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Looking at Movements at a Local Level and From a Deliberative Democratic Perspective. A comparative Analysis of two Transition Initiatives from Italy

Civil Society
Democracy
Political Theory
Social Movements
Andrea Felicetti
Scuola Normale Superiore
Andrea Felicetti
Scuola Normale Superiore
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Abstract

This paper is based on a comparative case study of two local groups belonging to the Transition Town, a contemporary environmentalist movement active in about 40 countries. Although one could assume that local groups do share at least some of the movement’s core ideas, ways in which they are understood and the local contexts in which they are implemented vary greatly. Here I focus on Italy, which, besides the English speaking countries, is one of the places where the movement is most active and where the Transition first spread to outside the native lands of United Kingdom and Ireland. My overarching goal is to observe and understand these local manifestations of the movement through deliberative democratic lens. In the first part of this work I frame the Transition within the literature on deliberative democracy and social movements. Then I introduce my cases: one from a town in Emilia Romagna and one from a small city in Sicily. In the second section, employing the idea of deliberative capacity and supporting my claims with empirical evidence, I try to assess from a comparative perspective the major qualities and shortcomings featured by each group. I then identify what factors seem to lay behind the observed levels of deliberative capacity. In doing so, in order to maintain a broad perspective, I interpret my findings in light of the idea of deliberative systems. In particular I aim to assess whether causes for the observed phenomena are related to my local groups’ more internal dynamics, the context within which they take action, and/or specific features of the movement they belong to.