Against actual existing neoliberalism! (Policing Crowds)

Home » Security » Charls Woolfson: Suppressing the ‘discourses of discontent’: The ‘spatial choreography’ of protest and passivity in post-communist society

Like 6 ·  
Rating: 3.6 of 5.20 vote(s).
Security, Conferences, 2010, Abstracts

Suppressing the ‘discourses of discontent’: The ‘spatial choreography’ of protest and passivity in post-communist society

This paper charts the eruption of popular protest in the Baltic States of Latvia and Lithuania in response to crisis-driven government austerity measures. It examines the ‘spatial choreography’ of these protests and the repressive policing response and subsequent ‘muting’ of the ‘discourses of discontent’ in public space.

For the moment, Baltic governments appear to have succeeded in imposing a crisis-stabilization program of ‘internal devaluation’ in terms of severe reductions in wages and social benefits, with only minimal organized opposition since the initial crowd actions.

As the intensity of the crisis recedes albeit only slowly in the Baltic States, it is possible that renewed manifestations of social discontent will occur as issues of social justice and inequality of burden-sharing come to the fore. This conjuncture will pose a further challenge to organized labor in post-communist states such as in the Baltic countries, already profoundly weakened under the impact of market transition and now of economic crisis. The next period may provide a rare glimpse of the role of state power in a context where a neo-corporatist social compact between capital and labor is largely absent, or at best, only symbolically present.

The longer-term consequences of the suppression of ‘voice’ may be intensified migratory ‘exit’. Simultaneously, ‘internal exit’ or withdrawal from engagement in any form of democratic process may be expressed in a retreat to authoritarian populism mirroring the newly revealed authoritarianism of the elites in supposedly democratic post-communist society. The ultimate prognosis would appear to be one of increasingly fragile social cohesion and a deepening of disenchantment with the market. Whether this will translate into renewed support for collectivist institutions such as trade unions remains to be seen.