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In the Great Recession, sovereign bailouts were deemed necessary to alleviate the stress of indebted countries. These bailouts contained some of the most contentious policies, including austerity, structural reforms, and privatizations that triggered sharp bursts of protest during the Great Recession. In this chapter, we examine the impact of those particular political events on protest within this period, aiming to assess their impact and explore the mechanisms through which they operate on protest behavior. We observe that bailouts had a strong effect on protest, but in a mostly regional pattern, as they were accompanied by massive and frequent demonstrations only in southern Europe but not in eastern Europe. We also try to see whether the effect of bailouts can be explained by a deterioration of economic sentiment, but we find that their effect on protest remains even when accounting for such a decline in prospects. The chapter then shows that bailouts, ceteris paribus, were also much more contested than non-supranational austerity packages. Overall, bailouts have a strong effect on protest, but the regional pattern suggests that this is stronger where possibilities of alternative institutional political representation were available, as in the case of Greece which is examined more closely.
Protest Event Analysis is attractive to social movement scholars because it is an unobtrusive technique that can cope with a large amount of unstructured data. However, it has also drawn some major criticisms such as its susceptibility to reporting bias. This chapter sets out to engage with these criticisms by discussing and defending our choice to rely on international news agencies publishing in English and by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of our dataset compared to two external datasets. On the one hand, we find that our dataset is more precise than the Integrated Crisis Early Warning System (ICEWS) data, which suffers from duplicated events and misclassifications of the protest form. As opposed to the ICEWS data, our dataset actually reveals the major waves of demonstrations across Europe. On the other hand, we evaluate our semi-automatically compiled data with help of data derived manually from national newspaper articles and news reports for Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Hungary, and Poland. This comparison shows that our data have a slight tendency in the direction of covering larger events and events taking place in the capital more than other events.
Chapter 1 introduces the questions this volume is going to address, the empirical approach it is going to adopt, and the three regions of Europe that are going to serve as a key structuring device in presenting the results. The volume descriptively addresses three claims that have been made in the literature on protest mobilization during the Great Recession: the existence of an internationally interconnected protest wave, the transformation of action repertoires, and the ‘return of the economy’ in the demands of protesters. Second, the volume asks about the drivers of protest mobilization, relying on three key concepts of social movement studies – grievances, resources, and political opportunity structures. More specifically, the chapters assess the role of economic and political grievances in driving protest: Do economic grievances mobilize or de-mobilize protest? They analyze the role of political parties in organizing protest in times of crisis and ask which parties take to the streets in times of crises, and they consider the role of political opportunity structures in moderating the link between economic grievances and protest. Since the distinction between the macro-regions is so important for the presentation of the results, the introduction also provides three sets of arguments why this distinction makes sense as a general grid in the analysis of the data. These three sets of arguments are linked to the same three sets of explanatory factors.
This chapter explains how we identified and coded protest events over a period of sixteen years in thirty European countries. We present the semi-automated approach that combines natural language processing tools for the identification of relevant news documents and then discuss the manual annotation for a precise coding of protest events from multiple sources that publish news content in English. The semi-automated part allows us to deal with a large number of documents identified through keyword searches, namely 5 million documents. The manual annotation, in turn, guarantees that we are able to distinguish different protest forms, actors, and the issues at play. Our endeavor resulted in a dataset of 30,000 unique protest events that we use in this book to study contentious politics during the Great Recession.
This is the first comprehensive overview of the waves of protest mobilization that spread across Europe in the wake of the Great Recession. Documenting the extent of these protests in a study covering thirty countries, including the issues they addressed and the degree to which they replicated each other, this book maps the prevalence and nature of protest across Europe, and explains the interactions between economic and political grievances that lead to protest mobilization. The authors assess a range of claims in the literature on political protest, arguing that they tend both to overstate the importance of anti-austerity sentiments and underestimate the relevance of political grievances in driving the protest. They also integrate a study of the electoral and protest arenas, revealing that electoral mass politics has been heavily influenced protest mobilization, which amplified electoral punishment at the polls.
The choice of specific action repertoires allows protesters to increase their visibility and eventually their success. A rise in protest, i.e. a protest wave, often comes with a qualitative expansion of the conflict, which can take two forms: changes in the action repertoire and a growing diversity of involved actors. In this chapter, we examine the types of protest and the types of actors over time. In so doing, we ask whether and how the Great Recession transformed customary action repertoires in southern, north-western, and eastern Europe. Hence, we show variations in the use of commonplace action forms, i.e. demonstrations, strikes, and confrontational and violent actions. We find that demonstrations and strikes remain the dominant form of protest across regions and time periods, while transformations in the action repertoire of contention, in the form of violent events, took place only in some parts of the south and were short lived. Lastly, we turn to actors and we show that protest events increasingly feature social groups without formal organizational structures. We conclude by arguing that contention repertoires remained largely unaffected by the Great Recession; demonstrations were and remained the prevailing form of protest in all three regions during the whole period under study.
Throughout its history, Europe has gone through various phases of economic downturn. A major one, known as the Great Recession, started out in 2008, first as a financial crisis and then as one of the deepest – if not the deepest – economic crises European countries have had to face so far. Europeans are still struggling with its negative effects. As citizens try to cope with such negative effects in their everyday lives, economic crises also have political effects. At the most basic level, two possible reactions may be mentioned. On the one hand, economic hardship may lead to a decline in political participation and civic engagement as the experience of economic difficulty can certainly be understood as draining resources from political participation.