Making Change From Below


  • Dorothy Smith University of Victoria



In this paper I've tried to spell out what I think we're confronting in attempting to make change in the context of global capitalism. I've used the notion of making change from below because the kind of government organization that made taking it over appear practicable has largely disappeared in a fragmentation of the state at many levels both within Canada and at international levels. Moreover the terrain of struggle has shifted from the directly physical to the contemporary text-mediated relations that pervade our societies. Right now we are also going through a rapid reorganization of governance replacing bureaucratic and professional organization with new managerial forms that subordinate both government and public institutions to the service of global capital. We can, however, find models of making change from below that have been effective. I look first to the Women's Movement, proposing that in addition to the specifics of its achievements, women in Canada are recognized and recognize ourselves as political subjects and agents. I then introduce more current examples of change initiated by non-governmental organizations, including unions. While specific objectives may be achieved, in the longer run these forms of organizing to make change are also important in building people's experience of acting and organizing, in extending connections among activists, and in grounding people's capacities to experience themselves as political subjects. 

Author Biography

Dorothy Smith, University of Victoria

Dorothy E. Smith is Professor Emerita, University of Toronto and Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria. She has published a number of books and many papers. Her most recent books are ";Writing the Social: Critique, Theory and Investigations (University of Toronto Press, 1999); with Alison Griffith, ";Mothering for Schooling"; (Routledge, 2005); ";Institutional Ethnography: A Sociology for People"; (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005) and editor of ";Institutional Ethnography as Practice"; (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).






Keynote Address