POL 2104 C - Intro to Comparative Politics - Emily Regan Wills - 23 Mar. 24
Everyday Forms of Resistance
• Social movement activity does not account for all organized resistance from one group
towards the state or other powerful forces in society
- If this is true, then how can we understand other acts of contestation & resistance?
Where can we look for them?
James C. Scott, Everyday Forms of Resistance
• Studies peasant movements in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia
• (A part of the ethnographic turn in political science, focused on long-term involvement in
communities & analyzing them from within their own frameworks)
• His books include Seeing Like A State and Weapons of the Weak
The Study of resistance is biased towards institutionalized resistance, open uprisings,
• But just as millions of anthozoan polyps create, willy-nilly, a coral reef, thousands upon
thousands of petty acts of insubordination & evasion create a political & economic barrier reef of
their own. And whenever, to pursue the simile, the ship of state runs aground on such a reef,
attention is typically directed to the shipwreck itself & not the vast aggregation of actions which
make it possible. (49)
- The first thing: to get overt resistance, you must have many factors causing it. The
collapse may be observable but its causes may be unknown.
“Everyday forms of resistance”
• Those actions that people in suppressed groups (for Scott, the suppressed groups are always
class groups) use to try to resist the imposition of power from above, & generally to seize gains
that they would otherwise not have access to.
- involves groups with varying amounts of power, always ones having more than others
to be able to oppress the others to get their way
• “They include such acts as foot-dragging, dissimulations, false compliance, feigned ignorance,
desertion, pilfering, smuggling, poaching, arson, slander, sabotage, surreptitious assault &
murder, anonymous threats, & so on. These techniques, for the most part quite prosaic, are the
ordinary means of class struggle, They are the techniques of “first resort” in those common
historical circumstances in which open defiance is impossible or entails mortal danger.” (34)
- First resort: subconscious retaliatory acts w/o really taking positive action against the
oppression, undermine the system, but ineffective at changing the s