In a recent post to his website, ROARmag.org, Jerome Roos unpacks 2 recent articles aiming to explain the apparent decline in protest since 2011, and suggests some explanations of his own, focused on the triad of precarity, anxiety, and perceived futility. Roos argues that there’s considerably more protest in the US and Europe than there was before 2011, but since it’s now viewed as less novel, it gets less media coverage.
Here’s an excerpt, outlining the three mutually reinforcing current trends (embedded links are from the original):
- The total dis-aggregration and atomization of the social fabric as a result of the rise of indebtedness and the precarious nature of work under financialized capitalism, along with the emergence of supposedly “revolutionary” social media and communication technologies, which may be very useful tools for coordinating protest but which render us increasingly incapable of holding together broad popular coalitions. The social atomicity of late capitalism inhibits the development of a sense of solidarity and makes it much harder to self-organize in the workplace and build strong and lasting autonomous movements from the grassroots up.
- The pervasive sense of anxiety wrought by the neoliberal mantra of permanent productivity and constant connectivity, which keeps people isolated and perpetually preoccupied with the exigencies of the present moment and thereby preempts strategic thinking and long-term grassroots organizing. Closely connected to the rise of indebtedness and precarity, anxiety becomes the dominant affect under financialized capitalism. While anxiety is easily transformed into brief outbursts of anger, its paralyzing effects also form a psychological barrier to investment and involvement in inter-personal relationships and long-term social projects.
- The overwhelming sense of futility that people experience in the face of an invisible and seemingly untouchable enemy — finance capital — that we simply cannot directly confront in the streets, nor meaningfully challenge in parliament or government. In the wake of the evident failure of recent mobilizations to produce any immediate change at the level of political outcomes or economic policy, people are understandably disappointed by the perceived pointlessness of street protest. Futility — the conviction that “there is no alternative” to capitalist control — thus becomes the most important weapon in the ideological arsenal of the neoliberal imaginary.
Full article is at http://roarmag.org/2014/04/protest-austerity-graeber-lapavitsas/