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  • Author or Editor: Donatella della Porta x
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Times of pandemic bring big challenges for the activists of progressive social movements. Initially, it was thought that they were not a time for street activism or politics in the squares. Freedoms were restricted, and physical distancing made the typical forms of protest impossible to carry out. Mobilization was not only difficult in public places but also in our places of work, given the very strict limitation on the right to meet and the reduced opportunity for face-to-face encounters. The continuous emergency also constrains our mental spaces, challenging our creativity. Individual and collective resources are focused mainly on everyday survival. Hope, that stimulant for collective action, is difficult to sustain, while fear, which so discourages it, spreads. Crises might trigger selfish defensive choices, turning the other into an enemy. We depend on governmental efficiency and expert opinions.

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Student Movements against Neoliberal Universities

Using new research on higher education in the UK, Canada, Chile and Italy, this rigorous comparative study investigates key episodes of student protests against neoliberal policies and practices in today’s universities.

As well as examining origins and outcomes of higher education reforms, the authors set these waves of demonstrations in the wider contexts of student movements, political activism and social issues, including inequality and civil rights.

Offering sophisticated new theoretical arguments based on fascinating empirical work, the insights and conclusions revealed in this original study are of value to anyone with an interest in social, political and related studies.

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A Comparative Perspective

From Deliveroo to Amazon, digital platforms have transformed the way we work drastically. But how are these transformations being received and challenged by workers?

This book provides a radical interpretation of the changing nature of worker movements in the digital age, developing an invaluable approach that combines social movement studies and industrial relations.

Using case studies taken from Europe and North America, it offers a comparative perspective on the mobilizing trajectories of different platform workers and their distinct organizational forms and action repertoires.

This is an innovative book that offers a complete view of the new labour conflicts in the platform economy.

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Direct Democracy in the Neoliberal Crisis

Over recent years, social movements formed in response to European neoliberal austerity measures have played an increasingly important role in referendums. This is the first book to bridge the gap between social movement studies and research on direct democracy. It draws on social movement theory to understand the nature of popular mobilisation in referendums.

Co-authored by one of the world’s leading authorities on social movements, the book uses unique case studies such as the referendum on independence in Scotland, the consultations on independence in Catalonia, the Italian referendum on water, the referendum on the Troika proposals in Greece and the referendum on the debt repayment in Iceland, to illustrate the ways the social movements that formed as a consequence of the 2008 financial crash have affected the referendums’ dynamic and results. It also addresses the way in which participation from below has had a transformative impact on the organisational strategies and framing practices used in the campaigns.

Looking at general issues of democracy, as well as the political effects of neoliberalism, this topical book is ideally suited to understand the reasons for the Brexit result and will be read by a wide audience interested in social movements, referendums and democratic innovation.

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This chapter provides an overview of the analysis of transformation in higher education (HE) policies and student politics, linking them to research on the policy outcomes of social movements. HE policies have been shaped by various waves of student mobilization. Students have often been important actors in contentious politics, mobilizing on all main cleavages in society and often stimulating spin-off movements, as well as affecting institutional politics at large. Student protests are therefore affected by public policies at least as much as they affect them. This book focuses on these complex interactions, aiming at understanding the development of student protests within neoliberal universities. It explores four episodes of student contestation over HE reforms, which have recently taken place in Chile, Quebec, England, and Italy.

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This chapter illustrates the temporal trajectories and the main characteristics of the recent student mobilizations, occurring in the four cases under investigation, that oppose measures promoted by national governments to foster a neoliberal model of higher education. In exploring the goals, strategies, and action repertoires of such mobilizations, it notes similarities and differences between the actors involved in the protests within and across the four regions. To begin with, students have various traditions of activism in the four cases studied, which have informed contemporary movements. Moreover, in the four cases, the mobilization campaigns have shown a surprisingly high (especially for England and Quebec) confrontational orientation, exemplified by the adoption of very disruptive protest tactics, such as street blockades, and railway and university occupations. Similar also were the main demands and goals pursued by the students, who were concerned with the negative consequences of the process of marketization affecting their universities and their lives, and the support of the restoration of a stronger public system with a more democratic outlook. Yet, some key differences across the four cases were identified in the various capacities of students to build unitary protest fronts and to make alliances with other social and political actors, such as leftist political parties and trade unions — a capacity which was higher in the Quebec and Chilean cases, and lower in the Italian and English ones.

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This chapter discusses long-term and short-term political-economic changes occurring in the field of higher education (HE) related to the recent wave of student protests. It offers a historical overview of the trend of marketization affecting the HE sectors of Chile, England, Italy, and Quebec in recent decades. The four regions under investigation cover different HE systems, from those where the role of the state is still prominent (Italy and Quebec), and the commodification trend is not so strong, to others in which the market, along with the commodification of the sector, have acquired greater relevance over recent decades (England and Chile). The chapter argues that the different pace and form of the marketization process have heavily affected the ways in which students mobilized in terms of action repertoires, political goals and demands, and organizational structures. Exploring the variety and the institutional differences in the field of HE helps one assess the variety of the student movements embedded in such fields.

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This chapter examines the different dimensions of student politics and their differences in the four cases. Student organizations differ significantly across countries. Previous research has singled out different models of student representation in decision-making instances, as well as the different traditions of activism and politicization of the student body. The chapter argues that these differences must be considered to understand the capacity of students to become significant and/or influential political actors — even if they rarely exert an influence in a continuous manner. The four cases studied in this book cover four configurations that result from the combinations of (fragmented or coordinated) movement politics and (more or less institutionalized) union politics. Besides providing an historical narrative of student activism in the four regions, the chapter explains how these four configurations have shaped the options for students to generalize a platform of demands and mobilize in each region.

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This chapter evaluates the impact of student protests in the four regions on higher education policies. The four cases differ in the degree to which students were able to achieve concessions close to their demands. In both Chile and Quebec, as student demands were supported by significant social constituencies and the government proved unable to appease the protests, the opposition parties presented themselves as allies. These parties committed themselves to delivering reforms that would (partially) meet student demands, while students attempted to gain influence in decision-making bodies by joining political parties and/or participating in elections. By contrast, in England and Italy, students did not obtain concessions from the government, while their campaigns had a minor effect on public opinion, which remained relatively indifferent to their demands. More notably, student protesters failed to build solid alliances with other social and political actors opposing similar neoliberal measures in other fields of policy, such as trade unions, radical left parties, and social movements.

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