Political Activism in the Aftermath of the Great Recession: Europeans, Protest and the Economy

Protest activism in Europe has become more visible since the 2008 economic recession. Studies on protest waves across countries have emphasized the increase and spread of unconventionality as a form of political engagement for Europeans responding to the economic crisis. From the Indignados movement in Spain t the Syriza coalition in Greece, new political actors have embraced contentious activism as a source of political support in reaction to the economic situation.

Few studies so far have looked at protest activity in a more quantitative and micro level approach. This project employs multiple rounds from the European Social Survey (2006-2012) to assess the claim that protest on the European continent has indeed increased since the global recession. In particular the research is trying to test whether the same economic indicators, often publicly held responsible for mass protest, are still as relevant after the economic crisis as they were before.

The severity of the economic collapse and the prolonged negative economic situation in Europe may be responsible for new preferences among citizens when it comes to political participation. Yet, from the literature it appears that the link between economic indicators and protest is not as clear cut as expected. Whereas in some previous research poor economic performance correlates with more unconventionality, in other works it is economic success that drives protest participation. The 2008 economic downturn provides an opportunity to test the current direction of the relationship between the economy and unconventional activism. Some of the initial findings from this research highlight the minor increase in protest activism levels among Europeans and the similar relevance of the different economic indicators before and after the crisis. Contrary to social movements studies, the 2008 recession was not that strong incentive for protest after all.

Acknowledgement: This research has been conducted in collaboration with Pauline Ding (SCU, ANU).

Francesca Vassallo is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Southern Maine, USA, and currently Visiting Fellow at the Centre for European Studies at ANU. Her research and publications have focused on conventional and unconventional political behavior, French politics, European public opinion, US-EU relations. In addition to journal articles and book chapters, her book France, Social Capital and Political Activism (Palgrave) came out in 2010.  She was the guest editor for a special issue of the journal German Politics and Society dedicated to the Fifty Years of the Élysée Treaty (2013). She is now working on her next project on protest patterns in Europe, pre- and post- economic crisis.

Lunch will be provided at the seminar after the Q&A session.

Date & time

Thu 24 Sep 2015, 12am


L.J. Hume Centre, Copland Building (24), 1st Floor, Room 1171


A/Prof Francesca Vassallo, University of Southern Maine


Marija Taflaga


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