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

The reflexive habitus and distinction

What about those who try to transcend the boundary? And those who do not fit into either camp? Those who were once members of a group and now no longer are? This section provides the other dimension to distinction, looking at those on the outside of the two major anti-capitalist ideologies - who are unable to be part of one or the other. Although political distinction exists, and many activists have acknowledged this, some expressed dissatisfaction with it. In terms of the habitus, there is and has always been a capacity for reflexivity. This is especially the case for activists, given their level of conscious engagement with the social and political worlds that they inhabit. Reflexivity for activists includes monitoring and reflecting on their ideologies and actions within the context of the political situation. Certain political circumstances require a degree of flexibility and a move away from ideological dogma, or perhaps compromise when it comes to working with other politicos who may not agree totally with one's ideas while at the same time negotiating over one's interests too.

Political activists certainly are reflexive and critical. It is no surprise, then, that although they are dedicated to an ideology, broadly speaking, they do wish to seek ways of transcending it and perhaps overcoming the political distinction, particularly when both anarchists and socialists do have the same ultimate objective - overthrowing

capitalism. For example, Sarah states 'I am a socialist____I would say

that socialist theory kind of informs my activism' but:

I feel very critical of ghettoization, sectarianism, and some socialists only like to talk to other socialists and I just kind of think, well, we are never going to get socialism unless you actually talk to people who disagree with you, and so, you know, I think the whole kind of bringing together of the social movement is brilliant because you, as a socialist, are getting to meet different people, you are getting to exchange ideas, I mean influencing me, but also I get to talk to people about socialism we do get to have debates about, you know, what life might be like after capitalism and would there be socialism and how would things be organized. (Sarah)

Daniel also pointed out that socialism is not static that it changes and this brings me to suggest that the habitus is reflexive:

I mean I have been a socialist for many years but the anti-capitalist movement offered an opportunity to renew socialist politics in a context of a new movement. (Daniel)

Here Daniel is referring to groups such as Globalise Resistance and Stop the War Campaign. This is where a nuance is apparent; although guided by predominantly socialist ideas, these groups do include a range of activists with different ideologies. However, the socialists within these groups do reproduce socialist ideas in a new context, for example framing war as a consequence of neoliberal capitalist expansion, but are willing to engage with different groups. That said, the distinction between socialists and anarchists still exists, as no anarchists whatsoever are in the socialist groups. To this end, the dislike of distinction also provides a case for its existence, since it has led to frustration on the part of some activists who, as a consequence, left the groups of which they were members.

Tim and David, for example, were initially members of various socialist groups, however, over time they felt ambivalent about their ideological stance:

I guess I would still say I am a socialist. I guess I would say I was a libertarian socialist. I am, I usually call myself an anti-capitalist and, you know, say that I take number of ideas from Marxism but also some from anarchism and it's not quite so clearly defined, and I guess the easiest way - and I think that it is quite nice that since something called the anti-capitalist movement has come along, those people who don't quite know whether they fit into one category or another can just call themselves anti-capitalists and be done with it. (Tim)

Well, I would describe myself as a libertarian socialist probably and that was what I always stood as when I stood for the ESF [European Social Forum] Steering Committee and I mean, you know, a Chomskyian view of the world really, which is sort of a western form of socialism. I suppose that has got a good deal of individualism thrown into it and the belief that ultimately, the ultimate struggle of course is for equality or whatever, but ultimately what is going to come out of that is liberty for the individual and a much greater freedom for the individual to be able to make their decisions which affect their lives, and informed decisions of course, and education plays a big role in that. So it is somewhere between socialism as traditionally conceived and anarchism. (David)

Tim and David both claimed that they did not fit with the ideologies of the groups they were part of and felt somewhere between anarchism and socialism. This was a reaction towards not wanting to add to the existing tensions and the political distinction that exists within the BACMF. They also expressed frustration about the division between anarchism and socialism, especially when both ideologies do have the same ultimate objective.

Ian was originally involved with a local Globalise Resistance group, but stated it was not for ideological reasons, it was more about being active in the British anti-capitalist movement. He goes on to say:

My political views, like everybody, have contradictions in them and I am certainly not always consistent. I certainly appreciate action more than I appreciate sitting around and thinking about things a lot, and that is one of the things that appealed to me about GR is it was action centred. I mean it did a lot of stuff for the group... and it got involved in a lot of action and that is something that appeals in terms of political strategy or tactics or whatever. (Ian)

Sian insists she is a socialist but claims her actions go beyond socialist ideology since the anti-capitalist movement encompasses a wider range of people and views:

I would describe myself as a socialist, but in terms of what I do in the anti-capitalist movement I don't. I see it more as being a movement that seems to encompass a lot of people with a lot of political ideologies. (Sian)

In the last case I would argue there is room to be involved in a socialist group and be active in the BACMF beyond the particular socialist group one might be a member of. However, my overall argument is that two main ideologies exist; this is not say there are not others or variants of the two, but by and large these two dominate and shape the field.

 
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