Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Austerity crisis protests: Ireland vs. Spain

An in-depth look at how citizens in Ireland and Spain demonstrated against austerity sheds new light on the role of technology in civil protests.
Austerity crisis protests: Ireland vs. Spain
In recent years, the spectre of austerity has hit many a European nation, undermining economic growth and creating challenges for citizens at many different levels. The EU-funded CPAA (Contentious Politics in an Age of Austerity: A comparative study of anti-austerity protests in Spain and Ireland) project cross-compared austerity in two very different nations, namely Ireland and Spain.

In an effort to understand the impact of austerity, the project team conducted paired comparisons and identified independent variables to explain differences in political opportunity structures. It employed process tracing to articulate explanations and hypotheses that can be tested in other cases.

More specifically, the project studied mobilisation against the crisis and the role of 'Information and communications technology' (ICT) in mobilising people. It found that culture plays a much larger role than technology in adopting and using digital tools, noting that the role of ICT in providing organisational infrastructures is often overstated. Nonetheless, the team found that factors such as deprivation, propensity to mobilise, outrage and perceived grievances were much less important in challenging austerity than mobilisation based on pre-existing networks and facilitated by effective use of digital media.

While protesters stayed longer on the streets of Dublin than they did in Madrid, the latter were more organised and exploited pre-existing networks to gain participants. The Madrid camp evolved into more long-term initiatives and transformed public opinion in Spain, while the Dublin camp did not. In effect, the team concluded that understanding anti-austerity mobilisations should not rely only on evaluating intensity and frequency of protests. Instead, it should rely more on assessing social movement networks, shared discursive frameworks and strategies, and the communities involved.

Overall the project revealed valuable insight through research and case studies on anti-austerity protests in Spain and Ireland. It published several articles and a monograph on the topic, disseminating interest in academic and political circles even beyond Europe. In our economically volatile world, this knowledge could prove useful in managing civil unrest in times of crisis.

Related information


Protests, austerity, politics, CPAA, mobilisations
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