Conference Agenda

RN25_07: Theory of contentious politics
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Katerina Vrablikova, University of Bath
Location: GM.330
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road


Rethinking Demobilisation: Concepts, causal logic, and the case of Russia's For Fair Elections movement

Michael C Zeller

Central European University, Hungary

The study of social movement organisations (SMOs) has tended to fixate on the initial, upward trajectory and most intense activity of SMOs, that is, mobilisation and campaigning. Comparatively little attention has focused on the downward slope: how do movements falter and fail; how do movements demobilise? Recent work has sought to fill this lacuna. Davenport’s (2015, How Social Movements Die) theorisation is the latest, most useful addition to the topic. Yet existing theories still omit some facets of demobilisation and bear the mark of over-reliance on case inference. This article addresses these persistent conceptual problems. First, it argues for a reformulation of Davenport’s theorisation of social movement demobilisation, re-aggregating demobilising factors internal to SMOs and broadening the scope of external factors to include the repressive activities of non-state agents. Next, the article asserts that the causal logic of demobilising factors is essentially set-relational: the concurrence of factors is what produces demobilisation (this is ‘conjunctural causation’) and multiple combinations of factors can cause demobilisation (this is ‘equifinality’). Finally, the article demonstrates the analytical utility of the proposed conceptual framework and concomitant causal logic by briefly analysing the case of the For Fair Elections movement in Russia in 2011-2012. This case exhibits the multiplicity of internal strains and external pressures that converge to induce demobilisation. Taken together, the article’s conceptual framework and empirical example provide a guide for identifying, analysing, and characterising demobilisation.

The Catalan Revolt and the Populist Moment: Exploring the Convergence

David Murillo

Ramon Llull University, Spain

There have been many attempts to explain the Catalan move for independence that culminated in the symbolic declaration of independence on 27 October 2017. Some academic works seek to explain the Catalan bid for independence as a form of top-down indoctrination or as part of a politically-led strategy to mask the cost of austerity policies. Other explanations highlight identity-based or nativist factors behind the pro-independence surge. We consider these interpretations of limited analytical value but, more importantly, failing to understand the broader global socio-political picture. This is a landscape of moving forces where elites try to maintain or recover sovereignty while challenging those who seek to alter the status quo.

For academic purposes, we depart from the widespread interpretation that includes this move for independence within a more global backlash against global or nation-state elites (Mouffe 2018). This interpretation frames the events that took place in Catalonia and Spain in recent years, and specifically in the final months of 2017, as a form of what has more generally been called the populist revolt (Geiselberger 2017, Streek 2017). By examining the Catalan uprising under this light, we seek to achieve two goals. Firstly, to help make sense of the theoretical discussion on populism, when analyzed from the generation of the demand side: the understanding of populism as a form of bottom-up mobilization exogenous of electoral contestation (Aslanidis 2017). Secondly, to understand the mechanisms used by the establishment to confront acts of popular resistance to the status quo and its socio-political consequences.

Postindustrial Revolution: Yellow Vests as "the People" and the Transformation of European Democracies

Michalis Lianos

University of Rouen, France

The core issue of this SP will be the transformation of political consciousness among the lower and lower-middle classes in Europe.

There are few occasions where progressive, revolutionary action can be mistaken for conservative narrow-mindedness. The yellow vest protests in France met with the entire range of possible accusations against the participants: fascists or anarchists, secret instruments of political parties or apolitical masses, clueless rednecks or sophisticated haters. Nothing sticks, however, since they openly and unreservedly admit their plurality. So, what keeps them together? Very simply, experience.

This is in many cases a new level of political reflexivity that most of us mistook for an obtuse reactionary attitude. In the last decade, the European lower classes seem to increasingly realise that “elites” are less needed in the political process. And, if one looks at the overwhelming passive support to the yellow vests from the other classes in France, it seems that the will to change the political organisation of European societies spreads. This development is to be welcomed in many aspects, most particularly as a claim for the renewal of current representative regimes that become increasingly irrelevant and do not qualify as legitimate democracies in the conscience of their citizens. This is not to say that citizens in general, and the yellow vests in particular, do not acknowledge the necessity of “governance”. Quite to the contrary, they sense that a new form of democracy is both possible and necessary in order to make governance efficient for those who are side-lined by the ‘system’ and wish at the same time to count as individuals.

The Political Economy of Revolution: Karl Polanyi in Tahrir Square

Hany Khaled Zayed

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States of America

The causes and consequences of revolutionary change have long been the subject of scholarly analysis. This research extends extant theory of revolution through a systematic integration of Polanyian international political economy into an analysis of contemporary transformations in Egypt. The primary research question of this paper is thus: to what extent can Karl Polanyi’s Double Movement theorization explain the Egyptian Revolution of 2011?

This research contributes to the current body of knowledge in two ways. First, it extends Karl Polanyi’s double movement model by applying it to the Egyptian case study. Through extracted key pillars, this research demonstrates the broad congruence between the dynamics of social change in Egypt and the central elements of Polanyi’s work. Second, by demonstrating the effectiveness of the Polanyian framework in understanding Egypt’s revolutionary change, the research highlights the value of introducing political economic elements to existing literatures on revolution, expands the depth and variety of the theory of revolution, and extends existing analyses between neoliberalism and revolution in political economy literatures.