Citizens and the crisis: The Great recession as constraint and opportunity

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Book Chapter


Citizens and the crisis: The Great recession as constraint and opportunity

GIUGNI, Marco, GRASSO, Maria T.


We discuss a number of issues addressed in the volume. In particular, after an introduction about the capacity for resilience shown by European citizens, we summarize the volume's content in terms of the economic crisis posing constraints to citizens, but also as opening up opportunities for change. Additionally, we discuss the intertwining of the economic and the political dimensions, which we see as one of the main lessons to be drawn from the analyses presented in the previous chapters. Finally, we suggest a number of avenues for further research on the impact of economic crises on citizens.

GIUGNI, Marco, GRASSO, Maria T. Citizens and the crisis: The Great recession as constraint and opportunity. In: Marco Giugni and Maria T. Grasso. Citizens and the crisis:

Experiences, perceptions, and responses to the Great recession in Europe . Houndmills : Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. p. 261-278

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© The Author(s) 2018

M. Giugni, M.T. Grasso (eds.), Citizens and the Crisis, Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology,

Citizens and the Crisis: The Great Recession as Constraint and Opportunity

Marco Giugni and Maria T. Grasso






European countries have gone through various periods of economic down- turn since at least the mid-1970s, when the first oil crisis put an end to three decades of post-war economic growth and wealth. However, the cri- sis of end of the 2000s became an unprecedentedly severe global economic crisis, hence the terminology of the Great Recession. The new conditions can be seen to have had profound consequences on people’s perceptions of the economy—whether their own or that of the country in which they live—as well as on their situation more generally (see also Giugni and Grasso 2017, Temple and Grasso 2017). Furthermore, in one way or another, all have experienced the Great Recession, whether most directly, for example, due to loss of employment or reductions in consumption or indirectly by living in an economically deteriorating environment. Most

M. Giugni (*)

Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

M.T. Grasso

Department of Politics, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK


importantly, European citizens had to learn how to make sense of this new situation and, in particular for some, how to develop coping strategies and ways to respond to the challenges. In brief, they had to show a capacity for resilience, often implemented in the private sphere and in everyday life, for example, in terms of changes in production and consumption patterns at the household level, coping strategies including informal work, migration, family, or neighborhood self-help.

One possible negative effect of economic hardship is the decline of political participation and civic engagement. If citizens need to struggle with the array of difficulties produced by economic hardship, they will have less time and resources to engage in political action. Especially when they related to job loss, this may also imply the loss or absence of social networks and personal contacts which facilitate the spread of information and solidarity and motivate people to engage in political action. However, while the experience of economic difficulty may drain resources from political participation, tough economic conditions may as well generate grievances which people may seek to redress through political participa- tion, including through recourse to protest (Giugni and Grasso 2015a;

Grasso and Giugni 2016a). Using Hirschman’s (1970) terminology, one might argue that those hardest hit by economic recession are also those most likely to “exit” the political sphere and withdraw from political engagement. Only those who are relatively insulated from financial hard- ship may have the resources needed to “voice” their concerns and engage in political action. Others still will choose “loyalty” even with the eco- nomic crisis because they are not exposed to its negative effects or because other factors lead them to support the current economic system notwith- standing unraveling economic problems.

The wide range of the consequences of crises on citizens’ resilience, however, is not limited to the choice between retreating from public life and various forms of participation, on one hand, and political engage- ment, on the other. There is a range of other possible responses to crises and their negative consequences. Thus, the “voice” side also refers to citi- zens who choose different channels and strategies to make their voice heard as an active reaction to crises. Not only can they engage in political action and protest, but they may seek access to justice at various levels and take part in the associational life of their community. Economic crises may also open up new opportunities for political parties—in particular, right- wing populist parties—which voters might consider as providing attractive solutions to cope with the negative consequences of the crisis.


As regards the “exit” side, citizens might develop new attitudes and practices toward the economic system, society at large, and their own place within it, such as “alternative forms of resilience” such as barter net- works, food banks, free medical services, soup kitchens, new cooperatives, and free legal advice. In addition, trust which is built in networks by social support and personal contact is vital to engaging in alternative economic practices. Studies show the existence of a wide repertoire of non-capitalist practices that involve citizens lowering their cost of living, connecting to other communities and assisting others (Kousis 1999). Alternative forms of resilience include the strengthening of social and family networks and community practices to foster solidarity in the face of crises, change of lifestyles toward more sustainable forms of consumption and production, developing new artistic expressions, and moving abroad for short or long durations (or on the contrary reducing mobility). Put simply, major dis- satisfaction with the economic system may enhance the strength and resources of those who set out to engage in alternative ways of dealing with it (Giugni and Grasso 2015a). These transformations in citizen prac- tices (from adapted to alternative) under the culture of austerity are deci- sive for their future survival.

The theoretical framework that has informed the research project upon which this book rests allowed for studying resilience along the analytical continuum between the individual level of single citizens who learn how to “bounce back” and downplay the costs of crises and the far-reaching forms of collective resilience aimed at entering the public domain so as to challenge inequities and foster common empowerment. In other words, individual and collective responses should not be considered as mutually exclusive strategies, but rather as a range of possible ways in which citizens may respond to economic crises as well as their social and political conse- quences. Such strategies may be pursued singularly or in various combined forms.

Attention was thus placed on the broad range of coping strategies which European citizens might develop under the influence of a number of factors such as the scope of the crisis, policy responses to the crisis, pub- lic discourses about the crisis, and the individual characteristics of those who are hit by the crisis. The analysis of these factors is essential for under- standing how crises affect people’s life and, as a result, to develop sound policies aimed at avoiding or alleviating their negative consequences. Of course, crises threaten the everyday life of most deprived sectors of the population in particular. Yet, especially intense crises are also likely to


affect those who are not exposed to insecurity during ordinary times, such as certain sectors of the middle class.

As regards the scope of the economic crisis, the chapters in this vol- ume have highlighted the relevant experiences of the crisis in each coun- try. This is an important step since we can observe great variation across the nine countries included in our study, considering both macro-level factors such as unemployment, underemployment, inflation and GDP, and this is in turn likely to have an impact on the micro-level assessment of the conditions of individual citizens. In some cases, the crisis hit harshly, compared to cases where it is considered to have been weaker, and those cases that might be placed somewhere in between. As such, the present volume goes beyond analyses that only consider the similar ubiq- uitous exogenous impact of global crises. The analyses provided in the previous chapters show the specific ways in which the Great Recession has been perceived and experienced across this group of countries as well as the manner in which different groups of citizens of those countries have responded to it. At the same time, they suggest that economic crises might produce hardship and constraints, especially for certain groups of citizens, but—as any other kind of crisis—they might also open up oppor- tunities, for example, for a new start in one’s life or a renewal of the political landscape.









To say that people suffered from the deep and long-lasting economic crisis that struck Europe in the past ten year is to state the obvious. The analyses in the previous chapters of this book confirm that European citi- zens have felt the negative consequences of the crisis deeply. To begin with, many have had a clear perception that they were experiencing a period of economic downturn, and this even in those countries, such as Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, that have largely been spared the most dramatic consequences of the crisis. Even there, citizens were sens- ing that Europe, if not specifically their country, was undergoing a pro- found economic downturn. This might have occurred later in the course of the crisis but by 2015, when we conducted our survey, it was clear to most people, if not to all, that Europe was undergoing a phase of deep recession.

Such awareness of the situation of the country’s economy was accom- panied by the perception that the crisis has impacted on the living and


work conditions of many Europeans, sometimes profoundly so. The Great Recession has indeed created a number of constraints on European citizens, including a massive loss of jobs, especially in certain countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. Many had to reduce their levels of con- sumption and to give up, for example, going on holidays. Others were forced to take out loans or ask family and friends for financial support.

Some have fallen below the poverty line during the years of the crisis, among them many who would have never imagined being in such a situa- tion. The austerity policies enacted by governments—a blend of cuts in social expenditures and raised taxes—have certainly not improved things.

Quite the contrary, they have most likely further contributed to exacerbat- ing existent problems and inequalities.

The chapters in this book have shown that Europeans have variously experienced the extent of the economic crisis of the past ten years. This has created feelings of deprivation or exacerbated them among certain groups.

More generally, the Great Recession has had heavy consequences on one’s own personal life, particularly on health and well-being, although research sometimes points to contradictory results (see Burgard and Kalousova 2015 for a review). It may lead to negative views of oneself, loss of confi- dence, and a diminishing self-esteem, resulting in a lower level of well- being and sometimes leading to depression. Furthermore, economic hardship may also have important social consequences for citizens, in par- ticular regarding their social life. Particularly for those who lose their job as a result of the crisis, the risk of social isolation is behind the corner.

Indeed, since the seminal study by Jahoda et al. (1933), the sociological literature on unemployment has pointed to a range of negative social con- sequences of job loss, including a destructuration of everyday life.

Unemployment, especially when it is prolonged in time, is not only associ- ated with financial hardship, but it may also lead to social isolation due to the loss of work-related contacts and difficulties in maintaining social rela- tions with friends and acquaintances, leading to a reduction in one’s social capital (Lahusen and Giugni 2016). Furthermore, losing one’s job may multiply the negative psychological effects of economic hardship.

Under certain conditions, economic hardship may also create con- straints for the political behavior of citizens, both in the institutional sphere (voting) and in the extra-institutional sphere (protest). As we men- tioned earlier, many a citizen, especially those hardest hit by the economic crisis, might have been tempted to withdraw from political engagement (Grasso 2018). When this occurs, the private sphere takes over from the


political sphere in the importance attributed to it by people (Grasso 2016).

While this process of political disaffection might have been underway well before the crisis (Grasso 2011, 2014), the latter might have accelerated and further deteriorated the situation. Economic hardship may lead to diminishing levels of political interest, trust, and efficacy, which are all attitudes and predispositions that favor political participation, hence lead- ing to political disengagement.

Perceptions and experiences of the economic crisis, however, have not been evenly distributed across the population. In other words, not every- one has suffered to the same extent from the constraints created by the economic crisis. This was clearly shown in the analyses presented in the three chapters in the Part III of the book. One of the main goals of this book was indeed to show the differential impact of the Great Recession on European citizens. Some groups have suffered to a large extent, while oth- ers have been largely spared the negative consequences of the crisis.

Needless to say, as shown by the three chapters in Part III of the book and in spite of assessments stressing the impact of the crisis on the middle class—especially in the USA and the “middle-class squeeze” thesis—the poorest and the more underprivileged have paid the higher price of both the crisis and the austerity policies enacted by governments to fight against it. Paradoxically, this is perhaps best seen precisely in those countries where the crisis was less serious, as the difference between the “winners” and the

“losers” of the Great Recession becomes more visible here. In contrast, in those countries that have been more strongly hit by the crisis, the largest part of the population have suffered from its consequences and therefore differences are less marked.

The chapters in Part I have addressed specifically which social groups have been especially sensitive to the crisis. The ways in which European citizens have perceived and above all experienced the Great Recession have been shown to depend on their sociodemographic profile to a large extent.

Thus, we see, for example, in the chapter on Germany has stressed the role of social class for the perception and experience of the crisis. Similarly, the chapter on Switzerland has shown that manual workers, lower income, and jobless people have suffered more from the economic crisis than other groups, but at the same time, these groups have often proved to be more resilient to it. Likewise, the chapter on Sweden has stressed that the per- ception of the crisis varies according to gender, income, own experience of the crisis, and political ideology or orientation.










The Great Recession has put many Europeans in a difficult position. At the same time, as we have stressed earlier, European citizens have often proven themselves particularly resilient. They found ways to react to the changing economic and social conditions, whether privately and individu- ally or publicly and collectively. More often than not, reactions have likely remained confined to the private sphere and have only covered individual needs. For example, as we already hinted above, some people might have changed their everyday-life habits as a result of the economic hardship caused by the crisis. This may include changing consumption patterns, avoiding superfluous expenses, giving up on holidays, and so forth. Their entire lifestyle may have become altered as a result of these forced changes, temporarily—until the family finances get better—but also in a more dura- ble ways lasting beyond the crisis. Especially in the latter case, the eco- nomic crisis might in fact become an opportunity to restructure one’s own life. While we are all ready to admit that the economic crisis has posed constraints upon many European citizens, we are perhaps less inclined to think that, as any other kind of crisis, it may also have opened up new opportunities for some of them, insofar as they are able to seize such opportunities.

This kind of response has little, if any, political coloring. Beyond ways to cope with economic hardship through forms of adaptation and resil- ience in the private sphere, the crisis has also had an impact on the political sphere of European citizens. This book, however, has focused on the political dimension. The chapters in Part I and Part II all address the political ramifications of economic crisis, including citizen’s political responses to it. Such responses may relate to the institutional as well as the extra-institutional arena.

Perhaps the most straightforward response in the institutional realm is through voting. This may take the form of moving from abstention to participation or voting for a different party than was done in previous elec- tions. One such response is well-known by students of voting behavior:

not voting for the party in government. Following the economic voting literature, citizens tend to punish incumbents in times of economic down- turn for what they see as their poor economic performances (see Lewis- Beck and Stegmeier 2000 for a review). Recent studies suggest that such an effect of economic voting may be stronger in times of crisis, that is,


when the economy goes bad (Hernández and Kriesi 2016). Critics of economic voting theory, however, have questioned such a centrality of the economy in determining the vote choice, suggesting that not all follow economic considerations and showing that the salience of the economy varies across individuals and contexts (Singer 2011). As the chapter on the UK shows, this country is a case in point at least in part supporting the latter view, as the governing party, which moreover, implemented the aus- terity measures, was reelected in the 2015 general election. Thus, it appears as though a combination of factors is at work, including the salience of the issues debated during an election campaign and one’s wider ideological positioning, which means individuals do not simply switch sides in bad economic times.

A related response to the Great Recession in the form of vote choice could consist in the increasing support for parties that have put anti-austerity at center stage and, more generally, are critical of the European Union. We can mention the resounding electoral breakthrough of Alexis Tsipras and Syriza in Greece in 2015, the thunderous success of Podemos in Spain in the same year, or the perhaps less well-known but equally important electoral gains of the Movimento 5 Stelle in Italy in 2013. These are only the most well-known examples of parties—whether on the left or on the right of the political spectrum— critical of the European Union and especially of the austerity policies it supported dur- ing the economic crisis which were able to exploit the opportunities pro- vided by the economic crisis. Some of these parties—in particular, the three mentioned above—have been depicted as movement parties insofar as they are based on new organizational models influenced both by party and movement characteristics (della Porta et al. 2017). As the chapter on Spain has illustrated on the example of Podemos, these parties owe their success to their populist stance, therefore capitalizing on the rise of popu- list attitudes among the electorate during and partly as a result of the economic crisis. Populism seems indeed one of the most peculiar traits characterizing electoral politics during the Great Recession (Kriesi and Pappas 2015). In addition to these new parties, more traditional radical right parties have also taken advantage of the hardship produced by the economic crisis as well as of the rise of populist attitudes among the citi- zenry to make electoral gains, often focusing on the immigration issue and linking it to the failure of facing the negative consequences of the economic crisis.


The increasing support given to populist parties often goes hand in hand with a diminished support to established parties and, more broadly, to the political system as a whole. The chapter on Poland perhaps offered an extreme example of this. The country has witnessed a political legitimation crisis during the years of the crisis. While the roots of such a legitimation crisis are antecedent, it led to a withdrawal of support from the political system as well as to a legitimization divide within Polish society which was triggered by neoliberal policies which were supposed to protect the econ- omy from the effects of the crisis, but in fact produced such a legitimation crisis. Yet, going beyond the specific case at hand, while political crises of this kind are never desirable, they might also contain the seeds for a reshuf- fling of a political system hence providing an opportunity for change. This is in line with studies stressing that events like crises allow for adopting and implementing significant changes that otherwise might be unlikely (Jones and Baumgartner 2012; Keeler 1993; Vis and van Kersbergen 2007).

In addition to influencing individual political attitudes and behaviors, as seen, for example, changing voting patterns, giving rise to populist atti- tudes, or eroding system support, often citizens’ responses to the economic crisis have entered the public sphere and taken on a collective dimension (Giugni and Grasso 2016; Grasso and Giugni 2013; Grasso and Giugni 2016a, Grasso and Giugni 2016b). To be sure, individual political attitudes and behaviors have collective consequences such as favoring a party rather than another. However, such collective consequences are simply by- products of individual behaviors, while participation in various forms of collective action has an inherently collective nature from the start. Protest is one of the most visible such responses. The idea that economic or other kinds of hardship create grievances that lead to protest behavior is an old one in social movement theory. So-called grievance or breakdown theories have very much stressed this aspect at least since the 1950s (see Buechler 2004 for a review). These theories were largely dismissed starting from the late 1970s, when resource mobilization and political process theory took over, but have been revamped especially since the advent of the Great Recession. In spite of the existence of many different variants of this theory, they all stress the role of social stress as well as the direct impact of griev- ances, hardship, and deprivation on the propensity of people to get engaged in protest activities. While it is uncertain whether the economic crisis has led to an overall increase in protest rather than simply reflecting preexisting national trends (Cinalli and Giugni 2016), it is undeniable that there are a


number of large-scale protests, most notably in those countries most seri- ously affected by the crisis such as Greece, Italy, and Spain.

In some cases, such reactions have been creative, like in the myriad of local initiatives variably known as social economy (Moulaert and Ailenei 2005), solidarity (or solidary) economy (Laville 2010), or alternative forms of resilience (Kousis 2017), referring broadly to alternative eco- nomic practices initiated by citizen groups and networks. These initiatives include a wide range of actions ranging from solidary bartering, trading schemes, local and alternative currencies, ethical banks, local market coop- eratives, cooperatives for the supply of social services such as in health and education, alternative forms of production, critical consumption, and spontaneous actions of resistance and reclaim to the reproduction of cul- tural knowledge via oral and artistic expression (Kousis and Paschou 2017). As such, they can be seen as being located between political and non-political actions (see also Giugni and Grasso 2015b). From the per- spective of social movement analysis, such initiatives often see the involve- ment of “sustainable community movement organizations” (Graziano and Forno 2014), new collective initiatives which empower consumer and producer networks on a smaller scale.

As the chapter on France illustrates, the Great Recession has brought itself a transformation of action repertoires of contention that has opened up the space for new forms of participation, in particular forms requiring a lower level of time commitment, such as online activism and non- institutional forms of political participation. The economic crisis has also favored citizens’ involvement in certain forms of political participation.

Volunteering in social solidarity networks is one example of this, as the chapter on Greece shows. Political consumerism is another example, whereby the crisis has led or at least strengthened a transformation of the constituency of economic activism and favored the involvement of less politicized citizens, as the chapter on Italy illustrates.

Thus, in addition to posing strong constraints for the citizenry, eco- nomic crises may also open up new opportunities, not only in personal lives but also in the political realm. We should, however, refrain from assigning a normative connotation to such opportunities, as they do not necessarily lead to positive outcomes. Economic crises may broaden the political offer by favoring the rise of new parties, bring people to political participation, lead to a renewal in the forms of collective action, or empower citizens, but they may also give rise to populist attitudes, parties, and movements, generate political apathy, and lead to political crises and


stalemate. In other words, the Great Recession has arguably opened up opportunities for certain political actors to increase their presence and for European citizens to get involved in political or “near political” activities.

However, the direction of such trends remains an open question.











One of the main lessons that we can draw from the analyses presented in the previous chapters is that economy and politics intertwine in a number of ways. At the system level, economic crises might provoke political crises or worsen preexisting ones. To be sure, political crises may be independent from economic considerations and concerns, and stem from example from corruption, unapplied rule of law, as well as more generally from govern- ment ineffectiveness. While political and institutional crises often have their internal and independent origin, however, they might interact with economic crises in various, sometimes unexpected, ways. The most likely scenario is probably that economic downturn exacerbates preexisting political crises. Yet, political crises may also be a result of economic crises.

The circumstances under which this occurs are complex and multifaceted.

In terms of social movements’ literature, they are likely to rest upon dynamics involving a combination of grievances, organization, and oppor- tunity as well as a range of institutional and non-institutional actors (Kriesi 2015).

Most importantly in this context, the economy and politics also link together when it comes to the impact of economic crises on citizens. As Bermeo and Bartels (2014: 4; emphasis in original) have maintained “dra- matic political reactions to the Great Recession were associated less with the direct economic repercussions of the crisis than with government initiative to cope with those repercussions.” Thus, citizens’ perceptions, experiences, and responses stem above all (indirectly) from political consideration rather than (directly) from the impact of economic hardship. From the perspec- tive of social movement analysis, this calls into question the so-called griev- ance or breakdown theories of collective action. What really matters for economic hardship to impinge upon political behavior, it appears, is the way in which grievances are politically framed and subjectively understood within the wider context of political opportunities. In the context of the Great Recession, for example, we were able to show by means of political claims data that, at the aggregate level, the effect of material deprivation depends on the perceptions of the political environment and, more specifi-


cally, that it is moderated by perceptions of political stability and of the effectiveness of government (Giugni and Grasso 2016). As such, perceptions of political stability and government effectiveness act as signals leading material deprivation to become politicized as a grievance.

Furthermore, individual-level grievances interact with macro-level factors to impact on protest behavior. Our own analysis of the survey data upon which this book is based in fact shows that the impact of individual subjec- tive feelings of deprivation is conditional on contextual macroeconomic and policy factors (Grasso and Giugni 2016a). More specifically, we found that, while individual-level deprivation has a direct effect on the propensity to have protested in the last year, this effect is greater under certain mac- roeconomic and political conditions. We have interpreted these interac- tions terms of their role for opening up political opportunities for protest among those who feel they have been most deprived in the current crisis.

The chapters in this book offer numerous examples of the intertwining of economic and political factors in accounting for the impact of economic downturn on citizens. In particular, the chapters in Part I and Part II examine the impact of the economic crisis on citizens’ political attitudes and behaviors, respectively, in the institutional and extra-institutional domain. As such, they all show how the economy and politics relate to each other. This can be seen, for example, in the chapter on the UK, which shows the relationship between the economic crisis, political, and partisan- ship (see also English et al. 2016; Grasso et al. 2017; Temple et al. 2016), but it is perhaps most obvious in the chapter on Spain, which shows the impact of the crisis on the development of populist attitudes and more specifically on the emergence of the leftist populist party Podemos, and in the chapter on Poland, which examines how neoliberal policies and priva- tization measures led to a legitimation crisis in the context of the Great Recession.

The linkages between economic and political factors, furthermore, are also visible in the three chapters that have examined the transformation of political participation in the shadow of the Great Recessions. In this vein, the chapter on France has documented a “post-contentious” turning point in French politics whereby new forms of political participation have been strengthened, the chapter on Italy has witnessed a shift in the com- position of the Italian political consumerism community during the crisis, and the chapter on Greece has shown how the economic crisis has spurred political participation in the form of volunteering within the Greek social solidarity networks.


Finally, while best seen in the chapters in Part I and Part II, the inter- meshing of the economic and the political to some extent also appears from the chapters in Part III. For example, the chapter on Germany shows that populism and dissatisfaction with the government enhanced the awareness of the economic crisis. Furthermore, the chapter on Switzerland—perhaps the one in which the political dimension is less pres- ent—still points to the existence of a linkage between economic and politi- cal factors, as the citizens’ capacity for resilience is positively associated with their satisfaction with the way government is dealing with economy.

Finally, the chapter on Sweden suggests that the perception that a serious crisis was going on depended on the level of distrust that citizens have toward the authorities. In brief, one cannot fully understand the social impact of economic crises without taking into account the intermeshing of the economy with politics.







The analyses presented in this book suggest a number of avenues for fur- ther research on the impact of economic crises on citizens. Let us mention four such strands, all in turn linked to each other. The first suggestion is very simple: to examine different periods of economic downturn. This book has dealt with a specific historical period and geographical area: the early 2000s and early 2010s in Europe. We found a strong impact of that crisis on European citizens, albeit not necessarily a direct and homoge- neously distributed one, but rather an impact that is mediated by political factors and is unevenly distributed across different sectors of the society.

Yet, nothing guarantees us that the same—or even similar—effects would be found in other places and in other times. In the end, each crisis has its own peculiarities and it is characterized by specific interactive dynamics of players and arenas (Jasper and Duyvendak 2015). Only by multiplying the comparisons across countries and across time will we be able to make valid and reliable empirical generalizations about the impact of economic crises on citizens’ attitudes and behaviors.

A second avenue for further research relates to what we said earlier concerning one of the main lessons to be learned from the analyses pre- sented in the previous chapters, namely, the intertwining of the economic and political dimensions. This applies to both the origins and the conse- quences of economic crisis. On the one hand, the latter might have their origin in financial dynamics, as the Great Recession had, but they are often


spurred or at least accelerated by certain political decisions. For example, many observers today agree that the austerity policies adopted by many European countries and encouraged—to say the least—by the so-called Troika of the European Commission, the Central European Bank, and the International Monetary Fund have done little to cushion the negative impact of the Great Recession. Quite on the contrary, most of us today are ready to maintain that these policies have only worsened the situation. On the other hand, economic crises often result in political crises. Such an intertwining of economic and political factors is famously at the heart of certain accounts of social revolutions (Skocpol 1979), but it often also applies at a lower scale, in everyday politics. Spelling out when and how these conditions link to radical social reorganizations remains a major task for social scientists in the future.

Relatedly, a third path for future investigation lies in exploring the interaction of the contextual and individual levels and how they combine to lead citizens to respond, especially in political terms, to economic hard- ship. Studying the micro-macro link is a long-standing concern in sociol- ogy and the social sciences more generally (Alexander et al. 1987; Turner and Markovsky 2007). Research on political participation has paid increas- ing attention to the interplay between micro-level and macro-level factors in accounts of protest behavior as well as political participation more gen- erally (Dalton et al. 2010; Grasso and Giugni 2016a; Kern et al. 2015;

Quaranta 2015, 2016). Further work should follow this path and con- tinue to examine how micro-macro dynamics help explain the impact of economic crises on citizens’ attitudes and behaviors. Micro-level economic hardship has been shown to impinge on citizens’ attitudes and behaviors to the extent that certain macro-level conditions are present (Grasso and Giugni 2016a). The latter include broader economic and political devel- opments as well as political opportunities for translating individual griev- ances into protest behavior, but other contextual factors—for example, prevailing discourses about the crisis—might matter as well.

A fourth and final possible line of inquiry which we would like to sug- gest for future work consists in comparing citizens’ attitudes and behav- iors in periods of economic downturn and in period of economic expansion. We should not forget that certain developments we tend to link to the crisis may well have been underway before it. For example, populism is not a creation of the Great Recession, but took on a new strength during the crisis. Similarly, alternative forms of resilience have not been invented during the economic crisis, but probably multiplied in


these years. Ultimately, whether economic crises have a specific impact on citizens’ attitudes and behaviors can only be determined by comparing situations of profound economic downturn with more standard situa- tions. To be sure, one can compare countries that have been seriously hit by the crisis and others that have been spared its worse effects. Moreover, one can compare groups that have been affected to different extents by economic hardship, as some of the chapters in this book have done.

However, there are many different variables involved in such cross-coun- try or cross-group comparisons that it would become difficult to isolate the effect of the crisis. A stronger test would be to compare the same country during and outside phases of deep economic downturn. To do so, of course, one needs clear criteria to determine when a country is in times of crisis and longitudinal data to analyze patterns over time. We hope that future research will heed this call and deepen further our under- standings of the effects of crises on the various social and political factors outlined in this volume.



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