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Beyond Iron Laws: Information Technology and Social Transformation in the Global Environmental Movement.

Washbourne, Neil J. (1998) Beyond Iron Laws: Information Technology and Social Transformation in the Global Environmental Movement. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

It was characteristic of the peculiarly modem conception of democracy that it had both to be centralized and that, in practice, centredness undermined it. This finds its expression in Michels’ iron law of oligarchy. The contemporary idea of the global information society appears open to new democratic alternatives for organization which escape this double bind. This thesis explores whether these possibilities have any basis in the reality of contemporary organizing. To this end I investigate the global environmental movement, representative of contemporary conditions as the Social Democratic party was of modernity. Contemporary organizing is marked both by a relationship to globality and the importance of the use of information technologies. Friends of the Earth (FoE) was founded by transnational elites, yet is marked in the present by the empowerment of local groups. Thus the identity of FoE is not given over to the action and interests of elites, transnational or national, but rather is a product of the performance of ordinary members. Authority and power relations operate but not on the basis of the command of the centre over the rest but rather in relation to a fundamental negotiation about the requirements of organizing on behalf of the planet. This decenteredness requires us to theorize differently the way we make sense of the boundaries and boundedness of organizing. Globality becomes our focus rather than modern internationalism. Information technologies allow organizing to escape the double bind, since they demonstrate that it is not technically inevitable, whilst globality provides the dynamic emphasis that underlines the necessity to escape the problematic of centralization. The outcome of this study of an environmental movement organization suggests that the transformation of organizational possibilities is actual and realised and attributable neither to new technology nor to globality on their own but to their joint operation. There are therefore present possibilities for a renewal of democracy and participation and its transformation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Washbourne, Neil J.
Date : 1998
Additional Information : Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Surrey (United Kingdom), 1998.
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 14 May 2020 14:56
Last Modified : 14 May 2020 15:07
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/856793

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