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Simone Schiller-Merkens: Social Transformation through Prefiguration? A Multi-Political Approach of Prefiguring Alternative Infrastructures. [Abstract]

Prefiguration unites organizations and collectives as diverse as post-growth organizations, common good organizations, community-supported agriculture, transition towns, or ecovillages in their fundamental critique of contemporary capitalism and the belief in the urgency of a major social transformation toward sustainability. It refers to realizing imaginaries of radically alternative futures in social practices, of bringing about the future by enacting real utopias in the present. Prefiguration is an increasingly fashionable concept in the social sciences, but it is still rarely used in scholarship on infrastructures. This paper shows the potential relevance of this concept for studying infrastructures, in particular to address the social transformation of contemporary infrastructures toward radically alternative, revolutionary infrastructures. It therefore starts with providing insights into the common and yet rather narrow understanding of social change and transformation in literature on prefiguration. Building on scholarly reflections on the politics of social transformation and the crucial role of organizing in transformative social change processes, the paper derives a multi-political approach where prefiguration is considered in its intricate linkage to other forms of politics. Furthermore, the paper outlines the conceptual relationship between prefiguration and infrastructures, proposes conceiving radically alternative infrastructures as being created through prefigurative organizing, and discusses a few exemplary challenges of prefiguring alternative immaterial and material infrastructures. It generally suggests that a fundamental social transformation of our societies and infrastructures requires prefigurative organizing, understood through its multi-political lens.

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