9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN08 Disaster and Social Crisis

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Mass Urban Phenomena in Europe: Riots or Social Protests? Building AA, AA.226

Experiencing mass social riots and/or protests: the collapse of the Greek parliamentary democracy for a month in December 2008

Understanding social phenomena throughout human history meant attempting to deal with them and anticipate crises. The aim of this announcement is the one referred, namely to approach the understanding of "old" concepts - most probably over-discussed in the past - such as parliamentarism and social institutions in order to clarify complex social phenomena such as riots and protests.
The distinction between riots and protests should focus on the intentions as well as on the aiming of each. Riots bear individualistic frames of reference and particularistic intentions of the most barren sense. On the contrary, social protests represent the social whole stating concrete political appeals by means of expressing open criticism towards social institutions. Under the latter perspective, interpreting individual political action is related to the perception of social responsibility respectively that each society indicates and demands simultaneously.
The case of the Greek social upheaval in December 2008 has very long political roots which can find reference in the systematic demise of all social and political institutions in terms of timeliness and affiliation with social reality. The point of the presentation is not an egocentric interest for Greek reality. It rather attempts to argue that unless European societies deal with obviously unresolved political issues they shall soon have to face similar predicaments.
Unless political institutions incorporate emerging social appeals, citizens of European societies would identify themselves not with members of parliamentary democracies acting for their interests but with desperate and obliged participants into either left or right extremism movements. The more European societies turn a blind eye towards corruption, social injustice, immigration and cultural differences, the more citizens of these societies would turn to reactions of political extremes ending up into hopeless riots and open urban violence.
European social and political crises do not seem so distant anymore, what appears to need a long way to be reached is new concepts which would invent new ways for the viable cohabitation of all members of a European or global social whole either these members are individual or collective.