Exploring the open space of the movement of movements : democracy conceptions in the World Social Forum

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Title: Exploring the open space of the movement of movements : democracy conceptions in the World Social Forum
Author: Rönkkö, Lauri Mikael
Contributor organization: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology
Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Sosiologian laitos
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Sociologiska institutionen
Date: 2008-05-12
Language: eng
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/11379
Thesis level: Master’s thesis
Abstract: This Master´s thesis analyses how the World Social Forum WSF has emerged as a new global civil society space in the context of the expansion of economism and general depolitisation (cf. Teivainen), facilitated by the internationalisation process and supranational opportunity structures (cf. Tilly and Tarrow). The WSF brings together besides national social movements and their transnational coalitions also new types of transnational social movements and networks. It challenges essentially the expanding democratic deficits at local and national levels, but especially at the international level. Recent research has confirmed the high degree of critical debate on democracy present in social forums: especially internal democracy emerges as an important topic of discussion for the activists (cf. Della Porta). One of the main debates of the WSF is found around the questions whether to favour efficiency over participation or specialization over equality, or vice versa. This dilemma is reflected in the dispute whether the WSF should continue to follow Open Space methodology or move towards a political actor. The aim of this study is to analyse these competing discourses and framings among WSF movements, mirroring discourses to the four models of public sphere presented by Ferree, Gamson, Gerhards and Rucht, and the four conception of internal democracy of Donatella della Porta, and how they are implemented in WSF internal practices. Study identifies three major framings: the movement of movements framing tends to advocate the representative democracy model and the vertical party-type organisations following associational democracy models, i.e., delegation of power and the majority decision-making. The horizontal framing typically criticize the vertical structures and representative practices, and have instead developed horizontal network politics and follow constructionist democracy ideals, emphasizing priority of the prefigurative politics over the efficiency of decision-making. Another main issue explaining the divisions among WSF movements is their divergent relation to the axis of national/ transnational spheres and the changing power relations between these spheres. The open space framing typically relates to the transnationalism as an opportunity like those sympathising horizontal framing. Although no satisfactory solution seems ready yet to address the main organizational dilemmas of the WSF, some progress can anyhow be observed. Consequently, the WSF should be seen as a laboratory of prefigurative politics, developing and testing new form of politics and alternative democratic practices, a global civil society space where excluded voices gather and discuss alternative political and economic practices. It empowers local, national and transnational social movements to create new projects and alliances, and creates new identities, as well, perhaps new type of transnational identities as well.
Description: Only abstract. Paper copies of master’s theses are listed in the Helka database (http://www.helsinki.fi/helka). Electronic copies of master’s theses are either available as open access or only on thesis terminals in the Helsinki University Library.Vain tiivistelmä. Sidottujen gradujen saatavuuden voit tarkistaa Helka-tietokannasta (http://www.helsinki.fi/helka). Digitaaliset gradut voivat olla luettavissa avoimesti verkossa tai rajoitetusti kirjaston opinnäytekioskeilla.Endast sammandrag. Inbundna avhandlingar kan sökas i Helka-databasen (http://www.helsinki.fi/helka). Elektroniska kopior av avhandlingar finns antingen öppet på nätet eller endast tillgängliga i bibliotekets avhandlingsterminaler.
Subject: World Social Forum
social movements
political participation
global civil society
democracy theories
sosiaaliset liikkeet
poliittinen osallistuminen

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