About me

My name is Joel. I’m 39. I have a wife and three children and live in West Oxford, UK.

I’m currently a research fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick. I won a grant from the Independent Social Research Foundation to kickstart a really exciting, ambitious project that I hope and believe can contribute towards positive social transformation. I can’t say a lot about it yet, but it brings together drama, critical pedagogy, social science, philosophy, and cultural studies and is an attempt to encourage democratisation of culture, learning, and knowledge production through the vehicle of a mass media-based drama series, websites, and social media.

I finished a PhD at Oxford University in international political/economic stuff in 2011. After that, I spent a couple of years writing journal articles and teaching too much stuff for too little money (!) at Oxford Uni, SOAS (Uni of London), and Reading Uni.

I have also been active in developing alternative democratic community education initiatives. I co-founded a project called PPE (People’s Political Economy). PPE runs learning groups with partner community organisations to help people come together to learn about the current crisis and what I call the ‘political economy of their lives’, and ultimately to take action to make their lives better.

In this blog, I want to share some thoughts and ideas with you, and also point you to other stuff out there to get you thinking, sharing, and acting with others.

I’ve been blogging regularly here for over a year now and interest has picked up steadily, so if you want to email me to let me know anything, give me feedback, etc, you can contact me at agentofhistory dot com at gmail dot com.

Thanks for reading


  6 comments for “About me

  1. mindovermutter
    March 16, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    What do u think about Russell Brand as being part of this? Your piece on RND is spot on, I am a mum that lives life in a constant state of hypocrisy and feel very ill equipped and unable to know how on earth to really seriously CHANGE this place that our kids are growing up in, yet all around I follow and come across bits and bobs that does give me much hope and food for thought, yet at the same time totally unsure of what I can actually do, other than in my daily life of course make changes be compassionate, empathetic, do no harm and raise my kids to question everything and leave the world a better place but in the face of such huge corruption and inhumanity, greed, capitalism basic fucked-up-ed-ness etc I don’t know where to go with all my conflicting thoughts?

    • March 16, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      Dear Mindovermutter,
      Thanks for this. I think confusion – ethical, practical, etc – speaks well of you in terms of recognising the complexity of our situation and, indeed, the fact that we will always be compromised subjects within capitalism because the system itself separates production/consumption from ethics. Recent endeavours to reunify these two spheres within capitalism can and will only go so far. But, at best, they reveal these contradictions and point us to future post-capitalist possibilities. So, absolve yourself of any guilt and just do what you seem to be doing. You are no hypocrit. You are just living the best you can within a hypocritical system.

      With regard to Russell Brand, having actually read his book, I do like him. He’d be the first to confess that he has an ego problem, but he also recognises that the future must be about just this: democratising not just politically/economically, but democratising the subject, democratising ourselves. That’s why, if you go beyond the expected media lacerations, and the character imperfections (some serious) that we all suffer from, I admire and support him. The last lines of his book are basically: “That’s the nature and size of the problem. What are you doing to do about it?’ So, it’s a brilliant democratic call to collective action. That’s why I think that any interaction in any public/accessible space, even this small one, is significant and important.

      So, please, be hopeful because there is much to be hopeful for. This isn’t an abstract claim but a utopian one grounded in concrete analysis. The system’s bankrupt – economically, politically, morally – and there’s a whole world of alternatives out there that are being imagined, experimented with, and slowly created. The greatest worry is that we know what happens in times of deep crisis – socialism or barbarism. This is the choice that confronts us again and hope must win out over fear this time. For this to happen, we need to act. So, where time, money, resources permit, do get involved when and where you can.

      Thanks and best wishes

    • Jen
      August 13, 2015 at 12:45 am

      I have conflicting thoughts about Russell Brand…I have read his book and I like that many people who have been otherwise disempowered and disenfranchised have found a new strength through what he has openly done and said. However if his influence is as far reaching as I suspect then he might have inadvertently caused the re-election of the tories at the last election by encouraging people not to vote. I also question the ’33’ tattooed into his arm (is it a reference to the highest level of Freemasons?) and his relationship with Jemima Khan/Goldsmith, editor of the New Statesman…among other things. He thinks of himself as a ‘Pied Piper’ so where is he leading people to and who in turn does he follow?

      • August 13, 2015 at 10:00 am

        Hi Jen
        Yes, I liked his book too. It was witty, funny, and it grew in maturity and confidence as he addressed political-economic issues head on rather than remaining in a vague abstracted spiritualist argument. Not that I reject our spirituality, of course.
        Won’t go there re Freemasons…
        I recall some famous lines from Bertold Brecht’s play ‘The Life of Galileo’. One of Galileo’s students says something like ‘Unhappy is the land which has no heroes’ to which Galileo replies ‘No! Unhappy is the land which needs heroes!’
        Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter whether Russell Brand or any other influential individual wants to lead us or not or where s/he wants to lead us or not. We should seek, through the confidence that learning of self and society gives, to all come together and collectively decide our directions.


  2. Ralph
    March 20, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Having just read your piece re Red Node day and now your piece about yourself and your research, I am encouraged by your aim for social transformation. I am intrigued, however, that one of the groups that has effected most social change on the international scene over the centuries (and admittedly caused a lot of the problems) does not seem to come into your comments. I am thinking about the Christian church. Do you think the negatives outplay the positives?

    • March 20, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      Hi Ralph,
      Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to comment. I think that when we consider ‘the Christian Church’, we need to think of it, and religion generally, as a huge and central important institution of human society. As an institution, it is in itself neither something good nor something evil. Instead, I think it far more fruitful to think of it as a crucial site of social struggle. What do I mean? Well, think about Jesus Christ. For me, Christ was fundamentally a radical political figure. His position on, say, financial exploitation is clear. Yet, when the Occupy London movement camped on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, it exposed a profound conflict within the Church of England. The St Paul’s Foundation that raises millions for the Cathedral is dominated by the banks and bankers. The senior clergy in the Church were largely compromised and many fell behind their financial sponsors. Others, driven, in my view, by the true teachings of Christ, aligned themselves with the occupiers, the people, and a few had to resign.
      One other example from within Christianity is the Catholic Church – clearly the legitimator and perpetrator of tyranny and injustice throughout Europe and the world for centuries. Yet, within the same Church, we see the birth and growth of radical ‘liberation theology’ throughout Latin America and beyond, a tradition that inspired the radical pedagogue Paolo Freire whose life and work has directly inspired me.
      In short, God can be used to justify pretty much anything e.g. Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s infamous claim that ‘we’re doing God’s work’.
      So, I think that the struggle for social justice is a spiritual one, that for most of humanity that means a religious one, and this means that the struggle must and does go on within religious institutions like the Christian Church.
      Hope that is a helpful answer
      Thanks again

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