The Pirate Party Sets Sail

The worldwide rise of Pirate Party activism has only recently become the subject of considerable academic attention. Demker (2008) identifies Pirates to be part of a wider trend in current European political culture called “virtue parties,” that idealize ‘utopian’ political platforms of impartiality, transparency, and anti-corruption in the hope of superseding what they consider outdated methods of democratic participation. Another line of thought from Häyhtiö (2008) considers Pirate Parties to be an example of “individualized politics” within a “network intensive movement” that mobilizes itself via the Internet to frame access to digital rights and tools. Lindgren (2010) positions the Pirate Parties in a clashing discourse of creation and destruction. While ‘piracy’ has been framed as highly corrosive for national economics, politics, and culture, the term’s re-appropriation of the has come to embody the notion of a profound transformation in the mechanisms of capitalism itself. Erlingsson (2011) offers empirical evidence to demonstrate that Pirate Party activists in Sweden voted for the party not out of protest, but due to alignment with the party’s ideological platform. He also discuss the distinct demographic profile of the Pirate Party as predominately comprised of young males, who are technologically savvy, and either studying at university or living in cosmopolitan city centers. Paetau (2011) presents the Pirate Party as the international political wing of “cultural environmentalism” that mobilizes against what James Boyle calls the “second enclosure.”

Despite nuanced the references in literature to the movement’s ideology, modes of communication, demographics, and interaction with “cultural environmentalism,” the Pirate Party’s worldwide expansion in activity can only be explained by accounting for the ways in which a transnational socio-political movement can simultaneously mobilize its members’ overlapping associations across pre-existing local and cross-border activism networks (Djelic & Quack 2003). While the movement is certainly organized around high order global issues, the movement’s electoral success at the European, state, and local contexts suggests that successful Pirates Parties connect far-reaching attitudes on core issues of intellectual property reform, digital privacy, and government transparency with local circumstance. The personal backgrounds and affiliations of party chairs and organizers’ in pre-existing organizational networks often facilitate such connections. Gollatz (2012) asked 14 registered Pirate Parties if they reported connections to other local or national actors in overlapping fields of activism with all but one party reporting close connections to organizations such as the Wikimedia Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Free Software Foundation.

The remaining sections of the paper are dedicated to identifying the distinct tactics of transgression used by the Swedish and German Pirate Parties and the role pre-existing national or local activism networks played in guiding them. To demonstrate this claim between the Pirate Parties I analyze two distinct field-configuring events in which the Swedish Pirate Party’s tactics of idealization and the German Pirate Party’s commitments to invention dialogically overlap in the national context with F/OSS community’s tactics of inversion. I also address how the politics of intellectual property and genres of hacker transgression have invoked the emergence of a constellation of new actors such as WikiLeaks, Anonymous, Occupy Wall Street, and most recently, the Missionary Church of Kopimism.

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This entry was published on July 1, 2012 at 10:58 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “The Pirate Party Sets Sail

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