The introduction of this special issue elaborates a research perspective on the meaning and function of political protest in the context of democratic orders. Starting from the consideration that protest and democratic orders form a close interrelationship, we ask how and to what extent democracy is imagined, negotiated, and problematized within protest, and how democratic orders and politics shape the formation of protest. To this end, we argue for a combination of Democratic Theory and Social Movement Studies. Interweaving these two traditions allows for empirically saturated and theoretically sound interpretations of recent episodes of contention. With this research perspective, we not only gain a deeper understanding of protest dynamics, but also of contemporary social and political transformations within modern democratic societies.