Call for submissions: The European social movement experience: rethinking “new social movements”, historicising the alterglobalisation movement

19 July 2011

Call for chapter submissions (edited book): and understanding the new wave of protest
Laurence Cox, Cristina Flesher Fominaya, Co-chairs, European Social Movements research network (Council for European Studies)

European social movements, and social movement theories, have rarely been taken on their own terms in the English-language literature, but rather as counterpoints to the American experience. While such comparisons have been fruitful in some ways, they have lacked a sense of history and culture and failed to take European social movement theory seriously on its own terms. This has been exacerbated by the failure of Anglophone social movement theorists to pay attention to the substantial literatures in languages such as French, German, Spanish or Italian.

This is particularly problematic because these same movements – from the European eruptions of 1968, east and west, through to the European marches of the unemployed, the roads protest movements or autonomist culture in the 1980s and 1990s – have been central to the construction of the “alterglobalisation movement”, which began with alliances between, for example, French ATTAC and Brazilian movement organisations, or between Italian social centre activists and the Zapatistas. Among other things, what is often missed is the extent to which key European movements represent a continuation of the “New Left” problematic – the experience of a mainly extra-institutional left movement culture in political contexts marked by the institutionalisation of a more moderate left.

This book sets out to take the European social movement experience seriously on its own terms, including (a) the European tradition of social movement theorising, particularly in its attempt to understand the development of movements from the 1960s onwards; (b) the extent to which European movements between 1968 and 1999 became precursor movements for the contemporary anti-globalisation movement; (c) the construction of the “movement of movements” within the European setting around a variety of themes; and (d) the new “M-15” mobilisations in Iceland, Greece, the UK, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere.

Part 1. European Theory/European Movements

In part one of the book, we seek to trace significant developments in European theory that emerged in dialogue with and reflection on the social movement experiences from the 1960s onwards. Our overarching framework aims to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of European modes of theorizing about social movements. We want to recognize the important contribution of “New Social Movement” theory, often used as shorthand to express the “European” contribution, but typically caricatured rather than set in context. We also want to highlight other European modes of theorising social movements which have not been recognised within the “canonical” histories of social movement theory as received in the English-speaking world.

We understand that important developments in European social theory, and not just European social movement theory, emerge from the immersion of intellectuals in specific movement milieus, and their exposure and engagement with modes of thought that are themselves products of diverse movements, not only in Europe but around the world. So, for example, developments in French, Italian, and British feminist theory are inextricably bound up with specific movement experiences in these countries, and have marked national differences, but also share influences drawn from movements elsewhere, including the U.S. Intellectuals such as Marcuse were influenced not only by developments in West German anti-authoritarian politics of the 1960s but also by the Free Speech Movement in California, for example. Foucault, Bourdieu, Touraine and others were deeply influenced by their participation in social movements, whether 1968, anti-colonial movements or the struggles of the 1970s. At the same time, we want to reflect on the influence of theory on European social movements ,and the role played by theorists active within movements and little recognised by the academy.

Finally, we would like to reflect on whether there is still a distinctive European mode (or modes) of theorising social movements, and if so, what its contribution is to understanding the movements of today.

For chapters focussing on the European social movement experience between the 1960s and 1990s and its theoretical reflections, we are looking for responses to questions such as:

– What is the actual historical matrix of “new social movement” discussions, and how can we relate the development of theory to the development of politics within different European movements and political parties?
– How have social movements affected the development of European social theory, and how have debates within social and political theory played out within European social movements?
– How do European and American (or Anglophone) modes of theorising inform or misunderstand each other?
– What remains significant or vital in contemporary European theorising around social movements? What are the relationships between social theory linked to movements (e.g. autonomism) and theories of movements with broader implications (e.g. identities)?

Part 2. European Precursors to the Global Justice Movement

Contrary to some narratives, the alterglobalization movement did not just erupt into the world spontaneously in Seattle in 1999. In fact, the roots of the global justice movement can be found in a diverse range of movements around the world. European social movements played a major role, from the British anti-roads movement which developed into a broader anti-capitalist movement, via autonomous movements in Italy and Spain which developed contacts with Zapatistas in Mexico and then incorporated that influence into their own unique forms of practice and thought, to movement networking processes around projects like the European marches of the unemployed or debt campaigning.

In this part of the book, we want to explore specific European precursor movements that influenced and formed an integral part of the global “movement of movements”. For chapters tackling specific precursor movements, we are looking for chapters which do not simply analyse the precursor movement on its own terms but also explicitly explore the ways in which these movements influenced and were influenced by the global justice movement and how they changed during the course of these encounters. We also want to reflect on the current legacy of the alterglobalisation movement on European social movements active today.

Specifically, we would like chapters in this section to address such questions as:

– What did this movement bring to the global justice movement and how did it change in the course of the encounter?
– How can we understand the global exchanges of influences in the European context? How does this movement draw on movements outside Europe, and what does it contribute to the development of the global “movement of movements”, in terms of ideas, tactics, strategies, language etc.?
– To what extent did this “global turn” in European movements represent an attempt to break out of increasingly hostile national and European political contexts, and how successful was it in constraining political developments or shaping counter-power around processes such as the intensification of neo-liberalism, the EU construction process, or military intervention in the global South?
– Retrospectively – after the 2001 Genoa events, “9/11”, the anti-war protests of 2003 and other significant moments up to the turn to recession, what aspects of the “movement of movements” are still active either as contribution or as movement? Do current protests against austerity politics represent a continuation of this process or a new departure?

Part 3. Culture and identity in the construction of the European “movement of movements”

European theory has long drawn our attention to cultural and identity processes. In the third section of the book we want to explore the actual process of construction of the alter- globalization movement, with a specific focus on the creation of a shared collective identity that transcended national, regional and movement specific identities, and on cultural analysis of social movement construction in Europe. Attention to the role of emotions in the process of movement construction is also welcome.

For the section on the construction of the alter-globalisation movement, we are looking for chapters which discuss such questions as:

– How was a shared movement identity constructed and contested – regionally, nationally, within Europe? To what extent was this shared identity successfully constructed, and what were the actual consequences and problems encountered?
– How far can we say that this does represent a new movement identity, and how far is it simply a new alliance of already-institutionalised movements in Europe or within individual states?
– To what extent do the different tendencies within the European movement – be it political traditions such as autonomism, movement organisations such as ATTAC, cultural milieux such as those around social centres, etc., constitute them as trans-European movement identities?
-How can specific attention to cultural processes, broadly understood, help us understand the dynamics of anti-globalization movement construction in Europe?

Part 4. Understanding the new “European Spring”

It is as yet very early to say anything substantive about the new wave of protests across Europe; but clearly, coming as they do in response to austerity policies which are geared towards reasserting neo-liberal policies as a way out of economic crisis, they strike at the heart of major European power structures. Some protests may seem like a continuation of familiar themes already present in the anti-capitalist globalization movement; others appear to represent the mobilisation of citizens who have previously remained politically passive, or the development of new social movement alliances.

In a concluding section to the book we are looking for chapters which discuss topics such as:

– How far do the current wave of protests continue previous movement practices and alliances, and how far do they represent genuinely new developments?
– How can the differences between mobilisation in different countries be explained: why is Ireland passive and Portugal active, for example; or why have British protests remained isolated and Spanish ones involved previously passive sectors of the population?
– How significant are international linkages and inspirations, both between these different countries and the inspiration from the “Arab Spring?”
– What do the responses from political parties, NGOs, trade unions, media and police tell us about the role of social movements in times of crisis vis-à-vis more established political actors?

Submission details

We are looking for proposals (to in the following form:

Abstract (250 words)
Authors (department and institution)
Contact email

The editors will make provisional offers based on the submission of abstracts. Final offers will be subject to an assessment of the actual drafts of chapters. Decisions will be made based on academic merit and the degree to which the chapter addresses the central themes of the book and forms part of a coherent overall narrative. The editors welcome queries and expressions of interest.

Deadline for proposals: September 1st 2011
Deadline for completed draft if accepted: January 1st 2012
Envisaged date of publication: Autumn 2012

We expect to publish this book with a first-rate academic publisher.

About the editors and the European Social Movements research network

Dr. Laurence Cox is lecturer in sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth, where he co-directs the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism and runs a PhD research programme of participatory action research in social movement practice. He is co-editor of the multilingual social movements journal Interface and is an editorial advisor and / or referee for numerous other journals. He has published widely on the alterglobalisation movement, social movements and culture, activist sustainability, working-class community organising, Marxist theories of social movement, research methodology and new religious movements. His work has appeared in Rethinking Marxism, Ecopolitics online, Irish Journal of Sociology, Sociological Compass, Emotion, Space and Society, Journal of Global Buddhism, Contemporary Buddhism and numerous edited collections. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Marxism and social movements and the 2011 Ireland’s new religious movements. Trained in European Studies, he has lived in Norway, France, Germany and Italy and has been active in transnational movement networks since the 1980s.

Dr. Cristina Flesher Fominaya is lecturer in sociology at the University of Aberdeen, where she directs the MSc in Sociology programme. She has an MA and PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BA summa cum laude in International Relations from the University of Minnesota. She has won numerous international scholarships and prizes including the National Science Foundation Fellowship, the German Marshall Fellowship and the Leo Lowenthal Prize for Outstanding Paper in Culture and Critical Theory awarded by the University of California, Berkeley. She was Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Political Science in the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and a visiting scholar at Georgetown University before joining the Department of Sociology in Aberdeen in 2009. She has been researching and participating in European social movements since the early 1990s. Her work has been published in Contemporary Social Science, Sociological Inquiry, Sociology Compass, International Review of Social History, South European Society and Politics, Mediterráneo Económico, and International Feminist Journal of Politics and several edited collections. She is co-founder and co-editor of Interface: a journal for and about social movements and is a member of the Editorial Board of Sociological Research Online.

Drs Flesher Fominaya and Cox are co-chairs of the European Social Movements research network at the Council for European Studies, launched in June 2011. Dedicated to the study of social movements in Europe, the network aims to develop collaborative work, create space for joint projects, and support the contribution of scholarship to processes of active citizenship. The network already includes well over 100 scholars at all levels of experience, based in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK and the US. Their disciplines include adult education, anthropology, communication, cultural studies, development studies, gender studies, geography, history, international relations, journalism, labour studies, law, mathematics, media studies, planning and urbanistics, political science, social policy and sociology. The range of movements being studied and research approaches listed in the members’ research directory is too wide to detail easily. For further information on how to join the network see .

Work like you don’t need money
Love like you’ve never been hurt
and dance like no-one’s watching

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate
integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system
and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means
by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and
discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

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