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European Anti-Austerity Protests: Beyond “old” and “new” social movements?

Journal article
Authors Abby Peterson
Mattias Wahlström
Magnus Wennerhag
Published in Acta Sociologica
Volume 58
Issue 4
Pages 293-310
ISSN 0001-6993
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Centre for European Research (CERGU)
Pages 293-310
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1177/0001699315605622
Keywords anti-austerity protest, class identification, Indignados (15M), labour movement, Occupy, protest survey
Subject categories Sociology, Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Abstract

This article explores the social composition of participants in anti-austerity protests taking place in Belgium, Italy, Spain and the UK between 2010 and 2012, based on over 3000 questionnaires distributed to protest participants according to a standardized method. Employing a distinction between three types of mobilizations, we compare protests anchored in the traditional ‘old’ labour movements, protests by smaller radical leftist unions and parties, and the ostensibly newer kinds of mobilizations in the form of Indignados and Occupy protests. Although easily forgotten, we argue that the two former types of anti-austerity protests deserve equal attention from researchers. We conclude that there are significant differences between the protest categories in terms of socio-demographic characteristics of their participants, but the participants nevertheless appear to maintain surprisingly similar political values across demonstration types. Class identification also differed. The participants in the Indignados/Occupy protests had a markedly lower degree of identification with the working class – regardless of the ‘objective’ labour market position and controlling for country differences. These aspects relate to the classic distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ social movements, but we argue that it risks obscuring a more complex pattern of similarities and differences between different anti-austerity mobilizations.

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