Agonistic, Dialogic, and Elitist Interpretations: Participation and Conflict in Three Cases in Italy

By Gianfranco Pomatto

The debate on the relationship between conflicts and participatory processes is organized based on three interpretations. Dialogic theory deems that participation solves or reduces conflicts, producing collective benefits. Antagonistic theory suggests, on the contrary, that the mitigation of conflict that these processes generate is negative, as it serves conservative policies. And elitist theory fears that participatory processes lead to the intensification of conflicts. Based on a review of empirical studies and an analysis of three cases in Italy, this article argues that none of these three interpretations is sufficient and that to advance the understanding of the relationship between participatory processes and conflict it is necessary to widen empirical analysis, adopting an approach that analyzes the practices in the light of the main available interpretations, showing how each of them is able to explain some of the empirical evidence.


  • conflict
  • participation
  • agonism
  • elitism
  • deliberation
  • Italy
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