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Advanced Introduction to Theories in the Social Sciences I: Democracy and Society

Periodo di svolgimento

da Novembre 2020 a Dicembre 2020
Ore del corso: 20
Ore dei docenti responsabili: 20

Modalità d'esame

  • Relazione o seminario


Compulsory for the 1st year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Compulsory for the 1st year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"


TThe course aims at presenting different conceptions of democracy as they have emerged in theories and in practices. As such, it introduces some main topics in political sociology, bridging concerns with theoretical approaches as well as empirical research on democracy within and beyond institutions.

The course has a seminar format. Participants are asked to read the assigned readings and discuss them in the class. Positional papers on one (or more) of the topics addressed in the seminar will be  required.


Session 1. Liberal democracy and its discontent

November 4, 2020 h. 10-13

This session introduces various conceptualization of democracy, singling out the development of conceptions and practices of liberal democracy and its challenges.



Donatella della Porta, Can Democracy be Saved?, Polity, 2013, chapter 1

Donatella della Porta, Where did the revolution go?, Cambridge University Press, 2016, chapter 1.



Session 2. Participatory and deliberative conceptions of democracy

November 9, 2020, h. 10-13

This session discusses alternative visions of democracy with particular attention to participatory and deliberative conceptions and practices, in civil society and public institutions.



Della Porta, Donatella, Can democracy be saved?, Oxford, Polity Press, 2013, Chaps. 3 and 4

Della Porta, Donatella, Social Movements in times of austerity, Oxford, Polity Press, 2015, chap. 4.



 Session 3. Democratization and democratic deepening

November 16 h. 10-13

This session looks at recent innovations in democracy, with particular attention to constitutional processes and direct democracy.


Della Porta, Donatella, How social movements can save democracy, Polity, 2020, chapter 1 and 2.

Smith, Graham, 2010, Democratic Innovation. Designing Institutions for Citizens’ Participation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, chaps. 1 and 5.


Session 4. Democracy and Political Participation

November 25, 2020, h. 9-11

Guest Speaker: Marco Giugni, University of Geneve


This session addresses the debate in the social sciences about structural conditions for democracy and agents of democratizations.



Marco Giugni and Maria Grasso, Street Citizens, Cambridge University Press, 2019, chaps. 1, 4, 8.


Session 5. Social Movements and Democracy

November 25, 2020, h. 11-13

Guest speaker: Mario Diani, University of Trento with Marco Giugni as discussant


This session will address the interactions between social movements and democracy. In this context, the 3rd edition of Social Movements: An Introduction will be presented by the authors and discussed.



D. della Porta and M. Diani, Social Movements: An Introduction, Blackwell, 3rd edition, 2020, chaps. 1-8.




Session 6. Class, capitalism and democracy

December 9, 2020, h. 11-14

Guest speaker: Francesco Boldizzoni, Norwegian University of Science and Technology


This session discusses the interactions between politics and the market, with particular attention to the interactions between democracy and capitalist developments



Francesco Boldizzoni, Foretelling the end of capitalism, Harvard University Press, 2020, chap. 6.

Donatella della Porta, Social Movements in Times of Austerity, Polity, 2015, chapter 1.



Session 7. Democracy and the public sphere  

December 14, 2020 h. 11-14

Guest speaker: Hans Joerg Trenz, University of Copenhagen (starting in February as full professor at SNS)


This session looks at the role of the public sphere for democratic developments at national and transnational levels.



Bennett, W. L. and B. Pfetsch (2018). "Rethinking Political Communication in a Time of Disrupted Public Spheres." Journal of Communication 68(2): 243-253.

Fraser, N. (2007). "Transnationalizing the Public Sphere: On the Legitimacy and Efficacy of Public Opinion in a Post-Westphalian World." Theory, Culture & Society 24(4): 7-30.

Salvatore, A., Schmidtke, O. and Trenz, HJ. (2013). Introduction: Rethinking the Public Sphere through Transnationalizing Processes. Europe and Beyond. In A. Salvatore, O. Schmidtke and H. J. Trenz (eds.). Rethinking the Public Sphere through Transnationalizing Processes. Europe and Beyond. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan: 1-24.



Obiettivi formativi

Introduce to general sociological theories on democracy