Citizens, activists and analysts around the world are alarmed by ever-increasing political, social, economic and climate inequalities and intensifying obstacles vis-à-vis the promises of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In many places, policy retrogression is undermining transformation towards economic, social and climate justice. Many of the growing fractures have their roots in the structures and trends of the economic system that prevails at national and global levels, a system that this paper describes as unfettered capitalism.
This system is splitting traditional working class and middle-class alliances, and immobilizing government decisions in favour of redistribution and social justice: the social contract of democratic welfare statism is under threat. However, one also observes counter-currents of resistance. Hitherto siloed activist communities are coalescing in the form of “creative” coalitions. Examples from two countries in the global North include movements for climate justice, refugee rights, gender justice and general civil rights. The paper discusses their commonalities, strengths and shortcomings, and asks whether these creative coalitions could counter the power of economic interests and retrogressive government policies. It argues that they need to be further analysed, using innovative research approaches. This could help identify the chances of and pathways for transformative change towards a new social contract and an eco-social welfare state.
is a development economist and former UN official. She is affiliated with UNRISD and with the IDS, and a board member of Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF). Her research and advocacy interests include human rights, gender and climate justice, as well as social policy with a focus on social inclusion and social protection.