The Contemporary Epoch of Struggle: Anti-Austerity Protests, the Arab Uprisings and Occupy Wall Street

Todd Wolfson and Peter Funke

This chapter examines the relationships, points of inspiration and contradictory dynamics that characterize the current epoch of social movement politics and global protests. The central argument is that with the progression of neoliberal capitalism since 1980, a shared logic of social movement politics has emerged. This logic spans from the Zapatistas and the Global Justice Movement, to the more recent ‘Arab Spring’ and occupy-type demonstrations. Originating in the Global South, this meta-logic has been globally transmitted, translated and adapted to particular locations and times. We argue that the new meta-logic thrives on multiplicity, emphasizes radical participatory democracy, the innovative use of new (and old) media, and the heterogeneity of political struggles.

Todd Wolfson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University, USA. Trained as a socio-cultural anthropologist, his research focuses on the convergence of new media and social movements and he is author of numerous articles and the recently published book Digital Rebellion: The Birth of the Cyber Left. Todd is also a co-founder of the Media Mobilizing Project (MMP), which uses media and communications as a core strategy for building a movement of poor and working people in Philadelphia and beyond. The Project has been recognized as a national leader both in using media as an organizing tool and in advocating around the intersection of poverty and technology. Alongside MMP, Todd is on the board of Taxi Workers Alliance of PA and the leadership team of 215 People’s Alliance. His scholarship and work in the community have been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, The Knight Foundation and the Dodge Foundation.!news/c160c

Peter N. Funke is Assistant Professor of Government at the University of South Florida, Tampa. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and his Vordiplom from the Freie Universität Berlin. His research focuses on social movements, new media and class under globalizing capitalism. Peter has done participatory observational research on the Global Justice Movement and the World Social Forum as well as on groups and activists in the Tampa Bay area. His work has been supported by the Social Science Research Council and the Miami-Florida European Union Center of Excellence at Florida International University. His publications have appeared in Studies in Social JusticeGlobalizations and New Media & Society. Currently Peter is working on a book length study tentatively titled The Contemporary Epoch of Contention: From the Global Justice Movement to Occupy Wall Street and anti-Austerity Protests.