Accepted paper:

Righteous activism as moral reproach: 'belonging requires active involvement in public affairs'


Raul Gerardo Acosta Garcia (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit√§t M√ľnchen)

Paper short abstract:

Urban activists in Guadalajara seek to influence government policies and convince others of joining their ranks. In recent campaigns to improve transport and cycling facilities, middle class activists have expressed a sense of righteousness that appears to reproach those not involved in political affairs.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years, Guadalajara has hosted an increasing number of activist groups seeking to improve public services and spaces in the city. A leading cluster of activists is a movement called Ciudad para Todos (City for All), which claims to work disinterestedly for the improvement of urban mobility. Some of its members are experts in urbanism or in public transport, and have alternated their activism with consultancy or work for local governments. Others are architects or freelancers with enough time to carry out activism. Their privileged background, therefore, allows them to dedicate time and resources to their activism that are simply inaccessible for a majority of the population. During a recent period of fieldwork within City for All, I could identify a disregard by these activists towards the majority of the city's population for two main reasons: a) a veiled accusation of ignorance or backwardness in not grasping the 'bigger picture' of the problems associated with the excessive number of automobiles; and b) a sense of moral reproach towards all those aware of problems but who nevertheless didn't 'do something about it', as was often put. This paper examines the role of activists in a city where there has been a short lived and fragmentary experience of democracy. City for All represents a case of elite activism with expertise and resources that contrary to its stated aims appears to perpetuate an unequal society by reproaching those with less time and resources their lack of commitment to actively demanding improvements to the city.

panel P66
Community, belonging and moral sentiment: is to belong to be a moral person?