Delegation und Erbauungswissenschaft. Zur Kritik der zapatismusnahen Forschung zu sozialen Bewegungen

Jens Kastner



Delegation and sciences for one’s edification: Towards a critique of ‘Zapatist-like’ approaches to social movements. This text looks at how we understand and theorize social movements. It deals less with the practices of social movements themselves and more with the question of which structural conditions, on the one hand, and movement practices, on the other, should be taken into consideration when theoretically researching social movements. The article discusses this question in regards to the approaches of John Holloway and Raúl Zibechi and their research of the Zapatista uprising in Mexico. The text draws upon Pierre Bourdieu’s article „Delegation and Political Fetishism“ (1984/1992), in which he warns of a doubling of illusions made by scientific discourse and, occasionally, by social movements themselves. Bourdieu describes the relation of delegation as a central political matter. He further argues that it is not sufficient to deny this relation by merely placing greater value on alternative modes of organization and everyday life, for instance by means of social science or activist perspectives. But this is precisely what Holloway and Zibechi try to accomplish. In view of this, this article discusses and criticizes Holloway and Zibechi’s approaches to social movements at the social science as well as the political level, and, in so doing, pleads for an enlightened dilemmatism that illuminates the political pitfalls of delegation and representation instead of denying or silencing them.


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