The Geographies Of Discontent

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 418
Oral Presentation
Nils C. KUMKAR , University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

The protests against the politics of crisis in both the US and Germany are structured along similar patterns: The Tea Party Movement in the US and the right-wing Euro-criticism in Germany stand in opposition to the Occupy Movement on both sides of the Atlantic. These polarized spectra not only deploy parallels in their political messaging, but also in their socio-demographic composition. Beyond this opposition, all four poles seem to be united by a deep mistrust towards their national governments with a focus on domestic socio-economic issues.

The paper uses the concept of the socio-spatially determined Habitus, bridging the gap between agency and structure: resonating with the messaging of the respective protest-mobilizations, but in turn also structuring and shaping the development of these very movements. Participant observations in meetings and protests, group discussions and interviews conducted with participants in all four movements are analyzed relying mainly on the hermeneutics of the sociology of knowledge to reconstruct the Habitus as a sedimented body of practical knowledge shared by the participants.

The paper seeks to contribute to the understanding of the development of the movements and the different inner and outer limits they encountered. Why did the Occupy Movement in different parts of the US and other countries follow such different trajectories after 2011? Why did the German counterpart to the Tea Party never gain comparable traction - despite numerous attempts and significant resonance in the media?

The analysis shows that the polarization of the national protests can be understood as resulting from the different ways in which social classes interpret the social contradictions sharpening in the recent years. While this dispositional schism is mirrored on both sides of the Atlantic, the diverging paths the movements took express the different ways in which the crisis affected the national economies.