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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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Building from elsewhere. Platformization and the continuing struggle for political change – Keynote Speech, Prof. Nick Couldry (LSE)

In the framework of the Summer School on Media in Political Participation and Mobilization, Prof. Nick Couldry (LSE) will give a keynote speech on the paradoxes and challenges of political mobilization in commercial social media platforms.

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On the 29th of June 2017, from 5:30pm to 7:00pm, Prof. Nick Couldry (LSE) will give the closing keynote speech of the Summer School on Media in Political Participation and Mobilization. The keynote is open to the whole SNS community and COSMOS members.

Abstract

This lecture will reflect on the paradox that, in the era of social media, new forms of political mobilization are emerging with bewildering speed, yet one of the deepest, if least appreciated, political issues of our times is precisely the corporatization of social space itself, including many spaces of political mobilization. This paradox is driven by the dynamics of a commercial internet, whose core business model is the continuous extraction of value by harvesting data through surveillance of newly constructed spaces for social life itself. How to think through then the changing politics of struggles for social and economic change?

The lecture will propose a dialectical response. First, we must take as our starting-point the historically unprecedented corporate ambition to construct the very spaces of social life, which transforms the premises of all debate about political mobilization, including that aimed at social progress. Second, we must recognise the power of various false antitheses offered to that starting-point. There is the obfuscation provided by ‘the myth of us’ (Couldry 2014) which suggests that social media, whatever their corporate origins, literally provide the space where ‘we’, some politically meaningful ‘community’, come together (Mark Zuckerberg’s February 16 2017 manifesto being a classic example of that myth). There are also many over-literal readings of the ‘reality’ of political mobilization via social media (eg Castells and others).

Somehow, in response, a third move in the dialectic must be forged, but how? The lecture will conclude with a double suggestion: an insistence on a more deeply sociological reading of ‘what goes on’ on platforms, but contextualized within a reformulation of the underlying social and political values at stake in not accepting corporate-owned platforms as the necessary spaces of political life. The resulting attempt to defend the value, for example, of autonomy in the face of the corporate reconstruction of the social domain offers, perhaps, a first move towards building a model of social change ‘from elsewhere’, that is, from a different conception of the political ‘now’ and ‘here’.

News

10/11/2017

Call for Application Now Open: Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities

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We are pleased to announce that the call for applications is now open for the Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities, sponsored by the Reinventing Democracy in Europe: Youth Doing Politics in Times of Increasing Inequalities project (EURYKA) and the Centre on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS).

26/10/2017

Now Online! The plenary session (Un)making Europe of the 13th ESA Conference

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During the plenary session, Donatella della Porta and Yanis Varoufakis spoke about the future of Europe and the social consequences of neoliberal economies.

06/10/2017

Open Democracy Post - "The streets will always be ours" - Catalonia, a referendum from below

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Although some still conceive of the referendum as launched by a pro-independence vanguard, the elite story falls short of explaining the resilient participation of a large part of Catalan civil society. This post at Open Democracy addresses this issue from a different angle.

Publications

Journal Article - 2017

The Refugee Crisis as a Crisis of Legitimacy

Pietro Castelli Gattinara
The paper suggests that the refugee crisis is best understood in relation to other ongoing crises in the EU, and that the way it is handled will have significant consequences for future action, shaping the way European societies cope with forthcoming crises and transforming the relationship between states and citizens. Accordingly, it argues that the permanent state of emergency characterising governmental responses so far does not bode well for the future of liberal democracy in Europe.

Journal Article - 2017

The Myth of Apolitical Volunteering for Refugees: German Welcome Culture and a New Dispositif of Helping

Larissa Fleischmann and Elias Steinhilper
During the so-called “refugee crisis”, the notion of an unparalleled German hospitality toward asylum seekers circulated within the (inter)national public sphere, often encapsulated by the blurry buzzword “Welcome Culture”. In this article, we scrutinize these developments and suggest that the image of the so-called “crisis” has activated an unprecedented number of German citizens to engage in practices of “apolitical” helping. However, we aim to unmask forms of “apolitical” volunteering for refugees as a powerful myth: the new dispositif of helping comes with ambivalent and contradictory effects that range from forms of antipolitics to transformative political possibilities within the European border regime.