Recently, radical democratic initiatives have been undertaken by freelancers and founders who come together in a range of alternative forms such as ethical entrepreneurial coalitions, urban coworking spaces, and open cooperative networks. In this paper, we argue that these initiatives to invent alternative, more equal forms of organizing engage strongly with relational activities to replace hierarchical interaction with distributed peer collaboration. While the literature has emphasized the sense of experimentation and reflexivity of these alternative forms of organizing, this paper especially draws attention to the affective dynamics of everyday peer-to-peer collaboration. Drawing on an 18-month ethnography of a cooperative network of social entrepreneurs, we use a practice-based approach to study peer collaboration as a relational practice formed through a nexus of ‘weaving,’ ‘sharing,’ and ‘caring’ activities. Focusing on the affective orders enveloping relational practice, we document how the practice of peer collaboration is imbued by what we call an ‘affective oscillation’ forming contrasting amplitudes between confidence and frustration, exuberance and anxiety, and trust and exhaustion. As our core contribution, we problematize how the affirmative intent of radical democratic organizing is potentially jeopardized by this ‘cloudy affectivity,’ and we conclude that the collective pursuit of embodied ethical encounters is formed by slowing down and feeling into affective oscillation.
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Our heartfelt thank you goes to the people of Enspiral, who have invited us with unprecedented warmth and openness to learn from their bold experiments. Moreover, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to the special issue editors Carl Rhodes, Iain Munro, Torkild Thanem, and Alison Pullen, as well as to the anonymous reviewers who have guided our revision process in a most constructive and collegial manner. We would also like to thank Patrizia Hoyer for her friendly review and most helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.
Conflict of interest
Bernhard Resch and Chris Steyaert declares that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
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Resch, B., Steyaert, C. Peer Collaboration as a Relational Practice: Theorizing Affective Oscillation in Radical Democratic Organizing. J Bus Ethics 164, 715–730 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04395-2