eventual crisis.
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Others have

called it a total ‘collapse’.3 Desperate people take desperate measures and often look outside the norm for solutions. Religions and myths have strong appeal at these times of difficulty. It begs the question, how might the Transitions

Movement address the global issues from a local perspective without playing into the hands of the ruling elite? Transitions are not a new idea. Quasi-religious groups and cults have been trying to transition their societies for centuries, a few have succeeded; most have failed. In 2008 Richard Seán O’Rourke prepared a Masters Thesis at the London School of Economics & Political Science titled Transition Towns: Ecotopia Emerging? The role of Civil Society in escaping Carbon Lock-In. O’Rourke asked ‘what is it about the Transition Town movement that seems to
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Michael Perelman [2012] The Confiscation of American Propserity:From Right-Wing Extremism and Economic Ideology to the Next Great Depression. Palgrave Macmillan. Jarod Diamond. [2004] Collapse: How Societies decide to Fail or Succeed. London. N.Y. Viking.
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have caught the public’s imagination? difficulties.’4

Particularly in light of the current UK

Government’s beleaguered Eco-Towns initiative which seems plagued with O’Rourke took as his lead from two important publications

dealing with environmental failure on climate change. The World Wild Life Fund [WWF] report entitled Weathercocks and Signposts: The environment movement at a crossroads [WWF UK, 2008] and Death of Environmentalism, [Shellenberger & Nordhaus, 2004] and the subsequent book, Breakthrough: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility [Nordhaus & Shellenberger, 2007]. Using these two critiques of environmentalism as lenses through which to investigate the emerging Transition Initiatives, O’Rourke interviewed various well known ecologists and then compared their views to those of the Transitions Movement. O’Rourke’s thesis drew specifically on how the movement articulates its vision of the future and the values of the people drawn to its vision. He suggested there was nothing new about the Transitions Movement. The people who joined it had roughly the same values and middle class status as those who joined other environment movements. Many were attracted to the new focus of peak oil as a vehicle for change, but whether the argument could be sustained into the future was uncertain as oil production was escalating with new technologies. O’Rourke also noted the strong ecological and permaculture links, but he stopped short of calling the Transitions Movement a popular cult. Nor did he link the Transitions Movement with the previous Anthroposophy Movement. connection is not well publicized. This is not surprising the O’Rourke noted the isolationist tendencies

of the Transitions Movement, but not the political consequences. The major appeal of the Transitions Movement has been its depoliticized stance, which leads people to assume there are no politics involved in the Movement. Unquestionably, people have felt sick of mainstream politics that go
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Richard Seán O’Rourke London School of Economics & Political Science Geography & Environment Department Environmental Policy & Regulation Program 2008
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nowhere. Rob Hopkins, the Transition Towns founder made it clear that his movement is not political because he was fearful of being associated with the political ‘Left’, 5 but this claim does not necessarily make the movement nonpolitical. In fact the Transitions Movement is deeply inscribed with a discursive conservation temper that is highly political. To think about depoliticized as being non-political is misleading. It is, I would argue, a means of avoiding political scrutiny. As methodology expert Michael Crotty has stated there is always ‘the towering figure of Karl Marx casting his shadow over all inquiry that describes itself as critical’.6

The Mood of New Millennium Politics. It was the 2004 collapse of mainstream environmentalism that gave rise to the new depoliticized Transitions Movement with a focus on localization and green market perspectives. Against this dramatic change there has been little, if any action by governments to halt the destruction of the environment by the world’s dirtiest industries. There has been a new emphasis put on border protection which finds strong correlations with the localization ideals. Patriotism has increased as has the shift back to nationalism and corporate imperialism. In effect the fears of being associated with the Marxist ‘left’ have given rise to an emerging new ‘right’ extremism, whereby staunch conservative and openly neo-Nazi groups appear to be enjoying a resurgence in Europe. It comes at a time when the capitalist markets are plagued by increasing financial chaos and ongoing social disquiet. Why should this concern us?
5

ABC Bush Telegraph. 13th June 2011. Interview: Chris James and Rob Hopkins. Founder of Transitions Towns Answers Criticism. Director B.Tromp. http:/www.abc.net.au/rural/telegraph/content/2011s3242428.htm Retrieved 20th May 2012. Michael Crotty [1998] The Foundations of Social Research, Sydney, Allen and Unwin, p114.
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The 2012 Greek electorate gave 7% of their votes to the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and the group subsequently opened an office in Melbourne. There is a large Greek population in Melbourne and the group argues that they are targeting this immigrant population, not Australian politics in general. Time will tell! In the meantime, the neo-Nazis are uniting the marginalized groups across Europe, Russia, Scandinavia and the United States with a promise to return to a perceived nationalist socialist idyllic world. Clearly, when the system is visibly breaking down, people break down too. While the rich scramble for every last ounce of gold, oil, gas or precious minerals they can find, the poor go hungry. As previously stated desperate people seek out desperate measures, which can often be presented as innocuous and compelling. Transition Towns. The Transition Towns Movement originated in the United Kingdom as a response to peak oil and climate change and emerged from the ideas of an environment student named Louise Rooney. These ideas were later made Transition Towns

popular by the environment studies teacher Rob Hopkins.

was founded in Kinsale, Ireland and later spread to Totnes when Hopkins moved there in 2005 and 2006. Hopkins had worked on an Energy Descent

Action Plan with the students of Kinsale College of Further Education. A student, Louise Rooney developed the Transition Towns concept, which was then presented to Kinsale Town Council. This resulted in the historic decision by the Council to adopt the plan and work towards creating an energy descent. Hopkins pushed the idea to international fame. The main aim of Transition

Towns was to raise awareness of sustainable living and to build local resilience against peak oil and climate change. Communities were encouraged to follow the 12 steps plan set out in the Transition Handbook for reducing energy usage,
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and creating resilience. One of the major initiatives has been the creation of community gardens to grow food. The gardens follow the models of deep ecology and permaculture which in turn has links with the bio-organic advocate and mystic Rudolf Steiner whose teachings are called Anthroposophy. Totnes also devised its own local currency, the Totnes pound, redeemable in local shops and businesses.7 Geographer Nicholas Crane made a documentary film called Totnes and he calls the Transition Towns’ project ‘an ambitious social experiment’. 8 Unlike Australia, Britain is a distinctly urban nation with an expected rise in urban dwellings by 2030 housing approximately 92 percent of the population. However, the town of Totnes stands in stark contrast to the new and often sterile cities of England by offering a deep sense of history and nostalgia, but it does not come cheap and it is not for everyone. Totnes is a Saxon town in South Devon and one of the oldest towns in Great Britain. By the 12th century Totnes was already an important market town due to its river access. By 1523,

according to a tax assessment, Totnes was the second richest town in Devon, and the sixteenth richest town in England.9 According to the Historia Regum Britanniae written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in around 1136, the coast of Totnes was where Brutus of Troy, the mythical founder of Britain, first came ashore on the island. Set into the pavement of Fore Street is the ‘Brutus Stone’, a small granite boulder onto which, according to local legend, Brutus first

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Wikipedia.Org/Transition. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition Retrieved 9th October, 2009. Nicholas Crane, [2011] Towns BBS 2 Episode 4 shown on Australian SBS Friday 3rd December, 7.30 pm. http://bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013n5gl Retrieved 8th December, 2011. Don Stansbury, [1998] 907–1523: The king’s town. In Bridge, The Heart of Totnes. Tavistock: AQ & DJ Publications. pp. 123–131. And http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totnes Retrieved 7th December, 2011.
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stepped from his ship and named the town Totnes [tot’nis or tot’nes].10 Totnes is not a mainstream town, it is said to have more heritage listed buildings per head than any other town in Britain. 11 This makes Totnes with its population of roughly 7,444, a thriving centre for music, art, theatre and natural health. It has a sizeable New Age community and is known as a place where one can live a bohemian lifestyle;12 a privilege of the affluent middle class. The New Age town of Totnes is embedded into the old highly conservative society. This conservative temper is evidenced not just in the historical records and architecture, but also in the re-enactment of a Tudor market, where people dress up in medieval costumes to celebrate the past.
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This is a past viewed through idealism because in Tudor England about a third of the population lived in desperate poverty. Unemployed people were often

forced to leave their villages to look for work, but this was illegal and people who moved were classified as vagabonds. A law passed in 1536 stated that

people caught outside their parish without work should be punished by public whipping. For a second offence the vagabond was to lose part of an ear. If a vagabond was caught a third time s/he was executed.15 The poor still live on the periphery of the old Totnes and there is little evidence of any long term
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Wikipedia. Org/Totness http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totnes Retrieved 7th December, 2011. D. Else [2003] Britain. Lonely Planet, 2003p. 381. Adam Edwards [2007]. Property in Totnes: Wizards of the wacky West. The Daily Telegraph. 10th Nov. 2007. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/3359800/Property-in-Totnes-Wizards-of-thewacky-West.html. Retrieved 2009-08-15. Nicholas Crane [2011] Towns BBS 2 Episode 4 shown on Australian SBS Friday 3rd December, 7.30 pm and http://bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013n5gl Retrieved 8th December, 2011. Sparticus.Org/Poverty [2012] http://spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/TUDpoverty.htm Retrieved 9th December, 2011. Ibid.
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migration from the council owned housing estates to the ancient and affluent centers. The Transition Movement maintains that to save the planet we must reintroduce the old skills such as harvesting fruit by hand and cutting crops with a scythe, building simply and converting fuels are all encouraged, but this creates a community engaged in intensive labor; not everyone can participate, not everyone would want to. The idea of living simply stems from the 1960s social experiment in commune living, sometimes called intentional

communities. Intentional Communities. The 1960s communes were mostly made up of middle class and moderately educated dissidents who altered the grammar of a mundane capitalist existence and rewrote the semantics for a radical intervention aimed at dismantling the status-quo. It was called middle class activism. These activists were mostly bored, recalcitrant individuals who pretended to live simple, and I some cases feral, lifestyles. Rather, than actively changing the world the Cultural Revolution created a new romantic mood linked to the eastern philosophies and religious rituals. As it happened, the status-quo rejected the new romantic paradigm and embarked upon an unimaginable conservative backlash, but the intentional community has remained to become largely conservative and elitist; so too have the esoteric trends remained. There has been no clear definition of an intentional community or what constitutes a real social transitioning, ideas are many and varied. Today, in the west, the social movements have eclipsed the old mode of middle class separatism and single issue protests to become encapsulated in a struggle to save the planet from the impacts of industrialization, but the movement is fraught with material and moral contradictions. Participants have vacated the symmetrical domes, tents and forest humpies for the more comfortable green
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consumer lifestyle made up of dwellings made of seemingly eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics. The eco-townships are renowned for their environment features, solar panels, wind farms and waste recycling, but they are lacking the promised 1960s social equality. In addition, many attempts to impose ethical standards on manufacturing and services had to be abandoned in favor of material desires. Also, the love of exotic foods increased the loss of species like the shark, whose fin is made into a soup delicacy. By 2000 Animal Liberation changed this a little, but not enough to make a real difference. In reality, most people exploring the western housing market could not afford to live in a green house or an intentional community; the green technologies and unique modulations do not come cheap. In fact, in the west, the intentional community today is often a gated community built with the ‘intent’ of protecting the rich from the increasing angst of the poor and underprivileged. As journalist Chris Hedges notes, ‘The quest by a bankrupt elite in the final days of empire is to accumulate greater and greater wealth… Karl Marx observed this is modern society’s version of primitive fetishism’. 16 Over the decades the intentional communities have gathered interest from a number of regional, urban and community development theorists and they have been included in the wider areas of study in the humanities mainly with the view of introducing bioregionalism. Sociology for instance, which has a long

history in dissident social movement theory, has given particular focus to the intentional lifestyle and its impact on the larger more established communities. The intentional communities’ studies have provided a significant overlay between the sociological genres and cultural studies. In 1983 Gilbert Zicklin noted that the political ideology that drove the 1960s and early 1970s communes in the west was largely the ‘functional outgrowth of the formation of youth ghettos both in urban Bohemia[s] and on college campuses’. The post-War drop-out ration was high because there was a contest
16

Ibid.
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in values between a new generation and an old authority. Many impressionable young people were also sympathetic to communism. Zicklin maintained the movement of 1960s-1970s was not ‘intentional’; rather it was ‘disorganized, anarchic and engendered by a ‘counterculture’ that was largely hostile…’17 This view was reinforced by social theorists Benjamin Zablocki and Angela Aidala who believed the American communes were generally middle class, they described them this way

Classless, white, urban, liberally but not professionally educated, they are insulated both from any real danger of slipping into poverty, and from any real opportunity of becoming absorbed in demanding worthwhile careers.18

Intentional communities in Australia have followed a similar format to Europe and America. Monro Clark [1986] found that 32 per cent of commune members had university degrees as compared with 4 per cent of the general population [figures came from the 1981 Census]. Monro-Clark suggested that commune members in Australia came mostly from comfortable well established families.19 This was in stark contrast to working class dissidents who generally found their avenue of protest through a socialist/neo-Nazi politics and the dissident unions.

17

G. Zicklin [1983] in Countercultural communes: A Sociological Perspective [1983] Greenwood Press Westport Connecticut 1983 p1.

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B. Zablocki [1980] in Munro-Clark Communes in Rural Australia: The Movement Since 1970 and 1986 Sydney, Hale and Ironmonger p50. Monro Clark Margaret [1986/2009] Intentional Communities Manual, 1st Edition Intentional Communities: Communes in Rural Australia, The Movement Since 1970. [ PDF] A Beginners Guide to Intentional Community at www.rivendellvillage.org/Intentional_Communities_Manual.pdf Retrieved 20th May 2012.
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In 2003 ABC Radio National ran a series of programs on communes that discussed why people joined them and whether this was a viable way of building a better world. The programs profiled a number of young people who had grown up in communes and it showed many of the problems that existed in collectives were merely a microcosm of those within the general society. For example, work, money and relationships tended to dominate commune life.20 Social theorist Rosabeth Moss Kanter discussed the way communes are forced to consciously develop integrated social systems that occur organically through evolution and environmental stimulus in every society. She describes how motivation wanes in communes and how many groups cannot move beyond the subsistence level.21 Moss Kanter writes:

Under these conditions, communities simply cannot afford to distribute scarce resources without assurance that the recipients will devote effective effort to the collective ends. Thus the humanistic principle cannot be

followed since it requires, in effect that the community have available resources which it can invest in people for a later return. The only principle consistent with communal ideology under those circumstances is socialistic.22

Socialism has historically maintained its position through authoritarianism. Moss Kanter argues that with poverty comes the pressure to apply capitalist principles. If the commune prospers this situation can be even more damaging:
It becomes increasingly possible for differences of opinion to arise as to the relative distribution of resources toward the collective against the individual
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ABC Radio National Re-imagining Utopia. Radio National, May 5th-June 9th 2009 http://www.abc.net.au/rn/utopias/programs/default.htm Retrieved 2nd February, 2010. Moss Kanter R [1973] Communes, Creating and Managing the Collective Life New York, Harper and Row, pp 197-273. Ibid.
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ends. As people begin to perceive that the hard work and deferred gratification consistent with the establishment of the community is no longer so obviously necessary, there is the temptation to seek the personal reward as consistent with that early effort.23

In other words a return to a system of poverty and oppression is likely to create the very same circumstances that gave rise to the Capitalism Revolution in the first place. Separatism. The Transitions Movement is a politically a liberalist separatist movement; an odd mix and full of contradictions. Transitions members boycott politics as a perceived means of changing them. This is not to say individual members are not politically active outside the movement. However, an implicit separatism coupled with a universal discourse creates an obvious tension that demands closer critical examination. The Transition Movement presents as a grass roots organization, but it is also highly skilled in the arts of social marketing. The aim of social marketing is to produce a series of philosophical perspectives clearly marked by ‘design, implementation’, and ‘control of programs’, which increase the acceptability of their existence within a target group.24 Importantly, while these methods of

social marketing proliferate there are few people who actually understand how they work. Social marketing assumes that people will adopt new behaviors or ideas if they feel that something of value is exchanged between the individual and the social marketer, but the ‘value’ is frequently constructed by

23

Ibid. P. Kotler [1975]. Marketing for nonprofit organizations. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Prentice Hall.
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manipulating the market.

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There is no clear picture of what is actually

exchanged. Outcomes are achieved by using communication and socialpsychological marketing techniques to develop and deliver a particular message or program. Hence, the good marketer frequently sells concepts and practices that are unrealistic and/or more or less utopian. 26 They sell potential not real products. These potentials are sometimes called boundary objects. This means the object may not exist, but it sits at the boundary of possibility. The French philosopher Jacques Derrida provided a framework for this idea and called it a simultaneous presence and absence. It works something like a myth and is based on belief. Marketing experts profile consumers’ according to their thoughts, attitudes , beliefs and fears and they create products and markets that serve the needs of these human conditions, but what is created is not always real. For example, two decades on from the inception of green capitalism, the idea can now be seen as false because capitalist profits and environmental responsibility are inherently at odds with each other. Further, the idea is not new. The market solution to environment problems stemmed from the eighteenth century Liberal Utilitarian discourse, but ‘limits to growth’ did not mean curtailing production or capitalism, it was merely a ploy for keeping the sordid impacts of industry away from the pristine estates of the rich. Seemingly, the Transition Movement has relied heavily on the western media for its popularity and growth. Without the global media the Transition

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D.S. Solomon [1989] A Social Marketing Perspective on Communication Campaigns. In R.Rice and C. Atkin [eds]. Public Communication Campaigns. 2nd edition. Sage, Newbury Park. L. Wallack [1990] Improving Health Promotion: media advocacy and social marketing approaches. In C. Atkin & L. Wallack [eds]. Mass Communication and Public Health. Complexities and Conflicts. Sage, Newbury Park. .
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Movement would probably not exist.

Indeed, the Transition Movement

received good publicity in Britain when particular transitioning towns were featured in the storyline of the BBC Radio 4 series The Archers. The Archers

is an iconic British soap opera. In Britain The Archers program is probably the equivalent of what The Sullivans’ was to Australians, or what Dynasty was to the Americans. The Archers portrays the fictional and utopian agrarian lifestyle and it had audiences mesmerized and comparing their own lives to the series characters. Indeed, The Archers amassed a far greater audience over a longer period of time than any other media series. In recent episodes of The Archers

many very famous people have been featured including politicians and royalty. The Transition Handbook also uses people with celebrity status. For example on page 117 of the Handbook there is an article on David and Victoria Beckham’s new eco-friendly cottage. Creating the ‘Ideal Type’. The Archers is a fairytale series designed to create the ‘ideal type’. That is something all lower and middle class Britain’s should aspire to through hard work and nationalist loyalties. The program is set in the fictional village of

Ambridge. The real location is thought to be somewhere in the Midlands area of England. The English Midlands represents two sides of the British class

system; it has a vast industrial sector as well as a very wealthy landowning elite; sometimes referred to as the gentry. The laboring working classes live in pokey two story terraced houses that run like a concrete maze along symmetrical streets, while the middle class and gentry live in unattached homes and/or palatial manors; depending on how high up the social scale they are. The Archers deals with popular topics, but it does so by enforcing the need for stability perceived as attainable only through the forces of British conservatism. This is a system largely based on hereditary powers. The Archers are a family who own a property called Brookfield Farm. It is a property that would be out
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of reach for most ordinary English people, but this farm has been passed down through generations according to British tradition. The original owner Dan [now deceased] left it to his son Phil, the oldest surviving Archer, and the farm is now co-owned by three of Phil’s four offspring: David [who manages it with his wife Ruth], Elizabeth and Kenton. In addition to the Archers and their families there are other characters, these include:

the prosperous Aldridges, portrayed as money-driven practitioners of agribusiness. Brian, the head of the family, is a serial adulterer,

the rich and elderly Woolleys, with Jack now badly affected by Alzheimer's disease,

the Grundys, formerly struggling tenant farmers who were previously portrayed comically and disapprovingly, but are now seen as doggedly battling adversity, the urban, nouveau riche ‘incomers’: pretentious and domineering, Lynda Snell is the butt of many jokes, although her sheer energy makes her a stalwart of village life. She is partnered by the long-suffering Robert,

 

the perpetually struggling [and complaining] Carters, the widower milkman and casual farm laborer Mike Tucker who battles, sometimes successfully, depression. 27 These characterizations are extremely important because they act as role

models and signifiers for real life situations. This in turns serves to deepen the hierarchical beliefs and social order. Clearly, the Transition Movement has been cunning in the way it has publicized its organization. The Archers’ program stands out as the model of an ‘ideal’ community. Or what the sociologist Max
27

Wikipedidia.Org/Archers [2009] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Archers Retrieved 2nd Jan. 2009.
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Weber [1946] referred to as the ‘ideal type’.

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The Transitions Movement’s

participation in The Archers program raised some criticisms amidst the British followers, but this has been largely undermined. The Report on the Transition Towns Research Workshop conducted at England’s Bristol University on the 22nd May 2008 concluded ‘no one watches The Archers’.
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The audience

figures suggested otherwise. The Archers has been prime-time entertainment.

Since Easter Sunday 1998 there have been six episodes a week from Sunday to Friday, at around 19:02 [preceded by a news bulletin]. All except the Friday evening episode are repeated the following day at 14:02, and all of the week’s episodes are re-run as a Sunday morning omnibus at 10:00. Since 1 January 1951, five 15-minute episodes were running and since 1998, six 12½-minute episodes have been transmitted across the UK each week, at first on the BBC Light Program and subsequently on the BBC Home Service [now Radio 4]. 30

The Archers has kept its popularity because it merges ideology and identity with common topics such as class, employment, housing, drugs, youth, sex and gay marriage. The plots are woven into the lives of ordinary people to depict British society. What is revealed in The Archers is a society consistently struggling with issues of class conflict. A recurring theme on The Archers has been typically the conflict between the affluent landowners and the laboring class. In the program this is played out between the working class Grundy family and the upper, middle class Archers. With this in mind, in the 1980s the

28

Max Weber [1946] The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York Scribner’s Sons. Transition Towns Totnes [2009] Retrieved 22nd April 2009. Ibid.
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http://totnes.transitionnetwork.org/node/930

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British Labour politician Neil Kinnock jokingly called for The Archers to be retitled ‘The Grundys and their Oppressors’. The Archers has remained popular with audiences because British people identify with it. The Archers maintains many topical subjects that people can relate to. These include the ‘annual Oxford Farming Conference and the FIFA World Cup… the death of Princess Margaret, the World Trade Centre attacks, and the 2005 London bombings’ as well as the events and implications of ‘the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis’.31 The Archers is just one aspect of how the media manipulates and re-creates history. The great epics are now highly accessible in the television series or on the cinema screen than they were in books, but they are also a contrived view that serves vested interests. This according to the philosopher and social

theorist Fredric Jameson causes a loss of primary knowledge. Jameson offers the example of E.L. Doctorow’s novel The Book of Daniel [1971].
The Book of Daniel holds up before us, in painful juxtaposition, the two great moments of the Old Left and the New Left, of Thirties and Forties Communism and the radicalism of the 1960s.32

The Book of Daniel is a tale designed to loosely replicate the United States trial and execution of alleged Soviet spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. There are many similar examples of political/historical novels shaping ideas and
31

Wikipedia.Org/Archers [2009]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Archers Retrieved 2nd Jan. 2009.

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F. Jameson [1993] Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism in Postmodernism: A Reader Docherty T [end] Harvester Weatsheaf, Hemel Hampstead England p 77 and online http://www.eng.fju.edu.tw/Literary_Criticism/postmodernism/jameson_text_complete.ht m Retrieved 2nd Jan 2009.

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perspectives; they include the [1990] novel Redemption by a former Trotskyite Tariq Ali whose satire tells how the Trotskyites responded to the downfall of communism; Dark Horse [2008] by Ralph Reed, which explores the behavior of candidates in American Federal Elections. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, published in 1947 - it was twice made into a film [1949] and [2006] - it too tells of political power and intrigue. The British politician and peer of the realm Jeffrey Archer is well known for his political novels like the Fourth Estate [1996] which tells the story of media barons. We can also count amongst others Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World [1932]: George Orwell’s 1984 [1948/9] Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 [1961] and more. With this in mind the reader needs to ponder the historical threads and to deliberate on exactly how they are passed on through the generations to create a new reality. In this respect, one is drawn to consider the corollary between the 1960s communes’ [Cultural Revolution] and the Transitions Movement’s [Energy Revolution]. Nostalgia for the old creates the desire for new, but it is often a distorted perception of what is needed for social change. The Dissenters. As far back as the 1780s the liberals and conservatives had to deal with religious and socialist dissidents, ‘Chartism and Owenism were uniformly hostile’ to the liberal educators, but they were not alone.33 There is a long list of non-political dissenting groups. For example: Anabaptists, Barrowists, Behmenists, Brownists, Diggers, Enthusiasts, Familists, Fifth Monarchists, Grundletonians, Muggletonians, Puritans, Philadelphians, Ranters, Sabbatarians

33

Ibid p51.
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and Socinian.34 The ideological descendants of the Millerites are the Seventhday Adventists, who are distinguished among Christian denominations for their emphasis on the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ.35 The Seventh-Day Adventists have much in common with the Transitions Movement in the desire to regulate food and land use. They were also advanced in technologies. Another group to resonate with the Transitions Movement is the Diggers. The Diggers had their roots in Pentecostalism. They were an English group of agrarian communists lead by Gerrard Winstanley and William Everard. Originally known as the True Levellers, in 1649 they and about 20 poor men assembled at England’s St. George’s Hill, Surrey, and began to cultivate the common land for food. In the 1640s food prices in Britain had risen and many ordinary people were going hungry. It happened because the nation was on the brink of a Civil War. When Charles I came to the British throne in 1625 he aimed to unite England and Scotland, thus fulfilling his father’s dream [James VI of Scotland and I of England]. The British Civil War [1642-1651] was a series of armed conflicts between the Parliamentarians [Roundheads] and the Royalists [Cavaliers]. After the fighting the Diggers believed that since the English Civil Wars had been fought against the king and landowners and since King Charles I had been executed land should be made available to the very poor for growing food. The Diggers seized common lands and began cultivating it. From 1640 to 1649

34

Wikipedia.Org /Dissenting Groups. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Dissenters#Present-Day_Disenting_groups Retrieved 29th October, 2011. Religioustolerance.org Retrieved 29th October, 2011.
22

35

the Diggers membership more than doubled, but violence from land owners saw them dispersed by mid 1650. 36 There were many factions at work in England. In addition to the Royalists who supported King Charles I and the Parliamentary forces; called the Roundheads led by Oliver Cromwell, there were the Fifth Monarchy Men who believed in the establishment of a heavenly theocracy on earth to be led by Jesus Christ on his return. The Fifth Monarchy envisioned the House of David as the government of Great Britain37 Later the Fifth Monarchy found their expression in a fundamentalist Evangelical movement, which began in the 1730s in Great Britain38 and spread to the United State. It still exists today and is linked with a far Right politics. Depoliticized Communities. The Transitions Movement declares itself depoliticized and marks a distinct shift that accompanies a decline in genuine representative democracy and welfare economies. Instead, it supports a full blown civil society predicated on the reification of a middle class, localized businesses and small communities. This form of community renewal is contained in a metaphysics that provides an important tool for the politically conservative. Community is effective

propaganda, while in fact there is no definitive description of a community. The word ‘community’ is derived from the Old French communité, which has its origins in the Latin communitas describing a fellowship or organized

36

J. D.Alsop [April 1989] Ethics in the Marketplace: Gerrard Winstanley's London Bankruptcy, 1643 Journal of British Studies no.28 p.97-119. Wikipedia.Org/ Winstanley http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrard_Winstanley Retrieved 11th December, 2011. D.W. Bebbington [2008] Evangelicals in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, London: Unwin, 1.
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37

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society.39 No truly homogenized community exists because there is no natural human trait called like-mindedness; everyone is different and unique, albeit sometimes in miniscule ways. Nonetheless, societies over the centuries have attempted to create the ‘ideal’ subject who might live in the fantasized ‘ideal’ community. Notably, this happens at specific times of dissent. In 1878

Ferdinand Tönnies formulated two distinct modes of social order, which have since served to underline the meaning of community and society; Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft respectively. The English version of this work was published in 1957 Gemeinschaft stands for the more traditional, localized, closed forms of community that are oriented towards their own collective interests; a ‘unity of wills’. For Tönnies it was the family and religious communities that best expressed his ideals.40 Gesellschaft depicts the wider relationships within the society largely marking the distinction between the private and public spheres. Tönnies used his distinctions to describe a situation in which people were expected to develop and mature by way of a universal evolutionary progress. To put it differently, humans would use community to move from barbarism and aggression or non-rational action to civilization. In this way civilization was made to appear distinct from the tribe, but as history shows communities remain imbued with uncivilized tribal behavior. The Myth of Like-Mindedness. The idea of ‘community’ is very pleasing, but the French philosopher Maurice Blanchot sees the community as a dangerous vehicle for cultural
39

Oxford English Dictionary, 2009.

40

F .Tönnies [1957] Community and Society Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 2001 p22. See also Adair-Toteff, C., Ferdinand Tönnies: Utopian Visionar, in: Sociological Theory, vol. 13, 1996, p. 58-65 and Wikipedia.Org. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tönnies Retrieved 14th May 2011.
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relativity. He engages with social homogeneity as a topic in the belief that ‘sameness’ finds it continuum in every community because there is an overwhelming desire to identify with the group, a trait which comes from our pre-historical past. However, Blanchot believes all notions of ethical conduct are undermined by the desire for homogeneity, or the concomitant loss of self. 41 The situation is even more problematic in small rural townships where individuals live in constant fear of being punished for any differences. smaller the community the more likelihood there is of autarkic abuse. Jean-Luc Nancy in The Inoperative Community claims the inherent politics in the conservative community assertions of morals and ethics are essentially white, patriarchal and middle class. Nancy is very aware of a new morality that is being embedded into a Third Way depoliticized politics. Small communities, he argues are constituted around various power relations, but their visibility is being lost to more discursive forms of power, for example the depoliticized affinity group.
42

The

This is particularly apparent in places like Canada and Great

Britain where there is a very active revival in one nation conservatism. In Britain it was called High Toryism. The High Tory philosophy in the 1700s promoted low taxation and argued against the Whig support for an expanding Empire. This changed with the Reform Act of 1832. Victoria took the throne By the time Queen

High Tories supported the Empire and were

personified by the Prime Ministers Lord Derby and Lord Salisbury. 43 The Tory revival in Britain is called Red Toryism, which stems originally from Canada.
41

M. Blanchot [1993] The Infinite Conversation [Trans.] S Hanson Minneapolis, University of Minnesota pxii. And in M. Strysick [1997] The End of Community and the Politics of Grammar. Cultural Critique Issue, 36, p198. J.L. Nancy [1991] The Inoperative Community, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota p: xii. Wikipedia.Org http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Tories Retrieved 14th August, 2012.
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42

43

A Red Tory is an adherent of a political philosophy, tradition, and disposition in Canada somewhat similar to the High Tory tradition in the United Kingdom, but with an emphasis on communitarianism. In Canada, the phenomenon of ‘Red Toryism’ arrived out of the provincial and federal Conservative parties. ‘Prior to 2003 the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was a centre-right typical Red Tory party, but it was virtually wiped out in the 1993 federal election. Unable to make a meaningful comeback, in 2003, the party merged with the much more right-wing Canadian Alliance Party to form the Conservative Reform Alliance Party [CRAP], but due to the unfortunate acronym it changed again to the Conservative Party. Red Toryism has been adopted in Great Britain by individuals such as the British philosopher Phillip Blond, Director of the ResPublica think tank. Blond promotes a radical and traditional form of communitarian conservatism, which opposes the welfare state and market monopolies. Instead, Blond advocates localization and the devolution of centralized powers. Blond also advocates volunteerism and a complete revival of civil society to support small business and charities who would monitor poverty.44 This of course is the supremacist’s ‘ideal’. The Myth of Supremacy. Today, the struggle for the ‘ideal type’ has become encapsulated into the domain of the multi-media and it is more likely to be consumer markets that hold influence. These influences include discursive narratives running through complex networks; such as institutions, state and community politics, groups, entertainment and other entities. Today, we draw on systems theories for a

better understanding of these entities.

44

Phillip Blond http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillip_Blond Retrieved 14th August, 2012.
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Since its origins systems theory has moved more directly in two directions. It upholds the system of self-regulation [default] and it resonates with Darwin’s evolutionary theory, which has contributed a lot of influence to the analysis of the post-Enlightenment communities. Darwin’s ideas are based on the processes of natural selection where heritable traits are believed to determine survival and reproduction of an organism. This system is implicit in the internal logic of market capitalism, albeit often distorted. Creating the ‘ideal type’ using Darwin’s theories was the role of nineteenth century scientific communitarianism. These grass roots community systems were extended to the peasant class to create ‘ideal’ workers. It was this same system that drove colonization, economic speculation, a recession and two World Wars. I also led to a 1980s economic crisis and another in 2008. Is it time to change the system ‘yes’, but this is easier said than done. Change happens very slowly. Many social theorists have attempted to change the system. Historically, the desire to transition communities comes as a

response to various socio-political problems that communities encounter. This has generally led to gatherings of people who attempt to rescue communities from their perceived dilemmas. We have called these rescuing collectives ‘social movements’ and they are designed to create an ‘ideal type’ in favour of the ‘Other’. Implicit in these movements are the issues of power, politics, social justice; law and humanism as well as the seeds of the next Revolution or the next Transitions Movement. There must be a better way to global harmony.

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