As we face up to the COVID-19 crisis, there have been some vague exhortations not to ‘waste the crisis’ and use it as the basis for a ‘system reboot’. There have also been some hasty, opportunistic and unconvincing statements of how we should respond that often appear to be the same-old messages repackaged for the current crisis. My objective with helping to create this platform and nurture the conversations we will have here is that we learn the lesson of the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis when initial energy for change was dissipated and nullified as ‘business as usual’ and powerful elites reasserted themselves.
Some of the smarter analyses of why this happened point to a number of issues: that the causes of the GFC and what should be done about them were varied and contested. This meant prescriptions were heterogenous and lacked coherence. Consequently, the prospects for turning the GFC into a practicable and compelling vision for lasting change were undone by a lack of consensus and various tensions, including between short-term imperatives and deeper systemic shifts (for a good example of such analysis, see here)
I broadly agree with this analysis and I hope that this website will see conversations that imagine feasible transformations that will make our future fairer, more equitable, more sustainable and less divided. My belief is that to have any realistic chance of promoting sustainable change, in rebuilding toward a different future, we need to create coherent and compelling visions of that future. Our imagined futures need to be ones in which people can see themselves and understand what it will mean for them, inspiring and mobilizing a wide range of groups and individuals to form the alliances necessary to challenge the status quo. Of course, imagination is but a precursor to action. As academics, we need to embrace new modes of scholarship, new styles of theorizing and new ways of engaging our publics with these challenges if we are to play our role in shaping these discussions. We hope you will join us in imagining transformations for the betterment of our societies. And in working to achieve those.