Political Discontent and Societal Learning in Spain – Or: How Democracy Tames Conflicts

GT 1.8 Democracia y Crisis

Marcos Engelken Jorge (Universidad del País Vasco / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea)
Sesión 1
Día: lunes,13 de julio de 2015
Hora: 15:00 a 17:30
Lugar: Aula 3

A public sphere perspective is taken to answer the question how democracies manage to tame conflicts. More precisely, the argument made in this paper rests on Trenz and Eder’s theory of democratic functionalism, which contends that public communication, especially in polities that conceive themselves in democratic terms, is the carrier of several mechanisms that can contribute to the democratisation of a polity. As long as a polity justifies itself in democratic terms, these terms can be taken up by social and political actors to criticise and reform this polity, thus triggering democratising dynamics and learning processes. From this theoretical viewpoint, the rational (i.e. societal learning) dimension underlying recent political events in Spain is reconstructed. It is argued that societal learning, in this case, is not about the legitimation of specific political decisions, but about the regulation of political interactions. Spain has become an arena for political experimentation and the diffusion of new democratic practices – practices that are tested, publicly communicated, and consolidated or abandoned depending on their public acceptance. This results in a richer toolkit of socially accepted practices that political and social actors can then use to build their own strategies. In this way, societal learning can be seen as shaping, rather than eliminating, antagonisms.

Palabras clave: Public sphere, discourse, collective learning, 15M movement, political discontent