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These three modes of transformation suggest very different postures towards the politics of transformation. Ruptural transformation, at least in its more radical forms (‘Smash the state’), assumes that the core institutions of social reproduction cannot be effectively used for emancipatory purposes; they must be destroyed and replaced with something qualitatively new and different. Interstitial transformation (‘Ignore the state’) aims to get on with the business of building an alternative world inside the old from the bottom up. Perhaps there are moments when established institutions can be harnessed to facilitate this process, but interstitial transformation mostly sidesteps centres of power. Symbiotic transformation (‘Use the state’) looks for ways in which emancipatory changes can be embodied in the core institutions of social reproduction, especially the state. The hope is to forge new hybrid forms which have a ratchet-like character, moving us in the direction of enlarged scope for emancipatory social empowerment.

None of these strategies is unproblematic. None of them guarantees success. All of them contain risks and dilemmas. In different times and places, one or another may be the most effective, but typically none of them is sufficient by itself. It often happens that activists become deeply committed to one or another of these strategic visions, seeing them as universally valid. As a result, considerable energy is expended fighting against the rejected models. A long-term project with any prospects for success must grapple with the messy problem of combining these strategies, even if the combination inevitably means that struggles often operate at cross-purposes.

Compass Points: Towards a Socialist Alternative by Erik Olin Wright 10 months, 2 weeks ago