Conference: Democratic Spaces: Gezi Park Two Years After, Özyeğin University
On May 6, 2015, Özyeğin University’s Department of International Relations hosted Prof. Dr. Donatella della Porta, professor of sociology at the European University Institute (EUI) and director of the EUI’s Centre on Social Movement Studies, to give a talk titled “Democratic Spaces: Gezi Park Two Years After.”
In addition to other texts on social movements, della Porta is the author of “Social Movements in Times of Austerity: Bringing Capitalism Back Into Protest Analysis” (Polity Press, 2015), in which she discusses recent antiausterity protests across the world, outlining their nature in the context of the crisis of neoliberalism. Her presentation at Özyeğin University was a reflection on similar themes.
Della Porta presented the Gezi Park protests of 2013 in the light of recent social movements that challenge the deterioration of democratic institutions and civil, political and social rights. Her analysis was not limited to one geographical region but extended to movements worldwide including Iceland, Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Peru, Brazil, Russia, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Drawing upon these cases, della Porta also provided a review of the literature on social movements, concentrating on three issues.
First, della Porta underlined that while it has developed a useful toolkit of concepts to deal with collective action in normal times, social movement studies has not produced a literature about movements in times of crisis. Scholars are accustomed to think about social movements in normal -- or structured -- times, when social movements are considered to be the outcome of democratization processes and take place in welfare states. Social movement studies is, therefore, oriented toward explanations of movements in established preconditions. However, contemporary protests are often triggered more by threats than opportunities, as shown by recent developments in, for example, labor movements, environment movements and women’s movements. These new movements arise from challenges at times when there are openings and possibilities for new topics to emerge. They also occur at times of societal tension, when the preconditions for strategic behavior and rational choice are not there; such protests are triggered more by threats, when it is not easy to predict what people will do and what will come next. Thus, these movements take place in exceptional times when actions change relations between institutions and citizens and render them unpredictable.
Second, social movement studies has mainly addressed so-called “advanced democracies” with developed welfare states. There are two challenges to this approach that have emerged in recent social movements: The new cycle of protests is taking place both against authoritarian regimes -such as those in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), in which people demand more democratization -- and in the democratic countries of Europe. Thus, there is a need to rethink how different types of hybrid regimes are affected by and react to protests. Moreover, the current movements are protests by both populations that have been
DELLA PORTA PRESENTED THE GEZI PARK PROTESTS OF 2013 IN THE LIGHT OF RECENT SOCIAL MOVEMENTS