Subterranean Politics in Europe

Short Title


Full Title

The ‘Bubbling Up’ of Subterranean Politics in Europe

Brief Description

European protests are not just about austerity measures, but about frustration with formal politics and the failure of democracy. Public displays of subterranean politics reveal a collective re-definition of democracy, its practices and its relation to everyday life and the role of technology has been critical.

Research Period

Jan 2012-2013

Research Type

Developing a theoretical framework for the study of subterranean politics. Local research teams and methods focus on groups, interviews, and participant observation to systematically capture and analyse the country case studies. Analyses of the role of Europe in the debates.

Research Monitoring Body

Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit London School of Economics and Political Science

Project Supervisor

Prof. Mary Kaldor (LSE), Sabine Sechow (LSE)

Project Manager

Tamsin Murray-Leach; Hungarian Team: Jody Jensen, PhD


Geoffrey Pleyers (University of Louvain), Bartolomeo Conti (CADIS, Paris), Mario Pianta (University of Urbino), Paolo Gerbaudo (American University in Cairo),  Helmut K. Anheier (Hertie School of Governance), Anne Nassauer (Berlin Graduate School of Social Science), Prof. Jody Jensen (MTAPTI), Professor Donatella della Porta (European University Institute), Dr Lorenzo Mosca (EUI), Dr Louisa Parks (EUI), Jordi Bonet i Martí (Centro de Estudios y Documentación Internacionales de Barcelona, CIDOB), Sean Deel (LSE), Tamsin Murray-Leach (LSE)

External Researchers

Hajnalka Szarvas (Corvinus University of Budapest) , Erin Saltman (London School of Economics)


Tamsin Murray-Leach (

Institutional Partners

University of Louvain; CADIS, Paris; University of Urbino; American University in Cairo; Hertie School of Governance; Berlin Graduate School of Social Science; London’s Global University; European University Institute Firenze; Centro de Estudios y Documentación Internacionales de Barcelona, CIDOB


Open Society Institute, Brussels

Research Summary

The most important finding is what is shared across different types of protests. The protests are not about austerity measures per se, but rather about frustration with formal politics and the failure of democracy. In all the public displays of subterranean politics it is clear that they are projects of a collective re-imagining of democracy, of its practices and its relation to everyday life. The role of the internet is critical at the level of mobilisation, coordinated over social networks. Concern with process, accountability, and transparency is more important for many than a program of specific demands. Europe does not play a significant role in the debates or protests. Europe as a political community or public space only seems to exist for a small ’expert’ minority. The implications of the findings are twofolf: 1) it is important to bring ’expert activists’ with subterranean actors to discuss the political rather than financial crisis of Europe to make Europe more visible by probelmatising it. 2) There is a need to monitor, research and understand the evolution of subterranean politics.