Debunking Spontaneity: Spain's 15-M/Indignados as Autonomous Movement


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Type of work: Article (academic)


Anthropology | e-Democracy | Participation | Politics and Political Science | Sociology


technopolitics, 15m


The Spanish 15-M/Indignados have drawn global attention for the strength and longevity of their anti-austerity mobilizations. Two features have been highlighted as particularly noteworthy: (1) Their refusal to allow institutional left actors to participate in or represent the movement, framed as a movement of ‘ordinary citizens’ and (2) their insistence on the use of deliberative democratic practices in large public assemblies as a central organizing principle. As with many emergent cycles of protest, many scholars, observers and participants attribute the mobilizations with spontaneity and ‘newness’. I argue that the ability of the 15-M/Indignados to sustain mobilization based on deliberative democratic practices is not spontaneous, but the result of the evolution of an autonomous collective identity predicated on deliberative movement culture in Spain since the early 1980s. My discussion contributes to the literature on social movement continuity and highlights the need for historically grounded analyses that pay close attention to the maintenance and evolution of collective identities and movement cultures in periods of latency or abeyance in order to better understand the rapid mobilization of networks in new episodes of contention.