Directly Democratic Social Change — The 2012 ISE Intensive

The Current Intensive is now full.

Due to the overwhelming interest,
we will host more programs in the coming months.  

Feel free to email: with any inquiries.


Drawing immense inspiration from the Occupy Movement, this year’s ISE Intensive will focus on providing tools to deepen our analysis, historical knowledge, and strategic visions for directly democratic social change.  The 8-day intensive will offer seminars on:

Social Ecology: From Theory to Practice — Daniel Chodorkoff (Saturday, Jan 7th 1:00-6:30pm)

Social ecology advocates a reconstructive and transformative outlook on social and environmental issues, and promotes a directly democratic, confederal politics. Social ecology envisions a moral economy that moves beyond scarcity and hierarchy, toward a world that reharmonizes human communities with the natural world, while promoting diversity, creativity and freedom. This afternoon workshop will begin with an overview of key philosophical, political, and strategic issues that surface in the theory and practice of social ecology.

Download the Readings

Climate Justice — Brian Tokar (Jan 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th, 10:00-11:45AM)

While policymakers and mainstream environmentalists are busy debating parts per million of carbon dioxide, people around the world are already suffering the impacts of worldwide climate chaos. In response, climate justice activists worldwide are proposing a holistic, human rights-centered approach to the climate crisis. We will address the broad scope of climate justice perspectives, examine false and real solutions, and discuss how a broad-based, international movement is essential to transforming the current climate debate.

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Rethinking the Left — Chaia Heller (Jan 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th, 1:00-2:45PM)

The U.S. left has gone through at least four major sets of transformations over the last century.  After its peak in the 1930s, the Old Left gave rise to the New Left and New Social Movements that emerged in the 1960s. Since the mid-1990s, we saw the eruption of what could be called an Alter-Left spurred forward the Zapatista Uprisings, the alter-globalization movement, and more recently, the Occupy movement.  This class addresses the unique potentialities and challenges faced by those in the Alter-Left who seek to build upon the Leftist tradition while moving beyond many of its limitations.

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Revolutionary Organizations — Peter Staudenmaier (Jan 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th, 3:00-4:45PM)

Many of the most successful revolutionary movements in widely different historical situations have had some sort of organizational core, some form of revolutionary organization attempting to respond to and engage in unfolding events. The legacy of such revolutionary organizations is ambivalent, revealing both powerfully emancipatory impacts as well as deeply authoritarian consequences. Which forms of revolutionary organization — ranging from centralized vanguards to broadly participatory grassroots approaches — have been most effective at catalyzing liberation struggles, and which have been destructive? With an eye toward current conditions, we will examine a wide spectrum of past revolutionary organizations.

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Liberating Land for Community Control — Rachel Falcone, Michael Premo (Jan 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th, 5:00-6:45PM)

For generations, families and communities across the United States have been gripped by a severe housing crisis. This crisis has only worsened in recent years, displacing ever more people from the land that they call home. This course explores critical movements of resistance in this struggle and the politics behind liberating land for community control. We will explore different cases from the Human Right to Housing Movement, the Homestead Movement, the Landless People’s Movement, Take Back the Land, the Homeless Union, and ongoing efforts to liberate land for community control.

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Aligning with Frontline Communities — Hilary Moore (Jan 12th, 13th, 14th & 15th, 10:00-11:45AM)

The occupy movement has given us the “99%” frame, encouraging participation from a diversity of people en masse. The truth is that though we are all negatively impacted by the current economic system, we are not impacted equally. Studies show that poor communities of color are suffering much greater economic consequences than white communities. If we are to move toward a more equitable society we must as a movement be able to respond to this reality. This course looks at political projects, past and present, that have tackled these tensions consciously and proactively; and challenges us to locate our own experiences in the strategic call to “find our frontline.”

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Direct Democracy and Dual Power — Chaia Heller (Jan 12th, 13th, 14th & 15th, 1:00-2:45PM)

This class explores the history of direct democracy from ancient Athens and indigenous cultures to the present. We will also consider what direct democracy looks like when practiced within movements as well as how a revolutionary movement could lead us to create a directly democratic society.  Central to our discussion will be questions of movement building, dual power, and organizations that speak to both general freedoms as well as the particular forms of oppression and liberation within movements and a free society.

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Alternatives to Capitalism — Peter Staudenmaier (Jan 12th, 13th, 14th & 15th, 3:00-4:45PM)

As discontent with capitalism grows around the globe, we face challenging questions about just what form of society we’re working toward. Questions of political economy, in particular, present a series of dilemmas for anti-capitalist activists. This intensive course aims to work through several of these core questions collectively and critically. We will examine several alternative economic visions put forward by a range of radical thinkers on the libertarian left. We will take a utopian yet skeptical approach to these proposed frameworks, evaluate their merits and flaws, consider their practical implications.

Download the Readings

Building Strategic Mass Movements — Paul Getsos (Jan 12th, 13th, 14th & 15th, 5:00-6:45PM)

We find our selves in a truly rare moment in history.  If seized strategically, we have the potential to build a mass movement capable of transforming our political, economic and social realities.  This course explores how we can build movement structures that allow for broad based participation and active strategic engagement from the ground up. How can we build movements capable of integrating direct action, education, legislative work, and alternative building in a way that moves us self-consciously and explicitly towards revolutionary change.

Please join us!

What Is the ISE?

For more than thirty years, the Institute for Social Ecology has been offering educational programs on radical social and ecological transformation. The ISE views the penetration of systems of domination and homogenization of culture as impediments to human freedom and as the root causes of the ecological crisis.  It is the ISE’s core belief that humans have the potential to foster vibrant, self-governing communities free from hierarchy, social inequity, and ecological degradation.

*Note to Second Year Students: We invite you to organize additional independent studies during the Intensive.

Dates: January 7 – 15, 2012, from 9AM to 7PM Daily

Location: The Brecht Forum 451 West Street @ Bathune St. in NYC

Tuition Cost: $200 for the whole Intensive (9 classes) or $30 a class

Scholarships: Available upon request and no one turned away for lack of funding

Application: Required and below — Our January Intensive is now full. 

3 Replies to “Directly Democratic Social Change — The 2012 ISE Intensive”

  1. Peter, this intensive was great. I learned so much I can’t even start to put it down in comments. I definitely recommend it. Thanks for asking!

  2. Peter,

    Greetings, my name is Eleanor, I was a student with the ISE this winter as well as last summer and have been studying social ecology for approximately 18 months.

    This January I was most impressed by how the content of the courses and conversation moved back and forth from particular struggles and situations to more abstract, clearly fleshed out theoretical frameworks. We had a movement (occupy wall street) within which to apply the analysis and insights of social ecology.

    Nonetheless, the philosophy and politics unique to social ecology took a peripheral role relative to most of the course content, which, through classes such as ‘Liberating Land for Community Control’ and ‘Aligning with Frontline Communities’, offered us the chance to dig deeply into community-based praxis. Overall, it was a big, diverse crowd, with many new folks, as well as several long-time friends of the ISE. It was an honor and a pleasure to be there each day.

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