Assessing the Participatory Turn and ‘New Democracy’ - Superdemocracy conference

House of Science and Letters (Helsinki)

During the past couple of decades, discussion about new forms of participation, political agency, and activity has proliferated. We often meet the argument that traditional democratic institutions (parliamentarianism, the party system, administrative state, etc.) are incapable of responding to the challenges posed by globalization, intensified individualism, and plurality of identities. Both in academic discussions as well as in Western societies broadly, some have even declared a turn from ‘old’ to ‘new democracy’.

In this framework, not only scholars but various civil-society agents, such as social movements and think tanks, have adopted and reinterpreted the concepts and theories of deliberative democracy and extra-parliamentary participation. At the same time, governments operative in the Global North – both nation-states as well as supra-national regimes (EU) – have begun to launch numerous programs, policies, and manuals, aiming to promote ‘new’ forms of participation and citizenship.

The objective of the conference is to explore the different facets of the discourse(s), revolving around the notions of ‘new democracy’ and ‘participatory turn’. We welcome especially (but not exclusively) papers that discuss the articulations and tensions between, on one hand, the ‘empowerment’ of political subjectivity and participatory activity, and on the other hand, the governmental strategies and practices of engagement. We encourage papers to address these issues both through studying the experiences of civil-society agents (social movements, activists), the language(s) and discourse(s) of ‘new democracy’, as well as through governmental analyses. The workshop is interdisciplinary and incorporates both empirical and theoretical papers.

If you are interested in presenting a paper at the conference, please submit an abstract of no more than 200 words. The abstract, together with the author’s (or authors’) name(s), e-mail addresses and affiliations should be sent
The deadline for the abstracts is 31.8.2014.

You can also make inquiries about the conference by sending a message to the members of the organizing committee at the University of Jyväskylä (Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy). The members are Marja Keränen (, Pertti Lappalainen (, Tapio Litmanen ( and Lauri Siisiäinen (

The conference is organized by the research project ‘Superdemocracy’: A Critical Assessment of the Participative Turn, funded by the Academy of Finland, in collaboration with Finnish Political Science Association (Valtiotieteellinen yhdistys). The venue of the conference is the House of Science and Letters in central Helsinki (Kirkkokatu 6).
Keynote speakers:

Prof. Sigrid Baringhorst, Universität Siegen:

Unpolitical Politics – A Threat to Current Democracy?

Prof. Mark E. Warren, University of British Columbia:

A Problem-Based Approach to Democratic Systems

Prof. Per Selle, University of Bergen:

The Origins of the Scandinavian Welfare State and Its Future in a Neoliberal World