Context, Frame, Opportunity, and Resource: Contemporary Portuguese Anti-Austerity Social Movements With a View to Social Media

Context, Frame, Opportunity, and Resource: Contemporary Portuguese Anti-Austerity Social Movements With a View to Social Media

Pedro Pereira Neto, Mariana Serra Santos
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7472-3.ch009
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Abstract

Social media have become an important tool in our interactions and networks. Studies around social movements focused on these platforms' potential for becoming a new public sphere given their nature and features. However, an address of their influence on social engagement can't overshadow they're used by social actors themselves as part of a greater social frame. In this light, a qualitative characterization of Facebook's role on Portuguese anti austerity social movements “Geracao a Rasca” and “Que se lixe a troika!” is presented through discourse analysis of the testimony of several of their founding members. While it may be unquestionable Facebook had an important role in these movements, it wasn't the only tool used or the most relevant: face-to-face and direct mobile phone interaction were essential tools for this end, along with traditional media whose gaze the movements capitalized on for reach. Thus, the question in this chapter is whether these technologies represent a new way for us to communicate, or constitute an additional forum for that end?
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Background

In the last quarter of the century western societies have undergone considerable transformations, not only on the cultural and technological level but also on the role of their respective executive bodies: the welfare state was gradually replaced by neoliberal policies, favoring the market over society, the consumer over the citizen, and a more apolitical citizen over citizenship (Turner, 2013) – what many name post-democracy, a rupture between social and political spheres (Siapera, 2017).

A strengthening relationship of the political sphere with the markets and institutions such as the ECB or the IMF contributed to a restriction of governmental power. Despite electoral rotation, post-democracies become paradoxical: formal aspects are maintained, but further democratization is compromised (Crouch, 2004). However, it would be wrong to consider political participation as necessarily diminishing: instead, these phenomena represent a shift in political attention, and the emergence of new models of political participation (Van de Donk et al., 2004).

Political competition remains dominated by governments and elites, a result of the professionalization of political action and close representation of economic interests. Citizens are ‘invited’ to rest reduced to a passive role, choosing political representatives through “clues” transmitted by elites via political communication and marketing (Colin, 2004). Such conceptions are, however, hardly new: Pareto (1935) and Mosca (1939) affirmed elites as agents of privilege and power concentration. Nevertheless, no elite would maintain its position and privilege only through force: the desires and aspirations of its citizens need to be considered, even if to a small extent (Delican, 2000).

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