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Political Distinction and the Reflexive Anti-capitalist Habitus


Political ideology is what guides political action. Activists who subscribe to different ideologiees will have different action repertoires even if they have the same ideals and objectives. In this case, anarchists and socialist activists do have the same ultimate objective - the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. However, their political ideologies and therefore methods for achieving this are very different. Although this is well known among social movement scholars and political theorists, there seems to be a lack of empirical research about this important political distinction when it comes to analysing the activists in the British anti-capitalist movement field. Furthermore, the implied unity of opposition in the literature on the alternative globalization movement (AGM) field fails to account for tensions within smaller sections of this field, such as the British anti-capitalist movement field (BACMF), and the way in which these groups negotiate their protest strategies towards elites on the one hand and with other activists in the AGM field on the other (chapter 6).

British socialist and anarchist anti-capitalists tend to meet, strate- gize and mobilize separately, even if they are intending to go to the same protest space. This is because they embody different political values, ideas, strategies and political practices. Their formative political socialization is quite different. Their political practices have become routinized and organized by their political habitus into a distinctive ideological one - either anarchist or socialist. When these activists do meet, either in virtual or physical spaces, at best they remain separate and at worst ideological competition and conflict break out (chapter 5).

This chapter focuses on the ideological nature of the anarchist and socialist habitus. In particular, how each was formed, what political practices are associated with these habitus, and why the habitus produces a durable political distinction between the said activists. I examine how divisions in the BACMF are constituted, reproduced and maintained. This chapter therefore focuses on what I have elsewhere called 'political distinction' between anarchist and socialist anti-capitalist activists (Ibrahim, 2011). In addition, it considers activists who express ambivalence and ambiguity over their ideological affiliation. This suggests that some activists feel uncomfortable with the division and the associated political game playing between anarchists and socialists.

This chapter begins by outlining what is meant by political distinction. I then discuss the political history of the activists concerned and go on to compare their action repertoires. These areas taken together demonstrate the durable and ideological nature of political practice in the BACMF.

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