2011: a year of protest on social justice in Italy

della Porta, Donatella, Mosca, Lorenzo and Parks, Louisa (2015) 2011: a year of protest on social justice in Italy. In: Subterranean politics in Europe. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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Item Type:Book Section
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Italy has long been recognised as a country with a rich history of contentious politics, and it was for this reason that we expected the new wave of square occupations in Europe, inspired by the events of the Arab Spring and indeed the protests seen in Iceland, would take hold and be reproduced in Italy. Yet when the Indignados movement did spread from Spain to Greece it saw a weak following in Italy. Some camps were set up in Italy’s main cities, but they usually remained small in proportion. The global day of action on October 15th 2011 saw hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Rome, but the day ended in violent outbursts that neither the protest organizers nor the police were able to control (della Porta and Zamponi 2013). A first puzzle we wanted to address in our research was therefore why Italy appeared to be so quiet in 2011. Was this a true social peace, or, as we indeed found, did the convergence of attention on the Indignados hide other contentious forms of actions on the issues of the financial crisis and the policies adopted to address it?

Attitudes towards Europe and the European Union formed another focus for our study. Given the specific pathologies of the Italian political system (magnified under Silvio Berlusconi’s governments), Europe and the EU have been seen by collective actors and public opinion alike as potential sources of “normalization” and therefore regarded with more sympathy than in other European countries. At the same time, however, the financial crisis of 2011 was a “European” crisis, and the EU institutions were feared (as in Spain and Greece) as the enforcers of austerity policies. How these two visions clashed, and/or were bridged is another important question for understanding the emerging conceptions of democracy within Italian civil society. As we will see, trust in Europe and the EU has indeed taken a nosedive, with discourses framing the European Central Bank as responsible for austerity and cuts, and ‘Europe’ as generally in thrall to its economic mission and actors alone. Europe, however, is still seen as the conduit best placed for bringing social justice back to the continent.

Keywords:Protest groups, Italy, Democracy, European Union
Subjects:L Social studies > L200 Politics
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
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ID Code:7526
Deposited On:19 Feb 2013 11:07

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