Luca Alteri, Sapienza University of Rome, email: luca.alteri[at]

Carmen Leccardi, University of Milan Bicocca, email: carmen.leccardi[at]

Luca Raffini, University of Genoa, email: lucaraffini[at]

According to mainstream theory, citizens and among them young people in particular are disenchanted and increasingly skeptical of representative democracy and traditional political organization. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, this diagnosis stimulated a wide “crisis debate” about the End of Democracy, the End of Politics and the End of Sovereignty. Indeed, the decline in conventional participation is accompanied by a process of the reinvention of politics, characterized by the spread of unconventional participation and innovative approaches and repertoires of action. New practices configure themselves as informal, non-institutionalized, horizontal, increasingly divorced from traditional collective social cleavages, but personally meaningful and individually oriented. Finally, politics also divorced from long terms projects, as the future folds back into the present, it is absorbed within it and it is consumed before it can really be conceived. The present appears as the only dimension available for the definition of choices, a fully-fledged existential horizon which includes and substitutes the future and the past. The acceleration of social life and its various times renders these two dimensions ever more evanescent as reference points for political action.

Yet despite all of this, individualization and presentification does not equate with depoliticization.

Collectivistic collective action is replaced by individual collective action (MacFarland and Micheletti 2003). The spread of networked individualism is accompanied by the shift from general organizations to single-issue movements, and finally to single-issue mobilization. Political identities and mobilizations are less directed by social ties in the family, neighborhood, school or workplace over time, and increasingly guided instead “by the manner in which people participate and interact through the social networks which they themselves have had a significant part in constructing” (Loader et al. 2014). Indignados and Occupy movements have been analyzed as the expression of “networked participation” based upon “organization without organization” (Rainie and Welmann 2012), rooted in the expression of discontent and indignation and mobilized through “connective action” (Bennett and Segerberg 2012). Participants combine individual and collective dimensions, post-materialist values and materialist claims (defense of the welfare state, social justice, employment) in an innovative way. In a context shaped by the privatization of social and political experience and by a presentification of life-projects, these forms of mobilization can be analyzed as the search for a collective project by means of articulating and integrating diversity. As Melucci wrote in Challenging codes, “heterogeneity of condition and non-homogeneity of action shatter the unitary nature of young people’s mobilizations but give greater specificity to their individual identities. Mobilization is not based on totalizing principles or values, which today cannot provide a sustainable youth identity; it is instead framed by the conjunction of global concerns and the ever narrower horizons close to individual everyday experience”. Melucci’s approach is more relevant today than ever, as it shifts the focus from “how” to “why” people participate.

We invite scholars from different theoretical perspectives and fields of study to critically analyze the reinvention of participation in the age of individualization and presentification, to reflect on the rationales, goals and outcomes of participation with a particular, albeit not exclusive, reference to youth.

Key elements are the reconfiguration of the relation between the individual and collective dimensions, the reconnection of contingent individual needs and concerns in long-term general projects, and the collective and individual outcomes of mobilization. An individualized approach to participation “may lead to hedonist actions lacking in general significance or dissipating in sporadic activism”, but also succeed in connecting personal concerns and global challenges in new ways (Pleyers 2010). It can lead to unstable unions made by “individualized wishers” (Formenti 2011), but also represents a challenge to the individualization of the “liquid society” (della Porta 2015), promoting a reconnection of particularities.

How do new forms of participation connect individual needs to collective identities? What is the effective outcome of new forms of participation, both on the individual and the collective level? May we compare new mobilizations to “swarms” (Bauman 2008), where both input and output are individualized? Is participation suffering a “neoliberal” transformation, merely becoming an individual tool to express individual concerns and to pursue individual interest? Or does networked individualism, challenging old structures and interaction modalities, allow people’s uniqueness to converge in building a collective long-term project of political and social change?

Both empirical contributions and theoretical articles, proposing new analytical tools, are welcomed.


Submission procedure:

Articles, written in English, should be submitted to the editors according to the following schedule:


–  Submission of long abstracts (about 1,000 words): 15  NOVEMBER 2015

–  Selection of long abstracts: 01 DECEMBER 2015

–  Submission of articles: 15 MAY 2016

–  Provision of peer review feedback: 30 JUNE 2016

– Submission of revised drafts: 31 AUGUST 2016

– Publication of the issue: 15 NOVEMBER 2016


Articles should be no longer than 10,000 words, including notes and references. A maximum of 10 articles will be published.

Please refer to the editorial guidelines

Please address any queries to the Editors – Proposals and papers have to be sent to the guest editors


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