How Social Movements Can Save DemocracyDemocratic Innovations from Below
How Social Movements Can Save Democracy
Democratic Innovations from Below

The birth of democracies owes much to the interventions and mobilizations of ordinary people. Yet many feel as though they have inherited democratic institutions which do not deliver for the people – that a rigid democratic process has been imposed from above, with increasing numbers of people feeling left out or left behind.
In this well-researched volume, leading political sociologist Donatella della Porta rehabilitates the role social movements have long played in fostering and deepening democracy, particularly focusing on progressive movements of the Left which have sought to broaden the plurality of voices and knowledge in democratic debate. Bridging social movement studies and democratic theory, della Porta investigates contemporary innovations in times of crisis, particularly those in the direction of participatory and deliberative practices – ‘crowd-sourced constitutions’, referendums from below and movement parties – and reflects on the potential and limits of such alternative politics.
In a moment in which concerns increase for the potential disruption of a Great Regression led by xenophobic movements and parties, the cases and analyses of resistance in this volume offer important material for students and scholars of political sociology, political science and social movement studies.
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  • May 2020
  • 224 pages
  • 158 x 232 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509541263
  • Paperback $24.95
  • 9781509541270
  • Open eBook $20.00
  • 9781509541287
Table of Contents

1. Democratic Innovations and Social Movements

2. Crowd-Sourced Constitutionalism: Social Movements in the Constitutional Process

3. Referendums from Below: Direct Democracy and Social Movements

4. Movement Parties in the Great Recession

5. Progressive Movements and Democratic Innovations: Some Conclusions

About the Author

Donatella della Porta is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Centre on Social Movement Studies at the Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence

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"If our democracies don't improve, they may not survive. In turn, democratic innovation requires progressive social movements that champion and sustain changes to the rules by which we govern ourselves. Donatella della Porta makes clearer precisely how movement politics can fuel civic reforms to make democratic systems more worthy of that name."
John Gastill, Pennsylvania State University

"With characteristic insight, Donatella della Porta argues we need to look at those cases where progressive social movements have democratized our institutions. No longer “strangers at the gate,” perhaps interested in policy outcomes, social movements have intervened into matters of procedure. They have been key protagonists in innovating democratic institutions to make them deeper, more meaningful, and more participatory. Drawing on a rich and long-standing research program, the book covers fascinating cases as diverse as crowd-sourced constitutionalism in Iceland and movement-parties in Spain and Bolivia, among others. The research is clear-eyed and nuanced, and the analysis unafraid to point to both limits and potentials. This is an extremely important and needed book by one of today’s key thinkers on democracy and a poignant rejoinder to those who have responded to the democratic crisis with elitism."
Gianpaolo Baiocchi, New York University

"This book combines two of della Porta’s many intellectual interests – progressive social movements and democratic theory. She shows how, in this moment of serious threat to democracy, movements go beyond street politics to invent new and innovative performances. These, she argues, can enrich both democratic discourse and practice. An engaging read by one of Europe’s leading scholars of contentious politics."
Sidney Tarrow, Cornell University, author of Power in Movement

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