Municipalities of change: the road from social struggles to local governments

Contemporary studies on local democracy around the world show the existence of a significant number of large cities as well as many medium-sized ones governed by citizen candidacies. Certainly those what could be termed as “municipalities of change” present specific features which cannot be overlooked, but many of them share a clear intention to break down hegemonic urban policies in each of these cities. In the majority of cases citizen platforms are born and raised closely linked to different types of social mobilization experiences. This influences not only their social building process but also the definition of objectives and strategies. Indeed, a particularly strong relationship can be established between them and the recent social struggles focused on different dimensions of the urban life. And among the latter one key issue plays a major role: the claim for the lack of democracy.

 The session will be focused on the analysis of this kind of citizen candidacies around the world from different perspectives. Papers proposals can address one or more of the following aspects:

 The citizen platforms process of shaping, paying special attention to: candidacies goals, main actors, participative procedures on the preparation of electoral lists, internal cohesion, links between new and old social movements, role played by political parties, etc.

 The contents of the new policies promoted by the municipalities of change. Following areas are suggested: housing, social services, economy and employment, urban megaprojects, tourism, public space, etc. These are some of the possible research questions to be investigated: what are the continuities and breaks?, what is the direction and depth of the changes?, does candidacies internal plurality affect the support to new policies?, what are the limitations derived from the legal and political frame?, what are the reactions from the previously hegemonic power coalitions?,…

 The relationship between the local governments of change and the social movements from which they come: to what extent initial expectations have been met?, what is the social movements level of autonomy in relation to the new local power?, what is the attitude of the new local governments towards social innovations experiences emerged over the last few years?,…

 The municipalities of change and the introduction of new democratic practices: what are the changes implying a substantial modification with regard to previous models of urban governance?, how are citizens incorporated in decision making processes?, how is democratic politics defined by the municipalities of change?

Fernando Díaz Orueta, Universidad de La Rioja