Accepted paper:

'Fallism' as Democratic Theory & Practice


Daryl Glaser (University of the Witwatersrand)

Paper short abstract:

A study of the radical South African 'Fallist' student movement in its operation at Witwatersrand University, South Africa, from a democratic theory perspective.

Paper long abstract:

The 'Fallist' movement roiling South African universities claims or implies that it is introducing a higher form of democracy, based on mass participation and the refusal of leadership and representation, into the university setting. However it is not the only actor in the current university conflict making democratic and representational claims. This paper critically explores Fallism's democratic theory and practice by way of a University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) case study, and specifically by comparing Fallism as a democratic exercise in the Wits context to four other putatively democratic exercises: electoral democracy as embodied in student council elections; a 2015 student petition in favour of resuming classes; the Vice Chancellor's 2016 'poll' of student and staff opinion; and an abortive 'university assembly.' What theory of democracy are these exercises premised upon? Who do their key actors claim to represent, and on what basis? What is their understanding of democracy's purpose? What are their theories of politics and of democratic communication? By placing Fallism in this kind of institutional and process comparison, I hope to illuminate the limits of Fallism's implicit conceptions of direct and participatory democracy and assist in developing new ways of assessing democratic quality. The paper is an exercise in democratic theory, entailing both empirical and normative analysis.

panel P051
Youth-led leadership and participation in Africa