The focus of this volume has been on visions and practices of democracy in the European Social Forum, combining attention to the organizational level of the ‘forum process’ and the individual characteristics of its participants. In our work, we started from a paradox. Although social movements have traditionally been said to propose alternative visions of democracy (by and large the ‘ancient’ forms of participatory and direct democracy), social movement studies have only rarely addressed the issue of democracy in movements, from either the empirical or the normative point of view. True, there are very important exceptions: Francesca Polletta’s (2002) influential work on practices of democracy in social movements as well as Ferree et al.’s (2002) inspiring research on the debate on abortion law in the public sphere are among the most relevant. These exceptions notwithstanding, when we started our comparative project on the global justice movement and reviewed the social movement studies for support and inspiration, we found much less than we expected. However, some of the reasons for this limited focus on democracy in movements were part of our interest in focusing on this issue. First, we were aware of a ‘hyper-normalization’ of research on social movements. During the low ebbs of mobilization – such as the ‘terrible 1990s’, to use the expression of an activist we interviewed – social movements were increasingly described as ‘single issue’ (e.g. Kitschelt 2003), NGO-ized, politics-as-usual. At the national level, the routinization of protest and the institutionalization of ‘movements-without-protest’ and ‘protest-without-movements’ were stressed (della Porta 2003b). Transnationally, a ‘global civil society’ has been described as developing from the ‘taming of the social movements’ (Kaldor 2003). These statements tended to reflect some real trends in social movements in Northern societies and at the transnational level, but also to hide other, emerging trends. In parallel, another element that has pushed attention away from the research on democracy in movements has been a focus in political science on ‘minimalistic’, procedural conceptions of democracy. Increasingly in mainstream political science, democracy has been identified with representative institutions and assessed against narrow criteria of electoral accountability. While the number of countries counted as democratic increased after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the

criteria used to assess democracy are limited and formal (but for the debate on democratic qualities, see Diamond and Morlino 2005). Other reasons for this limited attention to democracy are built into dominant rationalist visions, which have stressed the instrumental role and functioning of social movements, with limited focus on their normative content. In a certain sense, a hyper-normalized vision of social movements has driven research towards objects and methods that tended to confirm that vision. The mainly empirical orientation of social movement studies has deflected attention from normative reflections, and the focus on the behaviour (protest, lobbying, etc.) of social movement organizations vis-à-vis institutional politics has discouraged the research on their prefigurative politics (but see Polletta 2002; Leach and Haunss 2009). Finally, a sort of conservatism (or path-dependency) encouraged a ‘new-wine-in-old-bottles’, sceptical view on any emerging trend in social movements. Within it, a seemingly widespread assumption is that social movement organizations and their activists continue to be as capable (or incapable) as they always were of conceiving and implementing alternative democratic models. Going from ‘constraints’ to ‘opportunities’, a move toward increased attention to democracy in movements seems to be supported by some general trends in the social sciences, as well as the reality of social movement mobilizations. To mention just a few, a ‘cultural turn’ in social movement studies pushed towards a recognition of the symbolic and emotional dimension of social movement politics. This did not imply a denial of the instrumental role social movements play in normal politics, or the role that concerns for efficiency have in their choice of internal forms of organization as well as external strategies of protest. However, it opened the way to considering the ‘passionate’ (and normative) dimension of social movement politics. At the same time, especially in normative theory, the debate on deliberative forms of democracy – the polisemy of the term notwithstanding – offered many potential instruments for a fresh look at the visions of democracy inside and outside social movements. In parallel to these conceptual (if not paradigmatic) shifts, some stimuli for studying democracy in movements come from the transformations in action in our societies. Empirical research on institutional politics has identified many challenges to representative democracy. Power shifted from politics to the market, with neoliberal economic policies increasing the power of multinational corporations and reducing the capacity of traditional state structures to control them. Additionally, the increasing power of some international institutions, primarily financial (WB, IMF, WTO) as well as some macro-regional (mainly the EU), has challenged the (image of) nation-states’ autonomy. Even supporters of the ‘new-wine-in-old-bottles’ vision should admit that the effects of these changes on social movements are hard to overestimate. This does not mean that nation-states no longer play a role, but it pushes us to enrich our analytic tools especially where we are weaker: for example, in the analysis not of national polities, but of the transnational dimensions of politics. Since social movements seem to respond to these transformations – even though our knowledge of how they do so is still scarce – some additional challenges to

address the (emerging and changing) conceptions of democracy in social movements come from observed internal changes in social movements, and especially in the characteristics of the global justice movement addressed in this volume. Among them are its dimension as a movement of movements, with intense (and innovating) forms of networking; the related development of tolerant identities, with acknowledgment of diversity and subjectivity as positive elements; the presence of multiple repertoires, with a pragmatic acceptance of both protest and lobbying, but also a focus on the experimentation of ‘possible utopias’ (della Porta 2007b). In this conclusion, while summarizing some of our main empirical results in light of the questions discussed in the introductory chapter, I will discuss the potential for generalizing our findings beyond our case study to broader tendencies in contemporary social movements. I shall do this especially by looking at some existing research on the global justice movement in other parts of the world. This will also allow for some reflections on what is ‘European’ and what is not in the development of the transnational protest events we have observed. Our case study is typically European. Although attending to global phenomena, the focus of much debate at the ESF has been European, as most of its participants have been. Previous research has indicated that notwithstanding global appeal and transnational networking, the global justice movement inherited, in each country and continent, specific organizational configurations and traditions (della Porta 2007b). Although symbolically influenced by several processes underway in the global South (among them the Zapatistas’ peaceful revolution in Mexico) as well as the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, the European Social Forum remained a Northern phenomenon. A comparison with the WSF, where the ESF story started, can help us to reflect on the similarities and differences in the global justice movement of the North and the South of the world. Our research confirmed, that democracy is important for movements, and movements are important for democracy. By and large, even if the normative assumptions of social movement activists are far from being fulfilled in their own movement, the ESF represents an arena for self-reflexive experimentation with different solutions to the tensions between participation or representation and consensual or majoritarian decision making – tensions that are acknowledged by the activists themselves. In terms of intervention in the broader society and political system, the movement we have observed represents a fundamental criticism of existing institutions, but also a determined search for alternatives. Although not aiming at conquering power, it does not renounce engagement in multiple repertoires in order to influence institutional power-holders. In this sense, a search for another politics (not for ‘antipolitics’) is visible, once again, in a participatory and discursive democratic emphasis. Looking at conceptions about democracy inside movements, decision making is discussed not only in instrumental, but especially in normative terms. Looking at the external dimension of democracy, social movement activists simultaneously interact with public institutions and advance a fundamental critique of representative democracy.