Workshop: Social Movements & Political Alternatives to Neoliberalism: Lessons from Latin America for Irish Civil Society

Friday, May 15, 2015 - 10:00 to 16:00
John Hume Building, 3rd Floor Boardroom, North Campus, Maynooth University

Workshop organised by the Research Cluster on Social Justice, Participation & Human Rights, in association with the Network on Power, Politics & Society, the Maynooth University Department of Law and the Department of Geography.

This workshop is aimed at social movement activists, political campaigners and representatives, trade unionists, community groups and interested academics. The workshop will give  participants an opportunity to hear from one of the leading voices on social movements and political change in Latin America, Professor Eduardo Silva. There will be dialogue on the lessons from Latin America for Ireland, as well as on what Latin American social movements can take from from current struggles in Ireland and the European periphery. The workshop will include inputs from key civil society members and activists in Ireland. The aim is to improve our understanding of social movements and political transformation, and to develop greater dialogue amongst civil society activists engaged in challenging neoliberalism. It will also contribute to research into this area being undertaken at Maynooth University.

Dialogue Themes

  • Eduardo Silva’s 2009 book, Challenging Neoliberalism in Latin America, provides a comprehensive account of how, at the end of the 20th century, a wave of diverse social movements arose unexpectedly in Latin America, culminating in massive demonstrations in opposition to neoliberalism. These mass mobilisations ushered in governments in several Latin American countries that advocated socialisation and regulation of the economy, challenging the political consensus over neoliberalism and austerity and giving political strength to the social movements that opposed them. This workshop aims to provide a forum for civil society groups engaged in similar struggles in Ireland to discuss these, both with Prof. Silva and collectively, and so to draw lessons from the Latin American experience which may aid our thinking on how best to proceed in Ireland.


  • The social movement against water charges represents the first sustained nationwide challenge to austerity in Ireland. It builds on previous local community and trade union campaigns which have resisted the injustices of the bank bailout, the socialisation of private debt, and the imposition of public service cuts and hospital closures. In this context, independent and leftist political platforms have gained increasing popular support. A number of key questions now face the community groups and social movements that have been central to this mobilisation. How can the movement be maintained, strengthened and deepened? How can we build wider public involvement? How can the mobilisation be harnessed to achieve social transformation through political change and radical democracy? What is the best form for the relationship between social movements and political parties/representatives to take? There is much to be learned in relation to these issues from the experience of Latin American societies over the past twenty years, and from dialogue amongst the different groups, backgrounds and approaches within progressive civil society in Ireland.

The workshop aims to provide an open space for activists to talk freely and discuss ideas, tactics and strategy, with a spirit of respect for diversity of opinion.
Please register to attend by emailing or
Please feel free to circulate this invitation to those in your networks who may be interested in participating.