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European anti-austerity and pro-democracy protests in the wake of the global financial crisis

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journal contribution
posted on 03.07.2018, 16:02 by Cristina Flesher Fominaya
European anti-austerity and pro-democracy movements form part of a global wave of protests following the global financial crisis. Despite continuity of actors and a double critique of global capitalism and democratic deficits from the previous Global Justice Movement, the centrality of the nation as target and focus of mobilization is a significant difference in this wave. The economic impact of the crisis and austerity policies is insufficient to explain variation in mobilization across countries hardest hit. In order to transform economic/material grievances into collective resistance, grievances need to be channelled against specific targets, and interpretive frameworks of meaning tied to a collective identity need to be mobilized. In Europe, anti-austerity protests were initiated by two sets of actors, Institutional Left and autonomous actors. Autonomous actors linked anti-austerity claims to interpretive system of meanings framed around the crisis of legitimacy of representative democracy; targeted primarily national political and economic oligarchies; and mobilized newcomers through an inclusive collective identity constructed around the ‘ordinary citizen’ as political subject. Democratic regeneration emerges as a significant demand, but is uneven in its resonance. It finds its clearest and most emblematic expression in the ‘movements of the squares’. To the extent that the ‘twin’ crises (financial/democratic) are framed synergistically, they can be seen as counter-hegemonic, as they seek to rupture the consensus of the ‘post-political’. The presence or absence of a strong pro-democracy narrative that connects actors across sectorial and organizational differences could help explain variation between cases. Transnational diffusion processes have been crucial but have not (yet) led to a transnational movement. Given the significant role of the Troika in the bail-outs, debt renegotiations and austerity policies of those countries hardest hit, the low visibility of ‘Europe’ in the mobilizations is surprising.


This work was supported by the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship [grant number 326712].



  • Politics and International Studies

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Social Movement Studies






1 - 20 (20)


FLESHER FOMINAYA, C., 2016. European anti-austerity and pro-democracy protests in the wake of the global financial crisis. Social Movement Studies, 16 (1), pp.1-20.


© Taylor & Francis (Routledge)


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Social Movement Studies on 21 December 2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/14742837.2016.1256193.