Call for Papers: State of Power 2018

19 June 2017

The Transnational Institute (TNI) in the Netherlands is issuing an open call for essays/short papers and artistic collaborations for its forthcoming report on the issue of counter-power. Abstract deadline extension: 17 September

Keep your coins, I want change (Grafitti by Banksy)
Keep your coins, I want change (Grafitti by Banksy)
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, cultural), exposed the key players who control power, and highlighted movements of counter-power seeking to transform our world. Last year’s State of Power was widely praised for its thought-provoking essays and brilliant art. This year's seventh edition will focus on counter-power.


As we mark in 2018 the 50th anniversary of the 1968 uprisings, the world is experiencing a new wave of protests and resistance by social movements. This visible rise of popular mobilisation has emerged in the context of major social and ecological upheaval and political and economic uncertainty.

Today’s movements of counter-power must contend with the rise of dangerous demagogic leaders, using a language of hate and politics of fear, as well as the challenge of confronting the unprecedented concentration of power in the hands of transnational corporations and a small elite. Many movements are also going beyond resistance, seeking to build transformative practices, particularly at local level, that can reflect values of solidarity and cooperation, rather than competition and greed.

But what is the nature of this counter-power? What is needed for it to work? What blocks effective counter-power? And how can it be best harnessed not just for resistance but also long-term transformation?

The simple definition of counter-power is an ‘opposing force’ but others have argued it is about a different form and understanding of power, one that seeks not just to seize power as it is but transform the nature and exercise of power in the process.

These are some initial questions - but by no means an exhaustive list - that we are interested in exploring:

  • What is counter-power? Is it useful for describing processes of resistance as well as transformation? Is it a form of exercise of power that remains whether it is dominant or residual?
  • How does the Left distinguish its counter-power from those on the Right?
  • How can you successfully build counter-power? What are the elements to its success? How important is scale and place?
  • Can counter-power be harnessed effectively against globalised forms of corporate and military power?
  • What are the lessons of failures/successes of counter-power in terms of the organisational forms they have taken?
  • What are the obstacles that inhibit development of counter-power?
  • What role does technology, fashion, culture, art, humour and books play in building counter-power?
  • How do we recognise and address issues of privilege and intersectionality within counter-power movements in a way that addresses systemic injustice and forges greater unity? What is the role of disruption as well as consensus-building within movements?
  • What can we learn from counter-power movements such as the gay rights movement, that shifted the public debate in many countries from one of prejudice and marginalisation to acceptance and support?
  • How far is a single focus an aid to or (pre-)condition for successful counter-power movements?
  • What is the role and what are the limits for electoral politics? What can we learn from experiences such as that of Syriza in Greece, Rifondazione in Italy, the Frente Amplio in Uruguay, or Barcelona en Comun?
  • How can forms of counter-power become hegemonic and permanent?
  • Does effective transformation require a local base? How can we build translocal and national practices that build on transformative practices at local level?
  • How can movements take advantage of technology while not exposing themselves to further surveillance and control?

As well as analysis, TNI would also be interested in specific case-studies that draw out general lessons, statistical quantifications of counter-power, as well as stories that capture counter-power in creative ways. Our overall goal is not only to analyse but also to build effective, democratic, just counter-power and this will require art, creativity, storytelling and more so we are open to creative proposals that seek to link experiences, ideas and imagination.

We welcome a wide range of perspectives and analysis on the broad theme, however TNI does appreciate submissions that relate to areas we work closely 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

To encourage submissions from activists on low-incomes and people from the Global South , we also have a small number of grants of 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. Unfortunately budgetary constraints mean that money will only be distributed if your essay is chosen for the main report.

For an idea of the kind of essays we are interested in, please read the essays featured in State of Power 2017:


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 with any proposals or suggestions.


TNI is a rigorous research and advocacy organisation but not an academic institution. It seeks to always provide accessible analysis that can be read and used by a broad range of activists and social movements. We are therefore looking for analysis that is not overly theoretical and written in an accessible style.

We are interested in new and insightful analysis and also encourage the use of:

  • stories
  • concrete examples
  • metaphors
  • journalistic techniques

We discourage the overuse of academic jargon, literature analysis and academic debates that mean little to the public. In our experience the more accessible the material, the more widely it is used and shared.


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 editor 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 four or five 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. We hope to feature one essay as an infographic.

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 of essays

Abstracts must be emailed to by 11 September 2017. Final essays will be due on 9 November.

  • Abstracts/essays must address the issue of counter-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 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 not 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
    • Constructive: Does not just critique, but also puts forward just alternatives where relevant
  • TNI's styleguide can be found here
  • Do not include references in brackets within the text e.g (Abramson, 2011) in the academic style. As we first publish online and then as a printable PDF, please:
    • where relevant link to the reference where it is available as a web resource
    • 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 for the book, please be ready to respond to peer reviews and copy editing comments based on the timeline below.


  • 11 September Submission of abstract. Extension until 17 September.
  • 7 November Submission of full essay
  • November Edits/Review of essays
  • 15 January Publication and promotion