What Kind of Future Do We Want? Power Dynamics and Negotiation Processes in Transnational Social Movements

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Marika GEREKE, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
In social science research social movements and civil society networks are mostly viewed as horizontal organizational forms in which solidly united actors "from below" together imagine and shape other, more just futures. Consequently, these actors are commonly considered as rather homogeneous entities which are marked by harmonious interactions and act in a unified manner vis-à-vis their opponents.

Contrary to this "homogenizing" view, however, a lot of differently situated social actors with divergent political priorities typically interact in such networks. Against this background, I argue that the way social movements imagine alternative futures should not be viewed as a fixed outcome, but as a result of complex and contested internal negotiation dynamics. By developing a theoretical model which integrates theories of power as well as approaches from social network theory and using the transnational agrarian movement La Via Campesina as an empirical example, this paper illustrates how controversial political issues are internally negotiated and shows that the political agendas of social movements are shaped by their internal power relations.

The paper's main implication for future research is that close attention should be paid to the so far underexplored social and political differences within social movements and civil society networks. How these differences are mediated may directly affect the imaginations and shapes of alternative futures as well as the possibilities of solidary and just collaboration.