Protest on Unemployement: Forms and Opportunities
Title: Protest on Unemployement: Forms and Opportunities
Author: DELLA PORTA, Donatella
Citation: Mobilization: The International Quarterly Review in Social Movements, Protest, and Contentious Politics, 2008, 13, 3, 277-296
The “return” of poor people movements pushes towards more reflection on the impact of changes in the social structure, the availability of organizational resources, and political and discursive opportunities for collective action. Based on a quantitative and qualitative claim analysis in six European countries, this article focused on the existence, but also heterogeneity of protest on unemployment, from the more sporadic and disruptive outbursts of long-time unemployed to the better structured protest against dismissals and the intertwining of protest on unemployment with that on other issues during cycles of protest. It first maps different forms of protest on unemployment: a) protest action on long-term unemployment; b) protest actions against massive dismissals; c) protest actions on unemployment (and labour policies) within more general cycle of protest. Then, it discusses the actors, the forms and claims of the protests, and the political opportunities for their development. Organizationally, protest on unemployment involves often loose local alliances of unemployed organizations, with either unions, left-wing political groups and social movement organizations, or various type of voluntary associations. As for their repertoires, protest on unemployment tends to assume some typical forms: occupations of working places, occupations of welfare institutions dealing with unemployment, long marches, hunger strikes and other forms of action with high symbolic impact, oriented to stress the “absolute injustice” of the position of the unemployed. Additionally, the framing of the issues of labour changes, together with the evolution of the labour market, restate the importance of social dynamics for political protest. Opportunities for protest on unemployment are influenced by some political characteristics. In general, the status of unions as well as the traditional assets of industrial relations will affect the chances of protest. If left-wing actors are important allies for unemployed, with left-wing parties moving decisively to the center-right, unemployed turned to the public opinion as a potential ally for their cause. Other allies emerge however, especially during cycles of protest.
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