Review of Social Movement Studies and Globalization in Social Movement Studies Journal

Social Movements & Globalization: How Protests, Occupations & Uprisings are
Changing the World
Cristina Flesher Fominaya
Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, 248 pp., front matter, index, £65.00, ISBN
9780230360860 (hardback); £24.99, ISBN 9780230360877 (paperback)
Social Movements & Globalization is a timely volume on global protests and movements that brings together rich description of current events with acute analysis. The beginning chapters of the book offer a conceptualization of the two key themes – social movements and globalization – and their intersection. This is an effective theoretical skeleton for the rest of the book. Next, the reader will find an in-depth discussion on the Global Justice Movement. This is followed by three chapters with numerous examples addressing how activists take part in cultural resistance (as is the case of global SlutWalks); how they utilize media (as do Global Indymedia and Anonymous); and how they build the current global wave of protest (as it happened in Iceland’s Saucepan Revolution, in the Arab Spring, via Indignados to Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston). How the global wave would develop, however, the book does not say; as the author puts it, the wave ‘is by no means over’ (p. 193). Obviously, while much remains to be observed and analyzed in these movements, a solid starting point in understanding global protest has been laid here.

One of the main achievements of the book rests on its emphasis on emergent cultural processes and the temporalities of protest. Consistent with this focus, the author views social movements not as ‘coherent unified actor[s]’ but as ‘complex dynamic entities’ (p. 12). The volume successfully avoids common reifications of ever-changing and multifaceted movement phenomena, and instead interweaves the study of emergent processes with that of movement continuity. The author shows that the events, ideas, strategies, tactics, and repertoires that inspire and get communicated from place to place and case to case are pregnant with inspiration for future political projects, at the same time that they reflect continuity with other waves of mobilization. To illustrate, the 15M/Indignados movement from Spain that inspired Occupy Wall Street and other occupy movements is in turn conceptualized as a movement that has deep roots in the autonomous social movement scenes of the Spanish capital, and in itsasamblearista model of democratic participation, which valorizes ‘the assembly as the primary deliberative and decision-making forum for collective action’ (p. 171).
What the reader will not find in this book are extensive discussions of social movement theory. Many debates in the social movement literature remain in the background, such as the debates on the analysis of identity and culture. However, one can find a sustained engagement with general social theory and, in particular, with the multiple dimensions of the ideology concept. While the book moves away from monolithic, old-fashioned understandings of ideology, it invokes it in ways that are worth noting. On the one hand, the author rejects dated conceptions of ideology similar to the movements she studies; for example, some of the activists engaged in this book articulate their goals and aspirations away from ideological programs or conventional movement organizational structures, and are militantly ‘anti-ideological.’ The author’s theoretical move parallels the reflexivity that is common among the activists she studies. She valorizes activist knowledge-making and recognizes the sense of the emergent in their conceptualizing practices. This can be appreciated, for example, in the appearance of the notion of theprecarious subject in autonomous circles in France, Italy, and Spain. The author explains how it came to be first understood experientially, as part of an identity, and only later articulated into a mobilizing frame, as in the case of Chainworkers Crew. On the other hand, the author retains a notion of dominant ideology inasmuch as it is useful to theorize the counter-hegemonic practices of the movements she studies. Influenced by Gramsci, the author successfully applies the idea of ‘common sense’ to illuminate counter-hegemonic practices of social movements (p. 86).
To conclude, this book should be on the reading lists of scholars, students of social movements, and activists. Scholars and students would benefit from this persuasive approach to understanding social movements and protests in the present-day context of the expansion of globalization and the rise of digital media. In addition to this, anti-austerity and pro-democracy activists, among others, would appreciate the careful focus on the temporalities of protest, emphasizing how activist practices and ideas travel to ignite new political projects around the world. The book’s appeal, however, is not limited to experts, students, or activists; it will also be appealing to the larger public.
DOI: 10.1080/14742837.2014.971735

Natalia Ruiz-Junco

  • American University, Washington, DC, USA
  • Current Affiliation: Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

Originally published in Social Movement Studies Journal and available:

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