The Forum and the Market: The Complexity of the Social and the Struggle for Democracy

Gilbert, Jeremy (2005) ‘The Forum and the Market: The Complexity of the Social and the Struggle for Democracy’, Ephemera, 5(2), pp. 221-239.

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This paper starts from the observation that the very concept ‘social forum’ is to some extent predicated on a distinction between the market – the primary organisational model of neo-liberalism – and the forum, conceived as a different kind of model. It explores the different logics of social organisation implied by the competing concepts of the forum and the market, taking off from Arendt’s assertion that the transformation of the former into the latter was always the project of the tyrants of ancient Greece. It explores the complex political logics by which the collectivism and partial homogeneity required by any democratic situation have increasingly been undermined by the socio-economic processes of liberalisation and marketisation typical of post-modern capitalist societies. It goes on to explore different ways of understanding human collectivity in the light of the ‘democratic paradox’ by which individualism and egalitarianism are, at a certain level, logically incompatible. It ultimately takes issue with any attempt, such as that exhibited by Hardt and Negri, to resolve this dilemma by willing the social into a more ‘simplified’ state than that it has always hitherto existed in, but argues that by contrast the very strength of the social forum project has been its willingness to experiment with the creation of multiple and overlapping new sites of democratic representation and deliberation. It finally suggests that if this project is to have useful correlates in the UK context, it must be understood in relatively abstract terms, as the lack of a history of radical democratic invention in the UK renders any direct public critique of representative democracy unlikely to win popular support.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Citation: Gilbert, J. (2005) ‘The Forum and the Market: The Complexity of the Social and the Struggle for Democracy’ Ephemera 5 (2) 221-239.
Divisions: Schools > Arts and Digital Industries, School of
Depositing User: Mr Stephen Grace
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2010 14:50
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2012 11:59

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