Protest cycles in post-transitional Spain (2011–2017): a comparison between the Indignados Movement and the Catalan independence process


Paraules clau:

structure of political opportunities, democratisation, nationalism, social movements


This article aimed to determine how the structure of political opportunities in Spain has changed in connection to the cycles of protest associated with the 15-M anti-austerity movement and Catalan independence process between 2011 and 2017. To do this, we compared both episodes of conflict based on an analytical model developed through theories of the political process. In addition, we used evidence from the analysis of statistical records, barometers of public opinion, newspapers, and research carried out by other authors. This article discusses the similarities and differences between both episodes in relation to the different variables making up the structure of political opportunities. We end by identifying the impacts of both episodes on these structures as well as the state responses when trying to manage the challenges launched by them. Finally, the institutionalisation
dynamics followed by both movements were compared and we also examined their conclusions in two different outputs: transformation of the party system in the case of the Spanish 15-M movement and repression and imprisonment of the pro-independence leaders in the Catalan one. To conclude, it is made clear that the chances of social co-mobilisation success increase when political opportunities are broadened, when the existence of allies is proven, and when the opponents’ weakness are made evident. However, we also expound how, when faced with intensified protests, government forces and the state apparatus may respond with reform or repression, or with a complex combination of both.


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Biografies de l'autor/a

Jordi Bonet-Martí, Universitat de Barcelona

He is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Barcelona and a member of the research group (SGR) COPOLIS, Well-being, Community and Social Control and SIMREF (Interdisciplinary Seminar on Methodology of Feminist Research). He is a doctor in Social Psychology and has a master's degree in Communication Management Politics from the Autonomous University. He is the author of different scientific articles and book chapters on participation citizenship, urban policies, social movements, gender studies and feminist research methodology

M. Trinidad Bretones Esteban, Universitat de Barcelona

She is a Associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Barcelona and a member of the research group CECUPS (Center for Studies on Culture, Politics and Society). She is the director of the Social Conflict Observatory, She has a degree in Philosophy (UB, 1985) and a PhD in Sociology, with the thesis Political-media communication and its dimensions social, as well as director of the joournals Clivatge and Anuari del Conflicte Social. Her main training areas are philosophy and sociology. Within this last discipline, Bretones is specialized in social structure, conflicte social, sociology of communication, public opinion and political communication and social change.


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Com citar

Bonet-Martí, J. and Bretones Esteban, M. T. (2022) “Protest cycles in post-transitional Spain (2011–2017): a comparison between the Indignados Movement and the Catalan independence process”, Debats. Revista de cultura, poder i societat, 7, pp. 243–260. Available at: (Accessed: 28 March 2023).