The urban roots of anti-neoliberal social movements: the case of Athens, Greece
The recent rounds of anti -neoliberal mobilizations in Europe have shown to be rooted in cities. Whereas Madrid has become a central hub in Spain’s social movement, Athens has assumed a central and centralizing role in Greece. Through a case study on Athens, Greece, this paper aims to show how cities have become the driving force of these national movements. The argument maintains that political institutional factors and local networking processes among activists contributed to making Athens a central hub of this national movement. First, weak state traditions in Greece undermined the abilities of government officials to mitigate the most egregious effects of urban neoliberalism during the 1990s and 2000s. As this triggered a proliferation of struggles throughout Athens, weak state traditions also denied local authorities the capacities to co-opt and control aggrieved inhabitants. Second, as urban grievances spurred countless localized struggles, participants formed new ties to one another, learned how to engage in their broader public worlds, and discovered new ways to become political. At the same time, well-networked activists within these particularistic struggles assumed the role of brokers between localized mobilizations and the wider social movement space. This networking process permitted the city of Athens to become an important staging ground in national mobilizations. In sum, we maintain that political opportunities and urban networking processes combined in ways to make Athens a driving force of the country’s anti-neoliberal social movement. Keywords: urban movements, Athens, neoliberalism
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