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Cosmos

The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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Sebastian Haunss, Paolo Gerbaudo – “Capitalist transformations and protest”

Time and Place: Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore – Palazzo Strozzi, Florence – Room Simone del Pollaiolo, 4 pm

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Sebastian Haunss, Bremen University

Based on an analysis of legitimation discourses Sebastian Haunss will discuss why the capitalist order survived the Great Recession in many countries largely unscathed, despite the severity of the crisis and the impact it had on individual citizens.

Paolo Gerbaudo, King’s College London

The social movements that have emerged in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, starting with the movement of the squares of 2011-2016 (Occupy, Indignados etc.) display a radical repositioning in the system of values and ideas, when compared with the movements of the 1990s and 2000s. The severe economic shock and widespread hardship caused by the “subprime” financial crash and the ensuing recession seems to have brought back questions of economic inequality at the very heart of social movement concerns, thus pushing demands for civil rights and the protection of individuals and minorities vis-à-vis the nation-state – those that had occupied the scene in previous decades – down the social movement agenda. “Identity politics” or “identitarianism”, as it is sometimes criticised, what was deemed to be the dominant logic of post-68 movements thus seems to be leaving way to mobilisations that are overtly anti-identitarian, in that they reject sectional identities (as those based on gender, sexuality, and race) and appeal to extremely vague and inclusive “non-identities” or “empty signifiers”. Witness for example, the flourishing of references to the notions of the people and the citizenry popping up everywhere in the discourse of social movements and allied post-crash parties (Podemos, Momentum etc.). Thereby, the pursuit of economic inequality thus goes hand in hand with an universalist re-assertion of social and political equality transcending and superseding all those sectional divisions that appear to have fragmented society in the neoliberal era, often acting as an obstacle to solidarity and therefore a resource in the hands of the ruling elites. Furthermore, this opposition against economic inequality is mobilised in a rather different manner than it has been customary in social movements in previous decads. It is not raised simply on the level of economic conflict, as it would be in the context of a traditional syndicalist perspective. Nor is it raised in an ethical manner as it would be the case in “corporate responsibility” consumerist campaigns. Rather this question is mobilised in the framework of a political conflict, where it is understood that economic inequality has its roots in a disparity of political power, where oligarchies have accrued enormous influence at the expense of ordinary citizens. In this lens, social movements, starting from the movement of the squares, have laid claim to citizenship understood as a condition of political dignity and a state of political empowerment, and not just a bundle of rights and duties. Furthermore, they have laid claim to the notion of sovereignty, to the idea that democratic states need to reassert their power over a territory, if they are to act as an effective countervailing force to the power of capital and finance. These trends signal in their combination a significant redirection of social movement efforts in the 21st century, away from the pursuit of an anti-statist politics of autonomy and towards the construction of a politics of citizenship and sovereignty, that aims at the construction of people’s power, and at the recuperation of state institutions.

 

 

 

 

 

News

05/03/2019

Call for Papers - Social Movements and Parties in a Fractured Media Landscape

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The call for papers is now open for a two-day symposium held under the auspices of the journal ‘Information, Communication & Society’ (iCS) at the Centre on Social Movement Studies, 1-2 July 2019.

05/03/2019

A dialogue on labour, trade unions and conflicts

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On the 22nd of March, from 4pm to 7pm, Donatella della Porta (Scuola Normale Superiore) and Maurizio Landini (Secretary General of CGIL) will discuss about labour, trade unions and conflicts.

21/02/2019

Applications now open! Third Edition of the Summer School on Methods for the Study of Political Participation and Mobilisation

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Applicants must send their application materials no later than March the 17th 2019.

Publications

Journal Article - 2019

Ballots and barricades enhanced: far‐right ‘movement parties’ and movement‐electoral interactions

Andrea Pirro
This contribution enhances our understanding of the contemporary far right by focusing on the neglected links between movements and elections within the broader context of contention.

Journal Article - 2019

From the Rainy Place to the Burnt Palace: How Social Movements Form their Political Strategies. The Case of the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba

Leonidas Oikonomakis
Exploring the case of the cocaleros of the Chapare, this article argues that more emphasis should be placed on mechanisms that are internal to the movements, such as: (a) the resonance of other political experiences at home and abroad, (b) internal struggles for ideological hegemony, and (c) the political formation of their grassroots.