Crisis, austerity and revolt on the European periphery: movement perspectives from the 15M to the institutional turn and beyond in Spain (02/19)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Social and Policy Sciences


10 years on, the structural crisis of capital that surfaced in 2008 continues to be managed through the neoliberal austerity. Spain has been one of the worst affected European countries. There, the implosion of the property and credit bubbles unleashed structural contradictions in the country's post-transitional economic model. As per austerity doctrine, economic "recovery" was secured at the expense of massive unemployment, further labour deregulation and welfare retreat, and an acute housing foreclosure crisis. Yet Spain has also been the stage of antagonistic, creative and enduring anti-austerity movements. Since 2014, the popular upswell, which began with mass square occupations in 2011, has undergone an "institutional turn" that has had particular success at the municipal scale, with left-wing, grassroots "convergences" winning city councils in many Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

The premise of this research is that crisis gives rise not only to new accumulation strategies and governmental rationalities that retrench and reboot neoliberal capitalism, but also to new class formations and subjectivities that negate the latter and forge alternatives. Using participatory action methodologies, this research aims to generate critical, movement-relevant knowledge about this double movement, with emphasis on the moment of antagonism and resistance; in ways that will inform movement strategy and practices. A secondary outcome will be to inform critical social policy studies (eg. participatory policy-making). Using Barcelona as its case study, it pursues these aims through enquiry at the municipal, urban scale.

Empirical objectives
1) To describe and analyse:
a. The political economy and governance of crisis and austerity in Barcelona, and its relationship to the global scale
b. The class composition that emerges in this context, comprising technical, political and subjective dimensions
c. The relationship between a. and b.

2) To provide a case study of labour organising under austerity in Spain, thus complementing the existing literature's focus on housing and urban governance

Theoretical objectives
1) To apply and develop innovative perspectives on labour and capital drawn from decolonial, feminist and open marxisms, which amplify the ontological, epistemological and methodological gaze of traditional political economy and social movement studies.

2) To bring comparative perspectives from Latin American critical theory, particularly that arising from the anti-neoliberal social movement cycle (including the moment of progressive government and subsequent backlash) to bear on the European experience

3) In so doing, to contribute to critical theorisation of the gendered, racialised and classed contours of:
a. The scalar political economies of global neoliberal capitalism and crisis
b. The relationship between the state and electoral politics on one hand, and grassroots, collective action on the other hand; especially in moments of institutional progressivism
c. Class politics and "political renewal," particularly in the context of crisis in Europe

Methodological objectives
To test and conceptualise the value-added of Participatory Action Research for generating critical, movement-relevant theory.

Relevance to research council
This research addresses some of the most pressing questions in global political economy (my ESRC pathway) and social theory, using innovative theoretical approaches, and methodologies that further the ESRC's priorities regarding collaboration and impact.

I will need to undertake training in Catalan to undertake this project.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1930761 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 01/04/2023 Josephine Lyn Hooker