Democracy in Social Movements

Donatella Della Porta

in The Oxford Handbook of Social Movements

Published in print November 2015 | ISBN: 9780199678402
Published online January 2015 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

Democracy in Social Movements

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  • Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • Political Behaviour


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While not all social movement have struggled for democracy, many progressive social movements have been important actors in the development of conceptions and practices of democracy. The chapter reviews some of the main contributions by past and contemporary social movements (from the labor movement to new social movements, the global justice movements and recent anti-austerity protests) in the broadening of the conceptions and practices of democracy, with particular emphasis on participatory and deliberative democracy. While far from achieving their ideals, progressive movements tend to strive for inclusive and transparent forms of internal decision making, with increasing emphasis on consensus building. In a final section, attention is paid to the external and internal factors that have an impact on internal practices of decision making in social movements, including activists critical self-reflections, and attempts to overcome past failures.

Keywords: democracy; participatory democracy; deliberative democracy; social movement organizations; global justice movements

Article.  6434 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Behaviour

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