The Discourse of Anti-Instrumentalism: Exploring a Conceptual Model Through the Case Study of the We Won't Let Belgrade D(r)own Initiative


Abstract


The main focus of our paper is on a specific form of democratic discourse, used in different types of social engagement actions (petitions, speeches, intellectual engagement, ad hoc citizens' protests, social movements etc.), that attempts to politicize a certain issue by challenging the neoliberal principle of instrumentalism which argues that democratic procedures can legitimately be abandoned in the name of the greater efficiency of socio-economic development. Therefore, we start from identifying the discourse of "neoliberal instrumentalism" and its relative success in delegitimizing the welfare state and mechanisms of democratic decision making and we formulate a conceptual model of a democratic counter-narrative named "anti-instrumentalist discourse". Through empirical analyses of discourse used by We Won't Let Belgrade D(r)own initiative, that mobilized against the Serbian government's urban project Belgrade Wa-terfront we try to illustrate the applicability and the heuristic value of the proposed model. The data for the analyses were collected through 1) desk analysis of available secondary data on the Belgrade Waterfront project, 2) official statements and proclamations of the We Won't Let Belgrade D(r)own initiative, 3) semi-structured interviews with four core members of the initiative.

Keywords: Anti-instrumentalist discourse; deliberative democracy; neoliberal instrumentalism; social engagement; We Won't let Belgrade D(r)own initiative

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