Back to the Origin? Popular Sovereignty from French Revolution to Current Anti-Corruption Movements: the Spanish Case in Historical Perspective


Analyses of the Spanish mobilization cycle between 2011 and 2013 concur with considering the critiques of corruption (and the growing discredit of traditional parties), one of the two key factors that has been determining in the emergence of the 15-M movement (the Indignados), the other being the economic crisis. This article investigates the link between anti-corruption from below and the claim for popular sovereignty in the Spanish case. In Spain movements' requests and discourses have found a clear translation on the electoral plan. Podemos, a party founded in 2014, considers itself the electoral expression of 15-M. For these reasons, the analysis focuses on Podemos and its anti-corruption discourse as well. The analysis is conducted in a historical perspective. Popular sovereignty has been the fundamental claim of the first social movements born in Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century. A historical comparison is carried out between the anti-corruption frames of democratic movements between 1760 and 1848 and the present ones, giving particular attention to their nexus with the claim for popular sovereignty.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v10i3p693

Keywords: Indignados; anti-austerity movements; Podemos; French revolution; popular sovereignty


Abramson, P.R .(1971) ‘Social Class and Political Change in Western Europe : A Cross-National Longitudinal Abalysis’. Comparative Political Studies, 4: 131-155.

Albertos J.F. et al. (2015) Aragón es nuestro Ohio: Así votan los españoles. Malpaso Ediciones SL.

Allardt, E., and Littunen, Y. (1964) Cleavages, ideologies and Party Systems. Helsinki: Academic Bookstore.

Anduiza, E., Cristancho, C., and Sabucedo, J.M. (2014)’Mobilization through online social networks: the political protest of the indignados in Spain’. Information, Communication & Society, 17(6), pp.750–764.

Anselmi, M. (2017). Populism: an Introduction. London: Routledge.

Antentas, J.P. (2015) ‘Spain: the indignados rebellion of 2011 in perspective’, Labor History 2: 136-160.

Arendt, H. (1963) On Revolution. New York: Penguin.

Aslanidis, P. (2016) ‘Populism and Social Movements’, Available at:

Bendix, R. (1961) ‘The Lower Classes and the ‘Democratic Revolution’, Industrial Relations I: 91-116.

Bendix, R. (1984) Citizenship of the Lower Classes. In: Bendix, R., Force, Fate and Freedm. Berkeley: California University Press.

Blanchard, M. (1980) Saint Just & Cie: La Révolution et les mots. Parsis: Flammarion.

Brewer, J. (1981) Party ideology and popular politics at the accession of George III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Briggs, A., Saville, J. (1977) Essays in Labour History. London: Archon Books.

Breuilly, J. (1992) Labour and Liberalism in Nineteenth Century Europe. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Calhoun, C. (1982) The question of class struggle: social foundations of popular radicalism during the industrial revolution. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Calhoun, C. (2012) The Roots of Radicalism. Tradition, the Public Sphere, and Early Nineteenth Century Social Movements. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Calvo, C., and Alvarez, I. (2015) ‘Limitaciones y exclusiones en la institucionalización de la indignación: del 15-M a Podemos’, Revista Espanola de Sociologia 24: 115-122.

Carrozza, C., and Fantini, E. (2016) ‘The Italian water movement and the politics of the commons’, Water Alternatives 1: 99-119.

Caruso, L. (2010) Il territorio della politica. La nuova partecipazione di massa nei movimenti No Tav e No Dal Molin. Milan: Franco Angeli.

Caruso, L. (2013) ‘Critica sociale ed emancipazione collettiva nei movimenti sociali contemporanei’, Quaderni di Teoria sociale 13: 321-355.

Caruso, L. (2017) ‘Reinventare la sinistra. Le basi politiche, culturali e organizzative di Podemos’. Comunicazione Politica, 1: 31-54.

Cash, A. (2006) John Wilkes: the scandalous father of civil liberty. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Castaneda, E. (2012) ‘The indignados of Spain: A precedent to Occupy Wall Street’, Social Movement Studies 3/4: 309–319.

Chevalier, L. (1979) Laboring Classes and Dangerous Classes in Paris During the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. New York: Fertig.

Cini, L. (2017) ‘Successful student activism in contemporary Italian universities’, Italian Political Science Review, 1-22.

Cobb, R.C. (1979) The Police and the People. French Popular Protest, 1789-1820. Oxford: Oxford University press.

Daalder, H., and Meir, P. (1983) Western European Party Systems: Continuity and Change. London: Sage.

Dann, O., and Dinwiddy, J. (1988) Nationalism in the Age of French Revolution. London: The Hambledon Press.

Della Porta, D. (2015) Social Movements in Times of Austerity. Cambridge: Polity.

della Porta, D., Fernández, J., and Kouki H., Mosca L. (2017) Movement parties against austerity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Della Porta, D., Piazza, G. (2008) Le ragioni del No: le campagne contro la Tav in Val di Susa e il Ponte sullo Stretto. Milano: Feltrinelli.

Dew, B. (2009) ‘Waving a mouchoir à la Wilkes: Hume, radicalism and the North Briton’. Modern Intellectual History, 6(2): 235-260.

Dickinson, H. T. (2002) ‘Popular politics and radical ideas’, in

Dickinson, T.H. (Ed.), A companion to eighteenth-century Britain (pp. 97-111). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Doyle, W. (1980) Origins of the French revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Epstein, J., and Thompson, D. (1982) The Chartist Experience: Studies in Working Class radicalism and Culture. London: MacMillan.

Errejon, I. (2015) ‘We the people. El 15-M: Un populismo indignado?’. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 1: 124-156.

Flesher Fominaya, C., and Cox, L. (eds) (2013) Understanding European Movements: New Social Movements, Global Justice Struggles, Anti-Austerity Protest. Abingdon: Routledge.

Foster, J. (1974) Class Struggle and the Industrial Revolution. London: MacMillan.

Fulchler, J. (1991) Labour Movements, Employers, and the State. Oxford: Clarendon.

Gerbaudo, P. (2017) ‘The Indignant Citizen: anti-austerity movements in southern Europe and the anti-oligarchic reclaiming of citizenship’. Social Movement Studies, 16 (1): 36-50.

Halvorsen, S. (2012) ‘Beyond the network? Occupy London and the global movement’. Social Movement Studie, 3/4: 427–433.

Hobsbawm, E. (1962) The Age of Revolutions. Europe 1789-1848. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

Hobsbawm, E. (2015) Labouring Men. Studies in the History of Labour. London: Orion Publishing.

Howard, N., and Pratt-Boyden, K. (2013) ‘Occupy London as pre-figurative political action’. Development in Practice, 5/6: 729-741.

Hunt, L. (1984) Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Katznelson, I., Zolberg ,A. R. (1986) Working Class Formation in Western Europe and United States. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Kendall, W. (1975) The Labour Movement in Europe. London: Allen Lane.

Lipset, S., and Rokkan, S. (1967) ‘Cleavage Structures, Party Systems, and Voter Alignments: An Introduction’, in: Lispet, S.,

Rokkan, S. (eds) Party Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross-National Perspectives, pp. 1-64. New York: Free Press.

Livesey, J. (2001) Making Democracy in the French Revolution. Harvard: Harvard University Press.

Lobera, J. (2015) ‘De movimientos a partidos. La cristalizacion electoral de la protesta’. Revista Española de Sociología, 24: 97-105

Mann, H. (1973) Cosciousness and Action among Western Working Class. London: McMillan.

Martín, I. (2015) ‘Podemos y otros modelos de partido-movimiento’. Revista Española de Sociología, 24: 107-114.

Mastropaolo, A. (2012) Is Democracy a Lost Cause? Paradoxes of an Imperfect Invention. ECPR Press.

Maza, S. (1993) Private Lives and Public Affairs: the Causes Celebres of Prerevolutionnary France. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Meir, P. (1997) Party System Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Merriman, J. (1979) Consciousness and Class Experience in Nineteenth-Century Europe. New York: Holms & Meir.

Moffitt, B. and Tormey, S. (2014) ‘Rethinking populism: Politics, mediatisation and political style’, Political Studies, 62(2), pp. 381–397.

Moore, B. J. (1966) Social Origins of Dictator and Democracy. Boston: Beacon Press.

Ozouf, M. (1970) ‘De Termhidor à Brumaire: Le discours de la Révoluiòn sur elle-meme’. Reveue Històrique, 243 : 31-66.

Perugorria, I., and Tejerina, B. (2013) “Politics of the encounter: Cognition, emotions, and networks in the Spanish 15M”. Current Sociology, 4: 424–442.

Peterson, A., Wahlstrom, M., and Wennerhag, M. (2015) ‘European Anti-Austerity Protests – beyond “old” and “new” social movements?’. Acta Sociologica, 4: 293-310.

Portos, M. (2016) ‘Taking to the streets in the shadow of austerity. A chronology of the cycle of protests in Spain, 2007-2015’. Participation and Conflict, 1(9): 181-210.

Ramiro, L. and Gomez, R. (2016) ‘Radical-Left Populism during the Great Recession : Podemos and Its Competition with the Established Radical Left’, Political Studies 65(1) : 1–19.

Rivett, G. (2014) ‘Activism, Mobilisation, and Political Engagement : Comparative Historical perspectives’. Journal of Historical Sociology, 28 (1): 1-10.

Roberts, J .M. (2001) ‘Spatial Governance and Working Class Public Spheres: The Case of a Chartist Demonstration at Hyde Park’. Journal of Historical Sociology, 14 (3): 308-336.

Roddier, H. (1950) J.-J. Rousseau en Angleterre: Au xviir siècle. Paris: Boivin & Cie.

Rodrı́guez-Teruel, J., Barrio, A. and Barberà, O. (2016) ‘Fast and Furious: Podemos’ Quest for Power in Multi-level Spain’, South European Society and Politics 21(4): 561-585.

Rogers, N. (1987) ‘Chartism and Class Struggle’. Labour, 19: 143-151.

Rosanvallon, P. (2008) Counter-Democracy. Politics in an Age of Distrust. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Rudbeck, S .(2012) ‘Popular Sovereignty and the Historical Origin of the Social Movement’. Theory and Society, 41 (6): 581-601.

Rudé, G. (1995) Ideology and popular protest. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina.

Rudè, G. (2005) The Crowd in History. London: Serif.

Sampedro, V. (2015). ‘Podemos, de la invisibilidad a la sobre-exposición’. Revista Teknokultura, 12 (1) : 137-145.

Skocpol, T. (1979) States and Social Revolutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stavrakakis, Y. (2014) ‘The Return of ‘the People’: Populism and Anti-Populism in the Shadow of the European Crisis.’ Constellations, 4: 505-517.

Steadman Jones, G. (1983) Languages of Class. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Subirats, J. (2015) ‘Todo se mueve. Acción colectiva, acción conectiva. Movimientos, partidos e instituciones’. Revista Española de Sociología, 24: 123-131.

Tarrow, S. (1998) Power in movement: Social movements and contentious politics (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, E.P. (2013) The Making of the English Working Class. London: Penguin.

Thompson, E.P. (1978) “Eighteenth-Century English Society: Class Struggle without Class?”. Social History, III: 76-136.

Thompson, D. (1984). The Chartist: Popular Politics in the Industrial revolution. New York: Pantheon.

Tilly, C. (1995) Popular contention in Great Britain, 1758-1834. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Tilly, C. (2004) Social movements, 1768-2004. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.

Tilly, C., Tilly, L., and Tilly, R. (1975) The Rebellious Century. 1830-1930. London: Dent.

Viola, P. (1993) Il crollo dell’antico regime. Politica e antipolitica nella Francia della Rivoluzione. Roma: Donzelli.

Viola, P. (2000) ‘Prima del populismo. Radici settecentesche dell’antipolitica’. Meridiana, 38-39 (151-169).

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.