Social Movements in the Neoliberal Age

This year’s annual lecture at the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ) featured Michael Burawoy speaking on social movements in the neoliberal age. You can find the audio of the lecture on Adam David Morton’s blog.

In keeping with some of his recent books Global Ethnography (2000) and The Extended Case Method (2009), a major statement on the wave of social movements that have unfolded in light of the Arab Uprising since 2010 was delivered. Territories in resistance, commonly revolving around the issue of dispossession of land and labour and conditions of commodification, would recently include the West Bank, special economic zones (SEZs) in India, the Marikana miners’ strike in South Africa, migrants’ claims and land rights in China, the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States, and the Indignados movement in Spain. To name just a few!

Michael Burawoy argued that the diversity of these social movements is also marked by certain common characteristics: 1) strong national specificity; 2) global connectivity; 3) concern over the separation of power and politics; 4) a focus on democracy in terms of direct, horizontal and prefigurative forms; 5) struggle over public and virtual spaces of resistance; and 6) subjection to repression. Indeed, the extended case method that Michael Burawoy has fashioned captures well the particular and the general of the social movements arising since 2010. Also, it offers an alternative, reflexive and critical method of science to highlight the issues of power and knowledge in both sociological theory and the study of social movements.

Categories: Rethinking The World

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