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Dr Oscar Berglund

Contestation and Civil Disobedience

International Political Economy, Social Movements, Civil Disobedience, Contestation, Austerity, Neoliberalisation

My research is located within the field of International Political Economy and particularly Critical Political Economy. It looks at political contestation of gobal processes like neoliberalisation, austerity and climate change. This includes both non-violent contestation by social movements and parliamentary forms of contestation. My research draws on a historical materialist theoretical framework with a focus on political agency and contestation. I am particularly interested in how social movements use civil disobedience to achieve their aims and how they justify their law-breaking. 

My current research explores climate change activism and particularly the use of civil disobedience. It studies the strategies and discourses of civil disobedience in contemporary climate change activism.

My ESRC-funded PhD thesis, Contesting Austerity through Civil Disobedience: The PAH and the Spanish Housing Crisis, analysed the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH, Platform for the Mortgage-Affected) and examined what it means to contest austerity and how PAH does this. PAH is an anti-eviction housing movement and its growth is innately linked to the depth and nature of the Spanish housing crisis where half a million households have been evicted since 2008. The movement employs a wide range of forms of protest and political contestation against both capital and state actors in its campaigns for the right to housing. Drawing upon a historical materialist conceptual framework, the thesis used a combination of observations, semi-structured interviews and analysis of PAH-produced documents and secondary sources to explore the PAH’s contestation of austerity at different levels. Ultimately the thesis made the case that to contest austerity requires a contetstation of finance capital as the winners of austerity reforms. PAH is an actor that contests austerity, and whose prospects of realising its demands are tied up with the broader Spanish and Catalonian political landscape. The thesis argued that PAH’s successes are in large part due to the way in which it has developed a model of politicisation which works to attract people affected by the housing crisis to become political activists; and the way in which a discourse of civil disobedience allows PAH to use innovative and illegal forms of protest as part of a political campaign enjoying high levels of legitimacy.

Research keywords

  • International Political Economy
  • Contestation
  • Civil Disobedience
  • Social Movements
  • Austerity
  • Neoliberalisation