Radix word of the year is ‘dull’


In 2021, we chose “Change” as our Word of the Year, quoting Vladimir Ilyich Lenin:  “There are decades when nothing happens, then there are weeks when decades happen…”

Inevitably, we focussed on the staggering changes wrought in the previous year by Covid-19 and the attempted insurrection in the United States, and we asked what changes our readers would like to see in the year ahead.  

Covid continued to wreak havoc throughout much of 2021, but by that winter the lockdowns were behind us, and the success of the vaccine roll-out gave Radix the confidence to make “Optimism” our 2022 word of the year.  

And yet, while such progress did indeed give us cause for optimism, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 22 and the cost of living crisis it helped precipitate, will have left few of readers feeling more optimistic by the year’s end.

“Flourishing” therefore became our word of the year 12 months ago, as we at Radix tried to find our own grounds for optimism in the chaos.  We pointed out the huge global progress made over the previous half century to reduce absolute poverty and invited readers to engage with our Open Manifesto process – also called Flourishing – to turn the tide of despondency, pessimism, anger and apocalyptic narratives that risked becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.  

And yet 2023 has brought its own share of challenges: a largely stagnant global economy, the failure of Ukraine’s counter-offensive and the devasting Israeli-Hamas conflict. 

But amongst these challenges there is nonetheless evidence of progress.  As we pointed out in December’s Chart of the Month, extreme poverty, and deaths from natural disasters, suicides and car crashes continue to decline, while life expectancy, literacy rates and the use of renewables are all rising.  “Flourishing” maybe overstating it, but grounds for hope, certainly.

So, what can we hope for in 2024?  

As the year turns, America’s remarkable economic growth, expanding at around 5 per cent in 2023’s third quarter, could lead the world firmly away from recession.

The imperfect COP process is edging the world towards a fairer and more sustainable environment with the acceptance of the need to transition away from fossil fuels and, as importantly, for the developed world to pay much of the cost of delivering that transition.

And one can hope that the conflicts in Israel-Gaza and Ukraine are running out of steam – and when they do, the inevitable resets will offer opportunities for real progresstowards peace and security. 

But if the 2020s have shown anything it is that ‘events’ can very quickly knock us off track again.  There may be little we can do about Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns, but there are at least a couple of known unknowns in which we should look for the dullest possible outcomes, whatever forms they take.

Here in the UK, we will face a general election, probably in the Autumn rather than the Spring, but certainly before the turn of the year, whatever the technical possibilities.  

Rishi Sunak’s government has restored a degree of stability to UK politics following the turmoil of Johnson’s departure and the chaos of Truss.  And yet, as the Rwanda vote amply demonstrated in recent weeks, his party remains on a knife edge and is as divided as ever.  It is hard to set the sails for a fair wind when the sailors are all pulling in different directions.   

We at Radix will continue to provide all the main parties with radical policy proposals for reform from our open manifesto process, regardless of ideology.  But radicalism need not equate to instability and indeed all our proposals are focussed on avoiding issues from becoming crises. 

It is not for us to back a winner, but we do wonder whether – in the UK’s case – a change of government may actually be the most stable option available: the criticism of Starmer as ‘dull’ has rarely looked a more attractive quality.

And, in the US, they too face an election, more predictably on the 5 November.  At time of writing Trump leads Biden in every poll and yet if James Carville is right that “It’s the economy, stupid” the current President has every reason to anticipate success. 

The question facing America is whether – when push comes to shove – it will allow itself to be distracted by Trump’s showmanship or settle for the boredom and predictability of a dull old man in his eighties.

We hope that 2024 will be a very dull year indeed.

Picture copyright: © Dr Richard Murray and licenced for reuse under cc-by-sa/2.0.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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