Archive | January, 2013

Tweets, streets, strategy and tactics

28 Jan

A couple of weeks ago I received the good news that a review I wrote of Paolo Gerbaudo‘s Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism had been accepted for publication in Organization. At present I’m not sure whether the review will remain behind a paywall once it’s finally published. Only today I heard that Sage, who publish Organization, have decided to make all their content free for the time being, an obvious response to the tragic and scandalous death of Aaron Swartz. In any case, I’m including the full text of the last but final version of the review (the one I submitted) below. This is almost identical to the review that will be published and only a few phrases and wordings were changed by the editors for readability.

The most interesting thing about Gerbaudo’s book, so far as it relates to my own research on social media and activism, is his account of tactics and strategy. While he doesn’t explicitly develop either concept, the way he uses both is, in my opinion, spot on and gets right to the heart of the distinction and how it relates to organising. Authors such as Marianne Maeckelbergh (in her The Will of the Many) also include discussions of tactics and strategy, but seem to frame the distinction as one of ‘good’ practise which doesn’t reduce political actions to their ends versus ‘bad’ practise which does just that and potentially sacrifices any current concerns to some future goal.

Gerbaudo, instead, is correct to note that the distinction between tactics and strategy comes down more to the immediacy of the practice in question. Political activity that is spread over a long period, such as mobilising people for a demonstration, would be described as strategic, while activity that is concerned with minute to minute organisation, such as during a riot or when a demonstration turns into a running confrontation with the police,  would be described as tactical. The difference is a matter of degree, not quality. As I mention in the review, the clearest statement of this comes from a perhaps unlikely source: Carl Von Clausewitz, who writes: ‘tactics teaches the use of armed forces in the engagement; strategy the use of engagements for the object of the war‘. Here the distinction is clear; strategy is involved in, for example, getting people to the demonstration, tactics is about what you do when you’re there.


Anarchism and Social Technology panel – conference papers online

14 Jan

Back in September I participated in the anarchism and social technology panel organised by Simon Collister at the Anarchist Studies Network conference held at Loughborough University. Simon has put the full conference papers (his, Aaron Peters’ and mine) online since then. You can find the links to Simon’s and Aaron’s papers over at Simon’s blog. If you’d like to have a look at my paper, which is only in draft form and is basically the text of my presentation rather than a full paper (my work on the final paper has been interrupted by teaching and marking but will begin in earnest again soon), you can see it right here. This is probably the briefest and yet most developed summary of my PhD research so far (it’s still early days yet).


אם אין אני לי, מי לי? וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי - ancom jewitch, sad poet

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