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Between promise and practice
Author: Darren Halpin

Whether called pressure groups, NGOs, social movement organisations or organised civil society, the value of ‘groups’ to the policy process, to economic growth, to governance, to political representation and to democracy has always been contested. However, there seems to be a contemporary resurgence in this debate, largely centred on their democratising potential: can groups effectively link citizens to political institutions and policy processes? Are groups an antidote to emerging democratic deficits? Or do they themselves face challenges in demonstrating their legitimacy and representativeness? This book debates the democratic potential and practice of groups, focusing on the vibrancy of internal democracies, and modes of accountability with those who join such groups and to the constituencies they advocate for. It draws on literatures covering national, European and global levels, and presents empirical material from the UK and Australia.

The case of Romania

The post-communist transition in Romania has been a period rife with high hopes and expectations as well as strong disappointments and disillusions. The engagement with these disappointments or disillusions has mainly fallen along the lines of critical editorial comments by dissidents and intellectuals or academic engagements that connect it to different forms of social and political apathy. What seems to be lacking however, is a more head-on engagement with disillusionment as a self-contained process that is not just a side-effect of political corruption or economic failures but rather an intrinsic part of any transition. This book provides the basis for a theory of disillusionment in instances of transition. It also elaborates on how such a theory could be applied to a specific case-study, in this instance, the Romanian transition from communism to capitalism. By defining disillusionment as the loss of particularly strong collective illusions, the book identifies what those illusions were in the context of the Romanian 1989 Revolution. It also seeks to understand the extent to which disillusionment is intrinsic to social change, and more importantly, determine whether it plays an essential role in shaping both the direction and the form of change. The book further inevitably places itself at the intersection of a number of different academic literatures: from regional and comparative studies, political science and "transitology" studies, to sociology, psychology and cultural studies.