Habitable Air

New Special Issue Explores Egalitarian Thought and Dynamics in Modern Society

A new series of articles delving into the concept of egalitarianism has been published, exploring its various dynamics and how it has shaped human history. The articles are published in Volume 66: Issue 3 of Social Analysis and titled: Egalitarian Life and Life Forms: Ethnographic Perspectives on Political Experimentation. Authored by a diverse group of scholars, with Guest Editors including Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, Bruce Kapferer, and Knut Rio. The series covers a range of topics from intentional communities to community policing in Mozambique.


The series starts with “An Introduction to Egalitarian Thought and Dynamics” by Knut Rio, Bruce Kapferer, and Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, which outlines the philosophical trajectory of egalitarianism from the Enlightenment onwards. The authors also explore the dynamic intertwining of egalitarianism with hierarchical structures and how it strives to reconfigure social orders through moments of effervescence and liminality.


The article “Labour System Experimentation in Egalitarian Intentional Communities” by Mari Hanssen Korsbrekke analyses how intentional communities experiment with labour organisation to create new forms of social organisation. The article highlights how egalitarian life forms can manifest through joy and playfulness, balanced with more bureaucratic and rule-bound structures.


In “Fracking and Democracy in the United Kingdom: The Dark Side of Egalitarianism” by Anna Szolucha, the article examines how egalitarian dynamics can often manifest as anti-state and anti-corporate sentiments, leading to division, resentment, and conflict. The article draws on the experiences of UK anti-fracking activists and their distrust towards the government and industry.


“Crypto-Egalitarian Life: Ideational and Materialist Approaches to Bitcoin” by Matan Shapiro explores the tension between the maximalist and trader attitudes in the world of Bitcoin and how both advance egalitarian tendencies in different forms.


“The Egalitarian King?: Abdullah Öcalan and His Evolving Role in the Kurdish Freedom Movement” by Axel Rudi investigates how Abdullah Öcalan informs the movement’s egalitarian life and how he resembles a king for the movement, influencing its structure.


Finally, “Egalitarian Lives and Violence: Community Policing in Mozambique” by Bjørn Enge Bertelsen analyzes the practices of community policing in Mozambique and how it interconnects with both petty and organised crime. The article argues that community policing exhibits the core characteristics of a fluid and “predatory-protective” security assemblage, while simultaneously harbouring the potential for instantiating forms of egalitarian life beyond hierarchical state ordering.


Overall, the series provides a comprehensive look at the concept of egalitarianism and how it has shaped modern society in various forms. It highlights the potential of egalitarian life to create new forms of social organization and challenges us to consider the paradoxical dynamics between power, hierarchy, justice, and equality.


The issue has the following Table of Contents: