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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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A Global Movement for Real Democracy? The Resonance of Anti-Austerity Protest from Spain and Greece to Occupy Wall Street

Leonidas Oikonomakis and Jerome Roos

Type: Chapter in edited book
Year: 2016

How do instances of popular protest spread across borders? This question, which has eluded social scientists for decades, appears to have become more salient than ever in the wake of the seemingly unprecedented transnational cycle of struggles that began in 2010-’11. In this chapter, we look at the diffusion of anti-austerity protest between Spain, Greece and the United States, focusing in particular on the claims and organizational forms behind these mobilizations. We note that, despite clear local varieties between them, the 15-M movement in Spain, the movement of the squares in Greece, and the Occupy movement in the United States share a number of basic elements in common, most notably their critique of representation, their insistence on autonomy from political parties and the state, and their commitment to a prefigurative politics based on horizontality, direct democracy and self-organization.

So how did this critique of representation and these alternative organizational models spread so rapidly across such widely divergent and geographically distant countries? In approaching questions like these, social movement scholars have historically drawn on the concept of diffusion. In this chapter, we problematize some of the core assumptions behind classical diffusion theory and argue that its conceptual framework may be too linear to account for the local and transnational dimensions behind these protests. Instead of posing a clear-cut distinction between a ‘transmitter’ movement and an ‘adopter’ movement, we identify multiple sources of inspiration that simultaneously fed into each particular mobilization. We argue that – much more than simply mimicking the claims and organizational models of movements elsewhere – each of the aforementioned mobilizations drew upon extensive local movement experience and pre-existing activist networks to develop its own autonomous and horizontal forms of self-organization. Rather than mindlessly copying models from elsewhere, activists drew inspiration from other movement to activate latent potentialities for mobilization back home. We refer to this process as a pattern of resonance.

Marcos Ancelovici, Pascale Dufour, and Héloïse Nez (eds.), Street Politics in the Age of Austerity: From the Indignados to Occupy, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2016, pp. 227-249

http://en.aup.nl/books/9789089647634-street-politics-in-the-age-of-austerity.html

News

21/06/2019

Call for papers: "The Nation and the Radical Left - Practices and Discourses of National Identity in Left-Wing Politics"

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The call for papers is now open for a conference on national identities and left-wing politics.

18/06/2019

Call for papers: “Class without consciousness” – The Politics of Fragmented Class Identities

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The call for papers is now open for a two-day conference on class and identities at the Scuola Normale Superiore on 14-15 November 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.

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.