In modern and contemporary critical politics, social transformation is conceptualised primarily in terms of struggle and opposition rather than collaboration. If collaboration is possible, it acts always in the service of an overriding political conflict that is the celebrated motor of social change. This kind of political engagement is limiting when considered from the transformative perspective of ‘excolonialism’, which I conceive as an ‘exit from colonialism’ that calls for collaboration across and between cultural differences. And yet, the idea of ‘collaborative struggle’ across social differences is obscured when oppositional conflict is naturalised and privileged with a causal transformative force. Indeed, the tendency to view conflict as an ontologically given condition is dominant across diverse traditions of Western thought. Thinkers as varied as Hobbes, Hegel, Freud and Foucault each prioritise ideas of conflict or struggle in their political philosophies and in their conceptualisations of selfhood and community. Resistance movements have frequently been shaped intellectually by a Marxist framework, in which opposition is formal and driving, and collaboration is aligned with an ideal and final unity that is eventually realised (only) through struggle. In this paper, I argue for a conceptual shift away from critical theories of social transformation that emphasise conflict, to those that emphasise positive forces of interaction in constructing and transforming communities. I do not deny the reality of conflict or the significance of dissent in political life, but I strive to conceive of collaboration as immediately causal and constructive: this paper conceptualises a directive form of collaboration immanent to transformative processes. Thinking about the transformative nature of collaboration permits new understanding about the political importance of constructed affinities that are forged in conditions of diversity and resist powerful and exclusive forms of common identification. Finally, in light of this conceptualisation of collaborative engagement, I ask: how can a practical emphasis on the motive force of constructed affinity maintain a connection with critical contestation and create new ways of struggling?.