John Foran

Institutional Affiliation 
Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies, UC Santa Barbara
Professional Bio 

I am Full Professor Step IX of Sociology and Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, affiliated with Global Studies, the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, and the Latin American and Iberian Studies program, which I directed from 1996-99. I teach courses on climate change and climate justice, activism and movements for radical social change, and issues of development and globalization beyond capitalism. My books include Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution (1993) and Taking Power: On the Origins of Revolutions in the Third World (2005), both of which won multiple scholarly awards. I have won UCSB and national awards for teaching and mentoring, and a Guggenheim Fellowship for my research. I have been UCSB’s Sustainability Champion, part of the UC Carbon Neutrality 2025 effort, and co-facilitator of UCSB’s 2015-16 Critical Issues in America series – Climate Futures: This Changes Everything. My research is now centered within the global climate justice movement, and my public scholarship can be found at the Climate Justice Project [] and the International Institute of Climate Action and Theory [], which I co-direct. I am a member of and the Green Party of California.

Area of Expertise 

I work on the sociology of revolution and radical social change, with special emphasis on what causes such movements, who participates in them and why, and what explains their mixed outcomes to date. I have developed the concepts of political cultures of opposition and creation to explain why ordinary people get involved in such events, and what visions of the future and strategies to get there that they develop along the way. Recently, I have moved from studying the great social revolutions of the twentieth century to exploring the rise of some very different movements for radical social change in the twenty-first, including the Zapatistas, the global justice movement, Occupy, and the Arab Spring. The movement I study most closely is the global climate justice movement, particularly its youthful participants. To do this, I have acquired new expertise in the areas of climate science, climate governance (e.g. the recent Paris Agreement on climate change), alternatives to the current global economic order, and the use of creative, imaginative new ways of organizing what aims to become the biggest, broadest, most effective movement in world history, humanity’s best chance for limiting the catastrophic impacts of climate change we are currently headed for.

Workshop Locations