As the occupy London camp at St Paul’s is cleared by bailiffs and the police, Marianne Maeckelbergh, author of The Will of the Many: How the Alterglobalisation Movement is Changing the Face of Democracy, provides a timely reflection of the lessons which can be drawn from the occupy movement for ‘horizontal’ decision-making and radical politics:
The current historical juncture requires reflection on these decision-making methods and here I explore a few of the important lessons that seem to stand out after participating in these processes in Barcelona, New York and Oakland. First, more awareness of the political values that underlie these seemingly practical meeting procedures referred to as “process” would be helpful. Second, the link between these political values and the social relations of economics could use some analysis: in order to create new political structures we actually have to let go of certain economic relations which we take as given. For example, horizontal decision-making does not work when we assume a) that resources are scarce, b) that we therefore need to compete with each other and c) ownership is an exclusionary relation – a proprietary relation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the more we try to set the rules in stone, to find the ‘golden key’, the ideal set of procedures, the more we disengage from the central political questions of how we decide – a terrain of politics that has to remain open if it is to remain horizontal. In order for a ‘general assembly’ to be productive, effective and empowering to participants, the procedures have to maintain a certain degree of flexibility as the circumstances in which we find ourselves shift. Let me explain what I mean…
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How the Alterglobalisation Movement is Changing the Face of Democracy
Argues that the most promising new model for democracy is found in grassroots movements against capitalist globalisation.
“Maeckelbergh’s ethnographic research has enabled her to write an exciting book-length exploration of the prefigurative democratic political practices of alter-globalization activists. This study is essential reading for all who continue to insist that other worlds are possible.” – John Gledhill, Max Gluckman Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester
“Fifty years from now, this book may well be looked back on as having opened an entire new chapter in the history of democratic thought. It certainly deserves to.” – Dr David Graeber, Reader in Anthropology, Goldsmiths College, University of London