Social Forums, Social Movements and Social Change: A Response to Peter Marcuse on the Subject of the World Social Forum


This response to Peter Marcuse situates his reading of the World Social Forum in the larger ‘space versus movement’ debate that has been raging among the WSF’s organizers. The author argues that this debate signals: (1) a power struggle over its future; (2) profound disagreement over the character of its power, which is itself based in conflicting understandings and visions of power and change in the contemporary period more generally; (3) at the heart of this last conflict is a yet more basic one about the status of multiplicity and diversity — in understanding power(s), in building resistance(s), in creating alternatives, in crafting solidarities, in imagining other possible worlds as les raisons d’être of the Social Forum. Drawing on the historical experience of feminism, the author proposes an alternative reading of the meaning of the Social Forum grounded in more multivalent understandings of power, movements and change, and argues that, in the evolving practice of the World Social Forum, a new democratic imaginary — post‐liberal and post‐Marxist — is taking shape and, with it, other possible futures are coming into view.