Participatory Democracy and its Discontents: Race, Class, and Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion ➜

Since 2002, I have also conducted ongoing, collaborative fieldwork on the World, European, and U.S. Social Forums—a series of global and regional spaces of encounter among grassroots social movements that arose with the anti-corporate globalization movement, with a particular focus on the potential and challenges of participatory democracy in relation to dynamics of inclusion and exclusion along axes of race, class, and gender. Together with my collaborators and students I have continued to explore such themes in the context of the Occupy movement. Why do social movements engage in participatory democracy and what is the relationship between emerging democratic visions, practices, and forms? What are the benefits and drawbacks of participatory democracy? What are some of the contractions of participatory democracy, and how can informal exclusions of race, class, and gender be most effectively addressed?

My research has paid particular attention to the rise of the social forums as “open spaces” for communication and coordination among a diverse range of actors and movements. However, even though such spaces are formally open, informal exclusions of historically marginalized groups tend to occur without specific strategies that seek to redress such power imbalances. In the context of the U.S. Social Forum, this has led to a tension between openness and intentionality as organizers have felt the need to selectively close the organizing process to members of dominant groups in order to ensure the participation of members of working-class communities of color. Similar critiques of a “lack of color” were leveled against the U.S.-based anti-corporate globalization movement and have most recently reappeared in the context of the Occupy movement, suggesting that informal dynamics of race and class exclusion continue to plague U.S. social movements and that organizers still struggle to find effective ways of addressing such exclusions while remaining committed to directly democratic ideals.


☛ Movement Building and the United States Social Forum (PDF)
Jeffrey S. Juris, Erica G. Bushell, Meghan Doran, J. Matthew Judge, Amy Lubitow, Bryan Maccormack, and Christopher Prener
(2014). Social Movement Studies 13(3): 328-348.

☛ Global Democracy and the World Social Forums (2nd Edition)
Jackie Smith, Marina Karides, Marc Becker, Dorval Brunelle, Christopher Chase-Dunn, Donatella della Porta, Rosalba Icaza, Jeffrey Juris, Lorenzo Mosca, Ellen Reese, Peter (Jay) Smith, and Rolando Vasquez (2014). Boulder, Colo.: Paradigm Press.

☛ Negotiating Power and Difference Within the 99% (PDF)
Jeffrey S. Juris, Michelle Ronayne, Firuzeh Shokooh-Valle, and Robert Wengronowitz (2012). Social Movement Studies 11 (3-4): 434-440.

☛ In the Belly of Empire: the U.S. Social Forum Process (PDF)
Jeffrey S. Juris and Jackie Smith with the USSF Research Collective (2011). Handbook on World Social Forum Activism, Jackie Smith, Scott Byrd, Ellen Reese, and Elizabeth Smythe (Eds.). Boulder, Colo.: Paradigm Press, pp. 283-302.

☛ Spaces of Intentionality: Race, Class, and Horizontality at the United States Social Forum (PDF)
Jeffrey S. Juris
(2008). Mobilization 13(4): 353-372.