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Mobilizing for democracy: Democratization processes and the mobilization of civil society

Final Report Summary - MOBILIZING4DEMOCRACY (Mobilizing for democracy: Democratization processes and the mobilization of civil society)

The project has successfully achieved all its planned aim. Theoretical work helped in conceptualizing paths of democratization as well as democratic deepening and locating them within the social science literature on democratic transitions and democratic quality. In particular, I singled out different paths of democratization, and the potential conditions for their development, stressing that civil society organizations might be relevant in different forms and moments. The analysis included a (relatively) large number of cases of democratization in Eastern Europe, the Arab Spring as well as Southern Europe. While different in many respects (geopolitical area, previous regime, social structures etc.), the waves of protest for democracy show some similarities in the processes of participation of civil society, going from the mobilization of existing resources to the framing of the emerging actors and the appropriation of political opportunities.
The project also contributed to understanding the consequences of previous participation of civil society organizations in transition on the successive stages of consolidation building upon a comparison of cases of ‘democratization from above’ and ‘democratization from below’, addressing the time evolution as well as the causal mechanisms of civil society participation in democratization processes. Empirical evidences came from quantitative analyses of protest events, collected from the press and other sources, as well as oral history and archival research.
Research has been also conducted on recent campaigns of mobilization for "real" or "direct" democracy, embedding these campaigns in the historical development of social, political and cultural systems. We addressed several cases in Europe as (Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Ukraine) on contemporary forms of political participation; social movements and democratization beyond Europe (including Turkey, South Africa, Brazil. Venezuela). In order to understand the potential for democratic responses face to critical junctures, teh project has analysed discoursive reactions to the armed attack against Charlie Hebdo, with the related debates on secularism and freedom of speech. In order to assess the deliberative democratic processes in plural public spheres, taking the dramatic attacks in France as a turning point, we analysed the evolution of discourses in daily newspaper (mainstream and alternative dailies) as well as in new media (in particular of mobilized progressive movements, as well as right-wing ones). The comparative analysis of France, Germany and the UK (chosen as typical for three main citizens’ regimes) as well as Italy (as example of country of recent migration) and Denmark. A second critical juncture we researched in depth is the one related to the so-called refugees crisis in Europe. Focusing on the Balkan route, but also on some contested areas at the borders in Spain, Italy and France, we have looked at both solidarity initiatives with refugees and anti-refugees protests. Another part of the research has addressed the potential for civil society organization to influence institutions through an analysis of new and successful movements parties (in particular, Syriza, Podemos and 5 Stars movements) as well as referendum campaigns which saw high involvement of civil society (in particular, in Scotland, Catalonia and Italy). The development of civil society organizations was also assessed in a time perspective (by looking at effects of memories of transitions as well as a ritualized event such as the Labour day) as well as in a spatial perspective (through the analysis of the global spreading of protests against austerity). Finally, the project covered looked at failed mobilization for democracy, bridging literature on social movements, democratization and revolution.