Street Politics in the Age of Austerity: A Comparative Perspective
Based on empirical material gathered in Ireland, Spain, Israel, Greece, the United States and France in 2011 and 2012, we propose to compare street politics along two main lines: 1) how the transformations of capitalism have had diverging effects on protest; and 2) how the critique of representative democracy constitutes the common denominator of the activists’ grievances but does not translate mechanically into the same kind of movements.
The 2008 global financial crisis did not produce the same kind of effects in all countries, although poverty and inequality have increased in all the cases considered here. To understand how the crisis affects and possibly shapes the mobilization process, it is important to distinguish instances where the mobilization enjoyed the support of a large segment of public opinion (Greece, Israel, Spain) from instances where the mobilization was relatively isolated and/or did not lead to a spill over onto other mobilizations (Canada, France, Ireland, United States). In all these cases, “relative deprivation” seems to be playing a role in shaping grievances but cannot alone account for the timing, magnitude, and claims of the protests.
Aside from the economic context, the most comment element shared by the recent mobilizations under scrutiny is the fight for “real democracy,” largely inspired by anarchist ideas of autonomy, horizontalism, and direct participation. But “real democracy” is polysemic and has different implications.
We argue that in order to understand the practices and claims that have developed in the last couple of years and the way they have disseminated around the globe, we need to look at (1) local legacies, (2) the internal dynamics of groups and networks, and (3) national structural as well as institutional configurations.