From Global Justice to Occupy and Podemos: Mapping 

Three Stages of Contemporary Activism


Peter N. Funke* and Todd Wolfson**


*Associate Professor of Politics, School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, USA,,

**Associate Professor, Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA,,


Abstract: Surveying the varied contributions to this special issue, this article examines the relationships, points of inspirations and contradictory dynamics that characterize the current epoch of social movement politics and global protest. The authors argue that with the progression of neoliberal capitalism and the explosion of new technologies, a shared logic of social movement politics has emerged. This logic spans from the Zapatistas and the Global Justice Movement to the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, the Occupy struggles and the most recent wave characterized by Podemos. While each of these waves of contention has a particular character, together they make up a broader epoch of struggle that thrives on multiplicity, emphasized radical participatory democracy, the innovative use of media and the heterogeneity of political struggle.

Keywords: social movements, protest, digital activism, neoliberal capitalism, inequality, class theory, Black Lives Matter, Podemos, Occupy, economic crisis

1.    Introduction

On Friday, February 17 (#F17), 2017, over 200,000 people joined together across the United States to hold work-actions, boycotts, teach-ins, walkouts and protests to challenge the new U.S. regime and the accelerated slide into authoritarianism. Francine Prose, an author and visiting professor of Literature at Bard University, made the original call for F17 in the Guardian. She argued, "I believe that what we need is a nonviolent national general strike of the kind that has been more common in Europe than here...a day when no one shops or spends money, a day on which we truly make our economic and political power felt..."

While the idea of a national strike on February 17 emanated from the urgent voice of an author cum activist, the web played a vital role in circulating the struggle. Within days of the original article, a digital activist posted an event page for a General Strike on F17. The site quickly drew in 50,000 attendees, and over the course of two weeks, over 100 events were planned across the country and posted on Facebook garnering well over 200,000 attendees.

While there was a small central coordinating committee for F17, the social media presence for the day facilitated the massive explosion of events, and despite the mainstream media's relative silence, F17 made a mark on the American political terrain through the use of Facebook and Twitter to coordinate on-the-ground actions. The event was structured around the slogan "Find your people, make your plan," which offers a window onto the decentralized, self-organizing strategy behind F17 and converges with the spontaneous uprisings that have overwhelmed the United States since the inauguration of Donald Trump.

If we isolate some of the core attributes of F17, there is a similar modus operandi between F17 and many protests movements and uprisings that have erupted over the last decade. The event was largely mediated through social media and particularly Facebook. There was no central organization that ran or dictated F17 and the planning was largely left to local coordinating teams that did not have to adhere to a set of shared principles or a collective vision. This openness allowed for a great deal of diversity in F17 actions, from local job actions and protests focused on police brutality by local Black Lives Matter chapters, to prayer circles for the Muslim community, and corporate boycotts. In this sense, protests on F17 were at least in part, made possible by a particular organizing logic that stresses local autonomy, diversity, horizontality, and the use of social media. While autonomy, diversity, horizontality, as well as the reliance on Internet powered social media lends itself well for short-term campaigns such as protest mobilizations as evidenced by the fact that while F17 was a productive day of resistance, there was little lasting effect. In this sense, the attributes of diversity and horizontality have, at times, been coupled with a suspicion around institution building or the creation of mechanisms that can lead to building long-term collective power. In this sense, there is a contradiction embedded in the strategy of F17, as it was an impressive and useful day of resistance while the day itself illustrated the flaws in the underlying logic of movement organizing. This paradox within the multivalent logic of contemporary movements, and specifically how that logic has transformed in the last 25 years, are precisely the set of dynamics we wish to explore in this special issue.

2.    Three Waves of Protest

We open with the events of F17, as it is a moment in the current wave of resistance that exemplifies some of the characteristics of a broader epoch of contention that has emerged since the 1990s (Funke 2014, Wolfson 2014). We argue that while this logic of resistance has mutated over the last 25 years, there are some core attributes that have been sustained, and together these defining attributes constitute the dominant logic of the larger epoch of contention.

As a prelude to the special issue, we argue that the world has witnessed three distinct waves of protests from the early 1990s to the present: "The Global Justice Wave" (e.g. Global Justice Movement [Wolfson 2014, Funke 2012]), "The Crisis Wave" (e.g. Arab Spring, anti-austerity protests, Occupy Wall Street [Fuchs 2014, Funke and Wolfson 2015; Funke, Vanden and Prevost 2017]) and the "Post-Crisis Wave" (e.g. Umbrella Movement, BlackLivesMatter, Syriza/Podemos [Gerbaudo 2017]). Each of these waves is connected both by the transformations in global capitalism and the rise of the digital age, while still displaying differences or rather developments in movement-based organizing. Together however, we can conceive of these three waves as part of one broader epoch of contention. In this special issue, we examine the logic of these waves of protest (or generations of digital activism) in order to explore their similarities and differences. The goal of the special issue is to mine history from a diachronic perspective, but more concretely to understand the strengths and weaknesses of this epoch of contention as we watch the current wave of struggle unfold.

The remainder of this introductory article outlines the shared meta-logic informing movement politics of the current epoch of contention. We argue that the shared logic, which we have elsewhere described as "Cyber Left" (Wolfson 2014), "Rhizomatic Left" (Funke 2012, 2014), or "Nomadic Logic" (Funke and Wolfson 2015) is linked to shifting dynamics of capitalism, histories of movement politics and transforming information and communication technologies. Albeit contextually colored by their respective socio-political spaces and times, the shared movement logic finds expression in the diversity of mobilizations, protests, and demonstrations from the 1990s to today. As such, we also argue that it is different from the previous epoch of resistance during the periods of the so-called Old and New Left.

In what follows, we first offer a set of theoretical arguments on the shifting dynamics of capitalism and movement politics as they intersect with the information revolution. We then outline our understanding of the currently dominant movement logic. We argue that this logic is distinguishable from earlier movement axioms and practices. In particular, five dimensions (diversity, use of social media, pre-figurative politics, grassroots democracy, distrust of established institutions) of this new logic we highlight as they bring out its distinctiveness and illustrate the particular desire of contemporary activists for horizontality.

After outlining the currently dominant movement logic we introduce the articles of this special issue. We conclude this introductory essay by highlighting some of the challenges and shortcoming of the dominant movement logic of our times.

3.    From the Old Left to New Social Movements

As we argue elsewhere, the shifts in capitalism and the correspondent transformations in technology have altered the contours, logics, and trajectories of resistance in general and social movement politics in particular (Funke and Wolfson 2015). When looking at social movement politics across the twentieth century, distinctions have generally been made between the Old Left and the New Left (e.g., Diggins 1992). The Old Left was dominant in the first half of the twentieth century and arguably privileged a class-based analysis, pitching the working class against the bourgeoisie. Following from this, the New Left emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, partially in reaction to the Old Left, thus shifting the struggle for power away from the realm of work to what Alain Touraine called "the setting of a way of life, forms of behavior and needs" (1988, 25).[1] These changes in strategy, structure, and governance of social movements must be linked to shifts in the nature of the political economy in order to more fully understand the development, progression, and implications of social movements.

Succinctly put, the Old Left emerged and developed in the era of industrial capitalism, under the imperative of mass production and the goal of building economies of scale. This led to the development of massive factories and dockyards, inflexible production processes, stable work patterns, standardized mass consumption (structured along class lines), and seemingly fixed gender roles. This particular type of capital accumulation, and its intrinsically linked sociopolitical arrangements and regulations, dialectically generated a particular type of Left resistance. Along these lines, this "Fordist" system was, at times unconsciously, mirrored by the Old Left, which forged mass parties and unions, hierarchical organizational structures, and comparatively rigid understandings of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Movement and party organizing was mostly done on the shop floor or in working-class neighborhoods, where the Old Left constituency tended to work and live together in similar conditions, leading to a physical and cognitive/cultural proximity that allowed workers to share experiences and build solidarity. Labor unions and political parties tended to use hierarchically organized governing structures to engage and negotiate with similarly organized owners and government officials or to mobilize their constituencies for protests and strikes.

The New Left emerged in the 1960s on the heels of the Civil Rights Movements (Kelley 1990), during the growing crises within the Fordist system, brought about through changes to production, distribution, and consumption patterns as well as to its sociopolitical regulations. Patterns shifted from more standardized mass production and consumption to more individualized and flexible production and consumption. This in turn started to shift the nature of the workforce as Fordist "conveyor belt" - style work was replaced with more flexible arrangements typified by part-time, outsourced, and subcontracted forms of labor. This new flexible work experience has been characterized as informal and often precarious.

In this period - which is marked by the 1973 oil shock that spurred low growth rates, rising inflation, and increasing unemployment - employers faced rising national and international competition as liberalization and deregulation policies were implemented, and they advanced antiunion campaigns to increase productivity by driving down labor costs. While labor, and in particular rank-and-file workers, fought back (Brenner, Brenner and Winslow 2010), Reagan's 1981 destruction of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) and Thatcher's defeat of the long miner strike in 1983/84 are symbolic of the end of the "Fordist compromise." This meant an intensifying war on labor and the beginnings of large-scale neoliberal restructuring policies.

Along with the changing nature of production, distribution, and consumption came the emergence of what European scholars called new social movements. In the postwar "golden age of capital," in which material needs were met for many in the West, nonmaterial issues emerged, and with them struggles related to questions around race, gender, and sexual equality, abortion rights, the antiwar movement, or environmentalism. Often in tension with Old Left concerns, these new social movements stressed the monotony and rigidness of social life. This vision of a stultifying, hierarchical society led movement activists to fight for what Anthony Giddens called "life politics...issues which flow from processes of self-actualization in post-traditional contexts" (1991, 214) as opposed to "emancipatory politics," which address the politics of inequality.

Through this transition to life politics, the New Left allegedly shifted the struggle for power away from the realm of work and toward questions of identity such as gender and race. In fact, many of the so-called New Left's concerns were aimed at the Old Left and the "Fordist compromise," making alliances between the Old and New Left challenging. While the Old Left was associated with, for example, somewhat outdated understandings of the family and gender roles, a disregard for the environment, organizational structures that emphasized more hierarchical party- and union-like structures, as well as a still predominately nation-state focus, the New Left sought novel organizational models beyond the labor movement and notions of class struggle.[2] Despite a "strategic strain" within the New Left (Breines 1989), the dominant tendency stressed more pre-figurative politics and unconventional forms of political organizing. As such, the New Left was critical of representative structures and central authority and distrusted institutional politics writ large, embracing instead communitarianism and autonomism, spontaneity, and participatory and process-oriented movement politics.

4.    New Movement Logic

With this historical view on the intersection between the Old and New Left in mind, we argue that novel resistance formations have been emerging since the end of the Cold War - fueled by the advancement of neoliberal capitalism, the "financialization of daily life," the emergence of the information revolution, and the perceived shortcomings of the Old and New Left. These formations function on the basis of a distinct logic of movement politics, seeking to bridge Old and New Left concerns of anti-capitalism and identity politics. Alongside capitalist dynamics and the influence of previous periods of movement politics, contemporary movement organizing has also been shaped by the technological transformations of the information age. The use of these technologies by activists and organizers, in particular social media and other emerging digital technologies, has facilitated a sea change in how activists organize, mobilize and publicize (Wolfson 2014; Gerbaudo 2012). We argue that these three factors, the transformation in the economy, the emergence and impact of the internet and other digital tools as well as the history of emancipatory movements, laid the groundwork for the contemporary logic of resistance.

We have identified five core characteristics of this contemporary logic of resistance that set it apart from prior movement politics and allow us to identify what we call the Global Justice Wave of the 1990s/2000s, the Post-Crisis Wave of the early 2010s and the Post-Crisis Wave since 2014 as part of the same broader epoch of contention. These characteristics are as follows:


1.   An acceptance and embrace of the diversity and equality of actors and their different struggles.

2.   The use of social media by participants and organizers, elevating it to play an infrastructural role for movement politics.

3.   A commitment to leaderless and pre-figurative forms of organizing.

4.   A decision-making process based in grassroots democracy and consensus-based decision-making.

5.   A distrust of institutional actors such as traditional parties and unions as well as the existing political institutions writ large.


Taking each of these characteristics in turn, one of the core attributes of contemporary organizing is a belief that all forms of struggle are equally important. In this sense, no particular front of resistance, whether it is the struggle over class-based exploitation or racism and patriarchy, has priority over other points of struggle. The vision, then, is to build a network of interconnected struggles, where all of these forms of resistance are equally important, and while acting in solidarity, are able to maintain their autonomy and right to dissent.

A second characteristic of the contemporary epoch of contention and its three constitutive waves of resistance is a deep engagement with and use of technology in general and social media in particular. Arguably traceable to the EZLN's use of the internet in their struggle with the Mexican state, and the subsequent formation of the Indymedia network (Wolfson 2014), the Internet and its technologies have taken center stage in social movement politics with the emergence of an information- and technology-driven form of neoliberal capitalism. While movements have used technology differently, some of the core attributes are the use of social media to popularize struggles while employing its networking power to knit different actors and issues into a collective tapestry, though one where all actors maintain their autonomy.

A third characteristic, pre-figurative politics, emerged out of the anarchist movement and movement praxis of the New Left in the 1960s more generally. The concept of pre-figurative politics is to create the practices, structures and vision within the movement, that can actualize now, the society activists wish to build in the future. Pre-figurative politics also reverses the means-ends logic, as the means now trump the ends and are no longer only in the service of the goals the movement aspires to achieve. In the case of contemporary movements, prefiguration tends to mean refraining from creating long-term strategic plans, while building non-hierarchical organizations through direct democratic processes.

In line with the pre-figurative and horizontal or leaderless forms of organizing that characterize this new epoch, the dominant decision making mechanism in contemporary movement-based groups is direct democracy and consensus-based decision-making. This can be contrasted to decision-making processes adopted in representative forms of democracy, where leaders are voted in, occupy specific positions in a hierarchy, and exercise varying degrees of power by making decisions for the larger movement on the basis of their place in the hierarchy.

Finally, within contemporary movements activists and organizers tend to distrust hierarchically organized institutions such as parties and unions as well as the state and its established mechanisms. This distrust is grounded in a belief that these bureaucratic entities and institutions tend to mirror, perpetuate and re-create the injustices activists and organizers struggle against. From this perspective, engagement with any part of the establishment, including state institutions, can at best lead to minor achievements and at worst to the cooptation of movements and groups. However, at least within the Post-Crisis Wave, we can see a shift towards re-engaging the broader state-apparatus. Podemos, Syriza, and to a lesser degree the Sander's presidential campaign in the U.S. are indicative of these developments.

Looking at the broad contours of this logic of social movement practices, we also suggest that it develops in conversation with the history of left-based organizing as well as in relation to the material world or political economy that activists inhabit. In this sense, while it is clear that contemporary activists are responding to their perception of the successes and challenges of previous movement logics, the new logic is informed by the nature of neoliberal capitalism, including shifting technological dynamics. To be clear, however, we are not arguing that the particularities of protest forms from the EZLN to the Arab uprisings or anti-austerity protests in Greece are identical. The shared meta-logic, defined by the five broad core characteristics outlined above, is of course colored by space and time, and thus finds different and diverse manifestations in the jungle of Chiapas, the streets of Seattle or Porto Alegre, in Tahrir Square, Zuccotti Park or the Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid. Nevertheless, the shared context of neoliberal capitalism and new information and communication technology, as well as the movements' willingness to embrace the core characteristics discussed above, allow us to identify these apparently different events as constituting a distinct epoch of contention. An epoch that ranges from the Zapatistas to the Arab uprisings and the BlackLivesMatter mobilizations, to the most recent wave of movement-powered party-building attempts of Podemos and Syriza, and anti-Trump and anti-nationalist mobilizations in Europe.

5.    The Special Issue

The editors of this special issue all agree with the contention that we have witnessed three generations, or waves of protest, across the last 20-25 years. In the chapters to come, we see scholars from across the globe wrestling with the logic(s) of contemporary activism, while attempting to place it in a broader frame. This leads to a rich dialogue across the articles in the issue, that brings to the fore a dynamic vision of the way protest and struggle have developed and the structures and tensions that activists and organizers face in their day-to-day praxis. It is vital to note, that the articles in this issue have different modes of analysis. Some scholars offer a deep analysis of one particular movement, other scholars focus on comparing two movements within the same wave of resistance and others still, focus on comparing movement logics across the different waves that make up this broader epoch of contention. While each of these articles articulates a different scale, taken together they offer a rich picture of the tapestry of resistance that has been woven across the last two decades.

In the remainder we briefly introduce each article before we conclude this introductory article with some cautionary remarks on the challenges the currently dominant movement logic faces.

In "Comparing Digital Protest Media Imaginaries: Anti-austerity Movements in Spain , Italy and Greece," Emiliano Treré, Sandra Jeppesen, and Alice Mattoni juxtapose social movement and communications frameworks by comparing digital protest media imaginaries across recent anti-austerity protests in southern Europe. They show the emergence of "three different imaginaries: technopolitical in Spain; techno-fragmented (Italy), and techno-pragmatic (Greece). Their research reveals how pivotal the temporal and geographical dimensions are when analyzed using theoretical perspectives from both communications and social movement research. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of studying translocal digital protest media imaginaries as they shape movement repertoires of contention and communication.

Elise Thorburn's article "Social Reproduction in the Live Stream" explores how feminist social reproduction occurs through digital networks in contemporary social movements. Looking at the Concordia University Television's live streaming of Quebec's 2012 student strike, she shows how technology is not only used as an alternative but is re-appropriated as "a new way of collaboratively accounting for collective interests and constituting sites of resistance within and beyond social and political contestations."

In "Technopopulism: The Emergence of a Discursive Formation," Marcos Deseriis argues for the convergence of two discursive formations (populism and technolibertarianism) in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the 2011 wave of struggles. Deseriis argues that this new discursive formation produces both tensions and possibilities as it gives rise to radical participatory democratic models while at the same time empowering technopopulist parties led by charismatic leaders.

Emile Husted and Allan Dreyer Hansen compare two distinct radical political projects, Occupy Wall Street and the Danish political party The Alternative in their article, "The Alternative to Occupy? Radical politics between protest and parliament." This theoretically focused article proposes a conceptual distinction between radical movements and radical parties. The authors argue for a radical politics that neither sidesteps nor gets absorbed by the state.

In From cyber-autonomism to cyber-populism: an ideological history of digital activism, Paolo Gerbaudo identifies two main waves of digital activism. These waves correspond not only to two phases of technological development of the Internet (the so-called web 1.0 and web 2.0), but also to two different protest waves, the anti-globalisation movement, and the movement of the squares that began in 2011, each with its own dominant ideology. Reflecting the seismic shift in perceptions and attitudes produced by the 2008 financial crash, and the connected shifts in social movement ideology, Gerbaudo argues that digital activism has moved from the margins to the centre of the political arena, from a countercultural posture to a counterhegemonic ambition.

Kamilla Petrick examines the temporal dimension of the Occupy Movement in "Occupy and the Temporal Politics of Prefigurative Democracy." Looking at the Anti-Globalization Movement Petrick argues that we need to pay attention to different dimensions of temporality within movements. This temporal analysis she argues - which includes digital media, prefiguration and durability - enables us to better understand the practices and affects of popular resistance in movements like Occupy.

Eugenia Siapera and Michael Theodosiadis focus on the history and evolution of Greek anarchist/self organizing movements with attention to communication practices in (Digital) activism at the interstices: anarchist and self-organizing movements in Greece. Offering an analysis of the history of the left in 20th century Greece, the authors examine the critiques, discourses and communicative practices of the antagonistic movement as a whole. Siapera and Theodosiadis argue that antagonistic movements can offer an alternative path to populist hegemony, cultivating fundamental shifts in political subjectivity.

Finally, in "Student Protests. Three Periods of University Governance" Joan Ramon Rodriguez-Amat and Bob Jeffrey look specifically at the periodization of university governance and how it impacts student protest. The authors identify three periods of university governance: Enduring Democracy from 1964-1985, Global University from 1985-2005 and the Millennial Turn from 2006 to the present. They argue that with each period there is a different governing apparatus, which structures the nature of student protest.

6.    Conclusion

The articles in this special issue highlight, from various vantage points, the diverse expressions of the dominant movement logic of resistance in the 21st century. This logic emerged during a time of great economic and technological upheaval. We first saw glimpse of this new logic when the EZLN declared war on the Mexican state and across the next 20 years since that declaration, we have watched this logic mutate as it traveled from Seattle to the upsurge of struggle from the Middle East and North Africa to Wall Street and Athens, and most recently to the movement-powered party building attempts in Europe and beyond.

While we have seen important successes in the current epoch of contention, we want to caution against the overly laudatory perspective that many observers of contemporary social movements have taken. Instead we suggest scholars take a more analytical perspective, examining the strengths and weaknesses of the prevailing logic of resistance. While a thoroughgoing critique of the currently dominant movement logic is beyond the bounds of this article, we want to conclude by pointing to some important blind spots or concerns we have with the logic of social movements and its implications for sustained movement building.

The supposition that all actors and concerns are similarly important, that no struggle or actor can be prioritized within the more general fight for emancipation and against exploitation, is highly problematic. For one, the capitalist structures forge the meta-matrix within which all other forms of exploitation are linked and find themselves interconnected. Struggles over gender inequality, environmental degradation, or racism are critically part of capitalist dynamics and as such, we argue that all of these struggles need to be centrally concerned with the forms of power and exploitation that emerge through the capitalist political economy and the class positions it creates. Moreover, in that capitalism, as an exploitive system, generates multiple intersectional forms of oppression, the fight against capitalism and its multiple forms of exploitation offers a critical strategic unity for interlinking and generating a more resilient and shared doctrine across multiple fronts of struggle. The realization of the centrality of capitalism as interconnecting most forms of struggle, provides relief for the often ungrounded nature of much movement politics. In this sense, an analysis that foregrounds capitalism would lead to the inclusion of those poor and working poor communities that are most disaffected by neoliberal capitalism and would allow activists to move beyond the often middle-class nature of many movements and groups today.

While scholars have shown that social media is a tool of capitalist surveillance (Fuchs and Trotter 2015), the use of new technology and social media in particular, is a hallmark of the movement-logic defining the current epoch of contention (Fuchs 2014). Internet-based media has altered organizing, and as we have argued elsewhere, this demands a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between (old and new) media and contemporary social movements (Treré 2012; Wolfson and Funke 2014). The successful use of old and new media depends on important contextual issues, such as access to technology, and geographic as well as scalar aspects of a movement's constituency, calling for a more careful assessment of the use and impact of media in contemporary activism (Treré 2015).

Similarly, the belief in radically participatory democracy and the ideal of consensus decision making, leading at times to privileging procedural aspects of prefiguration over strategic leadership and decision-making processes also presents a potential challenge for successful movement building. The fetishization of form over function has often led to a privileging of certain members that have the time and social capital to engage in these activities and functions. This becomes a problem as the dominance of communities with more social capital (read: the middle class) makes it hard for many contemporary movements to merge with the mass of the working class, thus forging partial movements that cannot connect the social forces necessary for real change. Moreover, it allows for a politics of acceptance of diversity for diversity's sake instead of using democratic governance mechanisms to work through this diversity and to generate a new and shared synthesis - to "become other together," as Nunes (2006: 305) put it.

Finally, while we have identified a distrust of and dis-engagement with the broader state apparatus, including political parties and traditional unions during the Global Justice- and Crisis-Wave, we recognize a re-alignment during the current Post-Crisis Wave. Possibly inspired by the "Pink Tide" in Latin America, movement-formations no longer sidestep state institutions but seek to engage them. This includes the forming of new movement-powered parties or alliances that have won or done well in general elections such as Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain as well as the BlackLivesMatter campaign and electoral victories of leaders of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong.

Throughout this special issue, scholars from across the globe, highlight the successes, challenges, and potential shortcomings of the current epoch of struggle. These analyses span from in-depth investigation of particular struggles to broader examinations of the epoch that has emerged in conversation with neoliberal capitalism and the explosion of new communication technologies. Taken together, the articles in this volume bring to the fore the rich tapestry that constitutes the logic of struggle, which has unfolded over the last quarter century.




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About the Author

Peter Funke

Peter Nikolaus Funke received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and his "Vordiplom" from the Freie Universität Berlin. His research focuses on social movements & contentions politics, capitalism & class, media & technology. Peter has published in various peer reviewed journals such as Globalizations, New Media & Society, Rethinking Marxism, New Political Science, Social Movement Studies, or Transforming Anthropology. He is the co-editor of "The Great Refusal: Herbert Marcuse and Contemporary Social Movements" (2017) and "The New Global Politics: Global Social Movements in the 21st Century" (2017).


Todd Wolfson

Todd Wolfson's research focuses on the intersection of new media and contemporary social movements and he is author of Digital Rebellion: The Birth of the Cyber Left (2014) and co-editor of, Great Refusal: Herbert Marcuse and Contemporary Social Movements (2017). Wolfson believes in the importance of engaged scholarship that leads to tangible action in the world, and to that end, he is a co-founder of the Media Mobilizing Project (MMP) based in Philadelphia, PA. MMP is an award-winning organization that aims is to use new media and communications to build the power of poor and working people.

[1] We recognize that there are problems in thinking of periods, because they both elide continuity and paper over dissonance within a specific moment in time, but as Jameson (1990) argues, if we do not see patterns in history, then we are forced to argue that the contemporary moment is an anarchic jumble of phenomena with no sociohistorical link.

[2] We do not suggest that questions of identity were irrelevant for the Old Left or that class issues were absent during the time of the New Left. We maintain, however, that changes in the capitalist system shifted the principle concerns and central foci of the respective movements and with them the commanding fronts and preeminent strategies of struggles in the transition from the Old to the New Left and onward to the current time.