Wednesday 14 November 2018

Emancipatory Futures Studies at WITS

Lets start thinking and developing a practice to solve the Climate Crisis. Here's a call to develop a new cohort of students equipped with an understanding of Emancipatory Futures Studies in a heating world. This is a new knowledge project to go beyond climate crisis pessimism. Pass on!
Principal Investigator: Prof Vishwas Satgar (International Relations)

Core Research Group: Prof Mucha Musemwa (School of Social Science/History), Prof Sarah Mosoetsa (Sociology) and Prof Michelle Williams (Sociology/Development Studies)

Call for Applications for 2019 Postgraduate Scholarships ___________________________________________

The Emancipatory Futures Studies (EFS) in the Anthropocene Research Project at the University of the Witwatersrand invites applications from MA, PhD and Postdoctoral students for scholarships in the field of emancipatory futures studies for the 2019 academic year.

EFS is a critical approach to studying future temporality. It locates temporality within a heating world and is seeking to develop a new knowledge project grounded in subaltern understandings of climate futures. A crucial temporal category to understand the human impact on the earth’s climate is the Anthropocene, which has become an important geological, historical and climate marker. However, Anthropocene discourses are implicated in anthropocentric conceptions of the future, afflicted with technotopia (blind faith in the assumption that technology will solve all problems), millenarianism and an existential risk future that individualises responses to climate crisis. After a 3, 4 or 5-degree increase in planetary temperature is breached human life on planet earth will be almost impossible. We are currently on a trajectory to have a hotter planet by about 2 degrees (since pre-industrial revolution) within this century. Such an increase will bring incredible challenges to societies and the human condition.
Are there alternative planetary and societal futures that can sustain life? Can such futures emerge from existing just, eco-centric and transformative social practices? Current mainstream futures studies and futurists primarily work with evolutionary assumptions based on the modalities of the current socio-cultural and economic system. Futures studies in South Africa are centred on mainstream trend-spotting, empirical extrapolation and scenario planning, which have been received from the global north and centred on elite leadership decision-making within corporations and government. South Africa’s universities have not been able to sophisticate futures studies and make it accessible to wider publics. Our EFS project seeks to break new ground by developing a cutting edge knowledge project through research, promoting inter and trans-disciplinary engagements, critical theory understandings of emancipatory futures and will provide an engaged online and physical space for intellectual engagement through the EFS Research Group and Public Platform. Students will be exposed to leading thinkers and practitioners in this area of study as they develop their own work.
The project objectives will be realised through an inter-connected research agenda, including:

(1) Ways of thinking about ‘crisis time’ and emancipatory futures studies – Philosophies of knowledge such as critical realism and its links to climate time, social theory and inter-disciplinarity. The role of disciplinary temporality to think climate change, crisis and emancipatory futures;

(2) Emancipatory futures in history - Historical forms (poetry, music, art and literature), civilisational visions, anticipatory practice and visions in peoples’ movements and revolutions;

(3) Utopia/dystopia as modes of thinking and acting the future - Utopia/Dystopia as method, South African and African forms (visual and literary), science fiction, eco-topias/dystopias, intentional communities and social theory related to hope and the everyday;

(4) Techno-emancipatory futures - Histories and futures of work, critiques of 4th industrial revolution, critiques of digital capitalism and aesthetics, limits of productivism, alienation, ethics of science, public interest science and peoples’ science;

(5) Decolonising futures - Futures beyond capitalist modernity, critical histories of science, indigenous ecology, spirituality, eco-feminism, ways of being, traditional knowledge archives and cosmological ideas;

(6) Future pathways through systemic change - Deep democracy, zero waste, transition towns, solidarity economies, food sovereignty, water sovereignty, community seedbanking, socially owned renewables, energy sovereignty, climate emergency states, degrowth, public transport, basic income grants, cooperatives and climate jobs, for instance;

(7) Grand eco-centric futures – Political economy requirements, conditions and challenges for ‘Decarbonised Civilisation’, ‘ A Great Transition’ , ‘Deep Just Transitions’, ‘Ecological Revolution’, ‘ Climate Justice Multi-lateralism’, ‘Post-Carbon Democracies ’ and ‘Renewable Energy World Orders’.

The value of scholarships are:

MA scholarships are for one year @ R95 000.

PhD scholarships are for four years @ R125 000 per annum.

Postdoctoral scholarship for one year @ R190 000.

Eligibility and requirements:

Masters and PhDs - Excellent Honours or Masters results;
a research project that focuses on EFS; preference will be given to historically disadvantaged applicants and a commitment to participate in all EFS program activities including the induction seminar, present work to the EFS research group and attend all public talks.

Postdocs – an excellent PhD on a theme relevant to EFS and plans to produce two articles or a book from the PhD. A commitment to participate in all EFS program activities including the induction seminar, present work to the EFS research group and attend all public talks.

Application process:

Application deadline closes on the 5th December 2018 for all applications.

Your application should include:

1. A motivation letter on the relevance of your research focus and interest in the EFS program. Not more than 1000 words.

2. A detailed and up to date CV.

3. Names and contact details (including email addresses), of two academic references.

4. Certified copies of degrees.

5. A full and up to date academic transcript.

6. A disclosure statement of funding from other sources and specify if those sources provide any restrictions on receiving other funding.

7. If you have or have not applied to WITS, please confirm your disciplinary field, your current or preferred supervisor and send in a copy of your proposal if you have been accepted for study.

Please submit your application to on or before the 5th December 2018 (MA, PhD and Postdoctoral applications).

Outcomes for MA and PhD applicants will be communicated by mid-December 2018.

Sunday 25 February 2018

South Africa Must Resist Another Captured President: this time by the markets

My article in Conversation can be found here:

The African National Congress (ANC) has made a dangerous habit of bringing post-apartheid South Africa to the brink of instability and the common ruin of all. The resignation of former President Jacob Zuma and his replacement by Cyril Ramaphosa was such a moment. It brought home the point that the over-concentration of power in the office of the president has clearly not worked. 
A rethink on president-centred politics and the threats it poses to the democracy are crucial for the post-Zuma period. South Africa needs to re-imagine democratic practice, leadership and how power works. 
Some sections of South African society have reduced the Zuma problem to a corruption problem. Dismantle Zuma’s kleptocratic network, the argument goes, and all is solved. Zuma’s demise and a few high profile prosecutions will suffice. 
But another view on the Zuma problem – and one with which I concur – suggests it is a problem of contending class projects inside the ANC. The neoliberal class project under Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki saw South Africa integrated into global markets. It maintained stability through modest redistributive reforms. This project laid the basis for a new black middle class to emerge while systematically weakening labour and the left.
But it surrendered the state (including the presidency) to transnational capital and the power of finance. 
The Zuma project, on the other hand, advanced looting as the basis of accumulation and class formation. The extra-constitutional state that emerged deepened the macroeconomic, institutional and legitimacy crisis of the ANC-led state. The left and labour, aligned with the ANC in the tripartite alliance, were co-opted and divided. Both these projects are entrenched in the ANC.
Now what? Messiah-centred presidential politics is extremely dangerous. This is particularly true in a country of extreme inequality and with a formal concentration of power in the office of the president. If politics is not represented, thought and acted beyond this, South Africa is going to repeat historical mistakes.
Since the ANC’s December 2017 conference the media, the banks and international institutions have been talking up a narrative of the “Cyril effect”. Zuma’s removal is attributed to this. In fact the Cyril effect is a narrative of capture of South Africa’s new president by transnational and financial capital.
South Africa’s democracy cannot afford another captured president beholden to credit rating agenciescurrency fluctuations, investment flows and business perceptions. South Africa’s democracy has to be grounded in the needs of its citizens and the mandates given by its Constitution.

The ‘Cyril effect’ is hyperbole

The end of Zuma was in fact not because of the Cyril effect. In the main Zuma was removed by the people’s effect which connected the dots of corruption, a mismanaged state and rapacious capitalism. 
This resistance was expressed over 15 years through various institutions and social forces. These included:

The ANC’s legitimacy crisis

As a result of all this activity the crisis of legitimacy in the ANC – and the ANC state – has deepened. This has placed immense pressure on the party to act. In this context, Ramaphosa is playing out his role out of necessity and to secure the ANC’s electoral fortunes.
For middle class and rich South Africans Ramaphosa’s state of the nation speech represented a return to normalcy – a democracy that works for a few. That’s not to say that the new president didn’t make some important announcements in his state of the nation address. This included his comments about state owned enterprises, redistributive state programmes and anti-corruption mechanisms. 
Nevertheless, the speech struck chords that resonated with the “return to normalcy” narrative.
But South Africans can’t repeat the mistake made in 1994 when progressive civil society demobilised. The people’s effect has to continue to shape a post-Zuma democracy in the interests of all. The ANC has abused majority support and cannot be trusted with the future of South Africa.
People’s power has to be strengthened and continuously mobilised around strengthening democratic institutions, ending corruption, fundamental economic transformation and advancing systemic alternatives to the climate crisis.

Big Debate on Radio 702 - Neoliberalism versus Social Justice

My defence of social and climate justice on Radio 702 can be found here and below link to full recording:

Neoliberalism versus Social Justice in South Africa - Big Debate

South Africa’s only possible path to economic prosperity is through competing successfully on the global stage, according to independent strategy adviser Shawn Hagedorn.
Responding to this week's State of the Nation Address (Sona) debate Hagedorn has described SA's current perceptive on the economy as 'isolationist' and says the country's focus on redistribution and reparations is limiting. 
He says global integration is needed for a workable growth model.
The whole sort of political, economic nexus, it really centers around social justice issues and is completely debilitating economically, so you have a shift from where a lot of the corruption issues are going to be addressed and what's then going to be left is not a workable growth model.
— Shawn Hagedorn, independent strategy adviser
There is no way that through redistribution, there is going to be restoration, reparations, for the injustices of apartheid, it's just not going to happen.
— Shawn Hagedorn, independent strategy adviser
There is really no place where you you have one large economy without any real benchmark competitors. The only way South Africa can work out that the economy is failing dismally, is through the credit rating status.
— Shawn Hagedorn, independent strategy adviser
Meanwhile Associate Professor at Wits University says Vishwas Satgar says it is impossible to ignore past injustices when approaching economic growth.
His argument is that we have got to think with historical amnesia in South Africa in order to go forward and I think that is fallacious.
— Vishwas Satgar, Associate Professor, Wits University
We cannot ignore the super exploitation that has built this country and the degradation that has been endured by the millions in this country, or the violence that has been central to black lives in South Africa.
— Vishwas Satgar, Associate Professor, Wits University
I disagree with this perspective that we have had an isolationist position. South Africa is a deeply globalised economy, and in that context it was premised on compromise and the political bargain was about allowing historically white capital to have mobility in and out of this economy, but at the same time there was an expectation that it would also invest in this economy. Create jobs...
— Vishwas Satgar, Associate Professor, Wits University
That promise at the heart of that bargain was not realised an actually what you have instead is a high concentration of wealth at the top. Inequity has been one of the outcomes of this deeply globalised economic process.
— Vishwas Satgar, Associate Professor, Wits University
Click on the link below to listen to the full debate...

Launch of Climate Crisis Book! All are invited.