Ted Trainer.


The situation.

The Simpler Way perspective on the global situation, (detailed in TSW, 2018a), is that a sustainable and just world cannot be achieved unless there is enormous and radical change. We must eventually shift to an economy that has no growth at all, produces far less than the present one, and is driven by need not profit, and we must abandon desire for affluent lifestyles and getting richer over time.

The solution.

It is not difficult to design a society based on the required alternative principles, and many communities are working to transform themselves in the right direction. (See TSW, 2018b.) The basic principles must be:

The form the transition process must take.

Because such radical change is needed it is clear that the key to it must be helping ordinary people to see the need for moving towards the very different ideas, values and ways, and to recognize that this would be a delightful liberation. Obviously the new highly self-sufficient and self-governing local communities cannot work unless people are motivated by conscientious, eager, socially-responsible, caring citizens who are content to live frugally and cooperatively, are not interested in getting rich and who prioritise the welfare of their admirable town and enjoy contributing to it. The right decisions for the town can only be made by people who are familiar with the local environment, soils, people, history, traditions, needs and problems. In addition, centralised state bureaucracies will not have the resources, the administrative capacity or the local knowledge to run millions of towns and suburbs.

So there is no point in appealing to existing governments or global institutions to make the required changes. Governments have no choice but to try to get the consumer-capitalist system to work. If they don’t deliver more economic growth they will be faced with increasing unemployment, recession, discontent and criticism.

It should be obvious that the required society must be post-capitalist, that is, a “socialism” involving some form of control by society over the core economic functions. Most green thinking and action fails to grasp this and is focused on trying to reform capitalism. But the foregoing discussion makes it clear that traditional left transition thinking is also mistaken, because it focuses on attempting to take state power and it assumes that the changes can be driven through from there. In previous revolutions that made sense, but they were essentially only about attempting to take control from the ruling class … and then to run basically the same old system geared to industrial-consumer-growth and affluence.

This revolution is unlike any other before, because its goals cannot be about globalisation, heavy industrialisation, urbanism, centralisation, growth or affluence.

Consider the confused chicken-or-egg logic in the standard left/socialist  ”take state power” strategy. There are only two ways that the control of a state intending to implement The Simpler Way could come about. The first is via some kind of coup whereby power is seized by a vanguard party which has that goal. In our situation this is not worth much discussion.

The second path would be via the election to government of a party with a Simpler Way platform. But that could not happen unless the cultural revolution for a Simpler Way had previously taken place! We could not get control of a state that is committed to Simpler Way principles unless there had been an election in which most people had voted for a party with that platform. But that couldn’t happen unless most people had previously come to endorse The Simpler Way … and if that had happened they would have been building the new local economies long before the election!

So, getting control of a state committed to the new ways will be a consequence of the revolution (its Stage 2, below.) The core of this revolution will be the Stage 1 achievement of the new world view and values.

Thus it is not sensible here and now to put energy into trying to take state power or fighting directly against consumer-capitalism, which has never been stronger than it is today (… although it is fragile and in the process of self-destruction.) The way we think we can begin the process of defeating it in the long run is to ignore it to death, i.e., to turn away from it and start building its replacement and persuading people to come across.

The Anarchists see this as working to “Prefigure” the good society here and now within the old, i.e., to start setting up aspects of the new society, especially arrangements which will meet needs that are neglected now. This is the most effective way to raise awareness of the changes needed. There are now many people and communities doing this, and reference is beginning to be made to a world wide ”integral cooperative movement”. Notable examples include the Eco-villages, Transition Towns movement, Senegalese villages, Zapatistas, and the remarkable Catalan Integral Cooperative. (TSW, 2018c.) The Catalans have set up many things including their own currency and a “bank” that lends to good causes without charging interest, and a system that supplies thousands of food items through their more than twenty shops.

The second stage of the revolution

The foregoing discussion has been about Stage 1 of this revolution. However local economies cannot rise to a high level of self-sufficiency or independence from the national and global economies, and they cannot reduce their “footprint” very much, because they will always need many goods and services that they cannot produce for themselves. It is not satisfactory if these continue to come from national and international economies that are unsustainable and unjust. Our ultimate goal must be transition to sustainable and just world, meaning that it will be necessary to plan and regulate a great deal, to stop and then reverse economic growth, to reduce the amount of trade, investment, industry, producing and consuming by maybe 90%, to prevent the market from being a major determinant, and to somehow organise the relocation of large numbers of people from unnecessary industries.

How might such enormous and radical change be carried out? Here’s the sequence of events we have to hope and work for.

In the next decade or two the global economy is very likely to descend into an increasingly serious depression, from which there will be no recovery. This will be mainly due to dwindling resources, especially oil, but also to rising debt levels, inequality and robots/unemployment. This will initiate De-growth whether we like it or not.  Many firms will go out of business and ordinary people will find that their “living standards” are deteriorating dramatically. They will therefore realise that they need to get down to the local community gardens and co-ops if they are to be able to secure the basic things they need.  Towns will see that they must set up their own farms, banks, cooperatives, poultry groups, fish farms etc.

But as noted this will lead communities to become more aware of their limits, especially their need for inputs from the wider regional and national economies. Towns will need chicken wire, poly-pipe, 12 volt pumps, shovels, etc. which they cannot produce for themselves. Hospitals and universities will still be needed, and (some) big and centralized industries such as for steel and cement. It will therefore be realised that the national economy must be restructured to provide towns and suburbs with the (relatively few) basic inputs and services they need…as distinct from focusing on enabling the free market and profit driven system.

Local communities will firstly plead and demand that states shift priorities to the required new vision, but as they increasingly get used to establishing and running their own arrangements along the lines the CIC is demonstrating they will firstly take functions away from the state (e.g. setting up their own distribution, welfare, technical advice systems), and secondly they will increasingly force state governments to shift towards basically anarchist ways.  They will push in and in time establish more control over the central decision making, insisting that more and more policy formation and choice be taken away from bureaucrats and politicians and carried out by the town assemblies, leaving central governments with only the role of implementing them. This is the classic Anarchist “federations” model of having wider issues  dealt with by delegates from the towns who take all proposals back down to the towns for acceptance or rejection.

This is not a prediction … and it is not likely to happen. Indeed it is likely that the outcome will be chaotic descent into fascism or barbarism. But our point is that this is the transition vision that it makes most sense to work for.

This means that both the goal of this revolution and the path to it are best seen in classically Anarchist terms. We cannot cut the resource and ecological impacts right down unless we develop settlements that function according to Anarchist principles such as thoroughly participatory town government, and the best, only, way to establish these is via prefiguring and working on changing ideas and values so that in time enough people will enthusiastically take up the building and the running of the new communities.

The last thing we want is a sudden collapse of the economy. If there is a slow continuation of the present deterioration then crucial systems will remain in place giving us time to get enough people into remaking their localities.

This view of the possible transition process has the merit of enabling us to enjoy aspects of post-revolutionary society here and now, especially the experience of community solidarity in working for a crucially important cause. The focus is positive and constructive, as distinct from being on attempting to fight and demolish capitalism before being able to build and enjoy new ways. And it holds open the possibility that this revolution could be relatively rapid and peaceful.


For a detailed discussion of Simpler Way perspective on transition see

TSW, (2018a), The Simpler Way: Outline.

TSW, (2018b), The Alternative Society: ALT SOCLong.htm