A look at transition…

30 July 2017

How can we begin to understand the concept of transition? What is meant by it, and what means are available to us to help bring it about? This exploratory text, prepared by a member of the Collective, is meant to stimulate some thinking …

During the 2017 version of the festival Virage, Fabrique d’idées,Yves Marie Abraham, HEC professor and member of the collectif pour une décroissance conviviale, observed that ideas about the concept should not overshadow the reality that it refers to a change that must be bolstered by political action without which the concept of transition may turn out to be an empty shell.

Although, for many members of the Collectif pour la transition sociale mondiale, it is evident that the concept of transition must be built upon concrete political actions its apparent “emptiness” must paradoxically be seen as a strength. Let’s see why that is so by considering the example of the process that we consciously developed at the World Social Forum where meetings were held in spaces meant to foster the generation of solutions—or of resistance. The theme of transition can, likewise, include efforts to bring face-to-face different concrete political ideas focused on social transformation to encourage collaborative efforts. In continuing the aspirations of the WSF 2016 facilitation collective, one of the challenges will be to encourage the articulation of disparate views about transition in discussions in which differences can be expressed and hashed out as those involved contribute to each other’s understanding. The objective: a meeting of the minds and wide support for, and coordination of, joint efforts that include both a local and international perspective.

Evidently, the notion of transition assumes that processes will be set in motion that will change the direction of society. It suggests both a process and being fully immersed in it. “We cannot think first and act afterwards. From the moment of birth we are immersed in action and can only fitfully guide it by taking thought.”

Transition is not only the wish to transform ourselves towards a society that will be different from the society we now live in that is centred on consumption, production of goods, and resource extraction, one that reinforces social, economic and political inequality. It also involves reflection based on a redefinition of what the elements are that constitute our societies. We are referring to, for instance; a reexamination of the way we look at property, natural resource management, and our relationship with the environment; the assumptions that underlie our understanding of cooperation and competition and the distribution of wealth; how we hold our elected representatives to account, and the notion of direct democracy; a deepening of our understanding of equity and justice and the role of the media; a questioning of the relations between men and women; a valuing of the wide range of sexual and cultural identities; as well as delving deeply into many other subjects. At many levels, the sharing of views on these many complex questions remains to be done before we can arrive at a more complete, shared understanding of these issues. We can use the descriptive image oused by civil rights activist Angela Davis to depict what we can do by setting up spaces for collaboration that bring people out of their traditional organizational silos: “Overturned walls become bridges.”

In looking for answers, we can return to the ideas developed by the principal currents of political thought: socialism, communism, anarchism. We can also consider the idea of the commons as described by Dardot and Laval, to the libertarian municipalism of Murray Bookchin, approaches of degrowth, the principles of a constituent assembly, The methods employed by Rojava in northern Kurdistan, or to the plethora of organizations that comprise the rather formless collection of social economy and solidarity initiatives. The territory covered by the transition is vast and varied!

In conclusion, it seems that the transition is a will to liberty that is expressed by the need to extricate oneself from a determinant pattern of cause and effect. And so, in those areas where we are now condemned to repeat without end the same errors, the transition changes the rules by be means of a restructuring of our society that can be imagined and achieved. It creates an awareness
that our society and economy “are a house of cards, and we ourselves are the cards”.

The Collective for a World Social Transformation therefore sees itself helping to build the transition by add a stone to its structure. The projects that will be under construction in the coming months will be critical to the launching of our initiative of societal change. By reading the report of the founding meeting of the Collective that was held on June 9th, 2017, you will learn what took place in the discussions that were held in relation to the “6 action strategies to promote concrete solutions needed for the transition”, connecting agents of social change who are both here and elsewhere and stimulating social commitment to the transition towards a world that is just, ecologically managed, and united in solidarity.

We leave you with this quote concerning change, words written by Robert Owen, seen as one of the founding fathers of the cooperative movement of the 19th Century.

“ [ . . .] Each community can be organized [ …] in such a way too not only rid the world of vice and poverty, and also, in good measure, misery; but, even more, to put each individual in conditions in which he will enjoy more stable happiness than that which could result from the principles upon which society has been organized until now.”

Hoping to soon have the chance to debate these questions with you, in solidarity,

Samuel Raymond, member, CTSM


[1] Virage est un festival qui se déroule chaque année en juin à Sainte Rose du Nord au Saguenay Lac St-Jean. Il aborde durant 4 jours questions de la transition socio-écologique. Pour plus d’informations : http://festivalvirage.ca/

[2] Pour en apprendre plus à propos de la décroissance, voir l’enregistrement de la grande conférence sur ce sujet lors du Forum Social Mondial 2016 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7WANe44fEc&feature=youtu.be

To participate to the Collectif de la décroissance conviviale join their facebook group:


[3] Citation du philosophe Alfred North Withehead dans : Alinsky, S. (1976) p.87

Alinsky, S. (1976), Manuel de l’animateur social. Une action directe non-violente. Paris, Seuil

[4]  Voir le livre Commun, essai sur la révolution au XXIème siècle de Pierre Dardot et Christian Laval disponible aux éditions La Découverte.

[5] Expression empruntée au philosophe allemand Emmanuel Kant énoncée dans la Métaphysique des Moeurs disponible au édition Flammarion.

[6] Expression empruntée au journaliste décroissant Pierre Thiesset.

[7] Owen, Robert (1819) p. 30   : Owen, Robert (1819). Institution pour améliorer le caractère moral du peuple. Grande-Bretagne

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