Political Economy, Social Strain, and Alternatives to Austerity and Neoliberalism
1University of Birmingham, United Kingdom; 2Leiden University, Netherlands
The post-2008 period has been marked by austerity, stagnation, but yet the stubborn persistence of a neoliberal consensus. During the same period, the prominent prospective alternatives to neoliberalism have also changed, passing through: a brief period of Keynesian hope during 2009; the prospect of radical horizontalism during the public square movements of 2011; efforts to 'occupy' the institutions of democracy, as witnessed by the movement parties of Podemos and Syriza; and now what appears to be a populism of both the left and the right, committed to some kind of re-nationalised alternative to neoliberalism. This paper argues that attempts to explain these developments require a political economy of dissent: a framework through which to understand contemporary capitalism, the contested social relations which constitute it, and the forms of resistance and reaction that have emerged from it and which have subsequently congealed into a variety of (unstable) political settlements. This requires a combination of critical political economy, institutional analysis, and social movement studies. In developing a political economy of dissent, therefore, the present paper sets out to describe, understand and explain the different trajectories of capitalism and its contestation, and the unstable institutional outcomes in which these have resulted, during the so-called 'age of austerity'. This enables the identification of different sources of social strain as they have developed since 2008, and therefore highlights the potentials for change to the state-market-society configuration in the present. Empirically, it focuses on concrete developments in the UK, US, Spain, Germany and Japan.
Extinction Rebellion and Civil Disobedience
University of Bristol, United Kingdom
Extinction Rebellion (XR) has played a central part in raising the concern for climate change in the UK and other countries in recent months. Whilst no social movements are as spontaneous as they are often presented, XR’s political strategy appears particularly elaborated. This paper explores XR’s practices and discourses of civil disobedience and disruption. It analyses these in relation to the history of political law-breaking with its different anarchist, autonomist and liberal roots. The paper further interrogates the roles of capitalism, liberal democracy and legitimacy in XR’s discourse and justifications of its law-
Allied Against Austerity – A Network Analysis Of Transnational Cooperation Among Anti-austerity Initiatives In Europe
Roskilde University, Denmark
The imposition of austerity programmes across Europe following the financial and economic crisis of 2008 has sparked a transnational social movement wave whose impact is still palpable. The contestation of European austerity has become widely diversified, from grass-roots activist groups and protest platforms to solidarity infrastructures and leftist governments. The development of these initiatives differs across regional and politico-economic lines, and most of them are squarely focused on their own domestic context. In spite of this fragmentation, there have been a number of efforts to connect anti-austerity activities across Europe, from transnational campaigns, summits and protests, to the establishment of transnational activist organisations. Anti-austerity initiatives are evidently willing and able to create alliances across borders and carry their contestation to the European level. The question we need to ask is: Under what conditions do they do it?
This contribution aims to answer that question. Based on a Social Network Analysis of hundreds of activist initiatives and the dozens of transnational projects they engaged in, it identifies which specific groups of actors cooperate with each other, and characterizes the content, form and scope of their cooperation. Triangulating the evidence with qualitative analyses of activist publications and interviews, it then determines the activists' concrete reasons for cooperating, as well as the successes and challenges they encounter. Using a Gramscian theoretical framework, the results are ultimately discussed in regards to how the transnationalisation of social struggles corresponds to the variegation of neoliberal capitalism and the erosion of its hegemony.
Establishment Populism and the Politics of Internal Devaluation: The Case of Croatia
University of Zagreb, Croatia
The countries of the postsocialist bloc that formed the last two waves of eastward enlargement were never good candidates in terms of support and advocacy for Social Europe. After the initial effort to ground their political legitimacy around the accession process and subsequent EU membership, the political classes in some countries have made a profound turn toward authoritarian rule driven by nationalism and euroscepticism. Nevertheless, the discourse that posits the European Union as a progressive force remains strong. The first part of the paper aims to analyse this discourse, provisionally labelled as establishment populism, and its internal mechanisms in the case of Croatia, last country to join the EU. In particular, we will attempt to highlight the displacement of class relations and conflicts over distribution through the excessive focus on clientelism, corruption and other features of the so-called crony capitalism. The establishment populism uses these deviations in order to counterpose them to rule of law provided by the EU institutions, thereby forming a narrative in which the antidote for deficiencies of the EU is „more Europe“. The second part of the paper brings the class analysis back in and indicates the factors and mechanism that led to deterioration of the position of labor in the period of illusive prosperity before the crisis and in the recessionary times during the crisis. Thus, we will focus on the interplay between internal (domestic) aspects (wage policies, labor legislation, political representation of labor etc.) and external ones, mostly related to the mechanisms and procedures of the European Union, inasmuch as they form a particular variety of neoliberalism.