Theory and Society

, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 531–553 | Cite as

Socio-historical foundations of citizenship practice: after social revolution in Portugal



This article shows how macro-historical processes of change can activate robust and enduring forms of citizenship practice, providing both survey-based evidence for this claim and a theorization of the causal mechanisms involved. Focusing on the case of Portugal, where democratization followed the historically unusual path of social revolution, we examine survey data on civic practice covering twenty countries and find Portugal to be a world leader in public participation in the electronic public sphere. When we examine the subsection of the population socialized politically in the country’s post-revolutionary democracy, we find another important indicator of lively citizenship practice. The article takes the examination of this specific national case as the basis for developing an argument of broad theoretical relevance on the social underpinnings of lively and participatory citizenship practice. With an empirical foundation for our claims in survey data and other sources, our analysis of Portugal offers an interpretation of the case, leading to substantial revision of assumptions in the extant literature. More importantly, through our examination of this case, we show how large-scale macro-historical processes of change can encourage lively civic practice manifested at the individual level. Our argument highlights the importance of hierarchy-challenging collective experiences that reconfigure cultural frameworks and reorient the character of institutional practice. We take up the implications of this argument for cases lacking a history of revolution and find certain parallels with national cases shaped by movements of social reform as in the social democracies of Scandinavia.


Citizenship Civic practice Democratization Portugal Public sphere Social revolution 



We wish to thank Alice Ramos and Catia Nunes for data analysis and Suzanne Coshow for assistance with tabular analysis and other matters. The Theory and Society reviewers and Editors provided valuable feedback on an earlier version. Fishman also acknowledges the funding support received through the CONEX program from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program for research, technological development, and demonstration under grant agreement 600371, Spain’s Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (COFUND2013-40258), and Banco Santander. Our greatest debt is to all the interviewees whose willingness to answer questions made this research possible.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto Carlos III / Juan March, Calle Madrid, 135Universidad Carlos IIIGetafeSpain
  2. 2.Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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