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Helander, Sofia
Publications (3 of 3) Show all publications
Helander, S. (2021). From Antagonism to Alienation: Redirecting Radical Democracy. (Doctoral dissertation). Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>From Antagonism to Alienation: Redirecting Radical Democracy
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

How can democratic theory address contemporary problems of alienation? Today, alienation manifests itself primarily in processes of precarization and deprofessionalization. When the subject’s work security or professional autonomy is undermined, her relations – not only to others, but also to herself – can become inhibited. This dissertation argues that while alienation poses a serious problem in today’s democracies, it is a form of social suffering that is particularly difficult for democratic theory – preoccupied by the political – to address. 

In this dissertation, I seek to address alienation in a radical and open way by taking agonistic democracy as my starting point. Indeed, I assume that a suitable theory of alienation should satisfy two general criteria. On the one hand, it should be radical, engaging with the suffering that people experience in a way that encourages them to contest it. On the other hand, it should be open, avoiding the pitfalls of determinism, human essentialism and the ideal of harmony, all of which risk breeding authoritarianism. In this respect, agonistic democracy seems like the best theory to address alienation. The theory is characterized by its emphasis on transformative social struggle as well as its concern with avoiding what it sees as the authoritarian pitfalls of traditional socialism. 

However, while agonistic democracy, preoccupied with the struggle against social marginalization, should be able to address alienation, it cannot. This, I argue, is not merely due to the historical conditions from which it emerges – marked by a turn away from traditional socialist concepts towards a focus on antagonism – but also due to a deeper tension in the theory itself. In its attempts to remain both radical and open, agonistic democracy comes to rely on a subject who is flexible, strong and conflict-seeking. For this reason, it fails to include those who cannot thrive in social disorder, those who are left alienated. I therefore seek to reformulate the subject of agonistic democracy in order to address alienation in an open and radical way. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2021. p. 216
Skrifter utgivna av Statsvetenskapliga föreningen i Uppsala, ISSN 0346-7538 ; 206
political theory, social theory, democratic theory, critical theory, radical democracy, agonistic democracy, alienation, precarity
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-442427 (URN)978-91-513-1226-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2021-09-06, Brusewitzsalen, Gamla torget 6, Uppsala, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2021-06-11 Created: 2021-05-16 Last updated: 2021-09-29
Helander, S. (2016). Movement and Empowerment: Explaining the Political Consequences of Activism. Revista Internacional de Sociologia, 74(4), Article ID e049.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Movement and Empowerment: Explaining the Political Consequences of Activism
2016 (English)In: Revista Internacional de Sociologia, ISSN 0034-9712, E-ISSN 1988-429X, Vol. 74, no 4, article id e049Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In follow-up studies of activists, activism has been observed to have long-term positive effect on political participation. However, little attention has been paid to the conditions under which the theory applies. I examine how the personal consequences of participation in three different protest movements in Sweden depended upon movement success and procedural justice. The results support previous findings suggesting that activism has positive long-term effects on individual political participation. However, several of the activists interviewed did not follow this general pattern, especially those who suffered unfair and discriminatory treatment from the authorities. The results imply that the effect of activism on political participation is determined by the perceived procedural justice, whereas reaching the preferred policy outcome is of less importance. External political efficacy is indicated to be a potential mechanism explaining the relation between activism and long-term political participation.

Abstract [es]

En estudios de seguimiento a activistas se ha observado que el activismo tiene efectos positivos a largo plazo sobre la participación política. Sin embargo, se ha prestado poca atención a las condiciones en las que se aplica esta teoría. Este artículo examina cómo las consecuencias personales de la participación dependieron del éxito del movimiento y la justicia procesal en tres movimientos diferentes de protesta en Suecia. Los resultados apoyan hallazgos previos que sugieren que el activismo afecta de manera positiva a largo plazo sobre la participación política individual. Sin embargo, varios de los activistas entrevistados no siguieron este patrón general, especialmente entre quienes sufrieron un trato injusto y discriminatorio por parte de las autoridades. Los resultados sugieren que el efecto del activismo en la participación política viene determinado por la justicia procesal percibida. Al mismo tiempo, ganar la política que perseguía la protesta resulta de menor importancia. También se muestra que la eficacia política externa es un mecanismo potencial que explica la relación entre el activismo y la participación política a largo plazo.

Biographical Outcomes; Political Efficacy; Political Participation; Procedural Justice; Social Movements.
National Category
Political Science Sociology
Research subject
Political Science; Sociology
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-307146 (URN)10.3989/ris.2016.74.4.049 (DOI)000397806400006 ()
Available from: 2016-11-09 Created: 2016-11-09 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved
Henrik, B. & Helander, S. (2015). The Popular Struggle against Coca-Cola in Plachimada, Kerala. Journal of Developing Societies, 31(2), 281-303
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Popular Struggle against Coca-Cola in Plachimada, Kerala
2015 (English)In: Journal of Developing Societies, ISSN 0169-796X, E-ISSN 1745-2546, Vol. 31, no 2, p. 281-303Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article is a case study of the campaign against the Coca-Cola Company in Plachimada, Kerala, India, which was a reaction against alleged environmental damages and water depletion caused by the company’s production of soft drinks. It addresses the following questions: How was civil society used as a platform for this struggle and what was the outcome? Did this campaign affect the political participation of its members? The study is based on interviews and surveys of the villagers in Plachimada and connects to theories on social movements and political participation, as well as to the debate on Indian civil society. The findings presented show the importance of having a local, core group in charge of the campaign, while simultaneously making use of existing support groups at the regional, national, and international levels. It also reveals that after reaching its goal, the campaign has resulted in a general increase of political participation amongst its members.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New Delhi: SAGE Publications India, 2015
India, social movements, Coca-Cola, civil society, political participation
National Category
Political Science
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-256163 (URN)10.1177/0169796X15577020 (DOI)000376088900007 ()
Available from: 2015-06-22 Created: 2015-06-22 Last updated: 2021-06-10Bibliographically approved

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