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Session Overview
RN32_04b_P: (De-)Politicization in the Neoliberal Era IV
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
9:00am - 10:30am

Session Chair: Virginie Van Ingelgom, Université catholique de Louvain
Location: PD.2.34
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: D, Level: 2.

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“Solidarity is our weapon”. Social mobilisation in Scotland

Elisabetta Mocca

University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The consensual climate of the post-political order has been recently disrupted in Europe. The mass protests staged in different European countries and the resurgences of the extreme parties in response to the multiple European crises witness the “cracks” in consensual politics. While much of the scholarly attention has been drawn onto the socio-political impact of large-scale upraises, the contribution of bottom-up sub-national groups to the “return of the political” has been under-researched.

Therefore, in this paper, we focus on solidarity acts undertaken at sub-national level as instances of the “properly political”. We contend that these practices are antagonist political forms, containing in nuce the potential to counter-act the post-political order and to shape a new politics that makes solidarity one of its founding values.

To illustrate this argument, the paper reports the findings of a case study analysis involving four grassroots groups based in Scotland. For the groups under scrutiny, solidarity is conceived as a political value underpinning the vision of an equal and fair society, prompting their social mobilisation. Rather than challenging the political order through far-reaching disruptive actions, these organisations act to change the status quo starting from the local level. The evidence show how the enactment of solidarity put in place by these movements is a properly political act, redefining the meaning and praxes of “the political”. By providing an empirical analysis of solidarity acts practiced at sub-national level, this paper contributes to substantiate the literature on post-politics.

It is on you now: Depoliticizing economic policy through financial education

Amit Avigur-Eshel

Hebrew University, Ben-Gurion University

In spite of the increased visibility of financial education since the onset of the World Financial Crisis, the literature on neoliberal depoliticization has not awarded it sufficient attention. This results from a neglect of the private sphere as a central sphere to which economic issues are relocated by practices of depoliticization. Scholar concerned with the transferring of responsibilities (and thus blame-ability) away from politicians to unelected bureaucrats through state institution reforms, have overlooked the possibility that responsibilities may be transferred away from state institutions to individuals and families (i.e., the private sphere). Scholars concerned with the elimination of agency and choice through public discourses that relegate economic issues to the realm of fate, have overlooked the possibility that depoliticizing discourses may encourage agency and choice on an individual and family basis.

I argue that the emerging interest in financial education in recent years among policymakers signifies the rise of private-sphere depoliticization. Responsibilities for economic outcomes are transferred to individuals and families who are encouraged to employ agency and choice, but only in a-political ways.

I use as a case-study Israel’s Department of Financial Education, and analyze the process leading to its establishment and the contents of its main project, the HaOtzar Sheli (My Treasure) website. The department was established following a mass protest in 2011 that re-politicized economic policy. Its website promotes a ‘correct’ economic behavior, focusing on thriftiness, planning household budgets and bargaining for better prices.

Speaking truth to society? Experts, Activists and Citizens in local mobilizations against big infrastructural projects

Riccardo Emilio Chesta

European University Institute, Italy

Conflicts concerning infrastructural projects often become arenas of contention where expertise crosses political and technical claims. To analyze this peculiar problem concerning both sociology of knowledge and collective action, I conducted a paired comparison on two cities, Florence and Venice – two of the main centers of collective action against big infrastructural projects in Italy all along the years 2000.

The Florentine projects of high speed train line and station («Tunnel TAV») and the urban waste incinerator in Case Passerini, as well as the Venetian «M.O.S.E.» project to contain the high waters and the Cruise Ships, have encountered some of the most visible and sustained citizens mobilizations.

However, the levels of participation and knowledge diffusion in both cities varied significantly, depending from each type of technology.

A comparison of different levels of expertise politicization allows then to show how and under which conditions (visibility/opacity of the technological factor), in highly technical controversies, expertise gets mobilized and to which extent the «black box» of expert knowledge opens or not to a widespread citizens participation.

In this research, I tried to intersect contributions from political sociology with sociology of knowledge and expertise.

Focusing on the specific interconnection between local and national political context and looking at the role of local associations as well as at their connection with broader networks, I will illustrate the dynamics of expertise mobilization, its delicate relation with political activism and finally the peculiar interactions between experts and non-experts actors (political activists and citizens).

Neoliberalization, De-Democratization and Processes of Des-Integration in the EU

Behrouz Alikhani

University of Münster, Germany

The pick of the development of the European Union’s project and its institutions has been in the dominant era of neoliberalism. Europeanisation led, therefore, not to a strong community, based on solidarity and social equality within the EU, but rather to the increasing of de-solidarization and social inequality within and amongst its member states. To put it simply: The losers of this project have been more than its winners.

In this sense, the rise of extremist movements and parties is partially due to these processes of functional and institutional de-democratization which could strongly contribute to the final disintegration of the European Union. In this presentation, I will introduce a process sociological model of democratization and de-democratization based on which the complexity of such multidimensional processes of de-democratization and accompanying des-integration could be grasped in a more reality congruent manner. This figuration sociological and therefore empirically oriented model does not just take into account the institutional dimension of such processes, but also their functional and habitual dimensions. Out of this comprehensive diagnosis, I will also concretely talk about actions and steps which could hinder the dominance of such centrifugal processes within the EU.

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