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  • 1.
    Helander, Sofia
    Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.
    From Antagonism to Alienation: Redirecting Radical Democracy2021Doctoral 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. 

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  • 2.
    Helander, Sofia
    Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.
    Movement and Empowerment: Explaining the Political Consequences of Activism2016In: Revista Internacional de Sociologia, ISSN 0034-9712, E-ISSN 1988-429X, Vol. 74, no 4, article id e049Article in journal (Refereed)
    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.

  • 3. Henrik, Berglund
    et al.
    Helander, Sofia
    Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.
    The Popular Struggle against Coca-Cola in Plachimada, Kerala2015In: Journal of Developing Societies, ISSN 0169-796X, E-ISSN 1745-2546, Vol. 31, no 2, p. 281-303Article in journal (Refereed)
    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.

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