The political economy of the Spanish Indignados: political opportunities, social conflicts, and democratizing impacts

Año: 2022

Publicado en: Social Movement Studies


ISBN / ISSN: 1474-2837


The 15-M mobilizations shook Spanish society and placed the demand for ‘real democracy’ at the center of political debate. In order to better understand the scope and impact of the Indignados’ democratizing endeavors, this article aims to address an issue that has not received much attention: the connection of this protest cycle with the political economy. To this end, both the opportunity structure generated by the economic crisis and the class and generational conflicts shaping the mobilizations are analyzed. The article proposes that the symbolic and short-term success of 15-M in re-politicizing distributive conflicts contrasts with its medium-term inability to materially democratize the political economy. This relative failure can be explained by the confluence of several factors: on the one hand, 15-M’s organizational weakness and its disconnection from a somewhat declining labor movement; on the other, the lack of responsiveness of Spain’s political institutions to street politics and the powerful structural inertia of economic dynamics created by decades of neoliberalism. The findings of this case study aim to contribute to scholarly debates on the impacts of social movements and their connection to political economy and social classes.