Rethinking Prefiguration: Alternatives, Micropolitics and Goals in Social Movements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

381 Downloads (Pure)


Theories and concepts for understanding the political logic of social movements' everyday activities, particularly those which relate directly to political goals, have been increasingly important since the late 1970s. The notion of 'prefigurative politics' is becoming established in this debate and refers to scenarios where protesters express the political 'ends' of their actions through their 'means', or where they create experimental or 'alternative' social arrangements or institutions. Both meanings share the idea that prefiguration anticipates or partially actualises goals sought by movements. This article uses narratives and observations gathered in social movement 'free spaces', autonomous social centres in Barcelona, to evaluate, critique and rearticulate the concept. Participants' attention to the 'means' through which protest is carried out and emphasis on projects such as experimentation with alternative social and organisational forms suggest they engage in prefigurative politics. However, the article uses these examples to dispute the key ways through which prefiguration has been defined, arguing that it can better be deployed in referring to the relations, and tensions, between a set of political priorities. Understood as such, prefigurative politics combines five processes: collective experimentation, the imagining, production and circulation of political meanings, the creating of new and future-oriented social norms or 'conduct', their consolidation in movement infrastructure, and the diffusion and contamination of ideas, messages and goals to wider networks and constituencies. © 2014 © 2014 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2014


  • Barcelona
  • everyday politics
  • free spaces
  • micropolitics
  • practices
  • Prefiguration
  • social centres


Dive into the research topics of 'Rethinking Prefiguration: Alternatives, Micropolitics and Goals in Social Movements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this