Beyond the horizon(tality): Can hierarchical be horizontal?
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This research reconciles leaders(hip) and organizations with horizontality by showing that they give rise to hierarchies and social authorities that limit power inequalities within the movement. Since authorities and hierarchies are defined as un-horizontal (Juris 2008, 354), this research prompts for horizontality’s reconceptualization so that its practice actually limits power inequalities, which is ultimately horizontality’s raison d'être (Maeckelbergh, 2009, 69). By exploring how coordination occurs through alternative politics that redesign the way power operates, this research contributes to Reedy’s (2014, 639) quest for "impossible organizing." Through a participatory, militant autoethnography, I unpack the practice of horizontality within Extinction Rebellion Netherlands (XRNL) through the lens of leadership as informed by organizational processes. First, I argue that leadership practice is inseparable from XRNL’s organization, which enables actors’ leadership practice, legitimizes a leadership practice aimed at power equalization, and distributes leadership and power across the movement. As a result, XRNL's organization does not obliterate power but instills it into formal organizational processes that give rise to collectively accepted hierarchies and social authorities that can ultimately limit power inequalities among activists. This shows facilitators' leadership figures who, being given the social authority to manage meaning and frame actors’ interactions, can exercise influence to distributes leadership and mitigate power. However, social authority and its solidification through uneven capital distributions make it difficult to challenge powerholders and might result in power centralization, hampering horizontality. Thus, horizontality is a never-ending project requiring intentionality and continuous monitoring, or else leadership and organization can become liabilities.