Print Friendly and PDF
only search

'Commons sense’: you either see it or you don’t

Some of the debates regarding agency, change and commoning that flowed through openDemocracy in 2015.

Hrant Dink..Adalet ( justice!). Horizontality on oD - D.G. Demirhisar in Related Articles. Demotix/J Kojak. All rights reserved.


As an editor of long-form writing on openDemocracy (oD), I can’t help noticing that last year a lot of people were reading to find out if there will be a happy ending or not. This was not just frustrated leftwingers rushing to see if Corbyn or Iglesias will be winners or losers. It included the regular veer towards cynicism which results from preferring to get the suspense over and done with, rather than be caught out entertaining hopes that prove to be unfounded. So an editor might ask her-self – what is the point of longform? Why don’t we just divvy up ‘yes and no to TTIP!’ between us – and wait and see what happens?

Of course, this tendency in readers is not new. For many Protestant countries, it has interesting roots in popular literature, and goes back to the secularisation of the spiritual biography, such that instead of reading a text you have written to find out if you are a member of God’s Elect, you identify (sympathetically) with a hero or heroine about to launch themselves on the world, finding out – well, if you will have a happy ending.

Of course it has never been quite as simple as that either. Readers who succumb to the pressure and skip to the final chapter never enjoy a happy ending nearly as much as those who have struggled through the roller-coaster middle landscape of the book. But, not to be diverted from the matter in hand, somewhere along the way, many of us who thought we were thinkers have actually, unbeknownst to ourselves, been turned into gamblers. We go into elections, like everything else, backing winners, and increasingly terrified of the losers predicted for us, at length, right or wrong, in the media and the polls.

Helga Nowotny, President of the European Research Council, who has an important new book out called, ‘The Cunning of Uncertainty’, would say that the roots of this go even deeper. Her message, which she says is vital for politicians and policymakers alike is, “do not be tempted by small, short-term, controllable gains to the exclusion of uncertain, high-gain opportunities.” On radio 4 she pointed out that we are programmed to identify and flee danger and risk, and not conditioned to dwell in uncertainty for the sake of pursuing and mastering complexity. She thinks we ought to be grasping this nettle: for example, publics need to be more literate about how scientific research thrives at the cusp of uncertainty, converting it into certainties that are always provisional.

Meanwhile, I am similarly convinced that the crises in democracy demanding fundamental change that we chronicle on oD need to be explored in all their complexity, not skipped for the sake of a premature certainty of the sort so craved by identity politics. And I don’t think it’s accidental that this premature closing down of vistas is proliferating now.

Recently, we have had a cluster of articles with capitalism as a system in their sights that are about largescale political change. Or its impossibility. This was the general premise of a piece by Byung-Chul Han with exactly the kind of title that is rapidly reached for in the superstitious times I am describing. ‘Why revolution is no longer possible’ went viral pretty quickly, with its thesis that neoliberalism has got its seductive form of domination completely taped.

So successful is it at “leading us astray”, whilst making us the architects of our own failure, that “the subjugated subject does not even recognize that it has been subjugated. The subject thinks she is free.” Hence, “No revolutionary mass can arise from exhausted, depressive, and isolated individuals.” But Han goes further. What of the alternative - the “sharing economy” that “is supposed to replace the economy of property and possession”? You only have to look at how “Airbnb” turns every home into a hotel, and has even made hospitality a commodity. Ergo, the tough logic of capitalism prevails even at the heart of the sharing economy… and “communism as a commodity spells the end of revolution.” So, it really is all over.

Hang on – I want to say. First of all, the subjugated individual who thinks she is free is a very good definition of the modern ideological subject in any system. When has that not been the case under capitalism, or as it turned out, socialism for that matter? Secondly, whether people want to go to work or not, even when this burns them out, has very little to do with the alienated nature of their labour, which is a point about where power lies in the system of production. I’m sure as a philosopher and rising star, the author can explain why he is mixing up psychological and Marxist subjects, but we need to know more. Thirdly, I think we have to be vigilant about words being hijacked by neoliberalism. ‘Prevent’ in the UK is one example, where counter-radicalisation programmes have turned away from prevention towards a focus on intelligence and repression without the government changing the name of their programme. ‘Sharing’ is surely another. Divorcing this concept from the digital gift economy, cooperativism and a whole range of life forms outside alienated labour, in the narrow application of the term, ‘sharing economy’, simply enables capital to close off a whole vista of alternatives.

Yes we are more fragmented, diverse and individualistic, with all the opportunities for smartness as well as failure that this entails. But if we have to actively buy into collective forms of struggle, why shouldn’t this happen in a way that is likely to be more conscious and demanding? So maybe people who have turned their homes into hotels will begin to work out better ways of making friends and seeing the world over time – where ‘better’ assuredly involves those increasingly subversive activities, more sharing and more caring.

Has Byung-Chul Han really thought about what is happening to the ‘non-market motivations’ that all of us act on and many of us depend on in our complex societies, and is he so sure that he can pronounce redundant all the newly feasible ways we can produce information, culture and knowledge through social, rather than market or proprietary relations? Or all the old ways we ever cared?

Han is particularly scathing about apostles of hope such as Jeremy Rifkind, who, in his boldly-titled The End of the Capitalist Era and what comes next (2014) argues that we are, “already witnessing the emergence of a hybrid economy, part capitalist market and part Collaborative Commons”. Two Han paragraphs see Rifkind off: we will have to look for our happy ending somewhere else.

This article was swiftly followed in November by David Beer’s review of Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism, ‘Are networks actually part of the problem?’ Mason’s ‘bracingly articulated vision of real alternatives’ as Naomi Klein describes it, was almost bound to attract the ready naysayer. Mason is surely living dangerously when he refers to Rifkind’s 2014 book as ‘coming closest to describing current reality’. But as far as Beer is concerned, he really asks for trouble when he suggests that networks will play a crucial part in the realisation of his vision of postcapitalism, by providing an alternative to hierarchies. Paul Mason’s book, Beer argues, is ‘a brilliant, thoughtful and provocative take on the contemporary state of capitalism’. It is just that when it comes to suggesting a progressive way beyond that formation, it happens to be completely wrong. To start with – you can’t really differentiate between networks and hierarchies. Phew.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very glad that oD’s Transformation section and esteemed contributors such as Michel Bauwens have been looking into when commons practise is really worthwhile, and when it is netarchical capitalism in disguise… There are, moreover, versions of these warnings against hope to be found on oD that one is forced to take very seriously.  Turn to Ann Pettifor’s review of Paul Mason’s ‘Post-Capitalism’ a few days later and you will find something confusingly similar at the level of rhetoric.

Here too, we start with congratulation. Mason’s book is “an intellectually exhilarating read” to be recommended to “anyone interested in history, political thought, the past, present and future of info-tech, and above all the future of capitalism” – great, quite a few of our readers then! But here the argument takes a different turn. Mason is remiss in underestimating the extent to which we are ‘masters of our own destiny’ in the face of global finance capitalism, as evidenced by the Keynesian era. Underestimating! This indeed looks promising… But not so. This review too soon morphs into a robust refutation of every sign of hope that Mason identifies: “Where he sees technology “eroding the price mechanism” by generating reams of free information – I see usury, behind very high pay walls… Where Mason sees… the mass generation and sharing of information, I see the not-so-distant privatization of.. the BBC. …Where Mason sees the networked society, I also see Uber and Airbnb monetizing (with monopolistic aspiration).”


At least as we may gather from this last quote, Ann Pettifor recognises the gestalt switch element in what she refers to as ‘Utopias’. She welcomes Utopias as Utopias, always providing that we acknowledge they are impossible.

But what if, instead, we were dealing with a leap in the imagination? This has come up in attempts to define what Jeremy Corbyn means for UK politics, as Jeremy Gilbert identifies in his fine account of the “two quite different conceptions of politics involved” in the inner turmoil of the Labour Party. But it is also at the heart of the matter of a politics all these articles are circling around, which I would argue, we need to understand better, and which I will refer to, very broadly, as ‘commons thinking’.

Commons thinking often involves a leap of imagination, in which things happen much faster than you would have thought, with a kind of ‘All change’ logic. Here is Jackie Smith, for example, on oD last March, talking about the open access movement and what ought to happen next:

“Along with a shift to open publishing, …are we ready to actively confront the practices that reproduce privilege, hierarchy, and exclusion in our work--including the interrogation of what constitutes legitimate knowledge?

We can begin by thinking about how our own work as academics would change if we were part of a society organized around principles of sharing, equality, cooperation, and community well-being as opposed to the current one designed to maximize wealth accumulation through individualism and competition.”

This set me wondering about how commons thinking and practise is advancing its own frontiers, and why one has so little sense of this advance most of the time. One reason may be precisely because of a mutual invisibility of the two communities before and after the process of conversion. Before the change is made, the logic seems quite counter-intuitive. e.g. in cultural commons thinking the value of intellectual property is predicated on the right to distribute rather than the right to exclusive ownership. That seems quite crazy to most of us, for ‘intellectual property’ as the right to exclude is deeply embedded in our ways of thinking and the institutions that surround us. Once the logic of the commons has clicked into place, however, it is equally impossible to retreat. Jackie Smith quotes an industry newspaper The realising the threat of ‘maturing open access’ in May, 2012, when it reported:

' "We all face the same paradox. We faculty do the research, write the papers, referee papers by other researchers, serve on editorial boards, all of it for free ... and then we buy back the results of our labour at outrageous prices."

That sentiment, expressed in April by Robert Darnton, the director of the Harvard library, is the reason why the rich profit margins enjoyed for so long by publishers like Reed Elsevier will prove unsustainable in the face of technological change.’ (See Jackie Smith, March 2015, oD)

You can hear a similar moment taking place in our founding editor’s account of the evolution of his own thinking about the digital commons at large and openDemocracy in particular. There is no middle ground between the first half of this paragraph written in 2013, and the last half. And once articulated, there is no turning back:

“The problem I found was this: I wanted to ask people to give money...  to support a publication so it could be free. But while not asking people to pay for content, it felt like a form of really doing so. It felt like saying. 'Here is this magazine, it is free but please give us something instead of paying for it'. It was not coherent as a pitch. oD is not a magazine like a commodity you buy or pay to have sent by mail. It is a gift of a space created by its editors and contributors, an invitation to share in something that is both open and protected. In a word, a commons.”

It was 2005 when we first committed ourselves to creative commons licensing, and we could not have thought through the full implications of sharing as opposed to selling knowledge on the net at the time.  When I last wrote about this I mentioned that it gradually affected our priorities, editorial projects, relationships with partners and with our audience… everything but the fact that it also alters one’s own role and one’s-self. And it is this question of what type of agent is engaged in building the commons, how and why this is done, that I’d like to tackle here.


What I really want to talk about is the invisibility of the commons, commons agency and change, even to many of those who are involved. Over the last period of the demise of social democracy as we know it, the left have gone through so much together (albeit often at each others’ throats), seen so much, and with no change at all to speak of – there is a real danger that they won’t notice when change really happens. You even hear this from the municipal candidates who have arisen from the 15M movement in Spain – among the most inspiring activists today - in this wonderful video made last May and shared with us by Carlos Delclos: Municipal Recipes. They can’t believe it – all that effort, devastating their own lives as they cheerfully point out – and at the time of recording, just before Spain’s regional and municipal elections, with little confidence that there could be any substantial change to speak of. Nor were they alone in this sentiment.

We spend a lot of time in oD’s European section - Can Europe make it? - as elsewhere on oD, thinking about the agency for change, and as we have tried to follow all that is happening in Greece and Spain in particular, I have turned to a fascinating anthology on Radical Democracy and Collective Movements Today: The Biopolitics of the Multitude versus the Hegemony of the People published by Ashgate in 2014 and edited by Alexandros Kioupkiolis and oD author, Giorgos Katsambekis. It was flagged up by Annalena di Giovanni, who wrote The fight for the square - Tahrir, Sol, Wall St., Taksim for us – which I recommend to you all.

What struck me in this book was something similar to what I have tried to chronicle above. After many thought-provoking pages on the significant challenge posed by these movements to mainstream politics in our modern societies, this account of the lengthy and fecund controversy between Hardt and Negri and Laclau and Mouffe, heirs to a rich division between the immanence and transcendance thinkers of European continental philosophy, ends with what I take to be a cri de Coeur, “what then of the movements themselves? Was the fuss over instituting autonomy and horizontality totally in vain?”

Of course this was before the meteoric rise of Podemos, which doesn’t make it into the book’s index. But it is striking that since then, the interface between Podemos and the 15M movement, hierarchy and network, hegemon and multitude, has arguably become the latest, most creative, battleground in European politics today. This richly creative contretemps unleashed by various election wins, has not so much to do with winning and losing power, I would argue, and everything to do with the new opportunities to produce the citizens for the future that you can see here, here and here.

Before venturing further, let’s have a definition of one of the controversial terms involved, horizontality.  Here is Marianne Maeckelbergh:

“Horizontality is a term that is used to refer to a fiercely egalitarian, decentralized, networked form of democratic decision-making and it is offered by this movement not as a demand, but as an alternative political system to replace representative democracy…. First, horizontality is premised on the rejection of fixed representation as a political structure. Second, it functions through the political structure of networks and not the geographically delineated space of the nation-state. Third, it embraces a rejection of uniformity as the guiding ideal of democratic deliberation in favour of a system that fosters diversity. Finally, the movement takes equality to be always desirable but never fully achievable and equality is therefore treated as something for which each member of the polity has to take active responsibility. This creates a decision-making process in which the participants are continuously challenging (with varying degrees of success) inequalities and discriminations as they arise within their own structures of governing.”

As Anthony Barnett recognised in his account of oD as a digital commons, this practise has evolved rapidly in recent years as part of the Commons paradigm: “From peer-to-peer economics advocated by Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation to the issues of republican democratic wealth, an important intellectual change is under way which links into the new forms of self-organisation inspired by the indignados and the Occupy movement from Tahrir to Taksim.” It offers an entirely new concept of governance, the role of the state, and citizenship, shifting us from a passive form of electoral representative democracy to a generative democracy of radical engagement in the design, development and implementation of public policy and community self-organisation, mediated neither by the market nor the state. And at its heart is agency. As social ecologist Murray Bookchin, the so-called father of libertarian municipalism said, “a recovery of a new participatory politics structured around free, self-empowered and active citizens.”

We are talking above all about a new type of agent, whose primary quality I would like to suggest, is the ability to encounter ‘the other’ and engage with it fruitfully, for the purposes of co-existence. Horizontality involves working side by side with people with whom one differs, involving them in an ongoing process of decision-making in which everyone is changed by every addition of a new constituency. Chantal Mouffe describes it in Dimensions of Radical Democracy as a never-ending play between liberty and equality. This horizontal extension through diversity is the most sophisticated form of co-existence I know, and as such, deeply constitutive, I believe, of the citizens of the future.

And this is the point. There is a patent falsehood, from the perspective of representation, of claiming to be the 99%, when so many people are left bewildered outside ‘the squares’, who have no notion of what is going on. At the same time, as an imaginative claim on a commons future that announces the birth of the democratic power of the multitude, it is surely a convincing pledge. But it is so only as a statement of commitment made to the future, by people who will not give up on the challenge to connect with, embrace and liberate ‘the other’ and be renewed in turn. Once this horizontal, unbounded freedom is abandoned for a deer park of whatever kind, which as Ken Worpole reminds us in his piece on the Charter of the Forest, “originates with the Latin parricus or French parc, meaning enclosure” … all is lost.

It is lost for many reasons, but the reason I would like to foreground, because it is intimately linked I believe to this inability to locate the change that is under way, is a premature recourse in wishful thinking and also in political practise, to power over which is actually a failure to change, an entirely understandable but regrettable ‘fighting the last war’ which is usually the direct product of the humiliations of the preceding era. When what is far more likely to effect fundamental, sometimes sudden, momentous transformation, is the production through empowerment of the citizens of tomorrow. Those people who sometimes seem ready to die for ‘power for the people’, are not nearly willing enough to live for them. And it’s a problem. For the change we seek may take decades, maybe more, if the universe survives. This prematurity is desperate and unreal. It hurls itself against the old powers, feebly emulating them in the process, when it would be much better off concentrating on transforming itself into the commons sense of tomorrow.

Here, and this might be a new year’s resolution, we surely must consult the people at the sharp end. How could one begin to answer the question about the effectivity of commons movements without beginning with the pioneers themselves and what they think they are doing? Here is Barcelona En Comu, for example, as reported by Carlos Delclos, torn between responding to the taunts of mainstream media, that they are incapable of coming up with a cogent political programme, and patiently trying to explain that they are doing something else:

In the newspaper they handed out as part of their campaign, Barcelona En Comù used almost as much space describing their process (30,000 signatures asking them to run for election, 1,000 campaign volunteers, 200 events organised by self-organised neighbourhood assemblies, 100 meetings with various community organisations in just 10 months of existence) and their vision (“a standard-bearer of social justice and democracy”) as they do outlining their program. The program itself includes 600 measures, ranging from modest but much-needed reforms (e.g., opening up more bike lanes, more social housing), to more radical ones (a guaranteed municipal income, coining a municipal currency).”

If you really want to know what has changed already, and what has been the main ‘product’ of this movement, which is simultaneously the promise of this movement to the rest of us, and the bearer of its values, then you cannot do much better than take this opportunity to glimpse such people in action, or rather in a relatively quiet moment of self-reflection, having prepared lunch together, and sitting down to take stock…Municipal Recipes (click CC for English subtitles). It is really interesting to hear them finally agree that pleasure and hope are the drivers for what must seem a quite impossible Sisyphean hill to climb, again and again. That note of a certain kind of historical optimism, however resigned, is surely the one to look out for.


By contrast, take this example of where not to look for change, in the account of the arguments of the great Nobel prizewinning commons thinker, Elinor Ostrom, by Danijela Dolenec in 2013. In Socialism and the Commons, we find the author expressing a familiar left critique of commons initiatives:

While they are worthwhile as sites of individual emancipation and as valuable experience of grassroots organising - on their own they often represent a-political, fragmented actions that cannot address the underlying structural logic of the problems at hand.”

In the big agency-structure debate she usefully points out, Elinor Ostrom’s is a theory of agency, concerned with how collective action happens, given what we know of individual behaviour.  No sooner said, however, than she is looking for Ostrom’s structural challenge to the capitalist logic of production and the structural injustices of the system. Dolenec has little to offer in suggesting the kind of agency that could  ‘address the underlying structural logic’. But she is nevertheless convinced that quite a lot of perceiving the structures involved is salutary:

Because of its focus on individual behaviour Ostrom's theory is weak in addressing the structural origins of injustice. When we apply a theoretical lens which is blind to 'society' and only sees individuals making choices, we have divested ourselves of even perceiving, let alone addressing power relations which originate in the systemic properties of existing economic and political systems.

What is missing from her own account, is any description of the collective agency that could possibly ‘address’ this problem once perceived.

She then turns to Elinor Ostrom’s achievements. Ostrom has been helpful, she concedes, in countering, “the neoclassical economics perspective which starts from the premise that collective action will not happen or is doomed to fail in some sort of tragedy of the commons”. Instead Ostrom argues, “that our actions and choices are deeply embedded in norms and social relations, offering up a vision of humans as deeply social: communicative, trustworthy and cooperative.” Ostrom’s work advances, “a conception of human nature, in which people are naturally social actors.”

It is worth pausing for a moment to think how great an achievement on the part of the Nobel prizewinner this is. Compare this to the routine evocation of the Hobbesian state of war rolled out, for instance in a BBC commentary on the English riots in 2011, Why doesn’t rioting happen more often?  – one so useful for persuading people to be frightened of each other and entirely dependent on the coercive powers of the state:

“This was the fundamental insight of Thomas Hobbes, the 17th Century philosopher, who argued in his Leviathan that the proper function of the state was to protect us from the horrors of living without one. In a state of nature, he argued, life would be "nasty, brutish and short". Our sense of fairness cannot stop us from coming into conflict with each other because we all want roughly the same things, resources are scarce and we are all of roughly equal power. (No matter how strong you are, I can still kill you while you sleep.)”

Such a vision is obstructive because it deters agency. It works at the level of proliferating suspicions and self-hatreds. It ensures the preoccupation with winning and also with not being a loser. It has pretensions to being based in human nature and not the product of the norms and social relations in which we live, that we can change. And it prevents the realisation that mutual vulnerability is the greatest strength that we possess in a globalising world.

How many fruitless debates about individualism, fragmentation and collective action, could be curtailed at a stroke, if we could just agree that the possibility of individuals, middle class and otherwise, making the happy choice to be socially collaborative is one of the key opportunities of the digital era. And that it begins with a self-authored and horizontal process in which all the terms involved are changed.

But Dolenec has good taste when it comes to identifying Ostrom’s strengths. She is impressed by Ostrom’s movement of attention from ownership regimes to governance principles: that is away from a ‘power over’ fight that cannot be won, and towards an empowerment process that can, and she reminds us of the foundational principle of the commons that emerges from her work “that those affected by a given rule should participate in making it, irrespective of the ownership regime.” Again, pause for a moment to consider the strength of that principle, were it applied to TTIP, surveillance, or a constitutional convention for the UK.

It is also worth thinking about because as a principle it taps into the user energy on which netarchical capitalism is also dependent, if it is to continue pursuing its profits. In Ostrom’s discovery that sustainable governance regimes need to be deeply democratic, reliant on self-organisation and based in the principle of subsidiarity, we have a way of encouraging capital to do our work of empowerment for us – of course only ever in part and in deep contradiction with itself. But, although, as Michel Bauwens warns us, the financialisation of cooperation is the name of the game, isn’t it the case that some parts of netarchical capitalism do have to encourage ‘the further growth of p2p sociality’ – basically sociability, the capacity for cooperation, friendship and even love – in which media exchange and production is largely available to an ever larger user base. One can only fail to see this as potential for change if one is looking for the winning structural advantage and not looking at all at the agency involved.

From this perspective, there is much to be learned also about the nature of leadership in commons thinking. Steven Weber made this useful point in The Success of Open Source (Harvard UP, 2004), comparing open source to modern religious communities, “ It is the leader who is dependent on the followers more than the other way around… the primary route to failure for them is to be unresponsive to their followers.”  This is because the new forms of commons sense absolutely rely on people being empowered to take themselves as agents very seriously indeed, working out, whether leaders like it or not, what they want to do. Which may make it worthwhile for Podemos’ leaders to listen to the messages of activists like Simona Levi when she wrote in her open letter to Podemos last June, “A hegemonic discourse that claims that organised civil society is only useful if it is inside the party brand, and that everything outside of it could threaten its leadership, can no longer stand up…We do not want a passive civil society, like the society that the PSOE tamed in the eighties, absorbing the most highly profiled (not always the best) citizen activists into the party, as has been repeated by Izquierda Unida more recently.”

We on Can Europe make it? are proud to be able to give our readers some access to Podemos – new politics?, an important ongoing debate. 


One last point. It belongs to the great armoury of the other side, those who work for the 1% - the assertion that commons initiatives are politically clueless, and doomed to transience at best. For a humiliated left, it is all too easy to imagine that the establishment is entirely untroubled by exercises in, as Danijela Dolenec puts it, “urban gardens, communal childcare, or developing workplace democracy”.

But let us think again about the strange things that happened in 2015. The rage of the EU institutions over Greece, that its elected leaders had the temerity to insist that there is an alternative to austerity in Europe, when they have been told that there is not. This was tangible.

Could it be that this was because it would only need the throwing of the gestalt switch so that more sections of more European peoples began to realise that there is an alternative - a horizontal movement of a certain emancipatory kind – to considerably derail the plans that have worked so lucratively for the European establishments thus far? Why else is it so vital that the left is not seen to succeed, and moreover, that it is seen to inflict its woes entirely upon itself. So vital that TINA prevails. Unless change is all too possible?

The shutting down of the MEP vote on TTIP is another example. It could have given their American counterparts the unfortunate idea that there was an alternative, backed explicitly by at least the two million signatories to the European Citizens Initiative petition. 

So, what has happened to democracy just in the last year? It seems to be disappearing fast, what with the mass collection of data regarding our own and other countries’ citizens. But at least the lineaments of this, if not the full implications, are becoming clearer. And so in our interview with the former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, he proposes a pan–European and transversal movement to be launched in February 2016 and powered by “One very simple, but radical, idea: to democratise Europe.” As he says, “It sounds Utopian”. He refuses to give us a list of important politicians, because this will be a grassroots movement, a pan-European “coalition of citizens”, he hopes, “not a party and not an elite”.

So here is an invitation to act without any assurances to the gambler within. Here on offer is a political argument about what kind of change on the largescale is feasible and worthwhile – one that doesn’t duck from the realities of the fragmented and diverse world in which we live, but which is making for the cusp of uncertainty in which we all dwell, and targeting the very point where more and more of us who thought we were living in democracies may be willing to put our freedoms to the test. Perhaps together we can begin the “recovery of a new participatory politics structured around free, self-empowered and active citizens.”


Thanks go from the author to Matthew Flinders, Holly Ryan, Sam Halvorsen and their fellow-discussants for their stimulating comments on this and other papers at the Crick Centre seminar on Contentious Politics and New Democratic Spaces, Sheffield University, 5 February, 2016.

About the author

RB, editor

Rosemary Bechler is a mainsite editor of openDemocracy.

Read On

More from the openMovements partnership.

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the
oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.