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Prefigurative politics between ethical practice and absent promise

Gordon, Uri

Authors

Uri Gordon



Abstract

'Prefigurative politics' has become a popular term for social movements' ethos of unity between means and ends, but its conceptual genealogy has escaped attention. This article disentangles two components: an ethical revolutionary practice, chiefly indebted to the anarchist tradition, which fights domination while directly constructing alternatives; and prefiguration as a recursive temporal framing, unknowingly drawn from Christianity, in which a future radiates backwards on its past. Tracing prefiguration from the Church Fathers to politicised re-surfacings in the Diggers and the New Left, I associate it with Koselleck's 'process of reassurance' in a pre-ordained historical path. Contrasted to recursive prefiguration are the generative temporal framings couching defences of means-ends unity in the anarchist tradition. These emphasised the path dependency of revolutionary social transformation and the ethical underpinnings of anti-authoritarian politics. Misplaced recursive terminology, I argue, today conveniently distracts from the generative framing of means-ends unity, as the promise of revolution is replaced by that of environmental and industrial collapse. Instead of prefiguration, I suggest conceiving of means-ends unity in terms of Bloch's 'concrete utopia', and associating it with 'anxious' and 'catastrophic' forms of hope.

Journal Article Type Article
Journal Political Studies
Print ISSN 0032-3217
Electronic ISSN 1467-9248
Publisher SAGE Publications (UK and US)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
APA6 Citation Gordon, U. (in press). Prefigurative politics between ethical practice and absent promise. Political Studies, doi:10.1177/0032321717722363
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/0032321717722363
Keywords Prefigurative politics; temporal framing; anarchism; Marxism; utopia
Publisher URL http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0032321717722363
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingh.../end_user_agreement.pdf

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Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/end_user_agreement.pdf





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