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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

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.

24/09/2017

New Publication Out - "Social movements and referendums from below. Direct democracy in the neoliberal crisis"

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A timely publication to shed light on the link between social movements that formed as a consequence of the 2008 financial crash and the referendums' dynamic and results.

25/08/2017

Donatella Della Porta con Yanis Varoufakis alla 13esima conferenza ESA

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Wednesday, August 30th (8pm-9.30pm) professor della Porta, who directs the Center on Social Movement Studies(Cosmos), will dialogue with Yanis Varoufakis, Greek Minister of Finance during the first Tsipras government, about the future of Europe and the social consequences of neoliberal economies

Publications

Monograph - 2018

Social Movements and Civil War : When Protests for Democratization Fail

Donatella della Porta, Teije Hidde Donker , Bogumila Hall , Emin Poljarevic
This book investigates the origins of civil wars which emerge from failed attempts at democratization. The main aim of this volume is to develop a theoretical explanation of the conditions under which and the mechanisms through which social movements' struggles for democracy ends up in civil war.

Monograph - 2017

Social movements and referendums from below. Direct democracy in the neoliberal crisis

Donatella Della Porta, Francis O'Connor, Martin Portos and Anna Subirats Ribas
Out now "Social movements and referendum from below", the first book that bridges the gap between social movement studies and research on direct democracy. It draws on social movement theory to understand the nature of popular mobilisation in referendums using unique case studies such as the referendum on independence in Scotland, the consultations on independence in Catalonia, the Italian referendum on water, the referendum on the Troika proposals in Greece and the referendum on the debt repayment in Iceland.