Res Publica: a journal of moral, legal and social philosophy vol:19 issue:3 pages:223-239
Only one year after the global wave of protest movements and revolts –starting with the ‘Arab Spring’, then, subsequently, the Indignados movement and Occupy- our appreciation of such movements turned sour. The aim of this contribution is to question the predominantly sceptic and defeatist discourse on these movements. One element central to many defeatist discourses on the 2011 movements, is the way in which a lack of demonstrable ‘outcomes’ or ‘successes’ is retrospectively ascribed to them. Therefore, an alternative approach should be formulated, which would allow us to recognise the significant or valuable aspects of these movements and their practices, without downplaying them as ‘unsuccessful’ or ‘failures’ altogether. Pierre Rosanvallon’s concept of ‘counter-democracy’ and Hardt and Negri’s perspective of a ‘Multitude’ will be evaluated as alternative approaches to current political movements. Although they are meritorious, both perspectives do not go far enough and need further articulation. The notion of ‘prefiguration’, originally derived from contemporary anarchist discourse, could be beneficial to this endeavour. After defining and deepening this concept from an anarchist perspective, it will be applied to one particular context: the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo, during the 2011 revolution in Egypt. As will be concluded, in its application this concept of ‘prefiguration’ could teach us more about the recent wave of protest movements in general, and could help us to formulate a different approach to such movements.