ISA47 Open Movements : for a global and public sociology of social movements

logoOpen Movements : for a global and public sociology of social movements

We are very pleased to announce that the ISA47 platform on Open Democracy has started today.

You will find the general outlook of the project here.

For its first week, openMovements invited leading social movement scholars to share their research results and perspectives on contemporary struggles and challenges.

Today, we publish a great article by Boaventura de Sousa Santos.

In the following days, you will find insightful contributions by Jackie Smith, Michel Wieviorka, Donatella della Porta, Sydney Tarrow, Markus Shulz, Olivier de Schutter, Mona Ambaza and Farhad Khosrokhavar.  (summaries below)


Help us in diffusing this new platform and this week’s texts.

Today’s articles shortcuts: : openMovements : For a global and public sociology of social movements : The Podemos wave, by B de Sousa Santos


openMovements aims at being a space for the diffusion of research outcomes by ISA47 members beyond the academic world. After this series of daily articles by leading sociologists, openMovements will publish two articles a week publish by well know scholars as well as insightful young researchers from all continents. We will also publish articles on ongoing movements and events, but always with an intention to go beyond mere opinion and seek rigorous analysis. Contributions from Latin America, Africa and Asia will receive a special attention. We welcome (short) articles drawing on empirical research that connect the analysis of social movements to the reconfiguration and challenges of activism, democracy and society.


Please be aware that we will only publish two articles a week, which means that your proposal will undergo a tight selection process. We will do our best to publish article connected to ongoing events in the following days, but expect some delay for other proposals, particularly in the first few months.

We wish you a good reading!


Breno Bringel & Geoffrey Pleyers

Editors of openMovements

ISA47 “Social classes and social movements”

openMovements’ first week

For this first week, openMovements invited leading social scientists to share their research results and perspectives. Boaventura de Sousa Santos opens our platform with an analysis of the Spanish party Podemos within the emergence of a broader wave of social actors in different parts of the world including social movements in Latin America, the World Social Forum and the Arab Spring. This tireless promoter of the epistemologies of the South shows how Podemos results from a learning process initiated in the Global South and which proposed a creative way to channel the outrage that ran through the streets of Spain.


While Podemos future remains uncertain, it clearly shows that social movements open new scenarios for the future, as Markus Schulz points in his contribution. Like Santos, the ISA vice-president highlights the need to consider the global intelligibility between different struggles. Looking at the Zapatistas struggle, he shows how aspirations, social imaginaries, everyday practices are key elements for the construction of alternative futures and new roadmaps for social transformation.


Social movements and transformation do not all points towards progressive alternatives and a bright future for humanity. In the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo carnage and the success of the Islamist State in attracting hundreds of young volunteers both in the South and in the West, the next three articles address the complex relationship between social movements, war, terrorism and radicalization. Although this is sometimes a hackneyed discussion due to the abuse and reification of certain imaginaries and categories, the authors gathered here shed an original light. Michel Wieviorka, former president of the International Sociological Association, points to the changing meaning of global terrorism over the past 50 years and proposes an insightful approach of terrorism as an anti-movement. In sequence, the leading social movement scholar Sidney Tarrow underlines the need to connect “top-down” approaches on war and state building with “bottom-up” research on contentious politics. Political contention often plays a key role in mobilization for war, sometimes working to prevent war but more often play a key role in war-making. In turn, Farhad Khosrokhavar shows how analytical rigor and long-term fieldwork “below the tip of the iceberg” is indispensable to understand events that strike the news headlines and to build thoughtful policies against terror. Behind the two terrorist attacks that caused 17 deaths in Paris last January lies a wide radicalization process of which he provides a very insightful multidimensional analysis, from socioeconomic profile, to cultural identity and global networks. The stay in prison, Khosrokhavar states, has becomes rite of passage to adulthood and a place where excluded youth construct themselves as subjects of their life and actors in the society.


Mona Abaza’s text addresses the other side of a war on terror in a brilliant analysis of the Egyptian revolution and its dark side: the counter-revolution and its retaliation, repression, persecution, exodus of intellectuals, artists and activists. Movements and counter-movements notably struggle around dispute of political memory.


The ambivalence of our times is also addressed by Donatella della Porta with a straightforward question: Is there still a Chance for Another Europe? She shows that the European scenario is shape by socio-political and economical conjunctures and evolving structures, but also by subjectivities and social movements. The vision of and project for Europe, has been a battlefield between the «Europe of the Market» and the perspective of «Another Europe» promoted by social movements in the last decades.


In his contribution, Olivier de Schutter offers a bright overview of a crucial topic that connects daily life to global policies: food sovereignty. The 2008-2014 UN Rapporteur on the right to food shows how food sovereignty has been promoted and shaped by social movements from the global South. In spite of peasant’ movements’ success in promoting the food sovereignty agenda, “food sovereignty” remains the site of a conflict between “movements from below” and powerful national and global actors. The struggle over the meaning of the concept and its underlying agenda is not yet over.


Finally, the latest two articles discuss the production and circulation of knowledge within an unequal world structure. The very inspiring American scholar and activist Jackie Smith underlines the importance of movements as learning processes and the importance of the struggle of the open access movement and campaigns against the commodification of the knowledge. A key research agenda is thus to understand how the open access movement is helping define new ways of sharing information that lie outside the contemporary capitalist logic. In a complementary proposal, Michael Burawoy reflects on the production of knowledge (and particularly of theory) in a North/South divide.



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