Conference Agenda

RN25_06: Micro-foundations of protest
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

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


Between A Sense Of Injustice And Lacking Self-efficacy. Biographical Conditions Of Social Mobilization Among Young People In Precarious Working And Living Conditions.

Alexandra Seehaus1, Vera Trappmann2, Denis Neumann1

1Freie Universität Berlin, Germany; 2Leeds University BUsiness School

New cleavages and the polarized political discourse also reflect among young people. How they form their views and come to engage in political actions, while being in the middle of their transition from youth to adulthood, is not necessarily guided by rational reflections on political arguments but depends on other factors.

Our contribution inquires when, why and how young people politicize. What drives them to express discontent and represent their interests – be it in traditional or unconventional ways?

We find a lack of politicization and mobilization among our respondents, who believe in a meritocratic society and its legitimacy, or are preoccupied by everyday life struggles. For some, thought, politics and public sphere become relevant matching their wish for self-realization. In other cases, resistance evolves in the face of negative experiences with welfare state institutions or feelings of helplessness when encountering social barriers – leading some towards authoritarian resentment.

Applying Hirschman’s theory to structure the results of our research, we can show that a majority of young people goes for loyalty or exit options. For those who voice discontent, we describe biographical conditions that across the sample enable mobilization: high level of cultural capital, occupational identity, self-efficacy, sense of injustice, conflictual relation to parents and an ideological supply side.

Our contribution is based on 60 biographical interviews as well as a representative CATI survey with young people in precarious work and employment between 18 and 30 in Germany. The data have been conducted within the PREWORK project funded by DFG.

Micromobilization and Mass Protest: The Case of the “Panama Papers Protests” in Iceland

Jon Gunnar Bernburg

University of Iceland, Iceland

Micromobilization research, that is, research on processes underlying differential participation of individuals in collective action, constitutes a vital part of social movement research. But, while a large volume of research exists on the structural, cognitive, and emotional conditions shaping micromobilization, the research comprises important gaps. First, studies of specific occurances of activism rarely obtain population-representative data. Population-representative work instead tends to use non-event-specific data, which therefore decontextualizes the work. Second, since research rarely obtains representative data on non-participants, it usually fails to model movement support and participation as separate stages in micromobilization. Finally, research is rarely able to to address “feedback dynamics”, referring to the ways in which movement participation may impact later participation. Feedback dynamics may often constitute a major process underlying historical continuity in mass mobilization. Addressing these limitations, I obtain two population-representative surveys that both focus on a protest campaign occuring in Iceland in April 2016. Spurred by the global “Panama Papers leak”, these “spontaneous” protests attracted about a quarter of the country’s urban population. The data allow me to estimate effects of a wide range of theoretically meaningful predictors on both protest support and protest participation, at different stages of the April campaign. The results support a multi-theory approach to micromobilization. I find effects of biographical availability (age, gender, class), frame alignment (political attitudes), collective efficacy (expectation), social ties (significant others’ participation), and moral shock (seeing a special Panama Papers leak broadcast). Furthermore, results support both short-term (i.e. within-campaign) and long-term (historical) feedback effects.

Does Activists’ Mind Change? Differential Socialization of Political Commitment

Gian-Andrea Monsch, Florence Passy

University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Social movement scholars usually believe to know who protests and how one gets mobilized. We have shown with empirical evidence that people belonging to the respective movement potential are recruited via highly organized social network channels. However, recent protest events challenge this established knowledge. In France, for example, the “gilets jaunes” currently fight hard to improve their living conditions. Who are they? To what potential do they belong? What happened that transformed these usually silent citizens to active ones, blocking roundabouts and toll plazas every weekend? In this paper, we advance that mind synchronization during participation helps people to sustain their commitment.

With the help of longitudinal data from the Swiss Household Panel, we focus on two research questions. Does commitment impact activists’ mind or has the mind to be synchronized with the worldviews of the respective commitment community before activism starts? Answering this first question by comparing environmentalists, unionists and individuals committed to charity organizations allows re-assessing the socializing effect of participation itself. The second question asks whether commitment effects on activists’ mind are durable over time for those who remain committed as well as for those who stop their commitment. With the help of these questions, we work on an important gap in the literature, which is often mentioned but rarely scrutinized: The inquiry of a possible socialization effect of commitment. Further on, these questions touch a major question of sociological theory. Do we need specific meanings to act or does action fashion mental dispositions? Do we need to inverse the causality stated by Weber?

Consequences of Groups Style for Differential Participation

Hjalmar Bang Carlsen, Jonas Toubøl, Snorre Ralund

University of Copenhagen, Denmark

This article proposes a theory of how interaction in groups influences differential participation in political activism and interrogates this theory through an empirical analysis of online Facebook group interaction within the refugee solidarity movement using online ethnography, survey and “big” social media data. Instead of conceptualizing the group as a social network or social movement organization (SMO), we argue that the group and its culture emerge as patterns of interaction that has implications for what kind of movement activities the group’s members participate in. Based in observations from our online ethnography we suggest that group interaction influence differential individual participation through the processes of 1) encoding different habits and 2) attuning the activist to different aspects of situations. We support our theoretical propositions with six statistical tests of the relationship between the group level variable of contentious group style and the individual level variable of participation in political protest. The dependent variable, political protest, and a comprehensive set of controls stem from an original survey dataset of the Danish refugee solidarity movement with 2,283 respondents. We link the survey data with “big” social media data used to estimate the focal explanatory variable, contentious group style, generated from content analysis of online interaction in 119 Facebook groups quantified with supervised machine learning. The results show that group style has a consistent positive relationship with the individual’s degree of participation independent of networks, SMO framing and individual attributes.