Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Conference Group on Italian Politics and Society Call for Papers for the annual conference of the American Political Science Association (APSA): “Retrenching States versus expanding societies: civic sense, public engagement and citizens' ability to hold power to account in the digital era” 

The recent economic crisis has generated unprecedented political challenges for Italy, other Western democracies, new or transition democracies outside Europe and for the European Union. In Europe, governments struggle to boost the economy and contain unemployment levels, and seem unable to meet citizens' demands for more inclusive and responsive policy-making. Political instability and fragmentation, the strengthening of populist and nationalist parties, the rise in social and territorial inequalities, increasing questioning of the goodness of the European construction, all appear to indicate an erosion of both representative democracy and State capacity.
Yet, as governments retrench from the economy and wane in popularity, grass-root civic engagement, often focused on local problems, appears to gain momentum. The new technologies and social media are a key development in supporting this process. At the same time, however, they are also breeding new tensions, for instance in relation to opportunities divide, manipulation of political messages, and the public's ability to discern and decipher digital information and use it to influence decision-making and hold governments to account.
The panel invites papers that: (i) explore issues related to State capacity and representative democracy crisis in Italy and in other countries in an age characterized by the widespread use of digital technologies; (ii) examine the causal inter-linkages between the high political flux and the role of the new digital media; (iii) consider the extent to which the challenges above described are acting as a catalyst for grass-root policy solutions outside traditional government and, more generally, for a redistribution of power within national and subnational polities (and, potentially, the role played by the new digital media in this); (iv) reflect upon how the digital technologies have revolutionized citizen mobilization; and (v) explore the likely future evolution and possible institutionalization of such recent developments.
Comparative papers - particularly those which compare and contrast Italy with other EU Member States, with the United States and with Latin American countries - will be favored, but work with a pure Italian focus, if couched in a comparative framework, will also be well received. 
Abstracts must be uploaded online on APSA's website by 15 December 2013.
Further details can be found at the following link:

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