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The ideal of overcoming formal structures calls for ethnographic and theoretical reflection. We ask: Under which conditions can the "no rules"-ideal unfold its emancipatory potential? Why should rules be avoided? And which hidden power structures can ethnography unearth behind this ideal?
The ideal of creating a society that does not follow a certain set of rules, inspires many social movements and forms of activism. In this panel, we invite contributions that offer ethnographic insights and theoretical reflections related to the ideal of overcoming the necessity of rules and formal structures. Papers might deal with an array of forms of mobilization and activism in past and present, spanning from classical anarchism, over community movements to online activism or voluntary work.
Our aim is to situate these cases within the context of two interrelated theoretical perspectives:
First, in critical neoliberal thought, appeals for freedom and individual responsibility can create new forms of social control, especially if combined with uncertainty and flexibility. A decision against formal structures may strengthen less obvious hierarchies, it may foster social structures with hidden norms, feeling rules and power struggles.
Second, the turn from an ideal of absolute autonomy towards contingent practices of becoming in postanarchist theory, opens new possibilities for political practice as well as for the understanding of contradictions and limits of the ideal of non-rules.
Both perspectives invite critical engagements with ethnographic case studies and narrative analyses that situate practices of non-rules between constraints and emancipatory spaces: Under which conditions can the "no rules"-ideal unfold its emancipatory potential? Why should rules be avoided? How then are decisions made and members chosen? Which hidden power structures can ethnography unearth behind the ideal of non-rules?