Tyrannie de l’informel

La tyrannie de l’informel, également appelée tyrannie de l’horizontalité ou tyrannie de l’absence de structure, est un concept de théorie féministe des organisations élaboré dans les années 1970 1Jo Freeman, « The Tyranny of Structurelessness », Jofreeman.com, , (lire en ligne) par Jo Freeman, avocate, essayiste, politologue féministe américaine.

Définition et description

La tyrannie de l’informel est un dysfonctionnement organisationnel généré par l’absence de structure hiérarchique (« structurelessness » en anglais, souvent traduit par « horizontalité »), aboutissant à l’instauration de relations de pouvoir informelles encore plus oppressives que celles que l’horizontalité était censée empêcher. La tyrannie de l’horizontalité peut même être une stratégie consciente employée par des oppresseurs pour stériliser une lutte et maintenir un groupe opprimé sous sa coupe.

La militante féministe Hilary Wainwright résume ainsi la tyrannie de l’horizontalité : « Cette apparente absence de structure masque le plus souvent un commandement (leadership) informel, non-reconnu, n’ayant de comptes à rendre à personne, bien plus pernicieux puisque son existence même est niée » 2Hilary Wainwright, « Imagine there’s no leaders », The Transnational Institute, , (lire en ligne)

Les mouvements politiques féminins sont particulièrement vulnérables à la tyrannie de l’informel car l’absence de formalisation et d’explicitation des structures et des hiérarchies crée un terreau favorable à l’établissement de hiérarchies et rapports de pouvoir défavorables aux femmes. L’essentiel de la domination masculine exercée sur les femmes se produit dans le champ brouillé de l’informel : les sentiments, les relations interpersonnelles, l’espace domestique, les réseaux professionnels informels, les non-dits.

De plus, il existe des raisons historiques à la vulnérabilité horizontaliste des mouvements féministes. Du fait de l’absence historique de droite structurée, les féministes, y compris les plus libérales, n’ont eu pour soutien que la gauche et les éléments les plus sinistristes (gauchistes) du camp conservateur et des libéraux gazéifiés. Peu à peu, c’est la gauche qui a fourni l’essentiel de l’armature idéologique des divers mouvements féministes occidentaux. Il s’est donc produit au fil de l’histoire politique occidentale un processus de sinistrisation du féminisme. Or, un des pilliers de la sensibilité politique sinistriste est l’aversion pour la hiérarchie et le goût de l’horizontalité. Cette sensibilité se retrouve dans l’ensemble de l’éventail politique de la gauche : tant chez les gauchistes les plus anarchistes ou libertaire, que chez les communistes les plus autoritaristes.

Extraits de « La Tyrannie de l’informel »

« To strive for a structureless group is as useful, and as deceptive, as to aim at an « objective » news story, « value-free » social science, or a « free » economy. A « laissez faire » group is about as realistic as a « laissez faire » society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others. This hegemony can be so easily established because the idea of « structurelessness » does not prevent the formation of informal structures, only formal ones. Similarly « laissez faire » philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing control over wages, prices, and distribution of goods; it only prevented the government from doing so. Thus structurelessness becomes a way of masking power, and within the women’s movement is usually most strongly advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious of their power or not). As long as the structure of the group is informal, the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is limited to those who know the rules. Those who do not know the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion, or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which they are not quite aware. »

« The inevitably elitist and exclusive nature of informal communication networks of friends is neither a new phenomenon characteristic of the women’s movement nor a phenomenon new to women. Such informal relationships have excluded women for centuries from participating in integrated groups of which they were a part. In any profession or organization these networks have created the « locker room » mentality and the « old school » ties which have effectively prevented women as a group (as well as some men individually) from having equal access to the sources of power or social reward. Much of the energy of past women’s movements has been directed to having the structures of decision-making and the selection processes formalized so that the exclusion of women could be confronted directly. As we well know, these efforts have not prevented the informal male-only networks from discriminating against women, but they have made it more difficult. »

« The desire for meaningful political activity generated in women by their becoming part of the women’s liberation movement is sufficient to make them eager to join other organizations when the movement itself provides no outlets for their new ideas and energies. Those women who join other political organizations while remaining within the women’s liberation movement, or who join women’s liberation while remaining in other political organizations, in turn become the framework for new informal structures. These friendship networks are based upon their common nonfeminist politics rather than the characteristics discussed earlier, but operate in much the same way. Because these women share common values, ideas, and political orientations, they too become informal, unplanned, unselected, unresponsible elites — whether they intend to be so or not.
These new informal elites are often perceived as threats by the old informal elites previously developed within different movement groups. This is a correct perception. Such politically oriented networks are rarely willing to be merely « sororities » as many of the old ones were, and want to proselytize their political as well as their feminist ideas. This is only natural, but its implications for women’s liberation have never been adequately discussed. The old elites are rarely willing to bring such differences of opinion out into the open because it would involve exposing the nature of the informal structure of the group.

Many of these informal elites have been hiding under the banner of « anti-elitism » and « structurelessness. » To effectively counter the competition from another informal structure, they would have to become « public, » and this possibility is fraught with many dangerous implications. Thus, to maintain its own power, it is easier to rationalize the exclusion of the members of the other informal structure by such means as « red-baiting, » « reformist-baiting, » « lesbian-baiting, » or « straight-baiting. » The only other alternative is to formally structure the group in such a way that the original power structure is institutionalized. This is not always possible. If the informal elites have been well structured and have exercised a fair amount of power in the past, such a task is feasible. These groups have a history of being somewhat politically effective in the past, as the tightness of the informal structure has proven an adequate substitute for a formal structure. Becoming Structured does not alter their operation much, though the institutionalization of the power structure does open it to formal challenge. It is those groups which are in greatest need of structure that are often least capable of creating it. Their informal structures have not been too well formed and adherence to the ideology of « structurelessness » makes them reluctant to change tactics. The more unstructured a group is, the more lacking it is in informal structures, and the more it adheres to an ideology of « structurelessness, » the more vulnerable it is to being taken over by a group of political comrades. »

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Notes et références

Notes et références
1 Jo Freeman, « The Tyranny of Structurelessness », Jofreeman.com, , (lire en ligne)
2 Hilary Wainwright, « Imagine there’s no leaders », The Transnational Institute, , (lire en ligne)
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