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Social Movements and Prefigurative Organizing: Confronting Entrenched Inequalities in Occupy London

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages40
JournalOrganization Studies
Volume39
Issue number9
Early online date21 Mar 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

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Abstract

Organizational scholars have examined how social movements generate institutional change through contentious politics. However, little attention has been given to the role of prefigurative politics. The latter collapses expressive and strategic politics so as to enact the desired future society in the present and disrupt the reproduction of institutionalized structures that sustain deep-seated inequalities. The paper presents an ethnographic study of Occupy London and protesters’ encounter with people living homeless to examine how prefigurative politics is organized in the face of entrenched inequalities. Findings show how the macro level inequalities that protesters set out to fight resurfaced in the day-to-day living in the camp itself. Initially, the creation of an exceptional space and communal space helped participants align expressive and strategic politics and imbued them with the emotional energy needed to confront challenges. But over time these deeply entrenched institutional inequalities frustrated participants’ attempts to maintain an exceptional and communal space, triggering a spiral of decline. The dilemma faced by Occupy invites us to reflect on how everyday constraints may be suspended so as to open up imagination for novel, and more equal ways of organizing.

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