Deliberative democracy is increasingly central in democratic theory and its concepts are employed in a growing number of fields, including social movement studies and environmental politics. At the same time, contemporary citizen activism seems to feature some forms of engagement that resonate with deliberative democratic ideas.
This book provides an in-depth investigation of the qualities of citizens’ engagement from a deliberative democratic standpoint. The key concept through which such qualities are investigated is ‘deliberative capacity’, the extent to which organisations host authentic, inclusive, and consequential discursive processes. This book is based on a comparative study of four grassroots local initiatives, two from Australia (in Tasmania and Queensland) and two from Italy (in Emilia-Romagna and Sicily).
By offering a critical assessment of deliberation in social movement organisations, this study identifies key aspects affecting their ability to pursue democratic deliberation and sheds new light on the role of community actors in deliberative democracy.
Introduction / 1. Deliberative Capacity: From Deliberative Theory to Democratic Life / 2. Transition from a Deliberative Democratic Perspective / 3. Case Study: Transition Connor / 4. Case Study: Notari Città di Transizione / 5. Case Study: Transition Dickson Hills / 6. Vaiai in Transizione / 7. Comparative Findings / 8. The Drivers of Deliberative Capacity / 9. Conclusions / Bibliography / Index
Integrating deliberative democratic theory and empirical analysis, Deliberative Democracy and Social Movements offers a fresh analysis of the Transition movement through case studies in Australia and Italy. Felicetti methodically and contextually examines the deliberative capacity of each case study in terms of authenticity, inclusivity, and social impact. In so doing the book represents a significant advance in both deliberative democratic theory and social movement analysis of sustainability oriented active citizenship initiatives. Deliberative Democracy and Social Movements is a pioneering study, the first attempt to map and conceptualise ‘deliberative opportunity structures’ and deliberative capacity.
Andrea Felicetti finds a potential for public deliberation within social movements seeking to forestall climate change through community activism. This ‘Transition’ movement can, at times, create authentic, inclusive, and consequential spaces for public debate. By studying four cases with varied results, Felicetti helps us see how social movements can dovetail with the more abstract aims of deliberative democracy to transform simultaneously environmental policy and politics itself.
Andrea Felicetti has used a rare combination of theoretical frameworks and qualitative research to produce something that few other works on deliberative democracy can offer: real guidance for activists who want to be both democratic and effective, and real-world tests of theorists’ ideals. This book will be valuable not only to deliberative democrats, but social movement scholars and activists alike.
Andrea Felicetti is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Center on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS), Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy.