Where might we turn for inspiration for a comprehensive programme for radical change on the scale required to match the crisis we are in?
A good start would be with a bunch of men in southern England, in April 1649, led by Gerrard Winstanley who started digging common land to create a self-governing, cooperative and productive community as the basis for the new social order.
Charles Leadbeater argues that one of the most fertile sources for a new political synthesis is not to look forward but to look a long way back, to the dawn of the modern era, before the categories that entrap us now – of left and right, state and market – were fully formed, when for a brief time it seemed as if the world could be turned upside down.
Leadbeater draws on Winstanley’s sweeping critique of the inequities of power in 17th century England to inspire modern Levellers and Diggers, social entrepreneurs and environmental innovators, open source hackers and grass roots campaigns. From these apparently marginal movements a new synthesis might emerege to redefine capitalism, through a series of fundamental corrections to ultra free market, environmentally unsustainable financial capitalism, governed by an enterprise state with declining legitimacy and a welfare state of declining efficacy. Those shifts would be the development of new approaches to mutual ownership and sharing of knowledge; a welfare state that builds capability and self help; an education system designed for collaborative and practical problem solving; a political system capable of high energy local engagement.
Charles Leadbeater is a fellow of the Young Foundation.