Editors' introduction: conflicts within the crisis.

AuthorMontagna, Nicola

THIS THEMATIC SPECIAL ISSUE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE INVESTIGATES SOME OF THE most significant cycles of protest that have occurred across the globe since the current financial, economic, and political crisis started in 2007. It covers four European countries, Greece, Italy, Spain, and the UK, and one country involved in the Arab Spring, Egypt.

The financial crisis that erupted in 2007 with the defaults in the subprime mortgage market in the United States is still ongoing and has extended to other countries across the globe as a consequence of a domino effect at both the geographical and systemic levels. On the one hand, the crisis from Europe has spread to countries and continents including the so-called BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), which have all experienced declining economic growth and problems with the export of their goods. On the other hand, the current crisis has become systemic, and the resulting economic shocks and fallouts have spread further across the financial sector. Within the Eurozone and the Mediterranean area, which are the focus of this thematic issue, the financial crisis has resulted in economic collapse (Greece, Spain, and Italy, to mention a few), a crisis of political legitimacy (Egypt and Italy, for example), or has been used as an excuse for a further neoliberal restructuring of the welfare system (e.g., in the UK, Greece, and Italy). After a brief period in which it seemed that the neoliberal orthodoxy of the economic, financial, and political elites was threatened by the failures of the financial markets, national governments and supernational institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) have turned again toward a neoliberal political agenda, reducing the sovereign debt through cuts in public spending and austerity plans rather than through taxes on financial transactions and big corporations or the regulation of the financial sector. What has been experienced in many countries is a regressive retrenchment and commitment to nineteenth-century liberal economic principles and values, with the consequent erosion of social rights and social justice. At the same time, the global and unlimited power of finance and capital has continued unfettered, and to all intents and purposes the national governments and the executives of parliamentary democracies regard the human consequences of this economic model as peripheral or collateral damages, as Bauman (2011) has argued.

This global crisis and the attempts to solve it have resulted in the biggest drop in living standards in many countries since World War II, and over the past few years protest has spread across the planet in a way unseen since the great revolutions in Europe during the mid-nineteenth century or the mass mobilizations of the 1960s. From the uprisings in some Arab countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria to the protests in Greece, the UK, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the US, Canada, Chile, and other South American countries, social conflict has assumed different forms, expressing various discontents and involving a variety of social actors. The current mobilizations appear unique in terms of scale, dynamism, and constituencies, and one may question, along with Badiou (2012), whether what we are witnessing here is a rebirth of history rather then its end.

This special issue...

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