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Learning from Conflict: Innovative Approaches to Democratic Decision Making in the Alterglobalization Movement

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Abstract

This article explores the role of conflict in fostering equality within the decision-making processes of the alterglobalization movement. I argue that movement actors treat conflict as constructive because it helps create “diversity.” Movement actors transform conflict from adversarial to constructive through a continuous process of decentralizing power referred to as “horizontality.” This decentralization of power is achieved through network-based decision-making structures that reject unity through agreement in favor of connections between differences. Drawing on over 8 years of ethnographic research into movement decision-making practices, I argue that these movement practices show that although diversity leads to conflict, adversarial conflict is not caused by this flow of diversity; adversarial conflict arises only when these flows are blocked. Movement practices demonstrate that conflict can be productive if it is given space for expression.

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