Ken Spours 2024
Connective Thinking for
21st Century Transitions
Transformative Thinking for 21st Century Transitions
Transformative & connective thinking for societal transformations
The 'Global Omnicrisis' - the intersecting crises of climate breakdown, growing inequalities, pandemics and increasing conflict - represent an existential threat to Humanity. We have been brought to the brink by a neoliberal capitalist bloc - the dominant economic and political formation comprising plutocrats, capitalist organic intellectuals and authoritarian governments that support fossil capitalism, oppose environmental action, deride social improvement and undermine democracy.
In response to these growing threats, as an educator and activist, I believe that our society must be assisted in transitioning toward more equitable, sustainable and peaceful futures. But time is not on our side - the need for progressive 'common sense' and decisive activity is urgent.
The key content of this website - Transformative Thinking for 21st Century Transitions - is intended to stimulate dialogue with a range of social and political partners in support of the multiple missions of urgently reaching carbon net zero through a green industrial revolution, allied to social justice strategies and with the assistance of socialised artificial intelligence.
Here on the Ken Spours 2024 website, you will find four elements of transformative and connective thinking applied to the complex processes of collaborative working for societal and global transitionings. Webpages dedicated to each of these themes can be accessed either on the menu bar or by clicking on the emboldened links below.
1. Neo-Gramscian political theory and activity - the bedrock of my thinking over the past 50 years has been a contemporary interpretation of the theoretical work of the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci; arguably the greatest Marxist of the 20th Century. The corpus of his work - concepts of hegemony, state and civil society, organic intellectuals, the political party as a societal organism - are interpreted and developed in 21st Century contexts to provide a theoretical toolkit to understand how capitalism continually strives to evolve (with increasing disaster) and, crucially, how to formulate imaginings and strategies to create sustainable post-capitalist futures. Also contained in these web pages are political publications concerned with the UK progressive think tank and campaigning organisation Compass: Together for a Good Society.
2. Social Ecosystem Thinking for the Just Transition - Social Ecosystem Thinking (SET) and a Social Ecosystem Model (SEM) of change are viewed as 21st-century components of neo-Gramscian thinking. The concept of 45-degree Politics, comprising 'verticalities' of the governmental state, 'horizontalities' of civil society and the critical role of 45-degree mediation, is used to create social ecosystem dynamics that bring together the worlds of Working, Living and Learning. The SEM is applied to an expansion and acceleration of the Just Transition that links a rapid movement to carbon net zero with social and climate justice. The SEM dynamic suggests that an effective Just Transition process requires the alignment of multiple layers and forms of 45-degree mediation, including societal strategies for green economic transitions, key roles of organic intellectuals and mediating institutions, the mobilisation of an alliance of social forces, and assisted by Socialised Artificial Intelligence. In terms of classical Gramscian theory, this could be seen as the construction of a 'Just Transition Historical Bloc'.
3. The Organic Intellect and Socialised Artificial Intelligence - Gramsci developed the concept of Organic Intellectuals, seen as the political intellectuals and organisers of the working class and its allies (the People), capable of envisaging and creating a progressive historical bloc (understood as a new socio-political formation or settlement). However, due to declining health and incapacitating imprisonment conditions Gramsci's Prison Notebooks', despite their brilliance, remained fragmentary. Here I take up his loose threads to develop the concept of the Organic Intellect; a combinational concept comprising fusions of a 'Socialised General Intellect (progressive horizontalities) and Connective Specialisation (progressive verticalities). The central point regarding transformational change, is that this can only be achieved through a dialectical relationship between general social thinking and progressive specialist knowledge and skill. Furthermore, the Organic Intellect may also be able to achieve new advanced forms due to its interaction with Socialised Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Discussions about ways of harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution to serve progressive socio-technological hegemony are therefore contained in these pages.
4. TVET 5.0 - the demands of multiple transitioning - social, environmental, political and technological - suggest an entirely new phase of education and, in particular, potential transformatory roles for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). Thus far TVET researchers have suggested the development of VET 4.0 linked to Just Transitioning in the Global South. While transnational organisations such as CEDEFOP, have linked VET 4.0 to technological and digital innovation (Industry 4.0) in the Global North. Here I suggest that the combination of the Just Transition and the application of AI/ML to TVET produces a settlement beyond 4.0 - hence the concept of TVET 5.0 that is aligned with radical climate action, social justice and the humanisation of work. This section of the website will contain discussions and debates about moving beyond not only VET 3.0 (the neoliberal version), but also partial VET 4.0 interpretations.
Ken Spours. 2023. The Evolution of Social Ecosystem Thinking. Stimulus Paper for the Workshop on 'Skills Ecosystems and the Just Transition'. Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, 20-24 November.
Ken Spours & Neal Lawson.
2023. The Ship and the Sea.
The Framework for a New Settlement. Compass Publications.
Ken Spours & Paul Grainger. 2023. The mediating role of further and higher education in a Just Transition social ecosystem Journal of Vocational Education and Training.
Ken Spours. 2022. Hegemony Lost. The decline of the Tory historical project. Compass Publications.
Ken Spours, Paul Grainger & Carol Vigurs. 2022. ‘We are all in the same storm but not in the same boat’: the COVID pandemic and the Further Education Sector Journal of Education and Work