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Horizontalidad (Spanish: [oɾisontaliˈðað], horizontality or horizontalism) is a social relationship that advocates the creation, development, and maintenance of social structures for the equitable distribution of management power. These structures and relationships function as a result of dynamic self-management, involving the continuity of participation and exchange between individuals to achieve the larger desired outcomes of the collective whole.
As a specific term, horizontalidad is attributed to the radical movements that sprouted in December 2001, in Argentina, after the economic crisis. According to Marina Sitrin, it is a new social creation. Different from many social movements of the past, it rejected political programs, opting instead to create directly democratic spaces and new social relationship.
The related term "horizontals" arose during the anti-globalisation European Social Forum in London in 2004 to describe people organising in a style where they "aspire to an open relationship between participants, whose deliberative encounters (rather than representative status) form the basis of any decisions," in contrast to "verticals" who "assume the existence and legitimacy of representative structures, in which bargaining power is accrued on the basis of an electoral mandate (or any other means of selection to which the members of an organisation assent)".
Horizontalidad is related to the theories of communist anarchism, social ecology and libertarian municipalism, autonomist marxism and participatory economics. According to these schools of thought, horizontality seems to be a necessary factor for real freedom because it allows personal autonomy within a framework of social equality. These approaches advocate a kind of socialist direct democracy and workers' councils (autogestion) or community/neighborhood councils.
According to Paul Mason, "the power of the horizontalist movements is, first, their replicability by people who know nothing about theory, and secondly, their success in breaking down the hierarchies that seek to contain them. They are exposed to a montage of ideas, in a way that the structured, difficult-to-conquer knowledge of the 1970s and 1980s did not allow (...) The big question for horizontalist movements is that as long as you don’t articulate against power, you’re basically doing what somebody has called "reform by riot": a guy in a hoodie goes to jail for a year so that a guy in a suit can get his law through parliament".
My personal perspective has to do with the idea of freedom, this idea of discovering that we have collective knowledge that brings us together, that give us strength, that bring us to processes of discovery. This is beyond revolutionary theories, theories that we all know and have heard so often, theories that are often converted into tools of oppression and submission. The practice of horizontalidad can give the possibility of breaking with this and creating something that gives us the security that we can self-organize, and do it well, and do so far away from those that try and tell us politics must be done in a particular way.Constructing freedom is a learning process that can only happen in practice. For me, horizontalidad, autonomy, freedom, creativity, and happiness are all concepts that go together and are all things that both have to be practiced and learned in the practice. I think back to previous activist experiences I had and remember a powerful feeling of submission. This includes even my own conduct, which was often really rigid, and it was difficult for me to enjoy myself, which is something sane and that strengthens you, and if you do it collectively it is that much more so. Like under capitalism, we were giving up the possibility of enjoying ourselves and being happy. We need to constantly break with this idea, we have life and the life that we have is to live today, and not to wait to take any power so that we can begin to enjoy ourselves, I believe it is an organic process." (Quoted in Horizontalism, Sitrin, 2006)
- Ruptures in imagination: Horizontalism, autogestion and affective politics in Argentina Archived 2013-06-13 at the Wayback Machine. By Marina Sitrin. Centre for Global Education
- Reyes, Oscar; Hilary Wainwright; Mayo Fuster Morell; Marco Berlinguer (December 2004). "European Social Forum: debating the challenges for its future". Transnational Institute. Retrieved 2007-09-11.
- Sitrin, Marina (ed.). "Horizontalidad." Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina. AK Press, 2006, p. 37–66. ISBN 1-904859-58-5.
- From an anonymous manifesto that circulated by e-mail among Occupy London protesters, in October, 2011: "(...) reform by riot – a division of labour by which a kid in a hoodie goes to prison for two years and a man in a suit gains sudden acceptance of his liberal reform plans – is as long as the history of capitalism."
- Tweetin' 'bout a revolution: Paul Mason talks about Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: the new global revolutions and horizontalist movements. Red Pepper, February 2012.
- La ocupación de Wall Street en clave argentina Lavaca, October 1st 2011.
- Wood, Lesley J. (2015). "Horizontalist Youth Camps and the Bolivarian Revolution: A Story of Blocked Diffusion". Journal of World-Systems Research. 16 (1): 48. doi:10.5195/jwsr.2010.460. ISSN 1076-156X.
- Horizontalism and the Occupy Movements. By Marina Sitrin. Dissent, Spring 2012.