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From state fetish to community fetish: a spatial analysis of 15M and Podemos in Spain

Ibán Díaz-Parra (University of Seville, Seville, Spain)
Beltran Roca (University of Cádiz, Cádiz, Spain)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 13 November 2017




Over the last four years in Spain, a strong autonomist movement (15M), based on radical democracy and mistrust of any kind of instituted politics, seems to be turning toward statist and institutionalized politics. The purpose of this paper is to answer the following questions: Can we speak of a community fetishism, as opposed to State fetishism? Do autonomist social movements have a spatial project as opposed to a State spatial project? Why do horizontal and self-management-oriented social movements turn to the conquest of the State in the current framework?


The empirical evidence for this study stems from a qualitative methodological approach. The authors used two different types of sources. First, direct observations from the authors’ own engagement in social movements in Spain from 2011 to the present are used. Second, this work is part of a systematic research on spatial dynamics and the evolution of collective action in Spain. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with activists involved in social movements from 2012 to 2015, in which time informal interviews were conducted, and documents and observational notes were also collected.


Social movements have tended to develop alternatives to state spatial projects, partially as a result of an institutional setting that has been progressively closed to political alternatives to the neoliberal state. This last point leads to the posing of politics as completely independent of the political arena of the State (community fetish). From the first square occupations to the subsequent organization in local meetings, the 15M movement was the last expression of this tendency in Spain, while the turn on State political institutions responds to the obvious limitations of community fetishism in the context of the social and political tensions of the Spanish crisis.


This analysis contributes to the current debates on social movements in two ways. First, the authors investigate a usually neglected agent in the production of spatial political projects and strategies such as social movements. Second, the specific case of the 15M movement in Spain strongly shows the contradictions and limitations of the movements, which supposedly do not aspire to replace the State’s sovereign power through the idea of community fetishism.



Díaz-Parra, I. and Roca, B. (2017), "From state fetish to community fetish: a spatial analysis of 15M and Podemos in Spain", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 262-279.



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