Social Protest 11/20/2013
Political acts reflect power differences
The very wealthiest people do not riot (they have absolutely no need to riot)
People who are further down the socioeconomic scale (they’re not the leaders of society – not
necessarily that they’re poor, but they’re not in power either)
What is social protest? = an attempt by a collective through public demonstration to
change the formal institutional structures of a society to their benefit…
Importantly, social protest is extra-institutional politics
Extra-institutional : not doing it within the systems, but they’re not actually pursuing this
necessary through formal channels, in formal legal ways`
Institutional structures meaning laws, policies
Protest is a last resort, because their views are not supported through formal institutional
Protest rarely succeeds.
When protest does succeed, it’s typically highly modified from its original form. (the claims they
agreed to, the shape that the success takes is often almost unrecognizable from what they
idealistically desired to achieve)
Protest activity almost w/out fail leads to more protest activity. Once it starts it doesn’t turn back
Collective Episode ‘Continuum’ – REFER TO POWER POINT SLIDES FOR VISUAL
IF they go too fast toward change, they’re going to get rejected (seen as revolutionary)
If they don’t go far enough against convention, there will be no change
Pressure to find a middle-ground
Rosa Parks had an impeccable biography so when she did it – they said, this is the one, we’re
going to start the movement
Linked to a larger movement that has been coming out As the civil rights era ended, the social protest movement for civil rights HAS NOT ended! Many
rights are using the same lever points (same shape in different forms) – LGBT, gender, race,
We’re really big on fair unfair, rather than social hierarchy
Social Protest – the WHAT
Let’s look more closely at the dimensions that distinguish social protest:
1. Degree of Spontaneity: Unlike the other collective episodes that have been our focus, the
level of spontaneity involved in Social Protest and Social Protest Movement is typically lower;
they require some degree of pre-planning, organization, and participant coordination…
of course, when It’s planned, there’s a higher level of strategy, organization
spontaneity has to do w/ what can and will be said/ not said
2. Form of Expression: Social Protests generally use known symbols, target known institutions,
and rely on formal communication channels such as the mass media to get heir message out
and promote social change…
you want people out there to know, or else your protest is ineffective
you use symbols that need to mean something to people
if people don’t recognize your symbols, it’s ineffective
ex: holding an American flag and holding a red, white, and blue sign that says “No Iraq War”
other things that are culturally recognized: bargain w/ political opponents, have a platform (have
a list of things they require – have a really well-founded reason), have a petition (can’t dismiss
us as peripheral/ ignorable), do things like sit-ins, chants, blockades – the art of protest,
because that makes you recognizable to people who aren’t protesting that there IS a protest
Barricades were invented as protest tools
Sit-downs were invented during labor strikes (assembly lines- you just had to control part of it for
it to make a difference)
3. Time Frame: (time/duration of the event): While a crowd action can be minutes or hours or
perhaps days, Social Protest Movements can extend into years, decades, and beyond!
Religion was the first reason for social movements (value-oriented) – last for centuries! Or
thousands of years..
4. Scope: Local protests tend to be shorter in duration, involve fewer persons, less planning,
and less resources. Extra-local protest requires more strategy, greater leadership, more
resources, and political connections…
very centralized, very immediate and very spread out time and space is tough to organize – takes more planning
What we’ve discussed before covers WHAT, not WHY….
Bolded questions are the ones answered in this lecture***
1. Who participates in social protest and why?
2. What role do attitudes play in social protest?
3. What role does availability play in social protest participation?
4. What ultimately predicts social protest?
5. What predicts success and/or failure of social protests?
Social Protest and Mass Psychology
In seeking to answer the when, who, and why, Collective Behaviorists have developed a handful
of theories to explain and predict social protest, including:
1. Parental conflicts theory: Feuer theorized that Social Protest movements reflect people
working out their grievances w/ authority—especially boys to their fathers—and that t