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Blog

01Oct2018

WHAT ARE APPROACHES?

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the concepts I use in my book Other People’s Struggles. The first three posts examined motivations, orientation and ambition.  They set up the basic problem of adherence.  Constituents and adherents, I argue, have different motivations.  The constituents seek something for themselves (or others of whom they are part). Adherents seek something for others of whom they are not part.

Precisely what the constituents and adherents seek is a matter of the orientation of the movement: that is the work the movement is engaged in.  For example, if the movement is engaged in the pursuit of interests, the constituents are working to pursue their own interests (or the interests of others of whom they are part) and the adherents pursue the interests of others.

The degree to which this creates difficulties in the movement is a matter of the ambition of the movement’s work.  More ambitious work presumes equality among the participants.  Take, for example, a movement which is engaged in defining and pursuing a new, emergent interest.  If its work is ambitious it will require the participants to participate on equal terms. It will be intolerable if some claim to have a superior grasp of what the interest is and how it should be pursued.  Less ambitious work will find such claims less objectionable.  They do not presume equality.

There are different approaches that may be taken to these problems.  I distinguish three approaches.  In disjoint approaches, the relationships are asymmetric,  Some people do things for others, who do not do these things in return.  For example, the adherents might define what is in the constituents’ interests, without allowing that the constituents define theirs.  In conjoint approaches, the relationships are more symmetric.  For example, constituents and adherents might each help to define each other’s interests.    Sometimes, however, constituents may wish to go it alone, managing without adherents altogether.  These are self-reliant approaches.  These differences are set out in the table below:

ORIENTATION  —»OUTWARDEXPRESSIVEEMPOWERMENTSOLIDARITY
DISJOINT approaches ‘Championing’‘Validating’‘Instruction’‘Unlived politics’
CONJOINT approaches ‘Allying’ ‘Crossing over’ ‘Co-learning’ ‘Prefiguration’
SELF-RELIANT approaches‘Self-representation’ ‘Self-expression’‘Self-empowerment’ ‘Self-sufficiency’

One key argument of Other People’s Struggles is that ambitious movements cannot tolerate disjoint approaches.  They have either to seek conjointness, or be self-reliant and go it alone.