Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock
Chapter 11: Anti-austerity activism strategies: Combining protest and litigation in Spain
Activism is one of the forces currently contributing to regulation of social rights, through the socially transformative capacity of conflict. Understanding the impact of conflict on legal and regulatory outcomes is crucial to making sense of scholarly debate, including the literature on how the combination of law and law-making jurisprudence create models to regulate social rights. The debate on this topic is inextricably linked to various understandings of democracy and analyses of the construction of countervailing powers. Protest in Spain, in the context of the country’s multidimensional crisis, provides an opportunity to examine cases in which protest can elicit results affecting regulations imposed by programs of austerity. Spanish activists have attempted to alter the regulatory – or deregulatory – impact of the austerity agenda through an array of strategies, including not only demonstrations and strikes but also recourse to the courts at both national and supranational levels. The openness of power holders, or lack thereof, in the face of the voices of protesters is an important determinant, framing the strategies of activists and their impact on regulation. Yet the strategic range of forms of activism adopted in Spain has permitted activists to bypass the initial disinterest of power holders in the views of protesters and strikers. One reason for this proliferation of strategies is the presence of restraints on strike action. The combination of diverse activist strategies has achieved some of the movement’s goals, including important objectives such as new housing policies or public health care. The interaction between protest and litigation and their combined power to affect political outcomes is an essential consideration for theorists of regulation, not only in the context of labour, but throughout the broader regulatory landscape.
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