Which elements do the Arab Spring, the Indignados and Occupy Wall Street have in common? How do they differ? What do they share with social movements of the past?
This book discusses the recent wave of global mobilisations from an unusual angle, explaining what aspects of protests spread from one country to another, how this happened, and why diffusion occurred in certain contexts but not in others. In doing this, the book casts light on the more general mechanisms of protest diffusion in contemporary societies, explaining how mobilisations travel from one country to another and, also, from past to present times.
Bridging different fields of the social sciences, and covering a broad range of empirical cases, this book develops new theoretical perspectives.
'This rich, punchy volume is the best overview yet of the extraordinary wave of movements that began in Iceland in 2008 and exploded around the world in 2011. It goes at the protests from many angles, but it especially shows how the movements are both transnational and yet very national at one and the same time, learning from each other and yet inventing their own paths.'
James M Jasper
City University of New York
'In the wake of the Arab revolutions', write Jérôme E Roos and Leonidas Oikonomakis in their contribution to this book, 'a wave of popular protest washed across the globe: from the leafy squares of the Mediterranean to the concrete heart of the global financial empire at Wall Street, and later from the Bosphorus to Brazil, people suddenly started taking to the streets everywhere.'
Was this an integrated social movement with expressions in different places? A set of unconnected campaigns that only appeared to be integrated because they occurred around the same time? Or were they something in between?
In this rich and challenging volume, Donatella della Porta, Alice Mattoni and their collaborators interrogate the transnational dimensions of the events of 2011 and find a high degree of coherence in them, despite their broad diversity and the heterogeneity of their settings. There were striking similarities in these movements: their response to the global financial and economic crisis; the degree to which they directly challenged elites; their common use of the tactic of the camp-out in public space. Most enticing was what della Porta, in her contribution, calls 'Learning Democracy – the transnational and cross-time diffusion of organisational repertoires'.
The heady days of the indignados, the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street are gone, but the lessons those movements pose to theories of contentious politics are advanced in this important book.'
Department of Government, Cornell University
Author of The New Transnational Activism
'This empirically rich and theoretically innovative comparative volume interrogates the recent transnational wave of anti-austerity and pro-democracy mobilisations, reflecting thoughtfully on the nature of the transnational dimension in these current mobilisations in relation to the former wave of protests against global capitalism. The chapters shed light on the complex and multi-levelled mechanisms of protest diffusion – what were the ideas that travelled, how and why the protests occurred in such different contexts across time and space, and why they did not occur in other contexts. The volume makes a major contribution to the literature on diffusion in social movements, inviting readers to critically assess the traditional models of diffusion. Essential reading for social movement researchers, students and general readers interested in the phenomenon of transnational protest.'
Department of Sociology and Work Science
University of Gothenburg
'This important book is essential reading for anyone interested in the transnational wave of “horizontalist” protest which arose in response to the Great Recession and to the austerity policies which so many governments enacted in response to it. It explains the variety of ways in which dissident ideas, practices, and tactics have diffused across borders and been adapted to local contexts. The volume is sweeping in its coverage, with case studies on the Arab Spring Iran, Argentina, Spain, Greece, the United States, Britain, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Turkey.'
New York University
'This important and fascinating collection is one of the most comprehensive treatments of the post-2008 global anti-austerity struggles, providing a much-needed comparative analysis of the political economic context and a critical assessment of the transnational dimension of the protests. Empirically rich and theoretically sophisticated, it is a must-read for anyone interested in transnational social movements, the diffusion of protest, and the prospects for democratic social, political, and economic change.'
Jeffrey S. Juris
Review by Calum White, published in LSE Review of Books, November 2014
'Before discussing individual chapters, it is worth examining the overall themes and aims of the publication. This is particularly appropriate for this volume, which ambitiously aims to detail the ‘the manifold interactions, at the expressive as well as the instrumental level, that link activists belonging to different countries who acted locally, in the urban spaces of their cities, but felt nonetheless connected to other activists engaged in protests far away’. For Donatella della Porta and Alice Mattoni, it is necessary to view recent instances of protest not simply as isolated instances comparable due to certain characteristics or phenomena, but instead as events ‘linked to one another as part of the wave of protest that began to develop in 2008 with the revolts in Iceland and continued with protests in Turkey and Brazil in 2013’.
The content of the book itself ranges across regions significantly, as one would expect from a concertedly transnational approach. Argentina’s ‘dirty war’ is analysed in the context of the housing crisis in Spain; the Greek protests against austerity are assessed from a transnational perspective. We flick from London to the Czech Republic, from Turkey to Iran, all the while being encouraged to widen the scope of our analysis. The result is a collection impressive in its consistency of argument despite the apparent breadth of its content.
One chapter, authored by Ari-Elmeri Hyvönen, focuses on the link between the EU and the ‘Arab Spring’, examining the way in which ideas, tactics, and strategies can be seen to ‘flow’ across national borders from the perspective of the EU as a key global power. Hyvönen thus agrees with scholars such as Andrea Teti that the role of the EU in the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ deserves more attention than it has hitherto been accorded by the scholarly community. As such, the chapter attempts to fill a more general gap in the literature, namely that, whilst transnational social networks and movements have received significant attention recently, there remains something of a paucity of scholarly investigation into the impact social movements have on a more global, polity level. Hyövnen’s claim that the ‘EU’s significance is remarkable, both in the Mediterranean region and globally, and hence plays a defining role in the context in which the revolutions occurred’ underpins the chapter’s argument. Even if one does not tend to attribute the same level of importance to the EU in terms of the formulation of mentalities, however, there is still much to be commended in Hyvönen’s chapter: strong analysis of rhetorical representations of events in the Arab world present a convincing argument for the effective isolation of the Arab protests from the general, transnational wave of protests taking place at the same time and which are covered in detail in other sections of the volume. Hyövnen also correctly notes that examination of the ‘Arab Spring’ from the perspective of the EU raises important questions regarding its ‘ethical’ foreign policy. Ultimately, it is unlikely that all the arguments which Hyvönen makes would receive the agreement of all scholars, yet what is clear is that the chapter raises some important questions which remain, as yet, largely unanswered.
Another chapter worth looking at in more detail is that of Nikos Sotirakopoulos and Christopher Rootes, which seeks to examine Occupy London in international and local context. Interestingly, their findings and arguments are based in part on personal observations made at the St Paul’s camp over several months. They consider Occupy London as a phenomenon stimulated by three factors: what they term a ‘passing of the baton’ from other similar mobilisations around the world; a reaction to the British experience of the crisis; and as an historically informed link to a past ‘chain’ of direct-action protests in Britain. The result is an extremely effective examination of the way in which global issues and movements informed the protests in London. It is at once an international movement with clearly identifiable commonalities with protests occuring elsewhere, especially Wall Street, but at the same time Sotirakopoulos and Rootes manage very effectively to identify the ways in which movements which are transnationally comparable and informed can also have peculiarities at the local level. Original evidence compiled in interviews with participants enables the authors to be particularly effective in this; the way in which similar movements which preceded Occupy London informed the nature and popularity of the protest is evident. At the same time, there are clearly identifiable, if subtle, differences. Many of the interviewees appear to have initially attended based on curiosity rather than ardent politicisation, but then subsequent police action – especially kettling – hardened mentalities. This certainly provokes a more detailed discussion on the way in which transnational appreciations of preceding movements informed both activists and governmental responses, and the way in which apparent governmental misappreciation of the situation was likely created by alarmist analysis of international movements. Ultimately, Sotirakopoulos and Rootes provide a greatly useful contribution to the puzzle of London’s position in relation to the wider transnational diffusion of the 2011 wave of contention. Their conclusion that the transnational diffusion of protest is an ‘impression fostered by distance’ has much to support it; the attempt to locate the transnational elements within local peculiarities is laudible, and the authors’ contribution is well worth a read.
Ultimately, della Porta and Mattoni’s collection is well worth adding to your book shelf, especially for those concerned with the nature of protest and the dissemination of dissent, both in modern and more general theoretical context. Their work is appropriately concomitant with the general academic tendency toward transnational explanations, and the volume is largely an effective example of why transnational approaches can be beneficial to our understanding of wider issues such as social movements and societal discontent.'