Ah springtime. The gentle feel of the breeze, the light touch of government cutting, the horrible pain and suffering that results. There’s lots of money out there, trillions in fact, just not in the hands of the people who need it the most. Hey, gotta fund the government bailouts of the rich bankers somehow. Or not. We do live in a democracy after all and protest is an important feature. Here’s a sociological take on a growing world wide phenomenon.
The autumn and winter of 2010 saw an unprecedented wave of student protests across the UK in response to the coalition government’s savage cuts in state funding for higher education – cuts which formed the basis for an ideological attack on the nature of education itself. Involving universities and schools, occupations, sit-ins and demonstrations, these protests spread with remarkable speed. Middle-class students, teenagers from diverse backgrounds and older activists took part in marches, teach-ins and occupations, and also creative new forms: flashmobs, YouTube dance-offs, and the literal literary resistance of colorful book blocs. These protests spread with wildfire speed, largely organized through an unprecedented use of social media.
The winter of discontent gave rise to a new spirit of rebellion this spring with broader, stronger resistance to austerity measures in other parts of the globe. The UK protests fueled the astonishing events in the Arab world, trade union rallies in Wisconsin on a scale not seen in America since the Vietnam protests, the M26 movement in Spain and massive anti-austerity demonstrations in Greece. Springtime is both an inspiring chronicle and a companion to this movement: “the formulation of an experience” of a generation.
Rather than considering them a series of isolated incidents, Springtime locates student protests in a movement spreading across the entire western world. Since the financial crash of 2008 growing social and political turbulence in the epicenters of capital and beyond have not only broken out, but are occuring in an organized, deliberate fashion. From Athens to Rome, San Francisco to London – and the stunning events in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria that have captured the world’s imagination – students are playing a key role in developing a strong, coherent social and political movement.
Contributions come from those involved in the movement: mainly students, lecturers, and activists, with ‘flashback’ sections looking at student rebellions in history, incisive analysis, communiqués, maps, and photo-essays, Springtime also comes from and looks at events on the ground: the demonstrations and the police tactics of kettling, assault. A compendium of voices from the frontline, Springtime will become an essential point of reference as the struggle continues.
About the Author: I'm a sociologist at Athabasca University where I coordinate,amongst other things, the introductory sociology courses (Sociology I and Sociology II). FYI I did my dissertation in the political economy of scholarly communication (you can read it if you want). It's not that bad. My current interests lie in the area of scholarly communication and pedagogy, the sociology of spirituality and religion, consciousness research, entheogens, inequality and stratification, and the revolutionary potential of authentic spirituality. The Socjourn is my pet project. It started as the Electronic Journal of Sociology but after watching our social elites systematically dismantle the potential of eJournals to alter the politics and economies of scholarly communication, I decided I'd try something a little different. That something is The Socjourn, a initiative that bends the rules of scholarly communication and pedagogy by disregarding academic ego and smashing down the walls that divide our little Ivory Tower world from the rest of humanity. If you are a sociologist or a sociology student and you have a burning desire to engage in a little institutional demolition by perhaps writing for the Socjourn, contact me. If you are a graduate student and you have some ideas that you think I might find interesting, contact me. I supervise graduate students through Athabasca Universities MAIS program.