Protest, Emotions, Democracy: Theoretical Insights from the Indignados Movement

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The emergence of protest movements, such as the Indignados and Occupy Wall Street, is one of the most remarkable political occurrences in recent years. Social scientists have immediately started analysing these phenomena, highlighting the broad political implications for contemporary democracies, and especially the disaffection towards political institutions and the financial system they reflect. This article argues that these phenomena should be considered through the lens of the broad role of emotions in politics. Whilst scholars have recently shown increased attention to the role of emotions in politics, this article advances some suggestions for a theoretical and cross-disciplinary inquiry, which can contribute to the connection between protest event analysis and normative political theory. Quoting particularly the Indignados’ slogans and mottos, this article draws attention to the central function of emotions – especially anger and fear – in motivating people to engage in political action and in the construction of political order. Specifically, this article shows how emotions play in the construction of the political subject – the people – as well as in today’s struggle for democratic legitimacy and the resistance to the emptying of democracy by global-market forces.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Discourse: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Current Affairs and Applied Contemporary Thought
Pages (from-to)291-304
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Protest
  • Emotion
  • Democracy
  • Populism
  • Austerity


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