Protests, emotions and democracy: theoretical insights from the Indignados movement
October 2011, more than 1000 cities in 82 countries took to the streets and the squares in a global nonviolent protest guided by the motto ‘united for global change’.
Along with the indignation against Spain’s economic and political state of affairs, protesters clamoured for democracy – a ‘real democracy’ – which is viewed as opposed to a market-based economy and more generally capitalism. Similarly, they reveal a deep problem within the current form of representative politics, which is increasingly seen as complicit in emptying democracy of content while perpetuating gross inequalities (Hardt and Negri 2011). Indeed, protest movements directly challenge this paradigm, asking to reconfigure democracy as an instrument of the people – ‘the 99-percent’ in the Occupy movement’s words – as opposed to the global capitalist elite, ‘the 1-percent’. Through a ‘disorganized’ range of direct political actions, they say, the people will be heard as opposed to being subsumed within the discredited arena of ‘normal’ politics. These phenomena certainly represent a signal of popular discontent and disaffection towards political representatives and the financial system (Tormey 2012), while showing the depth of the crisis of political and economic authority: the current global economic and political system has lost its automatic legitimacy.