State of Power 2017

21 January 2017
Report

This sixth annual State of Power report examines the cultural processes that are used by corporations, military and privileged elites to make their power seem 'natural' and 'irreversible'. It also explores how social movements can harness creativity, art and cultural forces to resist and to build lasting social and ecological transformation.

This State of Power report is dedicated to the memory of John Berger, artist, author and former fellow of TNI who died in January 2017. His life and work unveiled the power relations embedded in modern consumer capitalist culture as well as highlighted how creativity and art could open eyes, transform hearts and mobilise against injustice.

Introductory interview

On culture and power
Interview with Egyptian novelist, Ahdaf Soueif
There’s clearly a struggle taking place on a universal scale between a system that has the world in its clutches, and something new that’s trying to be born.
> Read online  |Download PDF

Infographic

Manufactured consent
Corporations don't just shape our our politics or economics, they also seek do to the same to public opinion. Which corporations play the biggest role in shaping knowledge and news? What do they fund? Who do they represent? |Download PDF
> View infographic

Essays

Monsters of the Financialized Imagination: From Pokémon to Trump    
Max Haiven
Financialization is not just an economic superstructure. It is a process that is shaping culture and our lives, from the games we play, the decisions we make and the leaders who rise to power. How can we break free and imagine a future not dictated by finance?
> Read online |Download PDF

All Change or No Change? Culture, Power and Activism in an Unquiet World    
Martin Kirk, Jason Hickel and Joe Brewer 
2016 was a tumultous year politically with elections breaking with all conventions, but beneath the surface the main operating logic of our world remains the same, failing people and planet. How can alternative worldviews help us tell new stories and how can we hack culture to bring about systemic change?
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Culture, power and resistance - reflections on the ideas of Amilcar Cabral
Firoze Manji
The Guinea-Bissau/Cape Verde revolutionary argued that culture is not some aesthetic artefact, but an expression of history, the foundation of liberation, and a means to resist domination. At heart, culture is subversive and emancipatory - and social movements today could learn from his insights.
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Power and patriarchy: reflections on social change in Bolivia
Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán
Although the Bolivian left government initially enjoyed a huge degree of social legitimacy and was sincere in its proposals on decolonization and overcoming capitalism, in the end it has replicated relations of domination and plunder. Why has this unravelling happened and what can we learn as we seek to enact ethical social transformations that care for people and the earth.
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Power of Porn Cultures
Karen Gabriel
The porn industry globally has become so large that it can no longer be regarded as an underground sideshow. It is rather capitalism writ-large and the way it structures corporate power, labour, migration, consumption, gender, sexuality and increasingly the virtual world has relevance for everyone concerned with social justice.
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The Media-Technology-Military Industrial Complex
Justin Schlosberg
The rise of digital giants, in particular Facebook and Google, which control vast flows of traffic to news website is exacerbating and further consolidating the power of a few media empires. When combined with evidence of frequent collaboration with state surveillance and the military, the dangers for democratic dissent and plurality of perspectives become ever more apparent.
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Mall culture and consumerism in the Philippines
Jore-Annie Rico and Kim Robert C. de Leon
Why are malls booming in the Philippines and what are its implications for our understandings on the nature of inequality, privatisation of public space and the unstoppable tide of consumerism?
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White supremacy as cultural cannibalism
Gathoni Blessol
There is a lens that is largely being ignored and in most cases simply eclipsed in the current attempts to imagine post-capitalist futures. This missing lens signals an evasion of the fact that capitalism is born of white supremacist thinking and domination.
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The role of human behaviour in generating plutocracies
Deniz Kellecioglu
Mainstream ethics, such as those that paint humans as naturally egoist and competitive, are a principal means by which elites perpetuate power as they encourage us to see the state of the world as the 'natural' order of things, preempting resistance and alternatives. How can we promote instead an emancipatory ethics that draws on the most progressive sides of the human condition?
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Organizing cultures of resilience: activism in the Anthropocene:
Kevin Buckland
At a time of unprecedented ecological crisis and systemic in justice, the way social movements work is as important as what we work on. An artivist in the climate justice movement reflects on how we might build democratically-accountable and decolonised cultures of care and resilience.
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Gangsters for capitalism: why US' working class enlists
Colin Jenkins
Why does the US working class willingly, even enthusiastically, join to serve in a military that bolsters the very system which undermines and alienates them in their everyday lives?
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Artwork

The amazing artwork to illustrate these essays was done by a Mexican collective of artists: favulas + Isk + no1


Short reflections

The art of resistance
In a poetic illustrated short piece, artist and curator Devra Wiseman reflects on what is resistance art.

Culture of the Commons
Interview with Mayo Fuster Morell
Mayo Fuster Morell, responsible for BarCola, a group working on collaborative economy policies within the Barcelona city council, shares her thoughts on how commons-based forms of collaboration can build a more just society.

 

Recommended reading

We were unable to publish all essays that we received in response to the open call but they are included here as recommended reading.

Culture of austerity
Luke Shuttleworth
The durability of austerity policies in the European Union is due in part to the way neoliberal values such as competition and individual responsibility are perpetuated in popular media

Pouvoir et culture (French)
Coumba Toure
Mon analyse des relations entre pouvoir et culture découle de mon expérience d’engagement dans le changement social pendant plus de vingt ans. J’ai fait l’expérience et j’ai utilisé la culture comme moteur de changement et j’ai vu de près le potentiel transformateur des cultures féministes, indigènes africaines. Je vois comment les outils culturels peuvent permettre de rallier les individus et le groupe pour créer des mouvements forts

 

 

State of Power 2017 cover image