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Historical Social Movements, Ecological Crisis and ‘Other’ World Views

Historical Social Movements, Ecological Crisis and ‘Other’ World Views


Andre Gunder Frank and Marta Fuentes have suggested that social movements of protest tend to cluster during periods of economic downturns. With this in mind, can we examine world history over the long-term to enable us to provide a more insightful understanding of the transformative potential of social movements during times of socioeconomic, ecological and political disruptions as Frank and Fuentes suggested over a decade ago? This article examines the rise of two social movements that have emerged during different periods of world history when the world system was/is in crisis: Christian monasticism and Bioregionalism. Besides viewing Christian monasticism as a religious movement that arose in reaction to the turbulent conditions towards the end of the Roman Empire, I want to argue that Christian monasticism can also be conceived as a social institution formed in reaction to the excessive consumption, economic exploitation and ecological crisis that occurred prior to and during the Dark Ages of Antiquity. Almost 1,700 years later, our current era of socioeconomic, political and ecological crises has also sparked movements expounding alternative world-views and lifestyle options. One such anti-systemic movement is Bioregionalism which is a direct contrast to our contemporary world-view that underscores the themes of globalization, technologization of life and hyper consumption. Therefore, along a similar vein to early Christian monasticism's reaction to institutionalized religion then, Bioregionalism as a life-practice also plays a similar role in the contemporary crisis era. Both of these social movements can be considered as part of the family of social movements that have occurred in world history that Frank and Fuentes (1989, 1990) have written about in the late 20th century.
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