Interview with Susan George
Date: 20 January 2011
Iain Thom, WDM campaign assistant
Susan George, is a political scientist and world-renowned author writing about social justice issues for over 30 years. Susan is the keynote speaker at this year’s Scottish campaigner convention in Glasgow on 19 March and I had the honour of interviewing her for WDM.
Iain: Please tell us a little about yourself?
Susan: American born, French resident for 50-some years and now a citizen, 3 university degrees at ten year intervals, first book published 1976, 14 others since if you count small ones and those written in French. I’m a scholar activist meaning I’ve always been active in organisations, particularly TNI and Attac. Personally: 3 children, 4 young adult granchildren, widowed 8 years ago, 77 this year, try not to look or feel it, I work every day.
Iain: What is the Transnational Institute and how are you involved?
Susan: TNI is a community of scholar-activists which has Fellows from many countries and in house projects. The strap line says it pretty well: The TNI carries out cutting-edge analysis on critical global issues, builds alliances with grassroots social movements, develops proposals for a more sustainable and just world.
I started there in very menial tasks, organised our first conference early in 1974, with Chilean exiles who were recent victims of the coup d‘etat and European progressives. Later I became a Fellow, wrote a lot of books and am now Board President. Our Fellows meetings are intellectual festivals – I hope not to miss one until I’m dead.
Iain: What motivates you to write about social justice issues?
Susan: Anger, concern, the total needlessness of such a level of human suffering; an intellectual interest in power and how it works, the utter ruthlessness of the haves versus the have-nots – the haves never have enough. As a late friend of mine used to say, “What else is there to do?“
Iain: What do you think of the work of WDM in campaigning for justice for the world’s poor?
Susan: I think it’s great. Everyone in Britain should join. I hope you will branch out further into environmental issues which are less and less distinguishable from social justice issues. People think I write about ‘the third world’ or ‘the poor’. I don’t. I write almost exclusively about what Northern policies, governments and institutions do against the poor – including our own in the so-called rich countries – and how we can try to stop them.
Iain: Do you have a favourite moment or thought that helps you take heart?
Susan: I spend a lot of time with those wrongly called ‘ordinary people’ plus a lot of other scholar activists in many countries and am always inspired by their commitment. William of Orange is hard to beat too: “One need not hope in order to undertake, nor succeed to persevere.”
Hear Susan George speak at Visions of Global Justice, WDM’s Scottish campaigner convention in Glasgow on 19 March – details here
Her new book Whose Crisis? Whose Future? will be available to buy at the event or from most good bookshops.