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Between Inequality and Injustice: Dignity as a Motive for Mobilization During the Crisis

Susana Narotzky
2016 History and Anthropology  
Structural adjustment policies in Europe underscore the lack of sovereignty and responsibility of nation-states towards the wellbeing of their citizens. As a result, in popular mobilizations arguments of inequality and injustice, expressed in a demand for dignity, are intertwined. The article explores this shift away from older arguments of exploitation and domination. Using ethnographic material from an industrial town in Galicia (Spain), I analyze two apparently different types of
more » ... ypes of mobilization that have emerged after the 2008 crisis, trying to understand what grievances and objectives pull people together. One is the local expression of new social movements; the other is the remaining expression of working class organization. Each of these models reinterprets a particular historical tradition of struggle while developing a new interpretation of the social objectives and subjectivities of the future. My hypothesis is that a 'moral economy' framework has superseded a 'political economy' framework in the motivation for struggle. 1 In Europe incomes are dwindling and basic public provisioning of education and health services is diminishing, producing material precariousness and emotional anxiety in large sectors of the population. Structural adjustment policies are underscoring the lack of sovereignty and responsibility of nation-states towards the wellbeing of their citizens. In this context, people are starting to organize, to protest and act in an attempt to change the world they live in. Very salient in all present-day mobilizations are the intertwined arguments of inequality and injustice, and the widespread demand for respect and dignity. I will explore what this shift away from older arguments of exploitation and domination means for the pedagogies of social change. Present-day protests in Spain generally address the state's failure to secure a decent livelihood for its citizens, that is, the failure to protect and provide security across generations. The generational aspect points to the larger framework of social reproduction, where the "lack of a future" 1 expresses a systemic breakdown perceived in everyday life and becomes the pressing force behind the protests. The argument behind mobilizations is that the state fails citizens because it has become completely subservient to capitalist interests and especially to financial, speculative forms of accumulation, a rationalization that implicitly condemns forms of wealth accumulation through monopoly rent privilege. Collusion between political and economic elites is denounced and rejected as corruption, and impunity for these elites' illegal behaviour adds insult to injury while it negates the basic tenet of liberal democracy, i.e. equality of citizens before the Law. Increasingly salient are appeals to recover "national sovereignty" in the face of austerity policies that are perceived as imposed from without by powerful trans-territorial institutions such as the infamous Troika 2 . The perception that the institutions supporting and organizing capitalist accumulation and directly 2
doi:10.1080/02757206.2015.1111209 fatcat:x5qnixsvrbfvtnpq6t3d2ffnf4