Call for essays on finance and power for State of Power 2019

23 July 2018
Article

The Transnational Institute (TNI) in the Netherlands is issuing an open call for essays, short papers, infographics and artistic collaborations for its forthcoming State of Power report launched in late January 2019 to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos. In 2019, we are particularly looking for accessible, engaging essays and artistic explorations that explore the issue of finance and power.

TNI’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 in order to inform struggles for justice.

With a mixture of compelling infographics and insightful essays, State of Power has examined dimensions of power (economic, political, social), exposed the key players who control power, and highlighted movements of counter-power seeking to transform our world. Recent State of Power reports have been widely praised for their inspiring essays and brilliant art.

Finance and power

The financial sector is embedded in the emergence of capitalism and imperialism. Financial firms were critical to colonial adventures, underpinned slavery, and have consistently exacerbated inequality, reinforced political elites, held revolutionary movements hostage, and treated the poor and vulnerable as collateral damage in regular cycles of crisis.

In recent decades, though, financial power has reached new precedented heights. The financial sector has come to dominate the global economy, taken over ever larger sections of public life, commodified everything from air (carbon trading) to education, rewritten global economic rules and policies, taken over global institutions, put a stranglehold on any government that dares defy it and even transformed our culture and language.

Perhaps the greatest evidence of its power is the way that the sector has emerged unregulated and even stronger despite precipitating the global economic crisis in 2008 ten years ago. And there is little sign of its power being contained, as new waves of financialisation unfold. Moreover, obscured behind a screen of jargon and algorithms, far too few social movements or progressive politicians dare to stand up and challenge it.

Yet, at the same time, financial power is fragile, riven with and, in fact, driven forward by contradictions and crises - and therefore also has the potential to be challenged and transformed. But this will require unmasking its power and understanding our own power and capacity to take control of money and finance.

How can we better understand and thereby unmask the financial sector? What is the nature of its power? How are we to understand their power-grab?  Where might Big Finance’s Achilles heel be? What are the fissures and friction-points within the financial world that can become opportunities for struggle? Are there successful examples of confronting financial power? How can social movements better confront Big Finance? How can we regain popular democratic control over finance and money?

A lot has been written on this – including by Transnational Institute - so we are particularly interested in proposals that explore little-understood areas or approach the issues in creative ways that help deepen understanding. We are also interested in producing some infographics or artwork that help unmask Big Finance.

These are some additional questions – but by no means an exclusive list – that we are interested in exploring:
 

  • How has Finance emerged so powerful in our global economy? How is it reshaping political and social relations?

  • How is digitalisation and the tech sector reshaping finance and  power?

  • How do local financial systems get integrated into the global financial  system?

  • How can we better understand the functioning and relationships  among the key institutions of capitalist global finance: private banks,  central banks, multilateral financial institutions like the IMF,  national governments, international currencies, and tax havens.

  • What are the new arenas for financial speculation that enabled Big Finance to recover?

  • What are their seeds for the next financial crisis?

  • What contradictions and weaknesses lie within the sector? Where are the opportunities for struggle?

  • What challenges and lessons can we derive from existing efforts to increasing democratic accountability in the financial sector? These can include national campaigns (such as plan to introduce Tobin Tax) as well as local efforts (such as introducing local public banks or setting up small alternative currencies)

As well as analysis, TNI would also be interested in specific case-studies that draw out general lessons as well as stories and artwork that help us understand Finance and Power in creative and imaginative ways.

We welcome a wide range of perspectives and analysis on the broad theme, however TNI does appreciate submissions that relate to areas we most closely work on such as corporate impunity, drug reform, trade and investment policies, land, agrarian and environmental justice, resource grabbing, public services, war and pacification, social movements and counter-power (see https://www.tni.org/en/programmes)

To encourage submissions from activists on low-incomes and people from the Global South, we also have a small number of grants of 500 euros for selected essays from individuals that fit this category. Please indicate in your submissions whether you would like to apply for this grant. The money will only be distributed if your essay is chosen for the main report.

 

Format and Style

Our goal ultimately is to provide accessible analysis that can be read and used by a broad range of activists and social movements that will help movements confront entrenched power and injustice. TNI produces its essays in the format of a long-read, illustrated by international artists.  We are therefore looking for analysis that is enjoyable to read, not over-theoretical and written in a style that is accessible.

We therefore prefer essays that make use of:

  • stories

  • concrete examples

  • metaphors

  • journalistic techniques

We also welcome suggestions of photos, videos, artwork and other ways to illustrate essays. You can see examples of this here and here.

We discourage the overuse of academic jargon literature analysis and academic debates that mean little to the public.

While essays are the main focus of the report, TNI is also open to proposals for artistic explorations that examine the same themes that could accompany and complement the essays. The process will be different for these, so please just email stateofpower AT tni.org with any proposals or suggestions.

Eligibility

While TNI is proud of our high standard of scholarship, this call does not require any specific academic qualifications. Contributors to earlier editions of State of Power have included students, professors, journalists,  activists and artists  - all at different stages of their careers and lives.  TNI particularly welcomes submissions by women, young scholars/artists  and people based in the Global South.

Process

The final report will be made up of a mixture of essays from this open call and a number of pre-commissioned essays. We have designed a process to feature what we consider the best essays in the main report. The decision on which papers are featured will be decided by an Editorial Panel made up of the Director, the editors of the report and the Communications Manager. The selection process will follow three stages:
 

  1. In the first stage,  researchers will be asked to provide abstracts, a short bio and some  links to previous work. It will help your application if your  previous work is not just limited to academic texts but includes  some more accessible journalistic pieces. Abstracts can be based on  existing papers or be provisional ideas of what you hope to explore.  If you would like to apply for the grant – available to low-income  participants – please indicate this at this stage.

  2. Those whose abstracts are  chosen will be asked to submit an essay. The top 3-4 essays will be  selected for the report by the Editorial Panel.

  3. The selected essays will go  through a final round of revisions based on feedback by the  Editorial Panel, and subject to final copyedit.

  4. Essays that do not make the  top eight – and are considered good essays by the Editorial Panel  - will be available as downloadable PDFs linked from the main  report. Remuneration unfortunately won’t be available  though for these essays that don’t appear in the main report.

Instructions for submission

Abstracts must be emailed to stateofpower AT tni.org by 7 September 2018. Full draft essays will be due on 1 November. Approved final essays will go through a process of review and editing until the final version is approved on 11 December.

 

  • Abstracts/essays  must address the issue of finance and power from a critical  progressive perspective, seeking to provide useful knowledge and  analysis for movements engaged in the struggle for social and  environmental justice

  • Abstracts/essays  can be based on reworked versions of existing or previously  published essays/papers or extracts of books but must be made accessible to a  non-academic audience

  • TNI  particularly welcomes submissions by women, young scholars/artists  and people based in the Global South.

  • Abstracts  and essays can be written in English or Spanish.

  • Abstracts  must be a maximum of 1000 words. They do not need to be of  continuous prose but must capture the main arguments of the essay  and can be expanded outlines. Bios should be 200 words.

  • Final  Essay length: 4000-5000 words. Shorter essays are acceptable, but no  longer than 5000 words.

  • Style:  TNI has five basic criteria for its research and publications that  will also be used to assess the abstracts and essays:
    - Credible:   Well researched and evidence-based
    - Accessible:   Readable by a broad non-specialist audience (in other words please   avoid too much academic jargon) and try to use stories, examples
    - Additional:   Adds depth, new insights or detail to existing knowledge/research
    - Radical:   Tackles the structural roots of critical issues
    - Propositional:   Does not just critique, but also puts forward just alternatives  where relevant

  • TNI's  styleguide can be found here in English and here in Spanish

  • Do  not include references in brackets within the text eg (Abramson,  2011) in the academic style. As we first publish online and then as  a printable PDF, please hyperlink the text pointing to the reference AND  provide an endnote with the full reference, preferably in Harvard style. You may also provide a bibliography at end of essay instead.

  • Please  do not overdo it on the endnotes (no more than 40 for each essay)–  use it mainly for referring to facts/evidence that may be  surprising, questioned or challenged.

  • Please  send as .doc file or .docx file or Open/Libre Office equivalent for  written texts, pdf for artistic submissions

  • The decision of the  Editorial Panel is final. If your abstract or essay is chosen,  please be ready to respond to peer reviews and copy editing comments  based on the timeline below.

 

Timeline

7 September  Submission of abstracts

14 September  Abstracts approved for submission of full essay

1 November  Submission of full essay

8 November  Decision on whether essay to be approved for final report or published as PDF

9 Nov-11 Dec  Review, second draft, final copyedits

14-18 January  Publication of essays