Institutional Left and Autonomous Political Models in the Global Justice Movement

The institutional left and autonomous political models can be described as two movement structures utilized in left progressive social action movements. Both models, though on the same political spectrum, vary in their objectives, structure, and modes of operating. These differences create tension among participants and the models themselves because of their opposing principals (p.66).

The institutional left model is best summed up as a representative of individuals acting. Participation implies membership, membership implies credentials and monetary dues, and credibility and financial support imply professionalism, collective identity, and at some level exclusivity. This model is organized in that there are key leaders and key categories that respond to voting and diplomacy (p.67).

Black Lives Matter Institutional Left Activism. Google Images.

Because of the institutional left’s representative stance, the emphasis is on the homogeneity or unity within the group. Participants’ goal is to influence the systems they work within and this is done through “marches, manifestos, strikes and threats of strike, and legal reforms” (p.69).

The autonomous model can be described as a participatory model where individuals are welcome without membership or hierarchy. All participants practice self-government, open dialogue, and horizontal communication and decision-making (p. 69). Through this arena instead of pushing for collective identity, there is a collection of identities that arise to the public platform. The autonomous perspective and ideology is “seen as frozen and prescriptive, and also tend[s] to divide and exclude, rather than include and increase, diversity…An emphasis on a shared politics of practice (or praxis) is a means of overcoming [these] ideological differences” (p.70).

Claimate Change Autonomous Activism. Google Images.

The approach of autonomous movements is focused on transformation and forging new paths within political and social spheres rather than reforming practices already utilized. Furthermore, tactics such as the “use of masks, anonymous hacking, [and]sabotage without risking arrest” (p.69).


Fominaya, Cristina Flesher. Social Movements & Globalization: How Protests,Ooccupations & Uprisings Are Changing the World. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

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