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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

10/01/2022

SNS announces 14 fully-funded PhD positions

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The Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, Italy is pleased to announce 14 PhD fellowships beginning on November 1, 2022.

16/07/2021

Prof. della Porta to lead VolkswagenStiftung-funded ECSEuro project

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Reflecting the European challenge of transnational cooperation and multiple crises, this project asks how local political initiatives across Europe enact citizenship and solidarity and contribute to the vision of a more democratic Europe from below.

09/07/2021

SNS announces 7 fully-funded PhD positions

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The Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the Scuola Normale Superiore announces 7 fully-funded PhD positions. Deadline for applications: 21 August 2021.

28/09/2020

Four post-doctoral research positions on the pandemic

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The Scuola Normale Superiore announces four post-doctoral positions to be activated as part of the research project “After the coronavirus pandemic: The effects of the health emergency on society and knowledge.” 

26/02/2020

CFP Athens conference "Capitalism, Democracy, Contention: A Decade of Crisis" 13-15 May 2020

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Aspiring to shed light on the Greek experience in the era of crisis in a comparative, inter-disciplinary perspective, the Laboratory on Contentious Politics (Department of Political Science and History, Panteion University, Athens), the Centre on Social Movement Studies (Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence) and the Hellenic Political Science Association are organizing an international conference to be held at Panteion University, on 13, 14 and 15 May 2020.

12/12/2019

Prof. Donatella Della Porta to Be Awarded Honorary PhD

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On Friday 13, 2019, the University of the Peloponnese (PSIR) will award an honorary doctorate to Professor Donatella Della Porta, Dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at the Scuola Normale Superiore.

Publications

Journal Article - 2022

Forging, bending, and breaking: Enacting the “illiberal playbook” in Hungary and Poland

Andrea Pirro & Ben Stanley
We first argue that illiberal changes are ideologically founded and identify how both populism and nativism figure in the policymaking of illiberals in power. We then show how these practices emerge from a common “illiberal playbook”—a paradigm of policy change comprising forms of forging, bending, and breaking—and elaborate on the notion that illiberal governments are using legalism to kill liberalism.

Journal Article - 2022

Populists in power and conspiracy theories

Andrea Pirro & Paul Taggart
Looking at three cases of populists in government – Orbán in Hungary, Trump in the United States, and Chávez in Venezuela – we examine the definition of conspiring elites (who), the circumstances under which conspiracy theories are propagated (when), and the ultimate purpose of conspiratorial framing (why).

Journal Article - 2022

The Three Faces of Populism in Power: Policy, Policies and Politics

Manuela Caiani & Paolo Graziano
The article explores the consequences of the increasing presence of both left- and right-wing populist parties in government, critically reflecting on the recent scholarship on the topic, underlining promising venues for future research and outlining a conceptual framework which constitutes the background of this special issue entitled ‘Populism in Power and its Consequences’.

Monograph - 2022

Resisting the Backlash: Street Protest in Italy

Donatella della Porta, Niccolò Bertuzzi, Daniela Chironi, Chiara Milan, Martín Portos & Lorenzo Zamponi
Drawing interview material, together with extensive data from the authors’ original social movement database, this book examines the development of social movements in resistance to perceived political "regression" and a growing right-wing backlash.

Journal Article - 2022

The mobilization for spatial justice in divided societies. Urban commons, trust reconstruction and socialist memory in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Chiara Milan
The article contributes to the urban studies literature and the study of social movements in divided societies by disclosing the distinctive features and mobilizing potential that the notion of urban commons retains in a war-torn society with a socialist legacy.

Edited Volume - 2021

Contentious Migrant Solidarity. Shrinking Spaces and Civil Society Contestation

Donatella della Porta & Elias Steinhilper
Building upon social movement and migration studies, this book maps the two sides of ‘contentious solidarity’: a shrinking civic space and its contestation by civil society.

Journal Article - 2021

Learning from Democratic Practices: New Perspectives in Institutional Design

Andrea Felicetti
Drawing from literature on democratic practices in social movements and democratic innovations, the article illustrates three ways to advance institutional design in the wake of the systemic turn.

Journal Article - 2021

Far-right protest mobilisation in Europe: Grievances, opportunities and resources

Pietro Castelli Gattinara, Caterina Froio & Andrea Pirro
In this article, we bridge previous research on the far right and social movements to advance hypotheses on the drivers of far-right protest mobilisation based on grievances, opportunities and resource mobilisation models. We use an original dataset combining novel data on 4,845 far-right protest events in 11 East and West European countries (2008–2018), with existing measures accounting for the (political, economic and cultural) context of mobilisation.

Journal Article - 2021

Populism between voting and non-electoral participation

Andrea Pirro & Martín Portos
The article focuses on a neglected aspect of populist mobilisation, i.e. non-electoral participation (NEP), and elaborates on the extent to which populist party voters engage politically outside the polling station. While challenging common understandings of populism as inherently distrustful and apathetic, and protest as an exclusive practice of the left, the study critically places NEP at the heart of populism in general, and populist right politics in particular.

Monograph - 2021

Migrant Protest. Interactive Dynamics in Precarious Mobilizations

Elias Steinhilper
This book explores the interactions and spaces shaping the emergence, trajectory, and fragmentation of migrant protest in unfavorable contexts of marginalization.