The research project aims to analyze the interrelationship between protest and political order under the contextual conditions of the changing shape of modern western democracy. Two groups of questions are connected to this study perspective, which will be answered by means of a democratic-theoretically-led synchronous comparison of selected contemporary protest movements – anonymous digital protest movements, transnationally organized alter-globalization protest movements, the No Border movement and the rightwing identitarian protest movement: The aim is to clarify firstly (1) the extent to which the new forms of protest question the premises of democratic orders, what potential for further development lies within the new forms of protest on the one hand, and what are the challenges to democracy on the other. Secondly, the aim is to determine (2) the influence and relevance held by the democratic or-der itself in an age of the changing shape of democracy with regard to the specific formation of the new forms of protest, and what statements can be made on how the formation of the order is changed, in turn, by the new forms of protest themselves. In order to achieve these study perspectives, POWDER consists of an overarching democratic-theoretical framework project (TFP) and four empirical subprojects (SP 1-4), which each analyze one of the protest movements mentioned in the context of a qualitative approach (documentary analysis, participatory observation, qualitative interviews). The comparison of these protest movements investigates (I) recurring patterns, but also contrasting assessments with regard to the interrelationship between the political order and the protest movements, examines at a second level (II) the different manners in which the new forms of protest challenge democratic-theoretical dimensions, and attempts at the third level (III) to reconstruct a general democratic-theoretical determination of meaning of present-day protest movements.
The project will present and compare current theories on the (re)politicisation of democracy, classify them within the history of ideas, and systematise them according to both empirical and normative criteria. Two key interests form the focus: first, to clarify how these theories conceptualise the tense relationships that are constitutive for the democratic form of government, namely those between conflict and consensus, identity and otherness, participation and representation, and between institutional stability and spontaneity of action. Second, the perspectives that the examined theories reveal about a recovery of political contingency and democratic equality against the background of the current transformation of democracy will be discussed critically and assessed with regard to their feasibility for social practices and existing political institutions.
The discussion about the depoliticisation tendencies of contemporary democratic orders and the perspective of their (re)politicisation is as broad as it is heterogeneous. The project concentrates on those theories that cling to the doubly normative claim of democracy: democratic politics should both enable the reflexive design of social living conditions and provide the individual citizen with equal opportunities to exert influence on the process of political decision-making. We identify overall parallels between these theories in the centrality of the concept of conflict and assume that their different present-analytical findings, as well as their contrary political perspectives, can be determined from the definition of the political conflict in each case and its meaning for democracy.
In the course of growing interest in the phenomenon of globalisation, scientists’ attention is drawn towards the multifaceted relationships between the state, on the one hand, and processes of social limitation on the other. These processes of social de-bordering and the concentration on cross-border social relationships are frequently referred to as transnationalisation, and distinguished from purely interstate activities. Accordingly, prominent examples of transnationalisation are migration (today: Africa -> Europe//19th century: Europe -> America), cross-border cooperation between corporations, the global financial market or social protest movements like Occupy. Although examinations of this interplay between the state and processes of social de-bordering might reach different conclusions in detail, they share the evaluation that the state is currently transforming. The preconceived notion is usually that the state up to the early/mid-20th century should be seen as a self-contained form of social organisation and government. The starting point of this research project is to question this tacit and generally shared assumption. In the course of the research project, a perspective of the modern state will be developed that views it from the outset as a historical form of government that has been shaped by trans-regional social entanglements and which tends towards the forming of networks in executing its governing function. Such a perspective provides the opportunity to rethink and examine the currently assumed transformation of statehood. With this change in perspective the research project also links up with and combines the latest contributions from the disciplines of history, sociology and legal science.