Peoples' movements and protests




We need more communal rites



Any suggestion for improvals can be mailed to the author


By Jan Wiklund



When I became active in Alternative City, Stockholm, fifty years ago, we had large meetings on the first Monday of each month, at 19 pm after the aircraft alarm. Other Mondays we had weekly meetings. And in between meetings in the project groups we were involved in. And in between, we hung out a lot at the premises in Bryggargatan.

I can't say that we were particularly efficient. Much of it seemed to be idle talk. But that was an illusion. In fact, we did exactly what we needed to do to build up collective cohesion and self-confidence, including daring to confront police officers with horses and dogs in The Elms Battle.

What people do to form a "we" capable of collective action is, according to Randall Collins: Sociological insight, is to meet, go through collective rites, and create symbols and sacred things. These meetings, rites, symbols and sacred objects will then symbolise the group and make it a body of solidarity in which all participants are included.

In totemic religions, modern religions and political movements, it works the same way. The society/sect/movement is bigger than the individual, but something abstract that can only be understood through symbols and common rituals – dance, prayers, demonstrations, meetings. Without symbols and rituals, we shrink into individuals, feeling small and powerless and unable to do anything.

” One of the main benefits of belonging to a group is so close to home that it tends to be overlooked. It is intangible, but completely real It is the emotional energy that one receives from taking part in intense social gatherings. It is because of this emotional energy that people can do things in crowds that they cannot or would not do alone. The crowd makes them feel strong because they are part of something that is much stronger than they are as individuals. It also tends to make them feel righteous, because by participating in a common activity they are doing something more than merely acting on their own individual self-interest. It is for this reason people acting together in groups are capable of much srtonger exertions than they usually would be alone.” (Collins, p. 39)

When organisations skip the communal meetings and rituals and go on Facebook, they sign their own death warrant. Then their followers become small, powerless and individual, unable to do anything but complain, or perhaps one should say whine. Something you can observe on any Facebook group. And perhaps also in society at large.

Yes, I know. It's easy and requires no energy to be on Facebook. But without investment, there is no profit. Without labour, no harvest. Without collective building, no victories.

You can download Sociological insights for free as a pdf on z-lib<>

Published by Folkrörelsestudiegruppen: