on fragile movements

The notion of fragile movements is an integral part of my new project. I’ve tried to explain it at various points on the blog, as well as in a book chapter which will be published as part of the Centre for Social Ontology’s annual Social Morphogenesis series. But I just encountered a really apt description of the sense in which I mean ‘fragile’ in a George Monbiot article of all places. This is what I’m trying to explain in the project:

The trajectory of leftwing mobilisations in Britain has in recent years followed a consistent pattern: they go up like fireworks and come down the same way. People gather in a fiery rush of creativity and hope, then implode and fall to earth. The tumult of ideas, so inspiring in the early days, leads to confusion and dissipation. A thousand voices clamour to be heard, and competition and atomisation sometimes seem to dominate movements that claim to stand against such forces. Wars of attrition fought by the police grind hope into dust. People become burnt out and disillusioned. A few months later a new enthusiasm takes hold, and we repeat the pattern, apparently gaining little from experience.

While the mobilisations of our grandparents’ generation lasted for decades, ours struggle to survive for months. We create spectacles and debates; we raise interest and awareness. But we seldom generate lasting change.