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

Article


Gilbert, J. 2005. The Forum and the Market: The Complexity of the Social and the Struggle for Democracy. ephemera. 5 (2), pp. 221-239.
AuthorsGilbert, J.
Abstract

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.

Keywordsdemocracy; neo-liberalism; democratic representation; market forces
Journalephemera
Journal citation5 (2), pp. 221-239
ISSN1473-2866
Year2005
Publisher's version
License
CC BY-ND
Web address (URL)http://www.ephemeraweb.org/journal/5-2/5-2gilbert.pdf
http://hdl.handle.net/10552/747
Publication dates
PrintMay 2005
Publication process dates
Deposited21 Apr 2010
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.

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