Can activism change political and social values and attitudes? Long term effects of political engagement in Portugal and Spain

This project addresses the long-term effects of political engagement in Portugal and Spain. It mainly addresses people who mobilized against the dictatorship in Portugal at the end of the Sixties, and follows their life and activism trajectories until nowadays, using the Spanish case – characterized by a different form of transition – as a term of comparison.  The question underlying the project is: can activism transform individual patterns of political thinking and behaviour? And if so, how and in what way? Literature on the effects of social movements addresses three types of consequences: political, biographical, and cultural (Giugni, 2004). To date, political consequences (policy outcomes) have received the lion’s share and the individual level of analysis has remained underdeveloped. Exceptions are empirical studies on the long-terms effects of American activists in the 1960’s which conclude that activism had a strong effect not only on political attitudes and behaviours, but also on personal lives (Marwell and al. 1987; McAdam 1988; Fendrich 1993). Among these works, a major source of inspiration comes from McAdam’s Freedom Summer (1988), a path-breaking case study which highlights the lasting impact of activism on the personal, political and professional trajectories of ex-activists, showing how such experiences predispose them to remain politically committed. In Europe, literature dedicated to the biographical consequences of activism is even less common; it is mainly concentrated in France where some young scholars started to explore activist trajectories (Leclercq 2008; Bargel 2009;) in the wake of Fillieule’s book on political disengagement (2005). However, there is no literature specifically on the impact of activism on life trajectories in Portugal, except for Accornero’s article on the effects of repression on the Portuguese activists between the end of the dictatorship and the start of the democratic transition (Accornero, 2012b). The purpose of this project is to analyse what has become of the activists of the 1970s in Portugal in both political and social terms. The aim is to evaluate the degree to which political activism can transform patterns of political thinking and behaviour and to outline the ways in which it does so. Generally speaking, political participation is conceived of as a dependent rather than independent variable. In this project, instead, not only is participation in social movements understood to depend on political socialisation, but it must also be considered as having socialising effects (Fillieule 2012). 

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External Partners
CIES-IUL - Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology
Data from Ciência-IUL
ISCTE FCT Portugal