Jakob Mans Svensson: Relations of power within a field of contemporary acitvism. Activist capitals in network societies
Relations of Power Within a Field ofContemporary ActivismActivist Capitals in Network SocietiesDr. Jakob SvenssonHumanIT (www.kau.se/en/humanit)Dept. of Geography Media and Communication (www.kau.se/en/media)Karlstad University
IntroductionIn network societies characterized by an infrastructure of social andmedia networks enabling organizations at all societal and individuallevels relations and connections between people arebrought to the foreThe focus is on relations of power in a network societyA conception of power as processes that take placebetween peopleSome argue that internet-based organization facilitatesmore horizontal and equal distribution of powerWhile acknowledging that the landscape of power ischanging in network societies, networks emphasize amultiplication of connections and connectivity betweenpeople - there is no reason not to believe thatrelations of power are still at play and vital in networksocieties
– Relations of power withinan activist community
RQ: How did activists positionthemselves in relation to each otherand the community values?To answer this question, this paper will undertake two analyses1) Central values of the activist community has to be discerned2) An analysis of how activists positioned themselves an othersin relation to the community values
socialization into community values are important tounderstanding relations of power within a communityupdating based on values of reflexiveconnectivity and responsivenessvalues of location bound community and beingactive and involved - proactive rather than reactiveVALUES
Core-Periphery PositionsWho updated/ engaged others - CoreWho was updated/ engaged by others - PeripheryPOSITIONINGA dialectic between communityvalues and participants agencyThis dialectic is understood asprocesses of positioning
By reference to Bourdieu, theactivists are regarded as forminga social field in which positionsare negotiated through interactionbetween field specific values,activists habitus and capitalBOURDIEU
HabitusAnimal rights movementsthe Cinema TellusStudent councils/ nationsthe Scout Movementbuilt both a sense of a southern suburbcommunity feeling, and knowledge fororganizing and mobilizing participation(i.e being proactive)A kind of luggage giving the activist senseof knowing how to navigate the field aswell as organizing practices within the fieldA general belief inchange – together withthe value of being activecan be traced this habitus- grounded in studentunions and vocal NGOs
CapitalA social relationship, an energy/ resourcethat exists and produce its effects withinthe field it is usedCapital use cannot be understood withoutreference to the agents position within the fieldParticipation CapitalMobilizing CapitalLegitimacy CapitalNetworking Capital
Activist Capitalsthe value of being active and engaged made itpossible for certain activists to accumulate and usea type of participation capital when positioningthemselves in the fieldwhile participation was considered important, therewere other things that were even more highlyesteemed in the community - mobilizing andengaging others.
Legitimacy CapitalIt is important toconsider previousexperiences in orderto understand whycertain come tooccupy corepositions.Hence, certain activists enteredinto the field already with a kindof legitimacy which could beused as a currency whennegotiating core positions.Agents enterthe social fieldwith previouslyacquiredcapital.At the same time, accumulated participation and mobilizing capital couldbe exchanged for this legitimacy capital. In this way the boundariesbetween participation, mobilization and legitimacy capital are permeable
Networking Capitallegitimacy capital is intertwined with perceived social andnetworking competencenetworking is based as much on social as technical skillsand political abilitiesKnowing how to network, which is interlinked with gainingrecognition and sustaining reputation, also becomes acapital resourceThis capital is made possible by previous achievements(legitimacy capital), active participation (participationcapital) and successful mobilisation of others (mobilizationcapital), done through through a sense of knowing how(habitus) and being in a position in the field to network
ConclusionPower within the southern Stockholm activist field - understoodin terms of holding a core position - was connected with knowinghow to network, to maintain intermediary ties and being in aposition to mobilize these intermediary tiesIn order to accumulate and exchange these different capitals,and to negotiate core positions, activists needed to relate to thevalues of communityThe value of location bound community was even transformedinto a central belief that continued to bind activist together afterhaving lost the battle for the bathhouse.Activists also needed to be constantly updated in order toaccumulate participation and legitimacy capital as well asnetworking capital in the form of holding intermediary positionsbetween networks. This is the value of connectedness which isinterlinked with the value of responsiveness.