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Changing societies meet political inertia: common grounds for climate activists and populists?

Participation
Policy
EDI04
Carolin Zorell
University of Örebro

Building: Appleton Tower, Floor: 2, Room: 2.06

Tuesday 09:00 - 17:00 (19/04/2022)

Wednesday 09:00 - 17:00 (20/04/2022)

Thursday 09:00 - 17:00 (21/04/2022)

Friday 09:00 - 17:00 (22/04/2022)


The understanding of what democracy means and what a citizen’s role in democratic society is has never been the same for all people and nations. However, current developments seem to differ from the conventional depiction of democracy as an “essentially contested concept” (Gallie 1956) and suggest a fundamental shift in citizens’ views of democracy and their roles (Schnaudt et al. 2021). This is visible in different ways. On one side, we witness a rise of preferences for a- and anti-democratic political arrangements, accompanied by a parallel group of citizens with thriving interest in direct democratic and ubiquitous political engagements (Zorell and van Deth 2020; also e.g. Bäckstrand 2003; Dobson 2004; Mounk 2018). On another side, political apathy and alienation of some is facing a continuous expansion of political participation to everyday activities by others. What the different positions seems to unite is a dissatisfaction or disillusionment with current democratic systems and where democracy is heading (Wike et al. 2021). That these poles are only seemingly opposing becomes particularly visible – and pertinent – in relation to environmental and climate politics. For one, same people seem to be drawn to more than one pole. For example, same engage in and call for more direct forms of citizen participation in climate politics, while in parallel calling for increased governmental intervention to push through socio-ecological transformation. These calls have in turn been labelled by others, typically right-wing leaning citizens, as ‘climate dictatorship’, who themselves engage in protest against democracy. For another, different groups seem similarly dissatisfied with how politics is (not) tackling their issues (climate change or international migration, which often is rooted in climate change as well). In response, increasingly more of these individuals seem to lose faith in the power of traditional political spheres and rather use daily live as venue for political protest (e.g., Deflorian 2020). These developments are accompanied by deep socio-political tensions and essentially changing political landscapes, which are importantly shaping the successes and failures of advances in environmental and climate politics. However, citizen’s shifting demands for and patterns of participation seem only partially be accompanied by corresponding shifts in how political representatives think, talk, and (re)act. The workshop is interested in taking a closer look at topics that inform our understanding of the link between climate activists’ and populists’ conceptions of politics and democracy, between their demands and repertoires of action, and how this is linked to how political representatives respond to them. A guiding question for the workshop is, if we are witnessing unequal speeds of change and adaptation to the shifting challenges posed by environmental and climate crises among citizens and political representatives; and if so, in what way and with what consequences. The consideration of these distinct groups tends to take place in separate strands of research. The workshop seeks to bring together the different researchers, and to build on, connect, and thus expand on existing research on climate movements, environmental politics and those that oppose it, both within the citizenry and in politics.

This workshop speaks to researchers from different political science sub-disciplines including political sociology, environmental politics, political psychology, and social movement studies. The expectation therefore is that the workshop will be of particular interest to members of several ECPR Standing Groups, including Environmental Politics, Participation and Mobilisation, Citizenship, Political Sociology, and Political Psychology. A main target are contributions from scholars working within and outside Europe on two ‘hot topics’ of the field: environmental and climate activism, and the rise and expansion of populism. While these two matters tend to be discussed in separate parts of our discipline, the groups under study seem to build on some common grounds, means of action, and beliefs about political representative(nes)s. The ambition of this workshop is to attract and bring together high-quality works of the scholarly communities currently working on these separated topics, based on the hunch that this can generate valuable insights for environmental and climate politics. For one, the targeted scope includes works on attitudes, action repertoires, and rhetoric of activists, populists, and of political representatives towards them. There seems to be only gradually evolving research into political representatives’ stance and response to environmental and climate activism, especially when occurring through ‘quieter’ forms of political participation like political consumerism. The same applies to the study of how (perceived) lack of political responsiveness and representativeness feed and affect citizens’ actions and attitudes. Populism has been more extensively studied in this regard. The workshop expects to enable feeding respective insights into the study of environmental and climate politics. For another, populists are gaining considerable strength around the world. Advancing environmental and climate politics thus hinges on their support. Bringing together the different scholars is expected to cross-fertilise the respective study areas and thereby generate important insights into hinderers and potential promoters of acceptance and support for environmental and climate protection measures among broader parts of the citizenries. In sum, the workshop welcomes papers that taken together address how the allegedly distinct groups of people that are currently defining large parts of political debates throughout the world are shaped by and shaping current political landscapes. Key facets to be explored include (perceived) lack of political representativeness and responsiveness, and (changing) conceptions of what politics and the citizens should and can do or ‘deliver’. The joint discussions shall illuminate what motivates environmental and climate activists as well as populists; how this is related to what political representatives (do not) say and do; and what the (potential) impact of this is on environmental and climate politics. Depending on the eventual coherence and quality of the papers presented, a joint publication will be considered.

Title Details
Civil society movements and NGOs in changing societies View Paper Details
Power and Truth in Science-Related Populism: Rethinking the role of knowledge and expertise in climate politics View Paper Details
A typology of 360o climate activism View Paper Details
Youth Suffrage and Legislative Responsiveness to Climate Change: Evidence from Scotland View Paper Details
A spatial perspective on just transitions between global climate justice and local social justice claims View Paper Details
Prefigurative Politics of Authoritarian Unsustainability: Far-Right Environmental and Climate Politics in Civil Society beyond Denial View Paper Details
Public authority in stressed political systems: The contested legitimacy of change and stability in climate governance View Paper Details
Representative democracy and climate change: do electoral institutions disincentivise politicians’ prioritisation of the issue? View Paper Details