Latin American Struggles| The Network Prince: Leadership between Clastres and Machiavelli

Rodrigo Nunes


Although networked movements have often been described as leaderless, I propose that they not only display different kinds of leadership phenomena but, when understood in their own terms, also function in a similar way to the “societies against the state” described by Pierre Clastres: as systems whose functioning controls leadership, power, and (formal) organization by maintaining them in a fragile state. Whereas primitive societies aim to prevent change, however, networked movements exist in shifting conjunctures in which they must intervene  and thus are under the imperative to act. The distributed leadership that characterizes them at once inhibits the autonomization of leadership and presupposes its emergence as a condition for action. Rather than choosing between centralized leadership and total leaderlessness, therefore, networked movements must balance two demands (controlling and eliciting leadership) in tension with one another—inhabiting a non-disjunctive space that I describe as “between Clastres and Machiavelli.”


networks, social movements, leadership, distributed leadership, society against the state, Pierre Clastres

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