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Home arrow Sociology arrow Bourdieu and Social Movements: Ideological Struggles in the British Anti-Capitalist Movement

Aims of this book

This brief history of resistance to neoliberalism sketched above clearly shows that there are a number of movements, organizations and loose-knit activist groups with different ideologies and political positions that span the globe. The beginning of the 21st century has shown how the general amorphous movement that is known as the AGM cannot be studied as a whole, and people have even questioned whether it is a movement at all. As I explain in chapter 2, anti-neoliberalism and the AGM are master frames that provide a meta-level of categorization so that a collective can be formed. I would argue that much of the literature on the AGM has focused on resistance and opposition to neoliberalism. Although this is important, there has been a lack of focus, first, on the role that British anti-capitalist actors have played during some mobilizations and, second, the internal ideological competition and conflict between sections of the British anti-capitalist movement (ACM).

In light of this, the aim of this book is to focus on the British anti-capitalist section of these wider anti-neoliberal forces and to put forward a new understanding and explanation of the political dynamics of these groups. I suggest that a more sophisticated analysis is needed, beyond the oppositional focus that the literature has provided. British anti-capitalist groups, through their role in resisting neoliberal globalization, produce an internal ideological struggle, provoking political competition and conflict between themselves. In this respect, resistance to capitalism and internal ideological struggles form an irreducible dynamic; as soon as British anti-capitalists engage in resistance to capitalism, they themselves become embroiled in internal ideological competition and conflict. This is the other side of the debate, which has not been discussed, much less theorized about or explained in either academic or popular literature on resistance to neoliberalism.

I would agree with Chesters and Welsh (2006) when they claim that the AGM phenomenon cannot be studied by using the standard sociological toolkit. I would add, or even the standard social movement toolkit. To this end, I have drawn on theoretical technologies of Pierre Bourdieu to explain the different political practices of anticapitalist groups, and their interaction with each other and the wider political and social forces that are anti-neoliberal.

However, before I discuss my alternative theoretical framework, certain terms need clarifying. There seems to be much conflation and confusion between the terms 'alternative globalization' and 'anticapitalism', and the relationship between the two. Thus my aims, set out above, provoke two questions:

  • (1) What is anti-capitalism in terms of its relationship to the wider AGM?
  • (2) Why is a new understanding and explanation of social movement dynamics needed, and how does a Bourdieusian approach provide this?
 
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