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What does democracy mean? Activist views and practices in Athens, Cairo, London and Moscow

Ishkanian, Armine and Glasius, Marlies (2017) What does democracy mean? Activist views and practices in Athens, Cairo, London and Moscow. Democratization, 24 (6). 1006 - 1024. ISSN 1351-0347

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13510347.2016.1256874


We shed light on the discontent with and the appeal of democracy by interviewing some of the most committed critical citizens: core activists in street protests. Based on interviews in Athens, Cairo, London, and Moscow, we found that they rejected representative democracy as insufficient, and believed democracy to entail having a voice and a responsibility to participate intensively in political decision-making. Activists saw themselves as engaged in prefigurative politics by fostering democratic practices within the movement and, ultimately, in society, but also raised concerns about internal power dynamics reproducing existing inequalities and exclusions. The insistence by activists that citizens have both a right and a duty to participate should be taken more seriously by political scientists and policymakers, not just as a threat to democracy and democratization, but as an opportunity. However, contemporary social movements are not straightforward sites of prefiguration, but sites of struggle between experimental and traditional forms of organizing, between inclusive aspirations and exclusive tendencies.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2016 09:38
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 02:27
Projects: 5.011E+11
Funders: Robert Bosch Stiftung

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