Democracy and social movements

The research group on Democracy and Social Movement looks at the interactions between social movements and democracy, bridging social science approaches to those topics in both theoretical and empirical perspectives. From the theoretical point of view, a main innovation consists in addressing structural preconditions as well as the actors’ strategies, looking at the intersection of structure and agency. In an historical and comparative perspective and through a pluralist methodological approach, the group aims at developing our understanding of the conditions and effects of the participation of civil society organizations in the various stages of democratization processes. Addressing social movements not only in the North and the West, but also in the South and the East, the cluster addresses the territorial dimension of the polity, paths of transnationalization (including Europeanization as well as conflicts around inclusive and exclusive forms of nationalism). Social movements are analysed as spaces of prefiguration of different conceptions of democracy, focusing on participatory and deliberative qualities. Research also focuses on the knowledge produced by social movements (in particular, those focusing on anti-corruption, environmental, gender and refugees’ rights). This research groupalso explores the theoretical implications and empirical relevance of “movement- parties” and other forms of participation of social movements in electoral forms, including “referendums from below”, “crowd-sourced constitutional processes” as well as at the ways in which social movements contribute to innovations in democracy.

Main Projects

  • Critical Young Europeans (CRY-OUT). Funded by the Italian Ministry of University Education, the project maps collective experiences by young people pursuing a just and sustainable European society in selected European countries in order to explore youth participation and attitude to engage in different political domains. Director: Donatella della Porta.
  • Anti-Corruption from Below. The project, financed by the Tuscan Region,  aims at studying contentious politics around issues of political corruption and organized crimes, including corruption, environmental crimes, labour exploitation. Director: Donatella della Porta. Researchers: Marco Antonelli; Gianni Del Panta; Salvatore Sberna, Alberto Vannucci.
  • Communication and Participation under Health Emergency. The project, funded by the Tuscany Region, addresses communication and participation during pandemic times. Director: Donatella della Porta. Researchers: Daniela Chironi, Stella Christou, Riccardo Chesta, Andrea Felicetti.
  • Transnational Political Contention in Europe (TraPoCo). This Jean Monnet network, financed by the European Commission, addresses new forms of transnationalization of social movements, with focus on migrant rights, labour rights and the environment. Directors: Donatella della Porta and Chiara Milan. Researchers: Chiara Milan, Federico Alagna.
  • Enacting Citizenship and Solidarity in Europe 'From Below' (ECSEuro). Funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung, the project aims at investigating solidarity initiatives at the trans-local and intersectional levels. Reflecting on the European challenge of transnational cooperation and multiple crises, this project asks how local political initiatives across Europe enact citizenship and solidarity and contribute to the vision of a more democratic Europe from below. Director: Donatella della Porta. Researchers: Angela Adami, Carlotta Caciagli; Joana Hofstetter.
  • Feminist Movenents Revitalizing Democracy in Europe (FIERCE). Funded by the European Union’s Horizong Europe Research and Innovation Program, the project main aim is to provide knowledge and tools to revitalize alliances among feminist movements, civil society organizations and political decision makers. The project covers Denmark France, Greece, Italy, Poland. Slovenia, Spain and Turkey. Director: Donatella Della Porta; Researchers: Giada Bonu; Anastasia Barone; Anna Lavizzari.
  • Contentious politics in pandemic times. Analysing protests in Italy, 2020-2023. Financed by the Italian Ministery of University and Research the project analyses protests in Italy during the pandemic crisis.  Director Donatella Della Porta.
  • The politics and policy of climate change. Financed by the Pro3 program of the Italian Ministery for University and Research, the project addresses the role of social movements and other political actors in the politics and policy of climate change. Director: Donatella Della Porta; Codirectors at SNS: Guglielmo Meardi; Hans-Joerg Trenz; Researchers at SNS: Daniela Chioni; Eugene Nulman.
  • The Return of the Future: democracy and political planning in the age of COVID-19 and climate change (ReFuture). The project, funded by the Italian government through the PRIN 2022 programme, investigates the comeback of the need for political planning and its role in revitalising democratic governance vis-à-vis epochal challenges like climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on the intellectual and political debate on planning, on the impact of the planning policies put in place through NGEU and the NRRP and on the visions of the future, planning practices, and prefigurative experiences of grassroots civil society actors. Director:  Lorenzo Zamponi (SNS).
  • Driving Transformative Environmental Governance (TRANSFORM). The project, funded by the Italian government through the PRIN 2022 PNRR programme, investigates how civil society actors drive change towards transformative environmental governance, focusing on how civil society actors of different types challenge the overarching norms that currently shape environmental governance through bottom-up paths where they encourage and enact innovative changes to social-ecological systems, and through demands for change at multiple institutional levels. Director: Lorenzo Zamponi (SNS).
  • Maidan revolution, civil society and hegemony crisis in post-Soviet country. Financed under the SARs program, the project analysis the challenges of democratization processes. Scientific Responsibility: Donatella Della Porta; Researcher Oleg Zhuravlev.