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Cosmos

The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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Student Struggles and Power Relations in Contemporary Universities. The Cases of Italy and England

Lorenzo Cini

The chapter sheds light on the type of institutional response that the recent student mobilizations in England and Italy set in motion locally. While this topic has been relatively widely researched in the US, the same cannot be said about Europe. To date, no study has been carried out on the institutional reaction to student activism within individual universities. How do individual universities react to student mobilizations? What kind of strategies does the university establishment adopt? This chapter aims to assess and compare the counter strategies that the leadership of some Italian and English universities adopted in facing the student mobilizations that occurred within them.

Type: Chapter in edited book
Year: 2016

Social movement scholars have generally disregarded the study of mobilizations within institutions. Even less well-studied are the effects that such mobilizations provoke. This is precisely the topic that the present chapter investigates. More specifically, the chapter sheds light on the type of institutional response that the recent student mobilizations in England and Italy set in motion locally. While this topic has been relatively widely researched in the US, the same cannot be said about Europe. To date, no study has been carried out on the institutional reaction to student activism within individual universities. How do individual universities react to student mobilizations? What kind of strategies does the university establishment adopt? This chapter aims to assess and compare the counter strategies that the leadership of some Italian and English universities adopted in facing the student mobilizations that occurred within them. My hypothesis is that type of leadership makes a difference in terms of institutional response. That is to say, academic leaders tend to be more interested in restoring the conditions ensuring a good environment for teaching and research than challenging student protesters on their terrain. This leads such leaders to be more eager to negotiate and compromise with internal challengers. By contrast, academic managers, whose principal objective is to make their universities highly competitive within the market of higher education, are generally more concerned about neutralizing potential challengers, who might damage the reputation and functioning of the university. In dealing with student mobilizations, then, academic managers are more likely to be confrontational and repressive than academics. Building on this first understanding of the differences between the English and Italian systems, the research questions that I will attempt to answer in the present chapter are the following: were there any differences in terms of institutional response between Italian and English universities when they were faced with student mobilizations? If there were, how can such differences be explained?

Brooks R., Student Politics and Protest: International Perspectives, London: Routledge, 2016

News

06/10/2017

Open Democracy Post - "The streets will always be ours" - Catalonia, a referendum from below

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Although some still conceive of the referendum as launched by a pro-independence vanguard, the elite story falls short of explaining the resilient participation of a large part of Catalan civil society. This post at Open Democracy addresses this issue from a different angle.

24/09/2017

New Publication Out - "Social movements and referendums from below. Direct democracy in the neoliberal crisis"

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A timely publication to shed light on the link between social movements that formed as a consequence of the 2008 financial crash and the referendums' dynamic and results.

25/08/2017

Donatella Della Porta con Yanis Varoufakis alla 13esima conferenza ESA

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Wednesday, August 30th (8pm-9.30pm) professor della Porta, who directs the Center on Social Movement Studies(Cosmos), will dialogue with Yanis Varoufakis, Greek Minister of Finance during the first Tsipras government, about the future of Europe and the social consequences of neoliberal economies

Publications

Monograph - 2018

Social Movements and Civil War : When Protests for Democratization Fail

Donatella della Porta, Teije Hidde Donker , Bogumila Hall , Emin Poljarevic
This book investigates the origins of civil wars which emerge from failed attempts at democratization. The main aim of this volume is to develop a theoretical explanation of the conditions under which and the mechanisms through which social movements' struggles for democracy ends up in civil war.

Monograph - 2017

Social movements and referendums from below. Direct democracy in the neoliberal crisis

Donatella Della Porta, Francis O'Connor, Martin Portos and Anna Subirats Ribas
Out now "Social movements and referendum from below", the first book that bridges the gap between social movement studies and research on direct democracy. It draws on social movement theory to understand the nature of popular mobilisation in referendums using unique case studies such as the referendum on independence in Scotland, the consultations on independence in Catalonia, the Italian referendum on water, the referendum on the Troika proposals in Greece and the referendum on the debt repayment in Iceland.