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Politics, Consumption, or Nihilism

Protest and Disorder after the Global Crash

Joseph Ibrahim, Bob Jeffery, and David Waddington

While the first of these issues concentrated on the riots in England following the global financial crash of 2008, this second issue focuses on the social movements that emerged in this context. Whilst defining a social movement is conceptually problematic- either because it could be so narrow to exclude, or, to broad to include, any type of collective action, there are certain features that we can point to. Edwards (2014: 4-5) provides four conceptual distinctions.

Open access

Rage and Protest

The Case of the Greek Indiginant Movement

Marilena Simiti

In 2011 numerous 'Occupy' and anti-austerity protests took place across Europe and the United States. Passionate indignation at the failure of political elites became a mobilizing force against formal political institutions. In Greece a mass movement known as the Aganaktismeni (the Indignant) became the main agent of social resistance to the memorandum signed by the Greek government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The Greek movement did not take the form of a social movement sharing a collective identity. Left-wing protestors played a prominent role. Protestors embracing right-wing populist frames also participated actively in collective mobilizations, while segments of the extreme right attempted to manipulate rage to their advantage. During the Greek Indignant movement civil society remained a terrain contested by conflicting political forces. This unique feature of the Greek movement posed a completely different challenge to the principles of diversity and inclusiveness than the one debated within the Spanish Indignados and the Occupy protests. Furthermore, it illustrates that rage and indignation may spark dissimilar forms of political contention. Hence, rage and indignation do not merely motivate ‘passive citizens’ to participate in collective protest. They are linked to cognitive frames and individual preferences, which influence protestors’ claims and mobilizations’ political outcomes. Accordingly, advances in democratization and inclusive citizenship are only one of the possible outcomes of mobilizations prompted by rage and indignation.

Open access

Social Movements and Social Policies

Political Challenges under Austerity in the UK

Gregory White

The economic crisis of 2007/2008 presented a challenge to the welfare state in the UK, and, more widely, across Europe. It also presented a challenge to many citizens, who were on the receiving end of the austerity agenda, and subsequent tightening of welfare spending. If nothing else, the financial crisis demonstrated the hegemony of economic theories prominent in neoliberal capitalism. As many academics and commentators have identified, however, the current period of instability is indicative of a systemic crisis. In addition to this analysis, the crisis also exposed the intricate and opaque links between western governments and the financial sector. During and after the crisis an eruption of activity in civil society galvanized many that had been directly affected by either the crisis itself—through loss of employment—or by the subsequent austerity measures imposed. This article aims to examine the current crisis affecting the welfare state in the UK, and social policy more broadly, and, begins to suggest how social movements are seeking to challenge the dominant discourses surrounding austerity politics. The article suggests some reasons as to why traditional forms of resistance and organization—such as the mobilizations of the trade union movement—have largely been unsuccessful in challenging such narratives. The article concludes by considering the shift from trade unionism in the UK to post-crisis social movements, and where an anti-austerity movement more broadly might develop further in pursuit of defending the principles of social welfare, and, ultimately, the welfare state.

Open access

Less Than One But More Than Many

Anthropocene as Science Fiction and Scholarship-in-the-Making

Heather Anne Swanson, Nils Bubandt, and Anna Tsing

How might one responsibly review a field just coming into being—such as that provoked by the term Anthropocene? In this article, we argue for two strategies. First, working from the premise that the Anthropocene field is best understood within its emergence, we review conferences rather than publications. In conference performances, we glimpse the themes and tensions of a field-to-come. Second, we interpret Anthropocene as a science-fiction concept, that is, one that pulls us out of familiar space and time to view our predicaments differently. This allows us to explore emergent figurations, genres, and practices for the transdisciplinary study of real and imagined worlds framed by human disturbance. In the interplay and variation across modes for constructing this field, Anthropocene scholarship finds its shape.

Open access

The Amazon's "10W40"

Ill-Fated Beneficiaries of Texaco's "Glorious Gamble"

Marilyn J. Matelski

Almost fifty years have passed since Texaco proclaimed its “glorious gamble” to extract oil from the Amazon. And while more than two decades have elapsed since the drilling finally ceased, at least four generations (referred to here as “Generations 10W40,” by the author) have suffered many deleterious effects, resulting from countless acts of irresponsible, pollution-generating corporate/governmental behavior. Lawsuits have abounded in both the United States and Ecuador over this calamity, and attorneys continue to fight over which accused party is most culpable—Texaco (now Chevron Texaco), Petro Ecuador and/or the Ecuadorian government. Regardless of who is most responsible, however, the fact remains that innocent people continue to be victimized. Another undeniable fact is the long history of Chevron Texaco’s expensive, forceful and unrelenting publicity campaign to win popular support outside the courtroom through propagandistic mass media appeals. This essay analyzes this long-term “crusade” within a framework of seven specific devices—name-calling, bandwagon, glittering generalities, transfer, testimonial, plain folks and card stacking—applied to the company’s corporate communication strategy, and occurring throughout its preliminary oil exploration, the oil drilling years and the toxic aftermath of the venture.

Open access

Enhancing Activist Scholarship in New Zealand and Beyond

Heather Came, Joey MacDonald, and Maria Humphries

Aotearoa (also known as New Zealand) is a jurisdiction that must respond to the inequitable elements of the multifaceted oppressions of its colonizing past and present if it is to live up to its claim to being an honorable nation. Early intensification of colonizing practices embedded European values over those of the indigenous people with lasting devastating effects. In search of a national integrity, activist traditions of exposure, resistance, dissent and non-violent direct action to injustices are longstanding in this land. Activist scholarship however, is a more recent phenomenon. We explore the potential of activist scholarship to contribute more directly to transformations that will embed justice in the diverse sociopolitical economic context of New Zealand. We outline what we understand by activist scholarship and how we believe it can strengthen both sociopolitical activism and academic scholarship in synergistic ways. We propose seven principles of activist scholarship, generated through on-going dialogue with our activist scholar peers. We offer them as a starting point for discussion and critique until a collective statement emerges. We showcase Ngāpuhi Speaks as an example of such potential synergies.

Open access

A Tale of Two Sites

Journalist Perspectives and Patterns in Coverage of Occupy Wall Street

Michael Boyle

Considerable research has demonstrated that protesters often receive critical coverage of their actions and events. However, questions still remain about the reasons why journalists cover protests in the way they do. This study utilizes a thematic analysis of news coverage and interviews with journalists at two Occupy Wall Street sites (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Madison, Wisconsin) to explore patterns in coverage and reasons behind those patterns. The findings suggest that protest group characteristics such as level of organization and focus of message as well as community norms such as history of protest activity can have an impact on both the success of protest activity and the nature of resulting coverage. Implications for theory, journalists, and protesters are discussed

Open access

What Really Matters in Creating Mass Mobilization, Classical Organization, or New Social Media?

A Comparative Case Study of the Mass Mobilization Process in France and South Korea

Jeong-Im Hyun

This article explores why people adopt different processes to participate in mass mobilizations, using the 2006 Anti-CPE (labor law) Movement in France and the 2008 Candlelight Movement against American Beef Imports in South Korea as case studies. In France, initiators and participants followed the ‘ready-made’ way: left-wing organizations led the whole process of mass mobilizations. In contrast, in South Korea, initiators came from ‘nowhere’: they were middle and high school students without any political organizations; participants were ‘tainted’ by the left-wing political line. The key finding of this study is that the levels of demarcation of political lines in people’s everyday life may explain this difference. In France, strong establishment of a political line in people’s everyday life brought fewer new actors, creating less surprise but a solid mobilization; in South Koreas, the less-established political line in people’s everyday life attracted more new actors, creating more surprise but ‘frivolous’ mobilizations.

Open access

The 2011 English Riots

A Contexualized, Dynamic, Grounded Exploration

Tony Jefferson

After a brief account of what happened, the question is posed of whether the idea of moral panic is the most revealing approach with which to understand the riots. Before answering, the question of how novel were the riots is addressed in relation to policing, social media, riot areas, the rioters, rioting behavior, the State’s response and the reaction of communities. The elements of a dynamic, grounded explanation are then tentatively offered, followed by an attempt to situate this explanation within the context of the contemporary lives of disadvantaged youth lacking both political support and an economic future. The conclusion returns to the question of moral panic. It suggests that since most of what happened had clear precedents in the series of urban riots since the 1980s, there is plenty of evidence to support the idea that the constructions of the 2011 riots are best understood as a moral panic. However, the small indications of new developments, namely, the sheer vindictiveness of the state’s post-riot response—hunting down the rioters, harsh sentencing, naming juveniles—as well as the spread of rioting to new areas and the practice of communities ‘fighting back’, are important to explore for what they reveal about the present neoliberal conjuncture. They seem to be morbid symptoms of an apparently intractable series of crises characterized by, among other things, an unprecedentedly grim situation for poor, unemployed, disaffected youth living in deprived areas.

Open access

Politics, Consumption, or Nihilism

Protest and Disorder after the Global Crash

Bob Jeffery, Joseph Ibrahim, and David Waddington

The years since the onset of global recession, circa 2008, have led to an unprecedented rise in discontent in societies around the world. Whether this be the Arab Spring of 2011 when popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes cascaded across North Africa and the Middle East, or the rise of left-wing, anti-capitalist and far-right movements in the developed 'north', ranging from the Indignados in Spain, Syriza and the Golden Dawn in Greece, Le Front National in France, student movements in Quebec, or the allegedly less articulate explosion of rage characterizing the English Riots of 2011, it is clear that Fukuyama's thesis regarding the final ascendency of liberal capitalism (and its puppet regimes in the developing world) was grossly misplaced. In Badiou's (2012) terms we are witnessing 'the rebirth of history', where all bets regarding the trajectories of local and global political economies are off.