Peoples' movements and protests




The peoples' movement cycle





By Jan Wiklund



Peoples’ movements have a cyclical development pattern.

1. First there is an affected category -- group, class, gender... They may be affected by economic exploitation, by illegitimate exercise of power or by cultural stigmatization. When such becomes a systematic or structural inequality, a basis was found for a more long-term popular movement.

2. The affected category develops a common approach and a culture that assumes they see something in common. It doesn’t have to be deliberate -- common habitus is enough, ie that they behave alike in some way that differs from others.

3. This community of habitus develops into a collective identity. And here’s the first stumbling block -- most of us fall into many different affected categories, and which one is most important?

4. The collective identity develops an interest, i.e. begins to perceive that the other party rigs the game to their disadvantage.

5. The group begins to articulate its position and formulate alternatives. Who are we? What do we want? What should we do? In other words, they develop a common language. And here is the next stumbling block. Languages, or ideologies, are difficult to handle. You must have them in order to act. But you easily become their prisoners, and not least it is theoretically impossible to find the perfect ideology for a movement. There will always be compromises that are more or less good. Most important, however, is that they are articulated jointly.

6. The collective organizes itself to facilitate joint articulation, joint mobilization, joint action. Here’s a stumbling block again: organizations are tools for movements, tools that are easily blunted and must be discarded. People's movement organizations may become victims of internal conflicts of interest where completely different people than the affected collective benefit from them.

7. The organization mobilizes resources. The next problem: a disadvantaged group, by definition, has less resources than the opponent, but still has to win. It can do this through better quality of mobilization, not least through speed, and by blocking the other party’s mobilization.

8. The collective develops relationships with third parties. Here, it is particularly states, mediation mechanisms and alliance partners that are interesting. Mediation mechanisms are organizations that have a privileged opportunity to formulate the demands of others, e.g. political parties and media. They are often problematic.

9. The collective acts. Action can be of two kinds: to strike at the opponent to force him to conform, and to carry out desired goals in civil society himself. The first type, confrontations, has a typical form that changes slowly. During the 20th century, strikes, demonstrations and parliamentary elections have been the most typical. There is a whole theory, so-called conflict theory, which tries to figure out how confrontations happen -- much of it is trivial but there are also some exciting lessons to be learned. The other type, the alternative society, is poorly researched. Much suggests that it works best if you run both forms at the same time.

10. The result of the popular movement is felt both by the movement itself and by society. On the one hand, the movement becomes stronger by having acted and its civil society can defend itself and develop. On the other hand, it is forced to live with the fact that the conflict is institutionalized and cannot be fully controlled by the movement anymore. But no outcome can be predicted. People's movements are chaotic. Even if you lose, all is lost. Because the other party will be more careful next time.

And then it begins anew.

This is more developed in Carriers of Democracy, Appendix.



Published by Folkrörelsestudiegruppen: