Economic Crisis and Mass Protest: The Pots and Pans Revolution in Iceland, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Economic Crisis and Mass Protest

The Pots and Pans Revolution in Iceland, 1st Edition

By Jon Gunnar Bernburg


164 pages

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Paperback: 9781138600126
pub: 2018-04-27
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Although the triggering effect of economic crises on revolt is a classic sociological topic, crises have until recently mostly triggered large-scale collective action in developing countries. The antigovernment protests that occurred in several European countries in the aftermath of the global financial crisis brought crises to the forefront of collective action research in democratic societies, as well as provide important opportunities for studying how crises can trigger large-scale collective action. This volume focusses on Iceland’s ’Pots and Pans Revolution’, a series of large scale antigovernment protests and riots that took place in Iceland in autumn 2008 and January 2009. The Icelandic case offers a rare opportunity to study processes that can trigger political protest in an affluent, democratic society. The protests took place in the aftermath of a national financial collapse triggered by the global financial crisis in early October 2008. While having almost no tradition of mass protest, Iceland was among the first countries to respond to the global crisis with large-scale protest. The level of public mobilization was exceptionally high (about 25 percent participation rate) and the protests did not stop until they had brought down the ruling government of Iceland. Using qualitative and quantitative data, this volume situates the protest in historical-cultural context and applies social movement theory to explore how the economic crisis ended up triggering the protests, thus providing a step toward understanding why the global financial crisis has triggered public unrest in other countries.


‘In the global wave of protest against austerity policies during the Great Recession, Iceland played a pivotal role as the early riser. Since the "Pots and Pans Revolution" Iceland’s flag became a global symbol of courageous resistance against injustice. Based on in-depth empirical analysis and innovative theoretical thinking, this volume offers a most welcome analysis of the mechanisms through which citizens mobilize under critical circumstances as collective actions create solidarity and feelings of empowerment.’ -Donatella della Porta, Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy

'The book is worth reading for a number of reasons. . . . Bernburg advances a breakdown theory of mobilization linking the economic crisis and the protest campaign, showing how the economic collapse disrupted people‘s taken-for-granted assumptions and routines and ultimately pushed them to action. . . . It appears that a tradition of protest has taken hold in Iceland. The book provides an important account of its origin.' - Marc Dixon, Social Forces

'This book is particularly methodologically rich, employing a mixed methods design combining official data from police and public agencies, qualitative interviews, discourse analysis and social surveys.' - Maria Grasso, Acta Sociologica

Table of Contents



1. Context of crisis

2. Evolution of protest

3. Evolution of discourse

4. Individual mobilization

5. Conclusion




About the Author

Jón Gunnar Bernburg is Professor of Sociology at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at the University of Iceland. Since he graduated with a Ph.D. in Sociology from the State University of New York at Albany in 2002, his work has cut across several sub-fields of sociology. His early work studied the social causes of crime and deviant behavior; in recent years he has focused on the effects of the 2008 Icelandic financial collapse on individual, social, and political development. In addition to contributing to edited volumes, handbooks, and encyclopedias throughout his career, he has published articles in leading social science journals, such as Social Forces, Sociology, European Sociological Review, Criminology, Social Science & Medicine, and Mobilization.

About the Series

The Mobilization Series on Social Movements, Protest, and Culture

The Mobilization Series on Social Movements, Protest, and Culture

Published in conjunction with Mobilization: An International Quarterly, the premier research journal in the field, this series publishes a broad range of research in social movements, protest and contentious politics. This is a growing field of social science research that spans sociology and political science as well as anthropology, geography, communications and social psychology. Enjoying a broad remit, the series welcomes books on the following topics: social movement networks; social movements in the global South; social movements, protest, and culture; personalist politics, such as living environmentalism, guerrilla gardens, anticonsumerist communities, and anarchist-punk collectives; and emergent repertoires of contention.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Finance / Financial Risk Management
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General