My last participant observation. The other side of the coin, some reflections from my Fieldwork.

We are stronger than political parties. The struggle is collective. Success has been demonstrated for many years. We have enemies everywhere. They, being every time the same, the corrupted ones, they are annoying us. I come as an activist more, although I am the spokesperson. The PAH is wholehearted, it is the basis of PAH.

 Ada Colau, spokesman of PAH

Plataforma de Afectados

por la hipoteca/

Platform of people

affected by mortgage)


27/ 07/ 2014

I would like to share with all you some reflections on the current stage of my research. As I research labour consciousness, behaviour and experience, this debate is key for my understanding about working lives; because it concerns the nature of discourse required in considering the constitution of social reality.

I raise a number of controversies: as we live in the Information Society, there is significant ‘informational’ inputs and therefore what becomes more important is the ability of managing and selecting this information.

Just for example to consider one reference about the kind of information I think is useful yet is rarely accessible through traditional media and other sources:

And it is this enormous concentration of richness that is destroying democracy. But I assure you that will not read this in the media. An article like this cannot be published in five major newspapers of the country. I beg to circulate. 

                                                                                                            (Navarro, 2013)                                                                                             

This highlights the notion that: information is biased to the degree that media favour and reinforce particular news and not others that can be more relevant and can have a stronger impact upon society in a more direct and local way. 

And the question (even if apparently it is a philosophical question) that appears to me is: what does it mean, “knowing”? But in order to be concrete, I think it is interesting the notion of “knowledge”; it is this last term that we can say is “popular” and is obtained by random daily after innumerable attempts to uncover it.  It is non-methodic and unsystematic. It allows humans to behave in daily life, at work, in dealing with friends and generally handle routine matters.  Common knowledge is not theoretical but practical; it cannot be equated with the pursuit of rational explanations; it is concerned with ‘utility’ before trying deciphering reality. It is characteristic of we us all, and notably in the context of discussions beyond skilled work situations though of course it is based upon and pursues knowledge of the external material world in which it is embedded.

The typicality of everyday discourse is the critical thread to my research and its place in social movements and notably where people become more aware and more conscientious about social problems (they are living themselves the effects of this crisis) is central to the field work.  Here I don’t want to concern myself specifically with causes per se. 

The PAH, is a strong social phenomenon. It has shown to the population a special strength and success. This platform arose from the structural phenomenon after the crisis that began in 2008: the expulsion of people from their homes specifically due to mortgage default. The PAH has its own assemblies in which people that simply cannot afford their mortgage need support, help, solidarity from others affected just like themselves.

Numerous social movements emerging in Spain are rejecting the economic crisis. More significantly they are rejecting it by rejecting the dominant narrative provided by the political class. 

The idea I take from these two days of participant observation is:

-People participating in assemblies require a solution because of the threat of losing their home.

-People believe increasingly in what they build by themselves and somewhat more than the narrative provided by political parties.

-Fear is a problem because at this stage people try to look for an immediate solution.

-There is hope and eagerness.

-There is confidence.

-There is huge solidarity, compromise, hope and greater clarity regarding injustice and possible solutions.

- This movement learns from itself, it is constantly renewed and grows in part due to its own internal resources including numbers involved and in the quality of participation. Attacks (threats of loosing homes) have been so serious and numerous.

- People have feelings, and they feel that this movement they have build up by themselves, is based on love (it is literally said in assemblies).

I want to emphasise the two lasts points, about solidarity and feelings. Because human behaviour is not only rational (like the microeconomic models of analysis stay), but there is irrationality and the emotional spectre too. During the second assembly I attended the possibilities for change and progress were significant and especially people articulated a sense of their collective power.

Thanks to this participant observation, one can witness the processes by which people establish their own terms of engagement and in so doing create their own locus of power. A number of researchers working in the field of Communicative Sociology argue that researchers, as mediators, can be involved in social conflicts while also remaining in constant dialogue with the community itself. Dialogue between the communities of the researched and the researcher sometimes involves the methodology of Participative Action Research (PAR).


Posted in: Behaviour
Actions: Comments (2)


19 October 2014 00:16
I would dare say that “collective power” is not only about feelings and solidarity but can also be rationalized, if we take into account what social movements have concretely achieved from the beginning of the crisis in Spain. Apart from developing innovative internal practices of democracy (consensual and participatory procedures), social movements such as the PAH, 15M, the Mareas, etc. have succeeded in at least three dimensions: (i) they have stopped/avoided police actions (i.e. stopping evictions, and raids against migrants without papers) and governmental initiatives (for example, the privatization of the public health system in Madrid was literally blocked by the collective power proved by the movement Marea Blanca); (ii) they have changed consciousness in affected people, building a counter-discourse and a collective identity, proving a mobilization capacity for collective action; (iii) they have forced institutions in several ways –political parties, trade unions, etc.- to reshape their discourse and reorient objectives - search for integration of civil society and alliances with social movements; creation of new political parties such as Podemos, Guanyem/Ganemos; adopt strategies to harass dissent (Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana); force the withdrawal of legislative projects restrictive in rights, such as the Abortion Law . Those are definitively successes owed to social movements’ effective collective power and their legacy.

However, it has often been criticized and observed that social movements like 15M deflate in the long run, either due to emerging institutionalization or to exhaustion, discouragement and discontinuity in participants. Is it then necessary that institutions take over at some point? What is the end of a process of consciousness by the oppressed of their collective power, where does it lead to? I’m curious to know if you have any findings or testimonies on the reasons that persons have to pull out from such collective experiences (perhaps discouragement, fear, or encouragement to push their joint action further within a political party, for instance).
I also wonder if the relation between social movement and trade unions has played any role or arisen in your fieldwork: to what extent are exchanges and alliances between them worth considering? Have you encounter some experience in your fieldwork, and what is the consciousness they have from each other? I'd find really interesting to explore these questions!

In any case, you could disseminate your reflections on collective power and consciousness in the CAWLS 2nd Conference, seems it would fit perfectly! Have a look :
# Anonymous
05 December 2014 15:29
December 2014 Theme 1

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