Three Concepts of Freedom of Assembly: Liberal, Social Democratic, Revolutionary

Benjamin Ask Popp-Madsen*, Mikkel Flohr

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    Contemporary politics struggles are deeply connected to the right to freedom of assembly. Whether one thinks of pro-choice demonstrations outside the home of an American supreme court judge, anti-war demonstrations in St. Petersburg, attempts to unionize workers at Amazon and Starbucks, the Trumpist attack on the US Capitol, demonstrations against pandemic lockdowns, or the police crackdown on climate activists like Extinction Rebellion and racial justice activists like Black Lives Matter, these events all implicitly pose the questions of who can assemble in public, for what purposes freedom of assembly can be used, how authorities justify limitations to the freedom of assembly, and why it is conceived as a potential threat to the current political order. To explore the implicit politics of the freedom of assembly, this paper seeks to distinguish between three different conceptions of freedom of assembly: a) liberal, b) social democratic, and c) revolutionary. Firstly, in the liberal understanding, freedom of assembly is one right in the catalogue of individual rights such as freedom of speech, thought, religion and association, which must be regulated and delimited by state authorities. Secondly, in the social democratic understanding, freedom of assembly is the precondition for the establishment of unions, and hence of processes of negation and compromise within a capitalist economy. Freedom of assembly in the social democratic understanding, hence, is the precondition as well as the form of action, which creates protective institutions within capitalism. Thirdly, in the revolutionary understanding, freedom of assembly names a potentially revolutionary form of action able to destabilize existing regimes and institute new political constitutions. In this radical, revolutionary understanding, freedom of assembly is neither a constituted power (as in the liberal understanding, where freedom of assembly is codified in the constitution) nor a protective power (as in the social democratic understanding, where freedom of assembly is a protection against the worst ravages of market society), but a constituent power, which is able to create new political forms.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2022
    Publication statusPublished - 2022
    EventRadical Politics beyond or through Representative Institutions? - Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark
    Duration: 22 Sept 202223 Sept 2022

    Workshop

    WorkshopRadical Politics beyond or through Representative Institutions?
    LocationRoskilde University
    Country/TerritoryDenmark
    CityRoskilde
    Period22/09/202223/09/2022

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