logo

Cosmos

The Centre on Social Movement Studies

logo

Civil Society and the Paralyzed State: Mobilizing for democracy in East Germany

Daniel P. Ritter

Type: Working Paper
Year: 2012

Among cases of transition to democracy from below, the East German one constitutes a particularly challenging puzzle. Whereas social movements taking advantage of an oppositional space within a repressive context have preceded many transitions, the East German case shows little evidence of such large-scale prior opposition. Even when compared to other Eastern European transitions, East Germany is unique in that no major opposition group existed prior to the revolution. Still, civil society groups did play important roles in East Germany in the 1980s. Despite being unable to challenge the regime, they began to create the political space necessary for a protest culture to emerge. In fact, the development of civil society groups assumed an almost evolutionary character as religious groups gave way for peace and environmental movements that eventually transformed in turn into democratization initiatives. This report seeks to highlight some of the most important civil society tendencies present in the GDR and to situate them in the domestic and international contexts that made a mass-based push for democratization possible in the fall of 1989. Furthermore, the report argues that the relative lack of coherent civil society organizations makes the East German transition to democracy a pure example of democratization from below, as opposition elites had little impact on the progression of the revolution.
EUI SPS - Cosmos Working Paper 2012/06

2012WP06COSMOS

News

13/12/2017

Call for Paper: Conference “1968-2018, fifty years after: Where is the social movements field going?”

alt
Taking the 1968 anniversary as a stimulating moment for reflection, this conference seeks to provide space for looking at the implications of that period on social movement research as well as addressing a number of key questions in current social movement research.

04/12/2017

Martin Portos Garcia wins the ISA's Seventh Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists

alt
The International Sociological Association has just announced the list of the winners of the Seventh Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists engaged in social research, amongst which Martin Portos Garcia - post-doc fellow at COSMOS

10/11/2017

Call for Application Now Open: Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities

alt
We are pleased to announce that the call for applications is now open for the Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities, sponsored by the Reinventing Democracy in Europe: Youth Doing Politics in Times of Increasing Inequalities project (EURYKA) and the Centre on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS).

Publications

Journal Article - 2017

Repertoires of knowledge practices: Social movements in times of crisis

Donatella della Porta and Elena Pavan
Starting from the assumption that knowledge becomes all the more important for movements in times of crisis, as old structures are challenged and new ones envisaged and proved feasible, the purpose of this paper is to suggest ways to expand the toolkit of social movement studies in order to empirically address knowledge practices as a meaningful part of contemporary progressive activism.

Journal Article - 2017

’Solidarietà sconvenienti’. Reti online di estrema destra contro e per la riforma dell’Europa

Elena Pavan and Manuela Caiani
By focusing on the websites of extreme right organizations in six European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom) and by making a combined use of digital research tools and social network analysis, we explore how extreme right organizations make a strategic use of ICTs to connect in the online space and the arguments they move forward to criticize and reform current projects of European integration. Our results suggest that ICTs sustain the construction of inconvenient solidarities in heterogeneous ways, supporting different modes of online conversations amongst extreme right websites which, in turn, affect their capacity to propose shared critiques and proposals to reform the European Union.