Friday, 6 August 2010

What do you want to know about practical political education?

War is a failure of politics. Fifty five years after our governments dropped the first atomic bombs, killing almost quarter of a million civilians, warfare still kills, maims and terrorises millions. Humanity spent $1531 billion on the military last year, about 2.7 per cent of global income (GDP), 50 per cent more than 2000, and was involved in 17 major armed conflicts. Yet in much of the world, most of the time, most conflicts are resolved peacefully by political means. We replace our leaders through elections rather than revolt or execution. Countries change course through political clamour rather than the march of mercenaries. But violent conflict persists and many social problems seem little nearer to solution.

This Practical Politics blog aims to explore ways in which people can influence events and solve social problems. I am particularly interested in how the most powerless, marginalised and excluded people in society can have a more effective voice, on grounds of justice and because society will be better as a result. I also want to explore ways in which people can learn how to become better at doing politics.

Practical politics is about making things happen, from the micro-politics with a family, office or neighbourhood to the global politics of conflict, climate or trade. Many of the skills and strategies of practical politics apply to any level, while the specific knowledge and networks are very diverse. Both can be learnt, through experience as well as study. Politics is above all a practical art.

I’m taking a summer break to rest, write and support a new team of trainee community organisers, but I would welcome your comments on past blogs and suggestions for the kind of topics that would be most useful for the practice of politics by people who are not part of the political mainstream, and ways of enabling people to have a more effective voice. Please use the comment box below or email me at

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