ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Climate Change and the Yellow Vest Movement

The Yellow Vest movement has been spreading from France to its neighbouring countries, as a response to the monstrous levels of inequality. Intellectuals on the left who have not been too impressed by the movement and want the overall transformation of neo-liberal capitalism should remember that when many parts of the world seem to be on the right-wing populist trajectory, any organised or deliberately non-organised movement can set off changes and effects in different, even unexpected, ways.

I thank the anonymous reviewer for the very constructive suggestions and feedback on this article.

“Capitalists” as the critical geographer David Harvey puts it, “are locked in a perpetual battle not only to produce values but to combat their potential negation” (Harvey 2017: 75). The perpetual struggle between capital and labour has, of course, been a constitutive feature of industrial capitalism right from its inception. The neo-liberal project, conceived theoretically much earlier (Slobodian 2018), but applied with a vengeance from the 1970s, has always engendered multiple forms of resistance with varied intended and unintended outcomes. Of course, perpetual struggle is the norm not just of the capital–labour contention but for almost any exercise of power (Davis 2016). Thus, colonialism, despite the claim of its apologists and nostalgia mongers such as Niall Ferguson, has always engendered organised resistance and not just in the colonies but in the heart of the colonial centres too (Gopal 2019).

The miners’ strike in Britain (1984–85), the countrywide protests against Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax (1990), the air traffic controllers’ strike in the United States (US) (1981), the concerted anti-austerity protests in Spain, Greece, Portugal and France (2011–2012), the Battle of Seattle (1999) and the ongoing protests at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as the G20 meetings, the Chiapas uprising (1994), the Arab Spring (2010) and the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) (2011) to mention just a few of the recent organised protests, all register the truism that humans, instead of passively accepting power structures, always exercise agency in the perpetual quest for reshaping the world with multiple intended and unintended consequences. The defenders of the so-called “free market” whether in academia or mass media will predictably mock any protest and social movement whose goal it is to contest the inequities generated by global capitalism. The relentless flinging of epithets such as “leaderless” “disorganised,” “dreamers,” “confused” in media narratives about the OWS movement that erupted in 2011, was as unsurprising as the support from intellectuals on the left (Wallerstein 2011; Ali 2011; Hedges 2012; Gitlin 2012, 2013; Castells 2012; Calhoun 2013; Mitchell et al 2013; Chomsky 2012).

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Updated On : 23rd Aug, 2019
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