Prefigurative Politics and the Role of Example in Political Change

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Prefigurativism is the small-scale implementation of political and social models that are imagined to be suitable for an ideal future society. In this article I analyze the assumptions of prefigurative politics, in order to show that its aim is to achieve a general social change. I will argue that the effectiveness of this strategic approach depends on the possibility that prefigurative experiments are interpreted as positive examples, so that many people would be willing to imitate and replicate them in other contexts, thus causing an ever-increasing diffusion of the desired models. I will argue that in order to achieve this result, certain conditions must be met: that the interpretations of the example do not differ too much among the participants in the experiment, or else they will not share the same model of society or social relations, and that means they can’t voluntarily collaborate in the same project or at least in projects that are compatible with each other; that the anticipation of the desired society actually persuade the participants that its realization is worth pursuing (i.e. that the desired society is actually
desirable); and finally that the prefiguration proceeds with no obstacle, so that it can be seen as a demonstration that building the desired society is feasible.