Taking to the Streets in the Context of Austerity: Comparing the Cycles of Protests in Spain and Portugal, 2008-2015

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Martin PORTOS, European University Institute, Italy
2011 has been defined as the year of protest. A large and visible number of mobilizations shook the socio-political scenario in many distant parts of the globe. Southern Europe was a hotspot for popular dissent, although comparative studies within this context heve seldom been traced thus far.

Portugal experienced its largest non-trade union or political party led demonstration in March 2011, the so-called "Geraçao à Rasca" mobilization, which gathered around 10% of population in the country to protest against the negative prospects of a precarious generation. Only a couple of months later, Spain saw how hundreds of thousands mobilized to claim against the political status quo and austerity policies being implemented, and to bring real democracy now. Yet, while standards of extra-conventional mobilization persisted over the subsequent years in Spain (until we observe a declining trend, at the beginning of 2014), Portuguese levels of collective mobilization remained low. Why so? What does explain different timing and trajectories of contention in both cases, under the shadow of austerity?

In Spain, the movement(s) managed to contain radicalization attempts and postpone institutionalization through, on the one hand, fragmented and sectorial fights and, on the other hand, thanks to the strategic alliances with traditional unions to deliver recurrent mass performances. By contrast, in Portugal, protesters did not manage to appeal to broad sectors of the population in a persistent manner, as they were rapidly coopted by the left-wing opposition parties, which fostered divisons among challengers.

Regarding empirical design, a mixed methods approach is implemented. Two original datasets via semi-automated coding of Protest Event Analysis are collected to assess timing and trajectories of mobilization. Additionally, information from more than twenty semi-structured activists with key informants is used.