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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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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

18/05/2018

Donatella della Porta at the Belleuve Forum in Berlin - May 23, 2018

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On May 23rd, 2018, the Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier talks with Donatella della Porta, Christoph Möllers and David Van Reybrouck about anti-politics, anti-establishment and the dangers of indifference to the political to address the 2018 topic of the Forum "Society without Politics - Testing Liberal Democracies".

08/04/2018

Austeridad, capitalismo y conflicto social. Nuevas tendencias en el estudio de los movimientos sociales - An interview with Donatella della Porta

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An interview with Donatella della Porta realized by COES - Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social

12/03/2018

"Standing up for Science" - a documentary by Dieter Rucht

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A documentary by Dieter Rucht on the 2017 March for Science in Washington, D.C. - now available on YouTube.

Publications

Edited Volume - 2018

Solidarity Mobilizations in the ‘Refugee Crisis’. Contentious Moves

Donatella della Porta (ed.)
This edited volume ddresses a gap in research on social movements that has disregarded the origins of discontent and overlooks protest as a resource of the powerless; it offers insight into how the movement of refugees across the European Union and elsewhere activates political opportunities; it explores claims to citizenship made by refugees within processes of knowledge production and the mobilization of emotions

Monograph - 2018

I movimenti animalisti in Italia. Strategie, politiche e pratiche di attivismo.

Niccolò Bertuzzi
Il volume si focalizza su coloro che in Italia si occupano di benessere, cura, diritti e liberazione animale all'interno di contesti organizzativi. Grazie alla somministrazione di una survey, interviste agli attivisti e analisi dei frame, emergono una notevole varietà di strategie, pratiche e riferimenti valoriali, la contemporanea presenza di lobby e conflitto, e la natura complessa di un fenomeno al centro dell’attenzione mediatica ma ancora poco studiato in termini sociologici.