Emancipatory paradigms. The assumptions ...

Emancipatory paradigms. The assumptions ...

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By Gustavo Castro Soto

Among the social movements of change and other actors there may be consensus on the effects that capitalism generates, such as poverty, misery, exclusion, indebtedness, insecurity, capital accumulation, migration, patriarchal, militaristic, predatory of the environment, among others that there can easily be social consensus. And despite the miserable reality that it causes, there are those who maintain the mirage that it is only a matter of perfecting it, of humanizing it.

Violence is rampant, as does poverty. The transnational companies arrive in our territories thirsty for their ambition for business, capital accumulation and control over natural resources, land and territories, accelerating the climate crisis. For its part, the social movement continues to resist the attacks of capitalism. There is talk of the urgent need to propose alternatives to capitalism that is destroying the planet; to resist, to fight, to make alliances. For others to raise new movements, unify them, unite them because we are very dispersed; or to reach political power, to the state structures to be able to change this situation. To vote for some, to become a political party for others, among other dilemmas that are always present and nothing new, but that refer to the need to emancipate ourselves against this oppression of the system.

And that is why we consider it necessary to address some reflections but also some provocations. When speaking of Emancipatory Paradigms against the Capitalist System, we make many assumptions in the spaces of analysis, activists and among social movements that are not well explained and therefore we consider the need to put them on the table for debate. We believe that we all think the same. And it is not true. And what's more, some of us have no idea. We have seen it and we have verified it.

The system

To understand each other and formulate a political position we must first ask ourselves what is a System? Is a system eternal? Does it have contradictions? Are they cyclical? Do these contradictions define the future of the system? Is a natural system comparable to one created by humanity? Does it work alone? Is it autonomous and unaffected by external events? Does it suffer from implosion or explosion? Are the systems perfect? ​​And if they are not, does it mean that sooner or later it marks its end? When? Implying? What are your symptoms?

These questions seem vulgar for some, idle for others, easy to answer for some analysts, even if their answer marks radically different directions. Still others have not explicitly asked ourselves about any of these questions, although we do not realize that we have an answer to these questions. However, the concept swarms everywhere and is used in every occasion, meeting, workshop, encounter, analysis and even in simple comments.

The education we have lived through, the religious environment that has surrounded us, the political practice, the ideological discourses that have permeated our conscience through various means have forged this systemic analysis. Although we do not realize it. Consciously or unconsciously, all of us have a systemic analysis that defines a political action and a vision of reality that determines our position in life, in front of events, in front of others. And it's behind our claims. This also applies to social movements. Thus we hear statements such as “those are crazy”, “idealists”, “gobaliphobic”, “communists”, “radicals”, “apocalyptic”, “they are against development”, among other adjectives. In them there is also a systemic analysis of substance, bad or good, sufficient or very short, without bases or with bases, with depth or very superficial, but an idea of ​​the system in the end.

Thus, for some people the system does not change, it is eternal, it accommodates itself; fleeting are their crises. There are those for whom the system always has its contradictions, so there is no need to panic as they do not mean defining directions; that these contradictions are normal and cyclical. Worse still, when a system created by mankind is compared to natural, biological or physical systems; worse mathematicians, where humanity is only a component that acts without freedom, without decision. We are also told that the System is going to collapse, that they are not eternal, that they have a beginning and an end, and that their illnesses will have to be properly diagnosed to determine if they are in the terminal stage or not. In another moment we will address from the philosophy of Xavier Zubiri why this is as false as the eternity of capitalism.

In short, we then overlook a clearer and more consensual reflection and analysis of what a man-made System is than not natural, how we characterize it, and how we diagnose it. What principles it has. This is a crucial reflection for social movements of change that it is necessary and radically important to debate and define, it must determine alliances, strategies, scenarios of change. The struggles, the resistances, the alternatives and the social movements are debated in the context of this concept of system and its diagnosis.

The capitalism

Then we came across another concept: Capitalism. And Capitalism as a System. Everywhere we talk about the term, but what is capitalism? Among the social movements of change and other actors, there may be consensus on the effects of capitalism, on the characteristics or symptoms that it generates, such as poverty, misery, exclusion, indebtedness, insecurity, capital accumulation, migration, patriarchal, militaristic, predatory of the environment, among others for which there can easily be social consensus. But not the diagnosis of it, its interpretation, the moment or the level of severity in which it is.

We are told that capitalism cannot be questioned, and despite the miserable reality that it causes, there are those who maintain the mirage of sustainable development, that it is only a matter of perfecting it, of humanizing it. Worse still, that despite the evidence, "we are fine", "we are on the right track."

It is like seeing the effects of a physical disease, of the body, without knowing what causes it, how serious it is, how advanced the disease is, where the disease tends. If the doctor diagnoses well, he will find the solution, the alternative, the appropriate treatment. If misdiagnosed, the disease could progress terminally. Well, it is something similar, saving the differences.

Under a combination of the way of understanding history, there are for whom capitalism is eternal, that it will persist in time, that it will only find a way to adapt, and therefore the end of history has arrived and there will no longer be changes of system, there is nothing to do. This conception implies a position before the reality in which capitalism only has to be humanized, it must not be confronted or questioned, but rather it must be adapted to it. For others, history and therefore capitalism is cyclical and everything repeats itself the same at certain moments of life; or is it like a spiral, it repeats itself under different conditions; or that it is ascending, that we are going from worse to better; or descending, that we go from paradise to the worst conditions of humanity but always within the same immovable system. Others tell us that it is necessary to sharpen the contradictions of the system in order to make the leap to another. There are those who believe that the system will suddenly mutate, so nothing needs to be done, it will just change.

We are told that the System has always existed as if capitalism had not been born in the 18th century but since millennia ago. Others confuse the fact that, as the market has existed since ancient times, capitalism has been and will be eternal, without taking into account other characteristics of the multiple hegemonic domination of capitalism in its beginnings.

Many insist that the capitalist system only adapts, it seeks new historical ways of accommodating itself, that it will always seek ways to get its way, where there is no other paradigm or choice of life or system that confronts it. No more looking for him. Capitalism was implanted forever. If they are only temporary crises, there will be no need to worry.

All these positions lead to positioning oneself in front of reality in different ways. Because currently we observe such different positions and proposals, such divergent outputs, despite the common handling of the discourse of "the crisis of capitalism." This is another diagnosis that we have to put on the table, or we will not advance anywhere.


In social movements of change, the concept of Capitalist System is added the need to emancipate from it. But what does it mean to emancipate? To rebel from the yoke? From oppression? From slavery? Free from the control or imposition of the state? From the system?

Achieve autonomy? Independence? Is it a concession from the state or from the system? There are those for whom the changes have not been achieved by the will of those who maintain the hegemony of the system, but through resistance, through social struggle. There are for those who will have to wait for the state to recognize the social will. But this is where we slip again. For some, to emancipate is to resist the effects of the system. Just hold on? Are you fighting the installation of a dam, a mine, a plantation, a highway, a gas plant, some other megaproject? Do you resist, endure or fight against neoliberal policies? Against foreign debt, GMOs, free trade agreements, among other policies.

Some say that resisting, enduring, fighting against the system prevents its reproduction, but does not change the system, does not necessarily transform it, does not necessarily aim to build a different one.

Therefore, when we speak of emancipation we are not necessarily thinking of the same thing. Not in the same way, not in the same strategies, not in the same concept. Despite the different forms of resistance, in the face of passive and active resistance, like the slave who frees himself and emancipates himself from his oppressive yoke, the next question that is asked is, and now where do I run? Without a plan, without a strategy, without an idea, the maroon will run anywhere, aimlessly, without control, out of control, without a life project. And sooner or later he is again a prey to the oppressive yoke. Thus, in social movements a question inevitably arises called by many "alternative", and by us Alter-Natos. And it is that by not wanting what we live, by denying and resisting the current system of multiple hegemony, we inexorably find that the door of reality is open, and it launches us into something new, sets us in motion, in motion, in search for something beyond we want it as a new way of life. This is the Paradigm.

The paradigm

Here we slip again. And we do not always pay attention to what the paradigm could mean and we take it for granted for fear of passing for ignorant. Although in reality, in general, we do not know well what we are talking about. We do not know if we are referring to a new model, pattern, method or form of struggle; to a new path, an exemplary way, or a different, novel and successful mechanism against the capitalist system, against its reproduction. Or perhaps, and less common, we refer to a new model of life, a new system of life that launches us to build other possible worlds different from capitalism, to look for it beyond this system and generate Alter-Natos. It is not the same. And not necessarily in the resistance is the proposal. In the "we don't want this", what we do want can be implicit, but not always. Because we can resist to avoid something we don't want, which is already a step, necessary and very difficult, but like the maroon… and now? However, we do not go beyond there. And we are told that some enlightened person has to say with very complicated words what this Good Living is, or for others the Socialism of the 11th Century, or who knows what theory that, the more difficult it sounds, seems more correct.

But there are those who tell us that the new is born from below, this different born and that it is typical of each region in search of happiness, in harmony with nature, with other values ​​and practices, from the concrete and small, from where it goes permeating immediate reality with changes to build from the bottom up. And since it is not easy to imagine and even less to build a different life proposal, with values ​​and practices different from capitalism, especially when we want to think about the structural, many times we are told that this is a crazy dream, that it is not possible . And suddenly it is scary to say that one wants something other than capitalism.

But that from below is how the Tseltals in Chiapas manifest it. For them, “Lekil kuxlejal is the quintessential good life. It is not a utopia because it does not refer to a non-existent dream. No, the lekil kuxlejal existed, it has been degraded but has not become extinct and it is possible to recover it. It not only belongs to this world, but also to the hereafter. Let's look at the lekil kuxlejal from one of its fundamental aspects: peace. The conception of peace among the Tseltals supposes the sacred and perfect dimension of silence. ”[1]

So there are those who say that these are other paradigms, other paths, other worlds, another way of understanding the world, nature, humanity, happiness. They become paradigms when the social movement legitimizes it, leads it, strengthens it, makes it credible, gives it a channel and, above all, puts it into practice and transforms immediate life into new life, into new relationships, within the framework of a structural analysis and of an antisystemic political-social emancipatory project.


Social movements play the dynamics between these four tracks, between these realities, between capitalism, the system; the struggle or resistance (emancipation); and the search for something different (paradigms, alternatives, etc.). But sometimes we understand each of these concepts in very different ways. We take them for granted. That is why in the reflections we come out with analyzes, trends, outputs or perhaps even conflicting conclusions. So it is difficult to agree. There are social movements that bet on the electoral political struggle, on the seizure of power by the state structures. For others it is not the seizure of power but the "command by obeying." For other movements it is another possible world, for others, other possible worlds; for some more it will be necessary to influence one way, for others another; there will be for whom the change is coming, but within the system; for some there is a rush, for others not. And so…

It would help a lot to agree on the analysis of these four concepts. We would go further in building a world where we fit all possible and diverse worlds.

Gustavo Castro Soto placeholder image - Other Worlds AC / Friends of the Earth Mexico - March 2011, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.


[1] Antonio Paoli, "Approaches to the ideal of life among the Tseltals",

(2) Published in El Escaramujo "SEE THE WHOLE SERIES‘ EL ESCARAMUJO ’:

Video: Chomsky u0026 Foucault - Justice versus Power (June 2022).


  1. Wharton

    They are wrong. I propose to discuss it.

  2. Karlitis

    Intelligible message

  3. Eliazar

    I apologize, but in my opinion you are wrong. I can defend my position. Write to me in PM.

  4. Milosh

    This variant does not approach me. Who else, what can prompt?

  5. Sutter

    Very interesting thoughts, well told, everything is just laid out on the shelves

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