Aberystwyth Transitions Reading Group Blog

‘Trapese and the Political Critique of Transition

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We read Rocky Road, the Trapese critique of Transition Towns, as one of the first readings the group ever did. Here’s a synthesis of what Mark Whitehead and I made of it, which I think has a resonance with Seyfang and Haxletine’s starting the transition not with philosophical debate but rather coming together in practical projects:

‘One of the most systematic critiques of the Transition Culture movement has been developed by the Trapese Collective. From a position that is anti-capitalism, antistate and anti-hierarchy, the Trapese Collective invoked concepts of social and climate justice to analyse the Transition Culture movement (Trapese Collective 2008). Trapese ask: “a transition to where, and from what? And what models of organizing can help us along the way?” (2008:4). The central argument of The Rocky Road to a Real Transition is that “only when the rules of the game are changed can carbon dioxide concentrations and all the associated problems be truly tackled . . . it really isn’t possible to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions” (2008:10–11). For the Trapese Collective then, “Real transition” means structural change and not just changes in individual or community behaviour. Trapese contends that in its attempts to be all-inclusive and non-confrontation the Transition Culture movement has been depoliticized, and thus lacks a realistic analysis of power. Distinguishing between environmental improvements “in place” and improvements to (global) environmental systems, Trapese claims no causal relationship between the two typesof change (2008:33). It argues for recognition that there will be both creation and resistance in any “real transition”, and that the Transition Town notion of “the great re-skilling” should include education about the current economic and political system. Trapese argues that the first and most important step for Transition initiatives should be that they are both (politically) ambitious and “clear about where we want to go”.11 Yet, even by Trapese’s own ontology, we argue that this step surely cannot precede people coming together as communities to determine that vision for themselves (for more on the debate between the Transition Culture movement and the Trapese Collective, see Hopkins 2009; Mason 2008; North 2009; Trainer 2009).’

 MASON, K. & WHITEHEAD, M. 2012. Transition Urbanism and the Contested Politics of the Spatial Practice. Antipode, 44, 493-516.

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Author: masonk4

Academic, activist, clown, rebel, insurgent...

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