‘Unpacking the virtuous circle: aggrieved protesters, eventful protests or both at the same time?’
European University Institute, Spain
Spain was among the most heavily hit countries by the Great Recession. Focusing on the micro-level of analysis, this article sheds light on the multi-directional relationship between grievances and protest participation in times of austerity. It uses data from four waves of a unique online panel survey conducted with Spanish respondents in 2010-2012.
On the one hand, I find that the political and socioeconomic attitudinal dimensions mediate the effect of objective-material indicators of grievances on individual protest participation. Some specific groups, relative losers of the recession (e.g. those on a mortgage, public workers plus their household members) are more likely to protest. While the worse-off and the underprivileged (in terms of income, job status, etc.) are not more likely to protest, individual hardship affects egotropic perceptions of the economy (i.e. individual financial well-being), which boost sociotropic views of the economy (i.e. perceptions on the general economic performance). The latter influence government/opposition approval, which ultimately determine protest engagement. On the other hand, participating in protests affects political attitudes, which feed back onto sociotropic grievances. In turn, these have an impact on egocentric values, thus shaping mobilisation potentials.
In a nutshell, this contribution argues— and provides empirical evidence— for a multi-directional, complex, and dynamic understanding of the causal association between grievances and protest behaviour. By tackling the issue of reverse causality between attitudinal grievances and protest participation, I have found not only that a nuanced view of grievance theories help account for individual-level mobilisation in a context of material deprivation, but also protest performances have an eventful character, shaping further contentious processes.
Recurrent Mass Protest in Post-Collapse Iceland
University of Iceland, Iceland
The global protest wave associated with the Great Recession presents opportunities to study how social crisis spur mass contention, particularly in affluent, democratic societies. The present case study focuses on the major processes underlying recurrent mass protest in post-collapse Iceland. Iceland was the early riser in the global protest wave. Icelanders were first to respond to the Great Recession with popular protest; after the collapse of their banking system in 2008, they have twice brought down leading government players by means of mass protest demonstrations. Using mixed methods (interviews, discourse analysis, surveys, and police data), I study the dynamics of mobilization work and public participation in two major protest campaigns in post-collapse Iceland: 1) the “Pots and Pans Revolution” in 2008-2009, and 2) the “Panama Leak Protests” in 2016. Both campaigns were “successful”, in that they led to early elections, but their trajectories differed. The earlier campaign emerged despite the absence of prior protest; a social crisis produced “breakdown-opportunity” that was conducive to repeated cycles of effective “agency-framing” and growing participation, ending with success. The latter campaign, emerging in a time of growing prosperity, followed a different trajectory; a political scandal ignited a pre-existing protest frame and widespread perceptions of “critical mass”, spurring spontaneous mass protest with minimal agency-framing. Furthermore, the work reveals significant changes in the “biographical profile” of protesters across the two campaigns. Thus, low income, corruption beliefs, and leftist attitudes influence participation more in the latter campaign. That protest in post-collapse Iceland has become class-based and more ideological likely reflect the narrowing of protest frame since the crisis. .
Let’s Talk First: Learning to Oppose Austerity
City, University of London, United Kingdom
The paper examines the UK-based movement People’s Assembly against Austerity. It probes the degree to which critical reflections on UK political institutions expressed on social media outlets connected to the movement contributed to building bridges among disparate social groups affected by austerity politics and to enabling their joint collective action. Of the recent anti-austerity protests, numerous have been accompanied by vibrant activity on social media. Rather than to propose yet another examination of participant mobilisation on social media, this project aims to shed light on the process of movement social learning among its Twitter following and the degree to which it fosters renewed solidarity in response to austerity politics.
The paper has the following objectives. First, it ascertains the extent to which social learning transpired as commentary on democratic institutions and, secondly, as talk about collective action directed at those institutions. We envisaged that although the incidence of these two types of civic information may vary, they would be intertextually interconnected. Consequently, the analysis of democratic institutions would feed into and inform talk about collective action. Thirdly, we examine the juxtaposition of enduring trade union and episodic anti-austerity activism. We expected to find indications of cooperation among similar organisations (e.g. trade unions) congregating under the umbrella of the People’s Assembly. The analysis was run with a combination of network, semantic network and discourse analysis. Our results suggest movement social learning transpired in the communication of substantive issues, organisation and strategy that together contributed to the articulation of an organisationally diverse in-group.
Blue Danube Waltz against the System: Shifting Master Frames in Hungarian Environmental Movements
Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary
My paper is partly based on the research conducted within the international H2020 project COURAGE – Cultural Heritage of Dissent in the Former Socialist Countries, which aims to explore opposition culture under the authoritarian regimes in the Eastern block. In the paper I would like to discuss the conditions and possibilities of single issue grassroots movements to extend their master frames into anti-systemic movements against authoritarian rules and tendencies in times of crisis.
I would like to approach this problem through empirical studies of cases from the environmental movement in Hungary, where the environmental theme has provided particularly powerful and influential repertoires of contention. The paper will present a diachronic analysis from two segments of time – the Danube movement of the late ‘80s of socialism (the movement against the dam), and environmental protests in today’s Hungary (the City Park movement and the mobilization against the dam on the Danube) in the post-crisis period on the semi-periphery of Europe. The paper does not aim to discuss or compare the macrostructural frames but will focus on the changing frames and repertoires of the bottom-up environmental movements – how they shift from single issue movements to anti-systemic movements, what is the role of such movements in times of crisis, how do movement agents build networks of solidarity, how do global movement trends that influence their sets of action and strategies in the 80s and today? And last but not least – how can these movements challenge authoritarianism from below?
Marxists-Leninists on the factory floor: an encounter between workers and intellectuals
Concordia University, Canada
Current trends in Europe point towards a political gap between salaried professionals in the social and cultural services who tend to rally to the libertarian left, and, on the other hand, production workers who are attracted towards the populist right (Oesch, 2008). However, the existence of a political and cultural gap between these two socio-economic categories is not a new phenomenon, although it has taken a different shape – and has perhaps deepened – in the last decades.
This paper will focus on a group of intellectuals’ radical attempt to bridge this gap in the 1970s, drawing on a close study of the accounts written by French Marxist-Leninist activists. Over the course of the 1970s, over 2000 highly-educated French activists – most of them from middle-class and upper-class backgrounds – became factory workers, following Mao Zedong’s advice to learn Marxism “through practical work and close contact with the masses of workers and peasants” (Mao, 1966). Their goal was to contribute to the political organization of the working-class from the inside.
Findings from these activist accounts will address a few key questions of interest to any social actor pondering how to politically unite workers from highly diverse social backgrounds. How successful were the activists’ attempt to join in the workers’ struggles? What frictions, collaborations, tensions and partnerships emerged from this encounter between individuals possessing varying amounts of cultural capital? How did their conception of political action evolve through their mutual encounter?
This paper is part of an ongoing doctoral research comparing the trajectories of Marxist-Leninist intellectuals among the working-class in France and in Canada.