Movement Futurism

This piece is part of the Prospect's series on progressives' strategy over the next 40 years. To read the introduction, click here.

We are headed into a period of tremendous change and instability, and we need to be building power and capacity to shape what’s to come. We need to understand these trends and offer a vision for how we can use them to produce greater equity, democracy, opportunity, and care for all. To list just a few of these epochal changes: 

• Women are now the majority of the paid workforce. Issues that have historically been considered “women’s issues”—like the impossible-to-manage competing responsibilities placed on women at work and in the home, like the undervaluing of women’s labor—are issues that now affect the majority of the workforce. 

• Communities of color will become the new majority in the United States over the next 40 years, and the growing inequality of wealth is exacerbating racial divisions. If we don’t seize the opportunity of this demographic shift to build a more equitable multiracial democracy, we will fall deeper into racial divisions and conflict. 

• The nation is rapidly growing older. Every eight seconds, someone turns 65, but we do not have an adequate infrastructure to support or care for our loved ones who are aging.  

As disruptive as each of these trends could be, they also present us with an opportunity to create positive change. To do so we need to practice a “movement futurism” that entails understanding and preparing for crises, offering solutions and building both organized power and a culture based on care. 

We have to anticipate that new crises will erupt during the coming decades, and we need to respond in those moments in a way that shifts consciousness and builds power. When, for example, another climate disaster like Hurricane Katrina occurs, we must be prepared both to mobilize a wave of support to meet the immediate needs of disaster survivors and to advocate for structural reforms to transform both climate policy and social inequality. 

We will also need to put forward long-term solutions that address these crises at their root. In response to the growing need for care for our aging population, for instance, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Jobs with Justice are leading an initiative called Caring Across Generations. This project brings together seniors, women, people with disabilities, domestic workers, and home-care providers in a campaign to create millions of new, quality home-care jobs that can provide an adequate infrastructure of support for the aging and people with disabilities. Such campaigns can also create political space for growing segments of our community. 

Movements change the course of history, and movements are made up of more than just organizations. Our 21st-century movement for equity, democracy, and opportunity must take care of all of us. It must support the leadership of women and bring organizations and communities together across lines of race and generation. This convergence is the only antidote to the politics of isolation and self-interest that have dominated the public debate for the last several decades and is only possible when a deep layer of movement leaders comes together with shared values and vision. 

Other pieces in this series:


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