Collective Leadership: Non-Hierarchical Organising in Activist Art Practices




Croswell, Kimberly

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Through a new anarchist inflected critical realist methodology, this study examines the shared leadership practices informing the creative production and distribution practices of three anarchist/anti-authoritarian activist art collectives: World War Three Illustrated, an all-volunteer collective of radical comic artists; Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, a distribution network for social justice printmakers and multimedia artists; and sub.Media, an anarchist video collective producing documentary and satirical news for online social intervention. Responding to in-depth semi-structured interviews, members of these three collectives outline their practices of self-organising, their shared economies, and relational experiences of leadership and collectivity in the context of activist art production and dissemination. Data was coded and organised using constructivist grounded theory methods, which were adapted to suit critical realist meta-theory requirements. Retroductively analysing demi-regularities in the data, four causal properties of shared leadership were determined: anarchy (i.e., non-hierarchical relations); affinity (i.e., co-identification & affinity through diversity); collective autonomy (i.e., unanimity & resistance to unfreedom); and cooperation (i.e., mutuality). The four causal properties were cross referenced with matching tendential demi-regularities found in the data emerging from constructivist grounded theory. Findings show that the primary causal power influencing the development of shared leadership is the power of cooperation in the form of mutuality. This study makes original contributions to the fields of leadership and organisational studies, specifically in relation to leadership in specialist creative groups, alternative economics, identities, and applied critical realism.



Leadership, Collectives, Anarchism, Activist Art, Critical Realism