In current and future situations of trans-global crises, social dissent and related practices of resistance cut across conventional country boundaries. Expressions of dissent and resistance pursue change through unconventional practices not only to challenge current governance, but to re-invent participation. They seek to impact society by transforming acquired values, subjectivities and knowledge. Despite these transformations of people’s subjectivities, majoritarian theories examining social movements still focus on finding rational patterns that can be instrumentalized in data sets and produce generalizable theoretical outcomes. This paper problematizes how social theory makes sense of collective action practices on the ground. Everyday non-discursive practices prove productivity-led theories' increasing disengagement with their object while challenging the excessive bureaucratization of scientific knowledge (Lyotard, 1997). That is, people experiment collectively with their capacities, and create their own initiatives and identities which do not follow determined patterns but do-while-thinking. The dichotomist approach of majoritarian debates in collective action theory is critically analysed by introducing the work of ‘minor authors’ and ‘radical theorists’. The fundamental purpose of this paper is to open a discussion space between the field of social action theories and activism knowledge, hence encouraging the creation of plateaus that blur academic boundaries and construct new subjectivities beyond “the indignity of speaking for others” (Deleuze in Foucault et al., 1977. p. 209). Drawing on the experience of the 15th of May 2011 in Spain, I analyse how radical theory reflects on current movements and collectives."
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.
The Case of the Greek Indiginant Movement
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.
Anthropology, radical theory, and social movements
Riccardo Ciavolella and Stefano Boni
This theme section inquires into the contribution of political anthropology to radical theories, social imagination, and practices underlying political “alternatives”, which we propose to call “alterpolitics”. The issue of an alternative to contemporary powers in globalization is a central topic in social movements and radical debates. This sense of possibility for political alternatives is associated with the desertion of the belief in “the end of history”: the current economic crisis and the decline of Western hegemony presumably announce a radical transformation of the neoliberal world, opening space to alternatives. Actually, the reconfiguration of twentieth-century capitalism is associated with a growing mistrust of political institutions, the crisis being “organic”, in the Gramscian sense (Gramsci 1975). Recent social movements and insurrections around the world—from the “colored revolutions” in Central Asia to the Spanish indignados, the US Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, uprisings in Bosnia—have raised the issue of alternatives as a reaction to the incapacity of capitalist political institutions—from electoral democracy to dictatorships—to deal with people’s problems and meet their aspirations for emancipation and a better future.