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In this article, we analyse how mediated discourses of toxic friendships echo and reconstruct the category of the toxic friend. We ask: what kind of assumptions does the toxic friendship discourse draw on, and what forms of subjectivity and interpersonal relationships are encouraged? Employing a critical discourse analysis of digital texts, we argue that the discursive category of the toxic friend draws on a simplistic set of classificatory dichotomies distinguishing between the good and the toxic friend. We also suggest that the popular labelling of difficult friendships as ‘toxic’ reflects the contemporary diffusion of the notion of toxicity in contemporary public culture. We contend that this discourse reflects the discursive conflation between therapeutic culture and neoliberal wellness logic, with the figure of the toxic friend constructed in ways that support imperatives for self-care and self-governance. While much of the advice situates friendship as an important personal tie, there is very little encouragement to ‘work’ on these relationships. As such, these discourses offer a reductive, disposable approach to friendship ties that overlooks the complexities and lived experiences of friendship relations.

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In Western prisons, inmates’ religious conversions are a social fact in which fear plays a predominant role. Based on a qualitative and longitudinal survey conducted over two years in a French prison, this article aims to show how religious fears emerge in the consciousness of non-religious prisoners. Phenomenologically, the empirical data show that these fears arise because of an incapacitating state of anxiety. Over time, life in prison affects the social identity of individuals, their structuring markers and their biographical continuity. But the social mechanisms of anxiety are not those of fear. It is diffuse anxiety that allows the appearance of a new and identified fear. This enigma is interesting for the sociology of knowledge and therefore of socialisation: individuals are not afraid of what they do not know. The survey highlights that the emergence of these fears of God, sin, hell and so on reveals a process of regression of the habitus of the inmates to their primary socialisations. As irrational as they may seem for the frightened themselves, these fears show a structuring potential by interpreting and organising the disconcerting distress of which they are the product. Fear – religious or not – integrates and synthesises anxiety. From that moment, the appearance of fear augurs a gain of psychic, intellectual and finally practical mastery of a situation without which it would have remained unmanageable. This is how intramural trajectories become conversion paths.

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Author: Gözde Cöbek

Choosing a partner has turned into swiping since the emergence of dating technologies. Today, individuals predominantly choose their partners via dating platforms by swiping their profiles with a quick thumb movement. The literature argues that mate preference is a static and disembodied disposition, where one’s intersectional background plays a role. Focusing on heterosexual individuals’ swiping practices in Turkey, this article aims to challenge this structural argument and suggests an affective approach to online dating. The concept of affect encourages more than a focus on the structures that influence mate choice. Emphasising the body’s capacity to act and be acted on, environments and thought-in-action, it draws attention to different orienting forces involved in swiping. As such focus requires a different methodology, this study uses the walkthrough and video re-enactment techniques to examine the mate selection practice. Based on interviews with 42 individuals who use Tinder and/or OkCupid, it shows how swiping is not only techno-socially shaped but also a bodily practice. Technological design, one’s mood and the sensation that arises through the encounter between the individual and the profile affect swiping decisions which can be both consistent and inconsistent with one’s techno-socially shaped criteria. By suggesting an affective perspective, this article makes both a theoretical and methodological contribution to the field.

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Author: Davina Cooper

In reflecting on the book’s arguments and analyses, this chapter sketches four lines of analysis. First, it explores the prefiguring of concepts to advance new, more progressive meanings. Second, it explores prefiguration’s power or force, including through prefigurative state practices. Third, it addresses the importance of counter-systemic linkages to support and sustain prefigurative practices. Finally, it considers the place and value of prefiguration research and how it might be undertaken through the production of prototypes and other things.

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Authors: Luke Yates and Joost de Moor

Prefigurative politics plays an important role in a diverse constellation of themes relevant to contemporary political activity. This chapter analyzes and problematizes this diversity with respect to the sub-discipline of social movement studies. Debates about prefiguration began in discussions of social movements and political strategy in the late 1960s and 1970s. Since then, its meaning has evolved and its use has diversified. Over time, it has been associated with a range of collectives, political themes and orientations to activism, perhaps most prominently feminism, anarchism, environmentalism, direct action, alter-globalization, anti-austerity and new democracy mobilizations. The aim of the first part of the chapter is therefore to provide clarity about the explicit use of the concept since its emergence. In the second part of the chapter, focus shifts to the implicit use of the term. It is argued that prefiguration is at risk of being overused to describe horizontal, non-hierarchically organized Left-wing movements and of being underused in describing Right-wing movements, suggesting an implicit association with particular political positions. It remains to be seen whether prefigurative politics are indeed much rarer in Right-wing movements or simply, this area has been overlooked. The chapter concludes with a discussion of implications for future research.

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This edited volume aims to provide an accessible and interdisciplinary introduction to the concept of prefigurative politics. The idea for this collaborative project came from the realization that, despite the increasing popularity of the term across the Social Sciences, it is hard to find articles or books that, instead of taking its meaning for granted, aim explicitly at introducing, defining and discussing it. Gathering a set of short and incisive contributions from prominent experts, this book is divided into three parts. It begins with a Foreword by post-development scholar Arturo Escobar and closes with an Afterword by Davina Cooper, a leading researcher on transformative politics. The first part of the book offers an historical, philosophical, and theoretical introduction to prefigurative politics. The second part examines prefigurative politics “in practice” through case-studies and examples from social movements, civil society initiatives, and other alternative organizations. Among these, we find the long-lived intentional community of Auroville in India and the matristic Jineolojî eco-communes in Kurdish Rojava. The third and final part constitutes a meta-reflection on the challenges and opportunities that researchers encounter while studying prefigurative politics. In particular, contributors problematize the booming of prefigurative research in the last decade, they underline the different temporalities that one should take into account while assessing the impact of prefigurative movements, and, finally, they outline five main challenges that prefiguration researchers should address in the near future. In sum, this edited volume represents the ideal companion for students and researchers interested in exploring the thriving and vibrant field of research on prefigurative politics.

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In the past four decades, together with workers’ protests and strikes, subjectivities other than the organized working class – including indigenous peoples’ movements – have become stronger and more visible in the global struggle against global capitalism and for social, cognitive and environmental justice. These resistances are not only rejecting the present critical condition of the planet by demanding that the state act with urgency; these grassroots collectives, movements and community networks are also experimenting with alternative practices and social relations around issues of social reproduction of life amid a new global capitalist crisis deeply affecting the social reproduction of human and non-human life on the planet. This long-term transformation in the radical agency has awoken global solidarity, but the significant differences among these collective struggles still deserve attention. What are the clues to challenge the universalizing power of global capital and to decolonize prefiguration by finding adequate ways of understanding difference? This chapter addresses this question, aiming to contribute to the debate around prefiguration by suggesting that Bloch’s philosophy of hope is fundamental to understanding and decolonizing prefiguration: first, it facilitates comprehension of prefiguration as possibility, based on the utopian feature of the material world; second, it understands utopia as concrete praxis; third, it expands the meaning of prefiguration to a plurality of struggles and movements, ranging from urban resistances to indigenous peoples’ defence of their territory against extractivism. I explore three ways in which Bloch’s philosophy of hope can enhance the theory and practice of prefiguration: first, I expose Bloch’s philosophy of ‘possibility’ as a condition grounded in the (utopian) material world; second, I present Bloch’s notion of ‘concrete utopia’ as a praxis that opposes ready- made abstract utopias, and reposition prefiguration within, and not outside, the process of accumulation of capital, mediated by the state; third, I propose that Bloch’s notion of the ‘multiversum’ offers a decolonizing – non-linear – reading of history and time that enables us to decolonize prefiguration – that is, to comprehend prefigurative struggles as non-synchronous spatial temporalities emerging from a multiplicity of situations, oppressions and relations in, against and beyond the violent ongoing process of indifference, homogenization and synchronization that underpins the accumulation of capital.

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This edited volume aims to provide an accessible and interdisciplinary introduction to the concept of prefigurative politics. The idea for this collaborative project came from the realization that, despite the increasing popularity of the term across the Social Sciences, it is hard to find articles or books that, instead of taking its meaning for granted, aim explicitly at introducing, defining and discussing it. Gathering a set of short and incisive contributions from prominent experts, this book is divided into three parts. It begins with a Foreword by post-development scholar Arturo Escobar and closes with an Afterword by Davina Cooper, a leading researcher on transformative politics. The first part of the book offers an historical, philosophical, and theoretical introduction to prefigurative politics. The second part examines prefigurative politics “in practice” through case-studies and examples from social movements, civil society initiatives, and other alternative organizations. Among these, we find the long-lived intentional community of Auroville in India and the matristic Jineolojî eco-communes in Kurdish Rojava. The third and final part constitutes a meta-reflection on the challenges and opportunities that researchers encounter while studying prefigurative politics. In particular, contributors problematize the booming of prefigurative research in the last decade, they underline the different temporalities that one should take into account while assessing the impact of prefigurative movements, and, finally, they outline five main challenges that prefiguration researchers should address in the near future. In sum, this edited volume represents the ideal companion for students and researchers interested in exploring the thriving and vibrant field of research on prefigurative politics.

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This chapter discusses the concept of prefiguration as well as its recent proliferation in academia and beyond. More specifically, the chapter points to a number of issues with how the concept of prefiguration is currently being deployed across academic disciplines. First, the literature often fails to account for the effectiveness of prefiguration as a political strategy. Second, it frequently subscribes to puritan ideals, which render the studied movements prone to failure. Third, it almost completely neglects to study examples of Right-wing activism. Fourth, it sometimes commits the fallacy of circular reasoning whereby the premise and the conclusion of the argument overlap. Finally, it tends to portray prefigurative practices as particularly performative, vis-à-vis more strategic actions, without properly substantiating this claim. The chapter unfolds these five challenges in the form of a ‘sympathetic polemic’. The ultimate aim of the chapter is thus to advance the study of prefigurative politics beyond its current limitations through a constructive but forthright critique.

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