From Contention to Social Change: Rethinking the Consequences of Social Movements and Cycles of Protests
ESA Research Network on Social Movements – Midterm Conference 19-20 February 2015 – Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain
A considerable amount of recent research has been devoted to the effects of mobilization with the intent of specifying how social movements produce social changes of various sorts. Political outcomes – including the responsiveness of decision-makers – have been studied the most, but scholarly interest in other types of effects is also growing. Among the effects that have drawn the attention of scholars are the changed behavior of economic actors and market institutions (economic effects); opinions, beliefs and collective identities of the movements’ participants and of their audience (cultural impacts); as well as variations in the life-course of individuals who participate in movement activities (biographical consequences). Sometimes these effects are intentional and sometimes not. In fact, on occasion they are contrary to the aims of those who produce them. Still, it is clear that contentious actions – whether they take the form of small local petitions, large street demonstrations or transnational campaigns mobilized on-line – transcend the internal life of social movements and have an influence on the rest of society.
Despite the abundance of research on these themes, some aspects of the consequences of social movements are still understudied.
First, while the role of the contentiousness of protest actions or the number of mobilized activists has been well-discussed, we know relatively little about how important the content of claims is for achieving movements’ goals. Framing has been shown to play a role in shaping political outcomes in some contexts, but more research could be done in this field. For example, how does the deliberative quality of the arguments made by the movement matter for the mobilization of further (the next wave) protests or for political outcomes?
Second, how does the success or failure of the movement affect the attitudes (e.g., perceived political efficacy and responsiveness) and future mobilization of the activists? There is, in general, little known about the failures and disengagement of social movements, but the consequences of such processes should be particularly noteworthy for those interested in the development of civil society.
Third, how the growing use of on-line media in social movement mobilization affect the consequences of social movements? For instance, does it lead to less sustainable mobilisation and thereby more failures? How does the use of Twitter or Facebook affect the cultural or biographical outcomes?
The mid-term conference of the ESA Research Network on Social Movements will focus on the preceding questions and welcomes both theoretical and empirical papers that tackle these and closely related issues. Single case studies and comparative studies are equally welcome.
Illustration: “Activists from the PAH and neighbors from a building in Salt, Barcelona, while hearing that the eviction process has been stopped“. Copyright Carles Palacio