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Social Movements in Times of Austerity: Bringing Capitalism Back Into Protest Analysis

Social Movements in Times of Austerity: Bringing Capitalism Back Into Protest Analysis

Donatella della Porta

ISBN: 978-0-745-68862-6

Jun 2015, Polity

216 pages



Recent years have seen an enormous increase in protests across the world in which citizens have challenged what they see as a deterioration of democratic institutions and the very civil, political and social rights that form the basis of democratic life. Beginning with Iceland in 2008, and then forcefully in Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, Greece and Portugal, or more recently in Peru, Brazil, Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Ukraine, people have taken to the streets against what they perceive as a rampant and dangerous corruption of democracy, with a distinct focus on inequality and suffering.

This timely new book addresses the anti-austerity social movements of which these protests form part, mobilizing in the context of a crisis of neoliberalism. Donatella della Porta shows that, in order to understand their main facets in terms of social basis, strategy, and identity and organizational structures, we should look at the specific characteristics of the socioeconomic, cultural and political context in which they developed.

The result is an important and insightful contribution to understanding a key issue of our times, which will be of interest to students and scholars of political and economic sociology, political science and social movement studies, as well as political activists.

Acknowledgements vi

1 The Re-emergence of a Class Cleavage? Social Movements in Times of Austerity 1

2 Social Structure: Old Working Class, New Precariat, or Yet Something Different? 26

3 Identification Processes: Class and Culture 67

4 Lo Llaman Democracia Y No Lo Es: A Crisis of Political Responsibility 110

5 Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport: Changing Conceptions of Democracy in Social Movements 157

6 Bringing Capitalism Back into Protest Analysis? Some Concluding Remarks 211

Notes 226

References 228

Index 247

"This book, written by one of the foremost theorists of social movements, offers a new way to theorise the complex conjuncture of late neo-liberalism, a 'precariat' that includes the young and educated. and a legitimacy crisis of our political institutions and how this plays out in the squares of Europe, America and the Middle East."
Mary Kaldor, The London School of Economics

"Scholars of social movements have largely ignored capitalism in recent years, but Donatella della Porta shows how a crisis of neoliberal capitalism has provided the main motives and solidarities for recent protests against economic austerity and political corruption. Hers is a very important and original attempt to bridge political economy and contentious politics."
Jeff Goodwin, New York University

"Among scholars of contemporary social movements, della Porta is unique in combining inquiry about resources for mobilization, political cleavages, and diverse experiences of neoliberal capitalism… Highly recommended."

“Della Porta’s argument is complex, but coherent and convincing. The book helps shed light on the political-economic dimension of anti-austerity protests. The renewed focus on capitalism resonates with the current debate on causes and effects of inequality (for example, Piketty, Stiglitz), and should trigger more research.”
Thomas Mättig, Democratization