Difficulties the Great Turning Movement Will Face

This article is based on my ideas about the Great Turning Movement. If you aren’t familiar with them, click here.

This article discusses some of the difficulties the movement for the Great Turning is likely to face and some thoughts on how to handle them.


One problem is that many people don’t have the time to devote to social change work because of busy lives with work and family. Youth and retired people may initially be a large part of the Great Turning Network because they are more likely to have the time to devote to it. It will be helpful for us to support people in dropping out of the rat race, to not only improve their lives and evolve their consciousness, but also so they have time for movement activities.


The powers-that-be won’t allow the movement to get very far without attacking us. They are deeply invested in the status quo and will react to any sign of real change. We must know how to handle and rebuff attempts to covertly undermine the movement or directly attack it. One hopeful element is that it will be virtually impossible for the establishment to infiltrate the Great Turning Groups because their personal nature would expose anyone who wasn’t genuine.

Our Power

Attacks from the powers-that-be could easily lead us to feel hopeless because of the enormous power the establishment wields, but we have power of a different nature. As Michael Goldstein says: We, the people, ultimately have the greatest power because we do the work, buy most of the goods and services, and pay the taxes. And we have a further source of power because we are aligned with the flow of social evolution. Therefore, when we are large enough, we can be successful, especially since we won’t be trying to take power through force or violence.

Right-Wing Demagogues

Trump and other right-wing demagogues around the world pose a serious treat to democracy, decency, and the rule of law. Trump has brought out into the light white supremacy groups and individuals, who are fostering hate and violence. And Trump would love to turn America into a fascist country with him permanently in charge. Luckily, he probably isn’t competent enough to pull this off, but some of the other strongmen might be in their countries.

This poses an extreme danger to the social movement for the Great Turning, in addition to people of color and their movements, and many other progressive initiatives. If the U.S. even moves somewhat in the direction of fascism, the government could begin to attack us in serious ways, especially as we become more visible. Even before this happens, the undermining of democratic norms in the U.S. could turn the country even more in the direction of domination by corporations and the rich.

I can’t begin to describe all the dangers that Trump and his cronies pose, but you are probably already aware of them. Luckily, massive numbers of people have stepped up to oppose him and his Republican cronies. Some people even believe that Trump is a gift to us because he has woken us up and angered so many of us that it has punctured our complacency.

However this plays out, these right-wing demagogues are a serious threat to the movement for the Great Turning and many of its sister movements.


How might this movement help us when the world is experiencing social and ecological breakdown, and it will get worse? Too much breakdown can lead to collapse, creating immense suffering, death, and extinctions. Not enough breakdown can mean that most people stay in denial about the need for transformation. Breakdown can also lead people to cling to the old ways, hunker down to protect themselves, or turn to demagogues.

However, under the right circumstances, breakdown can wake people up and impel them to transformative action. The movement can help to create these circumstances—by providing a vision and constructive action for people to take—which will instill hope and move people in a healthy direction as breakdown occurs. Hopefully, this will allow us to transform society before the breakdown goes too far, or to rebuild it after collapse.

One possibility is that there may be an economic crash, perhaps another great depression as in 1929. The world economy is showing some signs that this may be iminent. If this happens, as difficult as it would be, it could be a blessing in disguise. It would result in a great deal less economic activity for a long time, and this means a lot less CO2 emissions, also for a long time. This could buy us the extra time to transform society before we are hit with a climate disaster, so we might even avoid the worst of the climate disasters. So, oddly, this kind of breakdown might be hopeful. The Great Turning Movement would need to learn how to operate in this very different economic situation, but this is something we could do.

At some point, as breakdown proceeds, if collapse is on the way or already here, then we will have to modify our approach to the Great Turning, to take into account the radically different world that we will be operating in. We won’t be functioning in today’s world, where most everything still works and things are still going on in a seemingly normal way. There will probably be massive breakdowns in food, water, energy supply, and much else.

We don’t know how well the government will continue to function in supportive ways. Instead, it might turn into more of a police state to try to maintain order instead of providing help. There will be massive migrations of people struggling to survive, which will make today’s immigration problems look like child’s play.

Some groups are already taking steps to build up our resilience in preparation for the hard times ahead. Michael Brownlee is a leader in the local food movement, and the Transition Towns movement has been working on local resilience for decades. Our Great Turning Groups may need to focus on initiatives for local resilience.

The social movement for the Great Turning may have to operate, grow, and win converts in this vastly more compromised world. This will call for a radically different approach that I can’t fully imagine. And if collapse occurs, the movement’s goal may have to change from transforming our current world to creating seed groups that can survive and create a new world from the ashes of the old.