2011 and 1968: Transnational Crisis - Transnational Social Movements?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: 301
Oral Presentation
Bryn JONES , Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom
Mike O'DONNELL , University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom
2011 and 1968: Transnational Crisis - Transnational Social Movements?

            The Arab Spring revolts, the Indignados and international Occupy! protests were depicted as harbingers of an international, even transnational, movement capable of displacing political elites' neo-liberal agendas and politically and economically repressive regimes which. Clues for the feasibility of this transformative potential can be derived from comparisons with the protest movements closest in scale and character: those of the late 1960s. The two upsurges are similar in their lateral, non-hierarchical mobilisation and organisation, rejection of conventional 'system' politics, direct, deliberative democracy practices, and equality of participation through personal commitment, initiative and action. Yet sixties' protests failed to transform or even modify capitalist economic relationships, which assumed even more elemental market forms. Sixties' campaigners' radical alternatives to liberal or managed democracy were isolated or subverted. The reversal of their tantalising vision of substantive equality, into nineteenth-century levels of economic inequality, suggests that contemporary movements need transnational, radical alternatives to today's transnational economic crisis. What lessons do the failure of sixties radicalism in these respects offer for today's campaigners?  

            Examining international diffusion of radical ideas and campaigns via their organisational, discursive vehicles and communication media, suggests three possible commonalities for achieving 'transnationalised' social movements:

  • similar causative grievances;
  • adoption of another society's social movement model;
  • and/or convergence of regional/national movements into transnational programmes and goals.

Analysis of these potential commonalities indicates that sixties movements achieved limited convergence into shared or similar perspectives and programmes only through a transnational, but ultimately unworkable ideological paradigms. Yet comparison, with the newer vehicles of global and social media and practices such as Occupy! Suggests these need, but lack, the meaningful and coherent discourse(s) to achieve the transnational force for political change.