Digital Theses Archive


Tesi etd-09252019-104129

Type of thesis
E-mail address
Long-Term Processes and Cycles of Protest: A Comparative-Historical Analysis of the Protest Arenas in Bulgaria and Slovenia (2009-2017)
Scientific disciplinary sector
SCIENZE POLITICHE - Joint PhD in Political Science, European Politics and International Relations
Membro Prof.ssa FORNO, FRANCESCA
  • comparative-historical analysis
  • cycle of protest
  • post-socialism
  • relational mechanisms
Exam session start date
This dissertation compares unexplored cycles of protest in two post-socialist states in Southeast Europe, Bulgaria and Slovenia, between 2009 and 2017. While both countries experienced mass anti-establishment protest waves and witnessed the emergence of new protest actors, they differed substantially in the trajectories of mass demonstrations and in the institutional outcomes of mobilization. In Bulgaria, none of the protest actors developed a stable and successful political formation, while in Slovenia, after the protest decline, a new-left anti-systemic coalition emerged. To explain this puzzle, the dissertation employs a comparative-historical approach based on the triangulation of a new dataset of protest events analysis (collected by the author) in Bulgaria and Slovenia with the qualitative analysis of structured interviews and organizational documents, and a wide range of secondary statistical datasets and historical literature. <br>The dissertation has three specific objectives in understanding and explaining the cycles of protest. Firstly, in arguing that protest politics is deeply embedded in the historical and temporal processes of the national context, this study extends the time horizon with the analysis of the long-term development of the protest arena and political change since the late period of socialism. Secondly, by expanding the focus on the protest arena and enlarging the perspective on multiple actors, claims, and repertoires, the thesis entails the diverse characteristics of the protest arena and the mechanisms and factors which intervened between the structural constraints and the protest dynamics. Finally, by bringing several strands of social movement studies in the analysis of structural conditions, the thesis explored political, economic, and cultural processes and mechanisms for protest mobilizations and institutionalization. <br>The study finds evidence that in both cases analyzed, the economic and political crisis provoked high grievance, deprivation, and political instability, but these alone can’t explain the differences across the two cases as well as the different paths within each cycle of protest. Rather, the protest arena dynamics and the trajectories of protest cycles have to do with the long-term historical and relational processes between non-institutional and institutional actors. Hence, the successful road from mass mobilization characterized by the adoption of strong anti-systemic frames to a new political entity in Slovenia was not automatically produced by the economic ruptures and political crisis since 2008, as similar mid-term conditions were found in Bulgaria. Rather, the appearance of strong new-left movement in Slovenia was facilitated more by two relational mechanisms: the political polarization within the left and the political identification of protest actors with left-wing ideas, shaped by the transition from socialism and re-produced in the following three decades in the relational dynamic between institutional and non-institutional actors in the electoral and protest arenas. <br>In terms of success and failure of protest institutionalization, the dissertation finds that temporal and long-term relational dynamics shaped the difference across the two countries. Before the mass mobilization unfolded in Slovenia, the left-wing protest groups were already in the process of institutionalization, and the protest wave became an opportunity for them to accelerate the process and to expand their capacity and visibility. In contrast, in Bulgaria, a delayed institutionalization and high competitions between groups, constrained the path to a new protest party. <br>The study shows that protest mobilization and the protest arena are shaped in a dynamic, relational and historical way, by both changing structural conditions, political and economic opportunities, and the collective actors&#39; interactions in the political field. Nonetheless, powerful protest events can produce changes within the broader political arena through the innovation of repertoires of collective actions, the building of new frames in the understanding of the social life, and the re-structuring of the party system and political regime with the foundation of new political forces or the consolidation of old ones.