Editorial: The Environment and Violent Democracy

When scientists discuss climate change they do so with dire warnings of the catastrophic consequences of climbing temperatures of the earth’s atmosphere – the floods, the tycoons, the melting glaciers, and the wholesale destruction of the communities. When they have paid attention to the politics of climate change scientists have focused on climate change deniers and their powerful supporters or on the failure of popular movements. But the struggles among global elites are too often overlooked. For the past four years Herbert Docena has been reporting for Global Dialogue on the annual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Writing from the most recent meeting in Paris (November 30 to December 11, 2015), he points to changing alliances as elite reformers gave up trying to moderate the conservative powers dominating the conference halls. Instead they sought out potential allies among the radicals assembled in the streets. Still, apart from pious promises, there are few signs from Paris of any serious advances toward saving the world.

In this issue we feature an interview with Karl von Holdt – veteran of the anti-apartheid movement and leading sociologist. He describes to Alf Nilsen his research on South Africa’s “violent democracy” and the township struggles it engenders around service delivery. This is followed by accounts of another sort of violence. Maristella Svampa and her colleagues describe the new extractivist economy that is devastating Latin America. Mega-projects from mining and oil to agribusiness’ soy production – stimulated by the insatiable appetite of China’s expanding economy – are carried out by multinationals thirsty for profits, and encouraged by states starved of funds. Reports from Argentina, Mexico, and Ecuador show how these projects have met with the intense opposition of social movements seeking to protect their land, water, and air.

We also publish six articles on cooperatives from India, Greece, Spain, and Argentina – how they survive and at what costs. Are coops an alternative to capitalism or, as Leslie Sklair argues, an adaptation to capitalism? Undoubtedly, one of the great theorists and practitioners of the cooperative movement is the remarkable Paul Singer, National Secretary for the Solidarity Economy in Brazil’s government. As is evident from the interview conducted for Global Dialogue, Singer is no starry-eyed prophet – for him cooperatives are a means of sustaining a livelihood for the poor.

Finally, we have five tributes to Vladimir Yadov, who died last year – one of the courageous pioneers of Soviet sociology who deftly pushed the limits of the Soviet order. Yadov remained a key player in debates about postSoviet sociology. Throughout his career he has been a keen internationalist, serving as ISA Vice-President, 1990-94. Much beloved by students and colleagues, his departure is deeply mourned.

With this issue Juan Piovani will take over direction of the Spanish translation of Global Dialogue from María José Álvarez. We welcome Juan and thank Majo and her team for four years of dedicated service.

> Global Dialogue can be found in 16 languages at the ISA website.

> Submissions should be sent to burawoy@berkeley.edu.

, Volume 6, Issue 1

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