European Spring?

European Spring?


It’s been just over two years now ( since Mohamed Bouazizi, in frustration/desperation/depression/fury over unemployment, corruption and tyranny self-immolated, triggering however inadvertently what came to be known as the Arab Spring. That Spring is still unfinished, still evolving, still a painful emergence of we know not what new forms of societies. If that Spring were not so violent, and so long emerging, in so many places, I might feel it even more appropriate that the whole metaphor puts me in mind of Karin Boye’s (1935) poem “Ja visst gör det ont när knoppar brister”. Scandinavians will all know this poem, but for the rest of us I translate (my modification of a translation by David McDuff, see

Yes, of course it hurts when buds burst.
Why else would Spring hesitate?
Why would all our heated longings
Be bound in white-frozen bitter state?
The bud was swaddled all through Winter.
What is this new that swells and tears?
Yes, of course it hurts when buds burst.
Hurts for that which grows and that which bars.

I wonder now, what frustrations, desperations, depressions, furies are we facing in Europe as unemployment rises, as corruption is exposed, as our environmental recklessness reveals its consequences, as some romanticize past tyrranies and some discover tyranny behind liberal democratic veils? Will those frustrations, desperations, depressions, furies trigger the emergence of a European Spring? And if so, what pains will that season entail, what new social forms will emerge, and how might our training in STS help us to understand it, survive it, contribute to it constructively?
At a recent meeting, a Greek colleague told of managing on reduced and uncertain wages. His wages as professor were officially cut in half, but he actually rarely received even that amount. Nor were there research funds to be had to supplement the loss of income. But academics are nothing if not resourceful. He and other colleagues had helped set up exchange networks where goods and services could be exchanged in kind, their own contributions being advice and social analyses.
So what (else, more) can we in the STS field do for societies already in crisis, and for ourselves if (when?) crisis strikes at home? I’m afraid I have no answers, only questions. Feel free to propose answers via the website, not least in response to this issue’s three essays.

Editorially yours,
Ann Rudinow Sætnan

Boye, Karin (1935) Ja visst gör det ont när knoppar brister. From the collection För trädets skull [For the tree’s sake].