Susan George (political scientist)

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Susan Vance Akers - George
Susan George (political scientist) - Kirchentag Cologne 2007.jpg
Susan George on the German Protestant Church Day, Cologne, 2007
Born (1934-06-29) June 29, 1934 (age 85)
Alma materUniversity of Paris (BA 1967)
Spouse(s)Charles-Henry George

Susan George (born June 29, 1934) is an American and French political and social scientist, activist and writer on global social justice, Third World poverty, underdevelopment and debt. She is a fellow and president of the board of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She is a fierce critic of the present policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (IBRD) and what she calls their 'maldevelopment model'. She similarly criticizes the structural reform policies of the Washington Consensus on Third World development. She is of U.S. birth but now resides in France, and has dual citizenship since 1994.

Personal life[edit]

Born Susan Vance Akers on June 29, 1934 in Akron, Ohio. She was the only child of Edith and Walter Akers, Episcopalians whose families had been in America for many generations; her ancestors arrived in Massachusetts in 1632. Her father was an insurance broker, and her mother was a homemaker and a member of the Junior League. Born during the Great Depression, she was raised in a privileged environment; she had a nursemaid and took dance classes, music lessons, and, at a YMCA, swimming lessons.

After attending a public, co-educational primary school, she went on to enroll at all-girls private preparatory academy. She stated that single-sex schooling "made me not a feminist. It was normal that women do whatever anybody did. Women were the sports experts. Women were the brains. You weren't in competition with men. You weren't expected to shut up--on the contrary! Even in my era, I never felt that I was particularly put down as a woman ever."[1]

George's father encouraged all her interests, including those outside the realm of traditional femininity, such as science and baseball. When Walter Akers went to serve in World War II, his daughter assisted in planting a victory garden.

As a young student, George was a voracious reader and always ranked first in her class. Around the age of 12, she began to develop a strong passion for the culture, language, and people of France. As a teenager she chose to attend Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, specifically in order to participate in the junior-year- abroad program in France. In Paris during the 1954-55 academic year, she took courses at Sciences Po, a school specializing in social sciences. During that time, at the age of 20, she met a successful French lawyer, Charles-Henry George, 12 years her senior. In 1956 she married George and made France her permanent residence, but she did not obtain French citizenship until 1994. Quoted about her early years in France she said she felt homesick "for my women friends, probably, but not for America, per se. I'd made my choice."[1] The couple soon started a family. Once her three children were in school full-time, George attended the Sorbonne, obtaining the French equivalent of a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1967.

In 2002 Charles-Henry George died at their country home in France. Susan has three children—Valerie, Michel, and Stephanie—and is a grandmother. In an interview she states: "Either we achieve together a new level of human emancipation, and do so in a way that preserves the earth, or we shall leave behind us the worst future for our children that capitalism and nature can deal them. No one knows in which direction the balance will tip nor does anyone know which actions, which writings, which alliances may achieve the critical mass that leads us one way or another, backwards or forwards. I am acutely conscious of the precariousness of our moment and my four much-loved grandchildren give me added resolve to address it."[1]


Throughout her career, George has been an antiwar activist as well as criticising what she saw as acts of corporate greed. At a time when women were not often allowed places of power in any organizational hierarchy, George established herself as a leader in the antihunger movement.

She became a political activist in response to France's war in Algeria and U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The Vietnam War "was this sort of gateway to understanding what America could be, which is to say something quite negative, which I had not understood at all when I lived there. I had accepted the usual propaganda."[1]

In 1967 she joined the Paris-American Committee to Stop War (PACS). In 1973 PACS was forcibly dismantled by the French government. She then collaborated with the directors of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., to form a new NGO devoted to social justice. The Transnational Institute (TNI) opened its doors in Amsterdam, the Netherlands that same year; till this day George is member of its board.

She became assistant to the director of an NGO, the American Centre for Students and Artists, in 1969. This sparked the interest of the CIA who had already been looking into P.A.C.S.[2][3]

In 1971 she began working with the Front Solidarite Indochine, a group that organized antiwar lectures and protests in France. During this time she started public speaking.

In 1974 she attended the World Food Conference in Rome, Italy where she felt that corporate agribusiness representatives dominated the proceedings (quote from the interview: "no one who counted took the real reasons for hunger--power and control in the wrong hands--into account.")[1]

In 1976 her first book was published: How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger.[4]

In 1984 she had an active role in organizing the World Food Assembly, a meeting held in Rome, Italy.

From 1990 to 1995 she served on the board of conservation group Greenpeace International, as well as that of Greenpeace France.

She opposed the OECD's proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) in the 1990s, and the ill-fated "Millennium Round" objectives of the World Trade Organization at Seattle in 1999.

From 1999 to 2006 she was vice-president of ATTAC France (Association for Taxation of (financial) Transactions to Aid Citizens) and remains a member of the scientific council.[5] She was awarded the title of honorary president in 2008.[6]

In 1999 she also participated in the Helsinki Process.[7]

In 2004 she supported John Kerry for president. She canvassed for Kerry in Pennsylvania, but wrote for (November 3, 2004), "we all thought [Kerry] had a very good chance, even though everyone admitted it was hard to get really enthusiastic about him.... The man isn't the most charismatic ever to walk the earth. But at least he's not a proto-fascist or a go-it-aloner, and that's what we seem--apart from a last-minute miracle--to be stuck with now. With four years clear ahead of him and no re-election to worry about, I fear Bush and the ghastly neo- con/neo-liberals around him will now go on the rampage. They can continue with impunity their attacks on the Constitution and on hard-won freedoms..."

2006: attends Table of Free Voices conference, held in Berlin, Germany, in September

2008: appeared in the documentary film, The End of Poverty?

Susan George is president of the Board of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam.

Susan George is also a Patron of the international development charity, Tools for Self Reliance.[8]

She is on the advisory board of CEO, the Corporate Europe Observatory.[9]

She has acted as a consultant to various United Nations specialised agencies and is a frequent public speaker, particularly for ATTAC groups, trade unions, and environment/development non-governmental organisations in many countries.

In 2016 Susan George became a prominent member of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25).



  • How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (Penguin) 1976. Reprinted 1986, 1991 ISBN 0-14-013569-3 (An analysis of the real reasons for world hunger.)
  • Ill Fares the Land (Penguin) 1984. Revised and expanded 1990 ISBN 0-14-012790-9 (Essays on food, hunger and power.)
  • A Fate Worse Than Debt (Penguin) 1988 ISBN 0-14-022789-X (An analysis of the reasons for Third World debt.)
  • The Debt Boomerang (Pluto Press) 1992 ISBN 0-7453-0594-6 (Continuing the theme of Third World debt and its harmful effects.)
  • Faith and Credit: The World Bank's Secular Empire (with Fabrizio Sabelli) (Westview Press) 1994 ISBN 978-0-8133-2607-8
  • The Lugano Report: On Preserving Capitalism in the 21st Century 1999 ISBN 0-7453-1532-1
  • Another World Is Possible If (Verso Books) 2004 ISBN 1-84467-510-6
  • Hijacking America: How the Secular and Religious Right Changed What Americans Think (Polity) 2008 ISBN 978-0-7456-4461-5
  • We the Peoples of Europe 2008 ISBN 978-0-7453-2633-7
  • Whose Crisis? Whose Future? 2010 (Polity) ISBN 978-0-7456-5138-5
  • Les Usurpateurs (The usurpers, in French) 2014 ISBN 978-2-02-121378-2
  • Shadow Sovereigns: How Global Corporations Are Seizing Power 2015 (Polity) ISBN 978-0-7456-9782-6