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Call for Papers: The role of people’s power in contemporary states

Call for Papers: The role of people’s power in contemporary states

Deadline : 20 May, 2015

XXIX Convegno SISP, Società Italiana di Scienze Politiche,
Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche e Sociali – Arcavacata di Rende (Cosenza), 10 – 12 settembre 2015

Although there are several and diverse definitions of democracy, they all share the core idea that the political power belongs to the people. However, and since its early appearance in Europe during the French Revolution, this principle has always been accompanied by the acknowledgment that it could not be literally realized in political institutions. For instance, the notorious revolutionary Abbé Sieyes clearly stated that, even if the power belonged to the people, the latter could not exercise it because it had neither the education nor the time necessary to deal with politics on a daily basis. The principle of representation was thus introduced and, being implemented through elections, it entailed highly aristocratic, and thus antidemocratic, regimes (Manin 1995). Successively, the democratic principle of people’s power was incapsulated again inside rigid constitutional mechanisms that, from the Second World War onwards, found their most important development in the institution of constitutional courts all around Europe.

Building on the evidence proving the distance separating the principle of people’ power from its actual exercice, we would like to investigate the locus of the former in contemporary political regimes. Most particularly, we would like to assess whether all these institutional mechanisms are to be considered as limitations to the democratic principle of people’s power or rather as helpful means of implementation and protection of people’s will. For exemple, in current times democratic regimes are often accused of being ruled by non elected authorities, such as judges, to the point of being renamed “judges’ government”. Is this a fair description of today’s political regimes and to what extent does it contradict or implement the democratic principle? Another critique of contemporary democracies comes from those who accuse them of being appropriated by non elected civil servants (central bankers, expert advisors and functionaries of international organisations). How is it possible to make the presence of these actors compatible with the idea of people’s power? Does this implies a change in the nature of the political regime? Also, different institutional mechanisms may differently implement the principle of people’s power: how do forms of government and electoral systems contribute in structuring the gap separating people’s will from its exercise?

 We welcome empirical or theoretical contributions addressing the relation between the idea of people’s power and:

– sovereignty
– constitutional courts
– constitutional change and/or constitution-writing
– political representation and accountability
– political parties and social movements
– federalism vs. centralisation
– administrative bodies
– electoral systems
– different forms of democracy
– mechanisms of popular participation (mini-publics, referenda, popular juries)
– scientific and economic expertise

If you are interested in presenting a paper at this conference, please send a 300 word-long abstract prepared for blind review to one of the following e-mail addresses: or by May 20th, 2015. Please include the words SISP Conference in the subject line and your name, email address and institutional affiliation in the body of the email. The working languages of the conference will be English.


Organising committee:

Federico Brandmayr, Gemass, Paris Sorbonne
Rui Pereira, Cespra, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
Lucia Rubinelli, Polis, University of Cambridge