Next week, 14-25 November 2013, there will be a workshop on transnational participation and social movement activism hosted by the Innovation in Governance Research Group /CESNOVA and the Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology, University of Lisbon.
The workshop looks at the global spread of new action forms, practices, and the social construction and making of public participation. It asks what research on transnational participation can learn from insights of social movement studies and vice versa. As a presenter, I take the opportunity to call upon scientists to contribute to the construction of a transnational political sociology, were the division between research on participation and mobilization is overcome. I argue, that the field transnational political sociology is prone to overcome the barriers for the following reasons.
Debates about if and how to connected research on participation with research on mobilization is not a new phenomenon. Political sociology as a research field is mainly divided between those who do research on democratic participation and those who study mobilization. The main argument of the presentation is that rethinking the field of transnational political sociology offers an opportunity not to repeat “mistakes” made in classical political sociology, but to think of this research discipline as being constitutive of integrating participation and mobilization for the following reasons: Both perspectives ask about the political influence of the people and thus their engagement in transnational politics. At the same time the boundaries between inside and outside strategies of civil society actors to participate are blurred. In multi-level governance arrangements actors usually always combine a range of strategies. Such complex strategizing always entails multiple modes of participation such as providing information, framing, formal and informal consultation, forging alliances, or repertoires of contention. In contrast to national politics, which is structured by quite stable national political institutions, transnational governance arrangements are much more fluid. They sometimes even emerge as a response to transnational mobilization. This means that recursive cycles of contentions activism also shape modes and mechanisms of participation. The workshop is a good starting point for scientitif exchange which helps to draws the contours of a transnational political sociology, where mobilization and participation are understood and treated as interconnected phenomena.