Saturday, March 31, 2007

Amazing video and the tradition of participatory politics

Guess which is me in this video. I've found more to the story of the student political movement of the 1960s, too. It seems that this notion is a major tradition among student activists. Starting as early as the 60s (and perhaps before?) there were students working to affect politicization of the student body. I remember at Haverford when I first started talking about a Student Political Network one prof. pointed me to a former student who had done something similar years before. It seems reasonable to guess from this that the student politization movement has been a consistent low-level presence in the American student body for decades. But why, with all these smart young cookies has it not been successful?
I think one culprit is the lack of connection among the students who work at it. Their period of engagement in the issue is short (around 4 years), and there are few enough and there are few enough institutionalized programs for connecting subsequent generations of students that over and over students must start from scratch. Consequently, the movement (if it can fairly be called one movement) can never even develop a particularly robust ideology. What would participatory politics look like? What would it mean? What do students need to do achieve them? These are all questions that don't get a chance to be answered in ways that stand the test of time.

I also think there is hubris in the goal of "transforming the body politic" and politicizing individuals. And it may be important for students to feel like they are inventing the movement from scratch. Its hard to feel like an entrepreneur when you're aware of how big and long-term the team you're working for really is.

So does the movement really need better institutionalizing of memory and expertise? Haber's long-term dedication to the SDS suggests the power that accumulating experience can have. On the other hand, one of the goals of the "particpatory politics" movement is to get more and more people to be entrepreneurial in their civic action, and so there are certainly risks to establishing traditional organizations. I would work on this problem now, but its Saturday. ;) Instead I think I'll go juggle.

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