Political theory in the square: Protest, representation and subjectification

Marina Prentoulis, Lasse Thomassen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


What, if anything, do the ‘square’ protests and ‘occupy’ movements of 2011 bring to contemporary democratic theory? And how can we, as political theorists, analyse their discourse and do justice to it? We address these questions through an analysis of the Greek and Spanish protest movements of the spring and summer of 2011, the so-called aganaktismenoi and indignados. We trace the centrality of the critique of representation and politics as usual as well as the ideas about horizontality and autonomy in the protesters’ discourse. These ideas are not only important to their critique of the contemporary liberal democratic regimes in the two countries, but also important to the way in which the protesters organise themselves. Nonetheless, as we shall argue, the protesters are caught within a tension between horizontality and verticality, between autonomy and hegemony, or between moving beyond representation and accepting representational structures. Given this tension, we examine how the protesters negotiate it in three key areas: politics, representation and organisation. Drawing on Jacques Rancière, we further argue that the protesters can be seen as making a claim to equal voice. This is what Rancière refers to as politics proper, and the question is then whether such a politics is possible without falling back into traditional forms of politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-184
Number of pages19
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Early online date18 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013

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