PhD, Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, Political Science and International Relations, UAM, Madrid
The post-crisis transformations of the socio-political landscapes in Southern Europe have shaped crucial opportunities for emergent political actors and the civil society to introduce new governance mechanisms. Following a turbulent period of social mobilizations, rapid political and institutional transformations are underway at the city, regional and national levels in Southern European countries. These new pathways include fundamental societal demands for a different way of organizing local democracy and citizens’ involvement in decision-making processes. A lively scientific debate has demonstrated how austerity agendas have been employed in order to deal with the crisis, which had variegated causes and effects across various geographical contexts. In this regard, it has been argued that the increasing distancing between EU policies and decision-making, and the particularities and interests of local societies, has often led to growing regional inequalities, uneven geographical development and dissociation between formal politics and citizens. At the same time, other research focused on the intense social mobilizations that took place in Southern Europe, such as the Indignados in Spain and the ‘Squares’ movement’ in Greece. Different authors stressed how deliberative democracy, social solidarity and grassroots re-appropriation of urban space acquired a central role within the practices of these movements. Moreover, these movements arguably contributed to the rise of new political actors and electoral shifts in local, regional and national governments, such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. Therefore, we can identify key linkages between recent social mobilizations taking place in cities and the increasingly prominent role of the local level as an arena where proximity in decision-making and a sense of urban citizenship bolsters social cohesion, social innovation and grassroots creativity. Along the above lines, the paper will investigate these ongoing socio-political developments, the relationship between civil society and emergent political actors and the ways these shape institutional changes through the case of Athens, Greece. To this end, the paper will develop an in-depth assessment of a key policy arena, namely social/solidarity economy, which is crucial in understanding social participation in urban governance in the post-crisis conjuncture in Athens.