September 7, 2013 in Featured
Today’s uprisings may be the harbinger of a new era of radical democratic aspirations in which autonomous movements could come to play a central role.
We Are Everywhere!
The Autonomous Roots of the
Real Democracy Movement
By Jérôme E. Roos and Leonidas Oikonomakis
European University Institute
The years since 2011 have witnessed the (re-)birth of a global cycle of struggles around the issue of democracy. With the representative institutions of liberal democracy in crisis, social movements appear to be increasingly moving away from claims-based and state-oriented contention towards a global project of autonomy. In this article, we focus on those movements that have articulated a critique of representation and expressed a desire to radically transform democratic processes from below. Referring to the ensemble of these struggles as the Real Democracy Movement (RDM), we set out to trace its autonomous roots in the Global Justice Movement, the Zapatista uprising and the long-standing traditions of anarchism, autonomism and anti-authoritarianism more generally. We identify five specific elements that characterize the RDM: (1) its autonomy from the state; (2) its commitment to horizontalism and direct democracy; (3) its emphasis on direct action; (4) its method of occupation; and (5) its embrace of prefigurative politics. We conclude that the analytical framework of contentious politics may not be able to fully appreciate the nature and significance of the RDM as an autonomous movement and prefer instead to speak of a politics of resistance and prefiguration. Far from being a mere call for attention, the RDM may be the harbinger of a new era of radical democratic aspirations in which autonomous movements could come to play a central role.