The Lasting Influences of Social Mobilization. the Effects of the 2011/ 2012 Romanian Anti-Austerity Protests on Subsequent Movements.
Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:55
Location: Hörsaal 26 (Main Building)
Romania was for longtime perceived as being one of the archetypical examples for the scarcity of post-communist civil societies (Cf. Crowthers 2004). Romanians ranked low in indicators for civic engagement, and the only (visible) post-1989 protests took place in the early 90s and were brutally repressed. In 2011 a wave of protests erupted that shoked internal and external analysts, as well as longterm activists. Unlike the predictions of militants and experts expecting this wave of social mobilization to be a mere episode, one year later, a new wave of protests shook the country – the protests against Rosia Montana or the “Romanian Autumn”. In a qualitative analysis, based on interviews with activists, we demonstrate how the Anti-Austerity protests facilitated the appearance of the 2013 movement against the exploitation of Rosia Montana. We identify four major “unintentional consequences” (Giugni 1999) of the events in 2011/2012 that became influential on the following wave of social mobilization and maybe for subsequent movements in the long run. Three of those consequences deploy their force on the participants of the protestes themselves: the accumulation of relational and cognitive social capital (the growth of the activists networks and an increase in the intensity of social ties, and the strengthening of feelings of togetherness and of a collective identity) and the accumulation of protest specific knowledge (how to protest, how to deal with the police etc.). The fourth consequence observed was a change in the public discourse regarding protests, especially the right to protest, and the protesters.
What this case shows is that protests should not be seen as “unrelated episodes” of social contention, but, as long as there is a continuity in terms of participants and structures, movements often grow organically and we need to look on how social mobilization impacts on further collective action.