New democratic movements (V). Taking stock: workshop concluding remarks

Notes from the Workshop on New democratic movements, civic culture and the transformations of democracy, organized by the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, Spain, on June 18th and 19th, 2015. More notes on this event: new_democratic_movements.

Taking stock: workshop concluding remarks
Introduced by José Luís Martí

A common trend of these social movements is the way democracy works, coming after a deep discontent of the quality of democracy in general and its institutions in particular.

Another common trend, now in the how movements work, is horizontality. An idea that resonates with the movements back in the 1960s in the US. These movements are highly deliberative.

Deliberative and not aiming at representing anyone: it is precisely this deliberative nature that is highly inclusive not only in the sense of not leaving anyone out, but also in the sense that everyone should be invited to represent themselves, on their own.

The role of consensus — highly opposed to violence, being non-violence another key of the movement — is key, and is closely related with their view regarding to leadership.

These are movements that seamlessly combine the occupation of physical public spaces and the creation and use of virtual digital spaces. In many cases — though is not that common as with other issues — this comes accompanied by a defence of the common good and the commons, sometimes relabelled or reinterpreted or enhanced as the digital commons (and related to digital culture, including software).

There is an interesting point to be made: the movements not only aim at transforming the democratic institutions, but also want to perform a deep transformation in citizens. They expect that citizens are transformed by the movement and rethink their attitudes towards democracy and its institutions, and the way they feel about participation.


Marianne Maeckelbergh: it is crucial to acknowledge the non-violent nature of the movements. But not (only) from an ethic point of view, but also from a strategic point of view, as a very well though modus operandi.

Michael Gould-Wartofsky: maybe it is not totally accurate to call these movements totally horizontal. They were born in cases of huge inequality, and thus they were also accessed or participated unevenly. Maybe multiplicity and modularity are better ways to define them.

Jane Mansbridge: There was a huge effort to get more people to think about new ways to put pressure on the State. The focus of the deliberation was often to rethink one’s own role as a citizen, what is one’s relationship with the institutions, and how to take action after that awareness of who one is and what the relationship is with public decision-making.

Ismael Peña-López: These are movements that are not “against the system” but totally in favour of it, fighting to reinforce it, to strengthen it, to heal it. They are nor (or not all of them) unconditionally for direct democracy. Instead, they aim at taking the best of Ancient Greek democracy and the best of modern democracy: will it be liquid or hybrid democracy or another thing, we do not know. But we may expect that extra-representative democracy will have a strong role in it. Thus, we need new tools to measure how extra-representative participation works, what are their outputs and outcomes, and how does it relate with democratic institutions. And a last thought goes to the movement for the independence of Catalonia, which had some similarities with the 15M (indeed, the topic was debate during the Barcelona camps) in the ways that it is working and some similarities in some (not always shared, though) of the principles, especially about regaining sovereignty upon the governance of the system.

New democratic movements (2015)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2015) “New democratic movements (V). Taking stock: workshop concluding remarks” In ICTlogy, #141, June 2015. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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