An international conference in Helsinki, Finland 11.–12.12.2014

During the past couple of decades, discussion about new forms of participation, political agency, and activity has proliferated. We often meet the argument that traditional democratic institutions (parliamentarianism, the party system, administrative state, etc.) are incapable of responding to the challenges posed by globalization, intensified individualism, and plurality of identities. Both in academic discussion as well as in Western societies broadly, some have even declared a turn from ‘old’ to ‘new democracy’.

In this framework, not only scholars but various civil-society agents, such as social  movements and think tanks, have adopted and reinterpreted the concept and theories of deliberative democracy and extra parliamentary participation. At the same time, governments operating in the Global North – both nation-states as well as supra-national regimes (EU) – have begun to launch numerous programs, policies, and manuals, aiming to promote 'new' forms of participation and citizenship.

The objective of the conference is to explore the different facets of the discourse(s), revolving around the notions of ‘new democracy’ and ‘participatory turn’. We welcome especially (but not exclusively) papers that discuss the articulations and tensions between, on one hand, the ‘empowerment’ of political subjectivity and participatory activity, and on the other hand, the governmental strategies and practices of engagement. We encourage papers to address these issues both through studying the experiences of civil-society agents (social movements, activists), the language(s) and discourse(s) of ‘new democracy’, as well as through governmental analyses. The workshop is interdisciplinary and incorporates both empirical and theoretical papers.

The conference is organized by the research project ‘Superdemocracy’: A Critical Assessment of the Participative Turn, funded by the Academy of Finland, in collaboration with Finnish Political Science Association (Valtiotieteellinen yhdistys).

If you have any queries please contact superdemocracy[at]