Five Challenges for Prefiguration Research: A Sympathetic Polemic

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This chapter discusses the concept of prefiguration as well as its recent proliferation in academia and beyond. More specifically, the chapter points to a number of issues with how the concept of prefiguration is currently being deployed across academic disciplines. First, the literature often fails to account for the effectiveness of prefiguration as a political strategy. Second, it frequently subscribes to puritan ideals, which render the studied movements prone to failure. Third, it almost completely neglects to study examples of Right-wing activism. Fourth, it sometimes commits the fallacy of circular reasoning whereby the premise and the conclusion of the argument overlap. Finally, it tends to portray prefigurative practices as particularly performative, vis-à-vis more strategic actions, without properly substantiating this claim. The chapter unfolds these five challenges in the form of a ‘sympathetic polemic’. The ultimate aim of the chapter is thus to advance the study of prefigurative politics beyond its current limitations through a constructive but forthright critique.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Future Is Now : An Introduction to Prefigurative Politics
EditorsLara Monticelli
Number of pages13
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherBristol University Press
Publication date2022
ISBN (Print)9781529215656
ISBN (Electronic)9781529215670, 9781529215687
Publication statusPublished - 2022
SeriesAlternatives to Capitalism in the 21st Century


  • Prefiguration
  • Activism
  • Social movements
  • Social movement studies
  • Prefiguratice politics
  • Purity
  • Right-wing activism
  • Occupy Wall Street
  • Activist strategies
  • Performativity

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