By Akwugo Emejulu
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Additional resources for Community Development as Micropolitics: Comparing Theories, Policies and Politics in America and Britain
For the Democracy discourse, ‘pre-figurative spaces’ means modelling the social relations which produce the desired relationships in a future radical democratic society. ‘There was certainly a pre-figurative, utopian dimension to participatory democracy as an organisational process [in SNCC], a sense that building a democratic movement in the here and now would lay the groundwork for a radically egalitarian society’ (Polletta 2004, 205). Through collective decision-making local people learn how to negotiate, strategise and be accountable to each other.
Through its practices of working with marginalised and disenfranchised groups, SNCC sparked a new way of thinking about the construction of radical identity and the organisation of spaces to struggle for progressive social change. Understanding the construction of participatory democracy in the Democracy discourse is important because this concept distinguishes the Democracy discourse from other competing civil rights discourses which focus on charismatic leadership or expert-driven development.
In the context of community development, this interpretation of agency is very important. As I shall also demonstrate in this chapter, because community development is created and practiced in institutional spaces, this appears to define community development in such a way as to downplay or ignore the experiences, perceptions, contributions and actions of ordinary people in transforming their lives. With this context of 1968 as a backdrop – social problems and solutions defined and potentially resolved in the context of the state and macro-level processes – I will now analyse the micropolitics of the competing community development discourses and identity constructions during this moment.