Solidarity and the Quality of Democracy: Competing with New Nationalisms?

Open Panel

The global financial crisis of 2008 had economic and political consequences. Indeed, many scholars talk about a crisis in democracies, basing their reflections on signals such as, for instance, the decline of citizens’ participation in the political life through conventional instruments -i.e. the vote – and the rise of new forms of nationalism in social and political arena. For this reason, we use to describe the crisis period as the era of “post-representation”. Nevertheless, even if political participation in its institutional settings is in crisis, we cannot affirm that there is a diffuse social apathy.
In the last years, thousands of social initiatives have flourished within many cities around the globe as responses to problems of poverty, racial discrimination, unemployment, and housing. Along answering from below to services and opportunities not provided for by institutions, these collective actors are challenging the neoliberal paradigm of individualization and competition, trying to involve people in collective paths. At city level, where people experience dynamics of exclusion, we are witnessing to the bloom of many initiatives based on territorial solidarity, mutualism and equality openly in contraposition to mainstream narrative that picture territories as dominated by racism. This makes of urban landscape a privileged mirror to investigate in order to explore the deep transformation of democratic practices.
This panel intends to reflect on the impact of solidarity on the quality of democracy in a time in which nationalism and xenophobia seem to prevail in the political-electoral arena. In particular, the panel aims at collecting papers that propose an analysis of urban communities engaged in solidarity activities for excluded social groups such as immigrants, and their relationship with local institutions. The goal is to analyse to what extent these initiatives contribute to foster the quality of democracy, whether and how they are contrasting the depoliticising effects of the crisis and contributing to re-politicising the public sphere. Among empirical and comparative papers on different urban experiences, panel welcome theoretical contributions that address the limits and potentialities of solidarity practices proposing a critical reading of the link between solidarity and democracy.