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Collective Alienation and Protest

Looking into the Eye (s) of the Storm?

- Bases, contexts, repertoires and repercussions of mass insurgency

1995 Virgilio Rojas

Dept. of Economic History, Stockholm University, Sweden

“At the moment that a real earnest period of mass strikes begins all these “calculations of costs” change into the project of draining the ocean with a water glass.” (Rosa Luxemburg)

“Like a cork afloat on the sea, it (traditional ideology) has risen above and overcome each wave of history as, one one by one, they have rushed up and borken on the shore.” (David Lan)


A quick scan of the historical record of mass insurgency reveals an annoying paradox: inbuilt sources of conflict and alienation in stratified societies, insofar as they operate by definition on the basis of relative degrees of unequal access to power and resources, scarcely emote mass rebellion among subordinate groups. And when the habitual halcyon breaks on occasion into maelstrom and mass rebellion does take center stage, it weaves a vast and diverse web of repertoires and forms, meanings, and repercussions that often escape systematic captivity into the neat models and typologies of theoretical orthodoxy on the subject.

Not rarely, popular protest pulls the rug from underneath these received tenets by sometimes erupting or evaporating when they are ‘logically’ not supposed to, or assume myriad forms that remain invisible to the skillful eyes of seasoned scholars. While there is evidence to show that distinct social systems and processes may draw the general parameters within which broadly identical repertoires of struggles may emerge, in the sense for example of industrial capitalism breeding typical proletarian movements everywhere, the huge frontier in which intervening forces operate between cause and effect remains relatively unexplored. By uncovering these intricate intermediary links, one may make sense of that often bizarre relationship between invariabilities (causes/bases) and variabilities (forms/repertoires).

Notably, diagnostic flaws seem to stem from dented but durable Procrustean assumptions, parented by vulgar functionalist and structuralist, both Marxist and non-Marxist paradigms,

upon which contemporary analyses continue to feed in relative doses. 1

Cognitively, these dominant discourses have tended to perceive the origins, dynamics and diversity of mass insurgency exclusively in terms of either consensus and temporarily malfunctioning if self-adjusting systems (functionalism), or conflict and productive modes advancing in succession on the crest of autogenous class contradictions (Marxism), or dramatically advancing economic systems outpacing and short-changing value systems (relative deprivation theories). Inadvertently, cognitive differences intersect normatively in accounting for wide discrepancies of protest repertoires and repercussions between societies of what is fashionably labeled today as North and South.

Whether one departs from ahistorical dichotomies, denoted by s-c modern versus traditional pattern variables, or historically-moored models, like the Marxist distinction between anachronistic feudal versus advanced capitalist modes of production defined by exclusive features of base-superstructures, they all appear to share a common teleological attribute suggesting the inevitable progression of all societies and related institutions (or in our sense, social bases), and by extension, equivalent modes of collective agitation (or repertoires)from collectively lower to higher states - from imperfect or inferior to perfect and superior forms.

Emerging in the wake of this allegedly evolutionary process are state of the art popular movements and organizations armed with modern, rational and thus more effective ideologies, political programs in which to articulateclaims, and organizational technologies in contradistinction to “primitive” inchoate forms sentenced either to adapt or completely perish. In the final analysis, contending models, in effect, endorse the “rule” of modern industrial societies(bases) and movements/organizations /repertoires)as the standard from which to gauge extant forms elsewhere, where disparities are simply seen as temporary deviations in a predetermined course of evolution heralded by the advanced North.

By graphic empirical illustration, authors under critical review in this limited essay highlight in sundry ways critical limitations and lacunae in conventional thought and introduce a number of methodological insights for bridging the gap between the theory and practice of popular movements. Moving beyond mechanical deductions of expected protest repertoires and repercussions from theoretically sanctified causes (bases), concerned writers decipher de facto deviations midway (between cause and effect) in terms of complex and intervening socio-cultural, political and institutional factors and overlapping contexts, which ultimately pattern and give meaning to the wide spectrum of protest forms and outcomes registered across time, space and social settings.

1 For an insightful critical survey, see e.g. Chap. 2, “General theories of social movements: Functionalism and Marxism”, in Scott, Allan (1990) Ideolog y and th e New S ocial Mo vemen ts. London: Unwin Hyman. A more comprehensive review can be found in Rule, James R (1988) Theories of Civil Disobedience. Berkeley: UCP.

From Hobsbawm to Ileto: Problematizing Popular Protest

Contributors discussed in this review locate their critical incisions on different points along the standard scale of traditionalism-cum-modernism. Hobsbawm (1969), organizes not so much a critical foray against standard cognitive and normative biases as a pioneering expedition into the hitherto unexpected territory of what he labels “archaic” or “primitive” social movements, i.e., popular movements which are neither traditional nor modern in the full sense, emerging as they do at the interface between waning feudalism and waxing industrial capitalism and urbanization in late 18 th and early 19 th century Western and Southern Europe.

While this disruptive era in European history has been written off, specially by behaviorist theories, as nothing more than irrational fits of rage as a result of alienating forces unleashed by modernization, Hobsbawm seeks to uncover the transitional social and moral logic, the political and “moral” economies if you like, of diverse and seemingly inchoate rural (social brigandage, millenarian movements) and urban (riots, labor sects) protest repertoires. Contrary to typical descriptions he shows that the evolution of traditional to modern popular movements occurs neither in jumps nor straightforwardly, and may indeed be a relatively protracted process. As such, the evolutionary process allows for the co-existence of varied forms in a continuum pending the total demise of the old social order.

Harrison (1988), in his limited yet fecund investigation of crowds and crowd events in four vintage pre-industrial and pre-Victorian English towns, critically revamps crucial cognitive and normative blind-spots infecting the narratives of crowd historians like Hobsbawm, Rude and Thompson. These writers, according to him, tend to overstate the case for the pre- dominance in this pre-industrial age of purely disruptive and confrontational protest repertoires personified by the classic food riots.

Deploying a much broader repertoire (including ceremonial and celebratory crowds), Harrison teases out the possibility of, as it were, “last minute reconciliations of conflict” as well as symbolic or quasi-ritualized forms of contention which would have otherwise remained invisible underneath the cloak of apparently consensual crowd events. Whether articulating overtly or covertly, protest repertoires are reproduced and mediated by interlacing local, national, and socio-cultural contexts and the way in which popular perceptions and definitions of environment and identity change in tandem with general urban development.

In similar vein, but moving from the preceding gray zone to the opposite ends of the scale, Davis (1975), Worsley (1969), Moore (1978),and Piven and Cloward (1977) apply contextual analysis in their critical surgery of standard suppositions. Together, they provide empirical cases for a cross-Atlantic comparison of archetypal Western specimens of traditional versus modern popular movements. While the first duo takes a nostalgic look at the select exemplars of traditionalism (feudal youth abbeys/turbulent religious riots in urban France of the late

Middle Ages and, respectively, a heterogenous ensemble of agrarian and urban popular movements of late 19 th and 20 th century vintage from the Russian narodniks, North American movements in the South West to “modern” populism in the Third World), the latter writers recount the tragic fates of modern urban and proletarian movements that failed dismally to fulfil their “historic mission” in the advancing industrial economies of Germany and USA in the mid 19 th and 20 th centuries. Both Davis’ and Worsely’s recaps, each serve critical notice on the irreducibleness of traditional repertoires to any one single logic, nor could they simply be stated in terms of any predesignated or fixed set of mutually exclusive pattern variables defining and contr-distinguishing popular movements of traditional versus modern genres (e.g., religious versus secular; affective, communalist and conformist versus rational, class- based, confrontational; customary, defensive versus associational offensive ideologies, politics and organization).

For Davies, traditional repertoires signifiedby youth abbeys and religious riots may, far from just being transmission belts of conservatism, indeed serve as double-bladedconduits for both conformism and change, in terms of reinforcing, on the one hand, old normsand community values and for symbolically communicating political critique, on the other.

Moreover, as poignantly portrayed by popular religious hostilities bearing no systematic correlation with socio-economic disputes, she suggests that pending qualitative social transformation, it is possible to demarcate the boundaries of relatively autonomous and overlapping hierarchies (in the sense of multiple bases representing different axes of power, property and control, e.g., productive versus emotional resources) which are “not reducible one to the other,” and whereby diverse and distinct repertoires may derive. Hence, akin to the moral economy logic of Thompsonian food riots of the pre-industrial era, religious conflict possesses if you like its own brand of moral economy.

Worsley’s comparative exposé of a motley collection of populist movements strikes a similar chord. Contrary to the common view reducing populism to a coherent ideology (particularly with agrarian communalist overtones), politics and organization (ambiguously defined by the notion of “will of the people” and direct contact with popular leaders) thriving in the backwaters of traditionalist cultures and pre-modern movements in transition, the evidence demonstrates that apart from assuming a variety of forms depending on the final mix of specific socio-economic base, cultural and political contexts in different settings, it exhibits in fact the capacity to cross-fertilize and survive even in believe it or not, well-acknowledged modern movements.

If one follows Davis’ line, Worsley adumbrates not only the multiplicity of bases and repertoires within a given context, but also across a panorama of contexts traversing both traditional and modern. Populism is rather a constantly recurring style of politics, which for all intents and purposes can, under specific conditions, be mobilized in the service of a broad spectrum of modern political ideologies from Right to Left.

The apparent diversity of repertoires and repercussions of politically significant popular outrage is highlighted at the opposite end by Moore and Piven and Cloward’s revealing historical anecdotes of modern labor and urban movements of mid- and late industrial capitalism in Germany and the United States. Both writers address a number of irritating “flies in the ointment” of Marxist orthodoxy and classic resource mobilization theories by bringing in historical, socio-cultural (Moore) and politico-cultural (Piven and Cloward) contexts into the analytical picture. Moore asks why, contrary to Leninist assertions of the historical inevitability of proletarian revolutions heralding the reconstruction of new socialist ideals of justice and equality, proletarian revolutions have, particularly in the capitalist homelands of the North, remained such a rare collectors’ item. Despite standardization of the liabilities of misery following in the wake of industrial capitalism, the major contingents of the working class have invariably pulled their punches and remained enigmatically docile.

Drawing from social contract theories, Moore explores the psychological, social, moral and political forces that conspire in the making or breaking of this puzzling “social anaesthesia;” and the conditions under which subordinate groups turn to collective action as a “last resort antidote” to perceived social injustices. Indeed as Moore’s comparative study of the distinct histories of two adjacent trades - the coal miners and steel and metal workers in the German industrial hub of the Ruhr from mid 19 th to 20 th century - suggests, the proletariat has in fact been more socially composite than hitherto assumed, perceiving and behving with reference to standard material deprivations in contrasting, and not rarely, contradictory modes.

That the locus of collective activism has historically been situated rather among privileged and articulate than underprivileged segments of the working class, viz., the coal miners with deeply rooted socio-cultural institutions and tradition of bargaining and belligerency, underscores the fact that subordinate groups do by no means subjectively volunteer to high risk revolutionary projects simply by the fiat of intensifying objectiveconditions of immersion unless they are able to acknowledge a radical breach in commonly subscribed traditions of authority, moral codes and social arrangements.

The heritage of strong corporate identity and negotiating practices from artisan and guild forebears - surviving well into the early 20 th century, partially due to the constraints of labor intensive technology in mining - enjoyed by the Ruhr coal miners not only made them more sensitive to violations of moral codes and social contracts in the face of the new and bourgeoning individualist morality of the market economy, but also equipped them with the cultural furniture by which to articulate their griefs. Provisionally, Moore concludes that spontaneous conceptions among “pre-factory workers, factory workers, and modern revolutionary peasants have been mainly backward-looking. They have been attempts to revive a social contract that has been violated.” Epic “trans-valuation” from moral compliance to confrontation, from local to sectoral or even national arenas punctuate the stage only very rarely and occur when the social order is under extreme duress and normal institutional and private life undergo massive “de-routinization.”

Across the Atlantic, marked de-routinization of thesocial order and disruption of institutional norms during the Great Depression and the two World Wars, as Piven and Cloward report, also fueled widespread dissension among American urban poor and working classes. They probe into the track record of four major urban movements - the unemployed, industrial workers’, civil rights, and relief movements - as they evolved from disruptive and extra- institutional forms of mass mobilization to institutionalized formal organizations.

Searching for clues as to why these initially vibrant and virile mass movements eventually either met limited success or patent failure, concerned writers place the main thrust of their study on the politico-cultural context of urban struggles. With cruel irony, Piven and Cloward’s findings show that given the structure and climate of politics in the United States, organizational scaling-up rather than upping the odds for popular political empowerment, participation and resource transfer lead in the long run to the scaling down of mass militancy and, by that virtue, the dilution of the single most effective source of political power. Once hooked up with the larger polity via the electoral representative system, popular organizations operating along instrumentalist lines tend to become vulnerable to the “civilizing” effect of formal bargaining procedures and co-optive machinations of powerful state and elite forces in exchange for cosmetic reforms.

At the end of the day, conclude the writers, protest movements are essentially shaped by institutional conditions and not by purposeful efforts of organizations and leaders within which boundaries collective defiance acquires latitude. And since periods of profound social dislocation and institutional mayhem as well as opportunities for effective protest via disruptive forms are few and far between, it is the ability of popular forces to exploit the political space that “historical circumstances had already made ready for them” that makes the makes the difference between winning and losing.

While revolutions and massinsurgencies, according to the allusions of previous contributions, appear to be a luxury item in the modern industrial economies of the North, the opposite is true as far as the traditional agrarian societies of the South are concerned., Indeed, these still largely rural societies have by any standard been the reputed treadmills of revolutionary struggles and broader protest repertoires 2 incorporating both armed and unarmed modes. Why so? Neither mainstream structural (Marxist) nor functionalist (modernization) paradigms can adequately account for this discrepancy since the relative standardization of invoked causes have, despite the noted general frequency of civil disobedience, by no means guaranteed indiscriminate outbreaks of collective defiance everywhere in the South (if one follows vulgar Marxist models), nor have relatively industrialized economies there (e.g., NIC countries) equipped with modern institutions on par with their Northern counterparts (following the logic of modernization theories), been immune from the contagion of popular

2 See Esckstein, S. ed (1989) Introduction in Power and Popular Protest: Latin American Social Move ments. Berkley: UCP.



Furthermore, popular movements, particularly when they take on national trappings and political trajectories, are often submitted by mainstream models as hard evidence of an incontrovertible break in the progressive evolution of collective protest repertoires from traditional to modern forms. Concurrently, many textbook narratives of the modern histories of nation states in the South frequently begin with the rise of forward-looking anti-colonial and nationalist movements radically breaking away from the anachronisms of past tradition, insofar as they now are enlightened and led by modernizing ideologies, political agendas (liberal bourgeois or Marxist) and social agents (petite bourgeois or proletarian) and operate under rational and secular procedures and norms of organization.

That the gelling of “modern” nationalist movements might just as well signify popular attempts at making sense of and creatively resolving contemporary social crisis by re-linking (rather than de-linking) with the cultural identities and traditions of the past is the common thread which ties together the separate but equally culturally sensitive accounts (in ways reminiscent of both Davis’ and Harrison’s respective works in French religious riots and pre- Victorian English celebratory crowds) of Lan and Ileto on the popular struggles for national independence in Zimbabwe and the Philippines. In fact, as both writers hint at, the successful fusion of traditional and modern political and cultural streams could very well be decisive in the mobilization of vast segments of the populace to national revolutionary projects.

Lan’s detailed field study of one of ZANLAs (the military wing of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union, ZANU) key guerilla operational bases in the Zambezi Valley during the national liberation struggle in the 1970s depicts how massive peasant mobilization and support to the anti-colonial struggle (in recent as well as previous abortive rebellions) had been crucially facilitated and legitimized by local spiritual mediums and “makers of rain,” the acknowledged spokesmen of traditional Shona folk ideology and political authority.

Rhyming closely with Lan, Ileto’s trail-blazing reinterpretation of the symbolic and ritual meaning of the 1896 Revolution for national independence in the Philippines – attributed by mainstream Filipino historians to the innovative leadership of the ascending native middle class, the so-called illustrados, the standard bearers of modern ideas of nation, state, and democracy, similarly notes by way of contextual analysis of Tagalog folk liturgy, popular poems, songs, scattered autobiographies, etc., how the spirit and language of folk religious traditions and communitarian values and ideals popularized by antecedent peasant brotherhoods and millenarian movements had been recycled rather than junked by the revolutionary leadership. This connection articulates, according to Ileto, the double entendre of traditional religious and cultural repertoires: while usually promoting passivity and reconciliation rather than conflict, the very same repertoires have latent meanings that can be revolutionary.


To “rewind,” we return briefly to our general issues:


What “switches” collective alienation “on or off” to collective defiance, or conversely, to apathy and approbation vis-à-vis regimes of authority? (i.e., what are the origins/causes or in our terms, bases of tension and contention between superordinate and subordinate groups in society?)


Within what specifiable context (s) do(oes) collective defiance happen or not happen?


When it does occur, collective defiance takes on a variety of shapes and forms (or in the jargon used here, repertoires) across time, space, and social settings. What then accounts for this copious variability?


What determines the limits or latitude of the net-impact or effect of collective defiance?

Clearly, there are as many answers as there are questions on this subject. Contributors under scrutiny here have only provided us with some partial ones and hit their highest scores more in the area of methodological fine-tuning rather than grand theorizing.

To systematically appraise the merits of these contributions, the following sections will:

A. critically abstract the main arguments and assumptions posited by selected paradigms (functionalist, structuralist, and so-called middle-range theories on collective protest and social movements) relative to the central issues of this paper (i.e., the bases, contexts, repertoires, and repercussions of collective protests);

B. critically assess the analytical and methodological “market value” of sundry writers’ contributions. “Vertically,” in conjunction with selected paradigms they explicitly or implicitly link up with and toward which they direct their attempts at repudiation rectification or refinement. “Horizontally,” by highlighting points of cleavage and confluence between respective contributions;

C. Conclude by a resume of salient empirical and methodological insights and problems.

Theoretical and Methodological Discourses

- Macro, Meso and Micro-level Approaches 3

In the search for substantive answers to the recurring classic Hobbessian conundrum as to what presupposes or suspends civil strife and rebellion, postwar scholars in the social sciences have broadly borrowed intellectual material from three towering theoretical streams, which, albeit distinct divisions, dovetail in terms of positing causal explanations, viz., macro-level

3 This section has drawn from the comprehensive reviews of Rule (1988) and Scott (1990), and from the abridged summaries of Walton, J & Ragin, C (1990), Piven & Cloward (1977), Harrison (1988). Enlightenment on the general dispute between functional, structural, and human agency approaches employed by historians and sociologists derives from Burke, Peter (1992).


functionalist and structuralist (both Marxist and non-Marxist versions) and micro-psycho- causal theories (e.g., behaviorist and utilitarian/rational choice models).

It is important to note at the outset that while said divisions can formally be delimited, these lines are certainly neither absolute nor rigid, and that one can in fact find instances of psycho- causal models departing from higher levels of aggregation (cf relative deprivation theory) as well as intersecting points between the three streams.

Critically, the cause-detecting ambitions of these models tend by design or accident to among others relegate contextual factors to the back-burner. While these dominant theories do enjoy empirical weight in a host of verifying cases, this has been countervailed by a corresponding set of falsifying examples elsewhere.

The recurring dilemma of accounting for “the other half” of popular protest so to speak has provided strong impetus to the recent wave of empirical enquiry on the subject in the late 1970s and onwards, drawing inspiration from so-called middle-range theories (meso-level approaches) and putting context high on the research agenda. A trend which marks the shift from specifications of necessary, but insufficient invariabilities, to conjunctural and context- dependent factors governing the variabilities of popular protest.

Turning now to the idiosyncrasies of dominant discourses as they intrude upon the origins of mass insurgency. One main artery of contention is given by the different coordinates on which various models plot te causes of rebellion. Similarly, albeit for different reasons, both structuralist and functionalist models attach the locus classicus of causes to structures (to either class structures emanating from socio-economic relations of production or functionally operating social institutions), whereas psychologically oriented explanations inflect on the centrality of human agency.

Further, certain cognitive and normative biases, which for better or for worse, as we shall discuss later ahead, impinge upon and impart crucial implications to respective method- ologies.

Causes, Contingencies, and Consequences of Mass Insurgency - Macro versus Micro-level Approaches

Returning to the Hobbessian question, what then presupposes civil compliance or disobedience? Differentially packaged micro-level approaches commonly address this issue from the perspective of individual psychologies, two of which merit particular attentionhere:

behaviorist and rational choice theories.


Drawing from the tenets of behaviorist psychology, 4 the former tends to view rebellious collective behavior as the aggregated expression of maladaptive individual behaviors provoked by certain disruptive external stimuli or “unfortunate” contingencies in the life of individuals.

Psychological explanations in this genus emphasize character traits and stressful states of mind that dispose individuals to rebellion. Individuals who are alienated and anomic (Kornhauser, 1959); who feel frustrated and deprived relative to others with whom they compare themselves (Davies 1962, Feierabend & Feierabend 1979, Gurr 1970), and who are attracted to new norms and values (Smelser 1963), have all been portrayed as defiant types and their defiant actions as irrational. 5

While behaviorism sentences mass insurgents to the black-box of unexplained aberrations, rational choice theorists 6 (e.g., Olson 1965, Oberchall 1973, Popkin 1979) mold dissenting individuals in the image of self-interested, instrumental, rationally strategizing actors. The mainspring of collective action and mobilization here is not collective motives or goals, but rather individual self-interested decisions based on cost-benefit calculations of often high-risk strategies of non-compliance with the status quo. Rational actors with inherently divisible interests are disinclined to assume the risks of mobilization for essentially indivisible “collective goods” (Olson 1965) because they can “ride free.” Collective defiance is likely only when actors receive selective incentives for their participation in anti-status-quo movements, and, correspondingly, wheneffective penaltiesare meted out on no-participating “free-riding” members.

However, as some critics 7 have argued, this model, insofar as it restricts the rationale of collective action entirely to egocentric motives of actors, cannot account for the ways group

4 Behavio rist psycholog y is ultra-empiricist in ter ms of confirm ing psycholo gical investigatio ns exclusively to measura ble and o bservable behavior, w hile excising the c ausal role of inte rnal, covert o r mental pro cesses in explaining human behavior. Behavioral disorder, whether collective or individual, is assumed to result from “unfortunate conditions n the life of the individual (s) leading to the acquisition of maladaptive behaviors. Thomas Hobbes himself had flirted with a similar position long before behaviorism struck roots in the early 20 th century. See Reber, A (1985).

5 culled from Eckstein, S. (1989).

6 informed by neo-classical economic theory, this style of analysis (mostly among economists and political scientists) rose to prominence in the late 1960s, at about the same time as theorists treating violent political action as rational pursuit of group interest. From Olson, Oberchall to Popkin, this model has undergone successive facelifting to further sop histicate argum ents on the ov er-decisiven ess of self-interest and to check the patent neglec t given to collective mo tives in accou nting for the orig ins and dyna mics of collec tive mobiliza tion. Particula rly notable is Samuel Popkin’s (1979) sensitization of this model to collective motives in his classic study of peasant mobilizations in rural Vietnam

7 Rule (98 8), Scott (1 990), E kstein (198 9), op.cit.


solidarities, moral commitment to the collective, and other non-rational values may mobilize people to act independently of individual self-interest. Nor can they account for the net-impact acts of defiance produce, since there can never be any warranty that projected results motivating rebellion in the first place will tally with the actual outcome of the executed act of defiance. The introductory quote on Luxemburg reminds us only too well in terms of how the final score of revolutionary struggles invariably flies in the face of many cost-calculating engineers of rebellion!

Unyielding constraints on the ability of rational human agency to single-handedly determine the final destination of calculated courses of action bring some grist to the mills of macro-level models insisting on the primacy of structural and functional determinants of collective action. The general controversy between structuralist and functionalist theories in the social sciences is well known and off-shoots of these rival approaches in their various shades /either in mixed or “pure” form) extend into the study of mass movements and insurgencies.

Whereas functionalist models (specially those hewing closely to Durkheimian and Parsonian sociology) tend to decipher the latter as “safety valve” mechanisms ( or occasional but in the functionalist sense, necessary dysfunctions, exceptions confirming the rule) which in the final analysis paradoxically operate in favor of reinforcing consensus and cohesion within existing socio-cultural institutions and solidarities. Structuralists (specially in the vocabulary of orthodox Marxism) are inclined to see them as systematic expressions of conflict arising from genetic antagonisms in economic relations of production and class structures. Whereas both deduce the logic of civil disorder from macro-structures, these are contrastingly depicted as either self-calibrating homeostatic systems of conflict-reproducing modes of production bound to self-detonate at some point in time to bring about social change.

What crucial factor (s) tilt (s) the balance in either direction between social compliance and confrontation? Key destabilizing factors to functionalist systems-maintenance are perceived as dramatic violations of implicit social and institutional arrangements and contracts, hand in glove with massive breakdown of institutional control and regulation. For much of orthodox Marxism, social change via revolutionary upheaval is thought to occur when an objective location and conscious identity coincide, i.e., when social actors become class actors. 8

At bottom, this process of objective enlightenment leading, as it were, towards revolutionary voluntarism among paragon class actors - proletarians - is preconditioned by objective economic pressures, i.e., capitalist-bred immiserization reaching breaking-point. Similarly, psycho-structuralist streams, like contemporary expositors of the more liberal de

8 Scott, ibid.


Tocquevillean model of rising expectations (relative deprivation theory), 9 pinpoint rapid economic change engendered by, for example, industrialization and urbanization, as the nerve-center of social tension, but reverse Marxist arguments nonetheless by claiming that periods of economic advance rather than intensifying misery may generate expectations that outpace the rate of actual economic gain, thus exacerbating frustrations and forcing mass rebellion to erupt. 10

Still, other macro-level attempts, straddling the borders between functionalism and structuralism to find common causal processes for all incidents of collective behavior, 11 specify a set of necessary conditions, chronologically ordered and operating in “knock-on” sequence of episodes of collective behavior (defined as mobilization on the basis of belief which redefines social action) to occur. Concomitantly, these determinants include: structural conduciveness (permissivenessof social arrangements to the generation of social movements), structural strain (existence of ambiguities, deprivation, tensions and conflicts in society), and the breakdown of social control.

Critical authors have indicted macro-causal theories on several counts. Itemized in their “rap sheet” reports are the following compulsive infractions. Functionalism’s consensualistic prejudices make it analytical insensitive to vital variables behind social conflict, change, and innovative collective actions. Also by “functionalizing” the causes of collective protest, i.e.

collapsing its cause and effect, they tend to fertilize circular arguments. For orthodox Marxism, a familiar delinquency is that of economic determinism. Certainly, economic relations are

necessary conditions and sources of tension and defiance

Yet, by no means do they

mechanically determine how and when economically subordinate groups rebel. In addition, apart from the fact that economic relations cannot be restricted to purely productive ones (cf.

economic spheres of distribution and consumption), British Marxist single-base assumptions ride roughshod over a wide range of equally relevant, relatively autonomous potential bases of social tension like gender, ethnicity, and religion.

For relative deprivation theories, singularly invoked socio-psychological standards of satisfaction/dissatisfaction, although endemic in most societies, can and have in a multitude of cases been overridden by a host of other considerations like moral and cultural elements. And for Smelserian structural-functionalism, the “value-added logic” governing the tight chronology of structural determinants appears to be more sustainable under “laboratory” rather than actual “field” conditions. No doubt, Smelser’s determinants do exist, but they do

9 This classic stre am links the var iabilities of collec tive behavio r unleashed by structural strains to differences in fulfilment of socio-psychological core standards of satisfaction/dissatisfaction.

10 See Piven And Cloward (1977), op cit.

11 Smelser, N (1962).


not have to follow the neat sequence he once envisioned. Moreover, his model can hardly account for which features of the social structure fo condition the array of responses to strain, and those which pattern outcomes of collective defiance. Consequently, it leaves little room for historical variability. 12

As Piven and Cloward (1977) once argued, while the weakening of social controls escorting ruptures in social life may be an important precondition for popular uprisings, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the infrastructure of social life simply and completely collapses . Nor do those who react to these disturbances by protesting are also those who suffer the sharpest personal disorientation and alienation. It may well be the opposite, that those whose lives are rooted in some institutional context are best able to confederate in some mode of collective protest.

In sum, As Scott (1990) notes, the general limitation of macro-causal theories of one or the other denomination stems from the shared pre-occupation with establishing necessary yet insufficient conditions for mobilization. This inclination compels them to ignore a priori relevant questions relating to social agents and the specific context of their actions, like why mobilization occurs and why it assumes the specific form it does.

However, it doesn’t necessarily follow that in the presence of all specific pre-conditions social movements will actually appear, or that agents will be inspired to act collectively. The appearance or otherwise of such movements will certainly depend upon a host of other factors which are context-specific and can’t simply be deduced from socio-cultural conditions alone - e.g., the presence and absence of emotive issues and potential leading actors, the reaction of authorities, social agents’ calculations of the possible benefits of action versus inaction.

Further agents are either treated as fundamentally irrational, or at least, non-rational; or their actions only become relevant when they coincide with the course of action thought appropriate given a specific theoretical understanding of the social structure, class and material relations, etc.

Equally crucial, as Eckstein (1989) adds, are the intervening roles played by “local institutional structures and cultural milleux, inter-class ties and alliances, and perceived options to “exit” in determining whether and how shared grievances are defied and resisted.”

Lastly, despite cognitive and methodological cleavages (consensus versus conflict), structuralist and functionalist models both forge an enduring cease-fire on similar normative

12 This po int is instructively illustrated in a recent mu ltivariate cross-na tional study of p opular rea ctions to IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programs in over 250 countries, where broadly identical strains generated by austerity programs have spaw ned a gamut of urban poor reactions and repertoires with varying political outcome s. Walton and Rag in (1990 ), op cit.


grounds – in qualifying qualitative discrepancies, whether between institutions or movements, they use a set of idealized positive criteria from which negative or deviant cases are gauged and defined. Unmistakably, the evolutionistic grammar in which such opposing qualifiers – e.g., modern versus traditional; pre-modern versus modern movements; vertical non-class versus horizontal class-based solidarities – is couched reflects these competing models’ common allegiance to a universal and uni-linear blueprint of societal development.

Once again, Scott (1990) captures this point eloquently:

methodological differences, social movements are accorded no less anachronistic status within

structural Marxism than they w ere within functionalism, though for rather different reasons. Social movements are defined negatively as non -quite-class movem ents. Like institutions in functionalism , class movem ents in Marxism provide a norm against which other forms of activity are m easured: a norm in term s of which other social mov ements co nstitute dev iant cases.” 13


From Causes to Contexts, Contingencies and Consequences of Mass Insurgency – Meso-Level Approaches

Diminishing returns on intellectual investments in single-ordered explanations and causal models hiked the demand for meso-level or middle-range theories in the late 1970s and onwards. This budding trend in the study of popular protest pulled the fulcrum of inquiry away from causes to mediating contexts, contingencies and diverse consequences – from context-free invariabilities to context-dependent variabilities of mass insurgency. The task was to fill in the vacuum of unanswered questions previous approached had left behind.

Indeed, many of the contributions discussed in this essay can be sorted under this category, Although lines of kinship with macro- and micro-level models are often thinly veiled, and therefore tend to blur distinctions, what relatively marks fish from fowl here is the particular focus on middle-level issues and units of analysis (e.g., mobilization problems of formal organizations like resource mobilization theory of RMT) and complex contexts which conjunct to produce diverse, but patterned protest repertoires and outcomes.

However, these distinctions are, in my opinion, not so much substantive (i.e., theoretically, these bear more modest pretensions than the grand theories they reject or seek to rectify and refine) as they are methodological (albeit with significant theoretical implications). Since we will in a short while assess the merits of selected works, which incidentally do toe kindred middle-rangelines, that discussion shall not be anticipated here. But before moving on, abrief summary of an early meso-level tradition – resource mobilization theory, RMT – against which one major work to be examined further on (Piven and Cloward 1977) has leveled fierce

13 Scott (19 90), op cit: 39.


flak, in order.

Resource mobilization theory (RMT) is perhaps the most well-formulated non-Marxist school of thought that attempts to explain social movements at the meso (organizational)-level. 14 RMT argues that grievances are endemic to social structure, and that they therefore can’t in themselves account for the emergence of social movements. Like the rational choice theorists (cf functionalism), RMT proponents see movement actions as rational responses to the costs and rewards of different lines of action. Unlike them, however, they emphasize that movements are contingent, above all, upon resources, group organization, andopportunities for collective action.

RMT posits that when groups share strong distinctive identities and dense interpersonal networks, members are readily mobilizable – identities and networks provide a base for collective incentives. Outside entrepreneurs or movement operators can be crucial mobilizing agents, specially among deprived groups with minimal political and organizational experiences. Factors external to a polity are important, but are mediated primarily by their impact on states and regimes. In drawing attention to these factors, RMT has been sensitive to the inherent constraints and instability of collective action, a factor which macro-theories largely disregard. Nevertheless, in contrast to contextualizing meso-level approaches, RMT skirts the content and socio-political context of collective action. It is concerned with the dynamics of collective action per se, independent of context and the actual aims of such action.

Homing in on Theoretical and Methodological Frequencies - “Vertical” and “Horizontal Linkages”

Sundry writers under review broadly belong to the league of, what Söderstedt (1972) had once labeled, “piece-meal engineers” (referred to elsewhere as middle-range theories) than grand theorists. The basic thrust uniting them appears to be the filtering out of complex intermediary contexts which link invariable causes with the variable effects (repertoires and repercussions) of protest, inductively and successively building theory from the bottom-up.

In greater or lesser degrees, however, vertical linkages with macro-structuralist/functionalist and micro-rationalist thinking manifest themselves at several junctures – inter alia,

a) in the specification of general objective causes/dynamics (i.e., acknowledged necessary but

insufficient explanations) as well as subjective imperatives of protest;

b) in the way cause and effect (bases and repertoires/repercussions) are contextualized;

14 Ibid; Eckstein, op cit; Rule, op cit; Walton and Rag in, op cit.


c) in the conceptualization and normative definition of what precise features constitute popular/social movements.

In turn these vertical linkages tend to horizontally polarize concerned writers in terms of varying methodological approaches and ways of empirically operationalizing used concepts and addressing posed theoretical issues.

Causes and Dynamics of Popular Protest – Single Versus Multiple Bases

Let us dwell into the first linkage point: objective causes and dynamics cum subjective imperatives of protest. General assumptions from the above grand trio ae sophisticatedly recycled into the popular meso-level theories to which some of our protagonists here, implicitly or explicitly, attach – viz., “transition to order/restraint” and so-called “social breakdown, disorganization, de-routinization” theories.

These explanations expect the Pandora’s box of popular protest to pry open as a result of the disruptive impact of the Leviathan forces of capitalist industrialization, urbanization or “abnormal” tensions caused by economic crises, wars, etc. on normal social institutions, arrangements and routines regulating everyday life. Such rare disruptiveepisodes apparently correlate with outbursts of collective militancy and insurgency, particularly because short- circuiting institutions “throw people out of orbit” and cause disenchantedsubordinategroups to seek redress elsewhere via extra-institutional channels.

Institutional breakdown may mark the qualitative shift from anachronistic social moral arrangements and solidarities to the innovative sanctioning mechanisms of cohesion, thus signaling in the same vein the transition from the old to the new order (as testified, for instance by the classic progression from feudal to capitalist orders). This transition implies the institutionalization of new shared values (e.g., feudal collectivistic and agrarian communal- istic progressively being undermined by waxing individualistic market-oriented capitalist ethos) to which contracting superordinate and subordinate groups and parties subscribe and on which new social contracts are forged. It appears concurrently that transitions from old to new orders may be bloody and messy, up to a point when the regulatory and cohesive powers of novel contracts are effectively installed and fully operative.

The structuralist and functionalist implications of these models lie in : the substantive role ascribed to changing economic relations, hierarchies, and values brought about by capitalist expansion (structuralism) and its dissolving impact on traditional forms as ultimate bases of tension blended with the largely consensualist (functionalism, insofar as conflict articulated in mass insurgency tends to be seen rather as occasional outbursts under extraordinary conditions of structural breakdown) and thermostatic functions assigned to institutions, whether old or new.


Rationalist sometimes mix with structural-functionalist assumptions in the specification of subjective imperatives – in the sense of modernizing middle-operators and leading agents introducing secular and universalistic goals, ideologies, political programs, rational and effective organizational technologies. However, the rationality attached to, for example, modern as opposed to traditional movements (allegedly more predisposed to non-rational moralistic standards) assumes a plurality of connotations and normative definitions. Rational choice assumptions of instrumentalist and self-interested actors are in this case deformed beyond recognition, a fact which reflects the relative dominance of structural-functionalist discourses among concerned writers.

If we thus compare them on this point, there seems to be broad consensus on general causes and dynamics, although there may be disagreement on whether these deriveexclusively from singular bases (economic relations) or co-extensively from relatively independent multiple bases (including non-economic relations). Vertical linkages with structuralism/functionalism are ost pronounced in the works of Hobsbawm and Piven and Cloward, who, although addressing different theoretical issues (the former theorizing on transitional but distinct protest repertoires/social movements, while the latter, focusing on problems of mobilization in modern organizations), tend at the same time to view causes in terms of singular bases.

The latter point is most clearly overstretched in Hobsbawm’s transition thesis, which basically suggests that even though the process of the complete dissolution of his “archaic” social movements might be uneven, and in some cases, protracted, they would inevitably succumb or vanish in the wake of modern class-based movements spawned by the logic and contradictions of economic class relations in capitalist production.

In Hobsbawm’simagery, so it seems, “pre-political” essentially “reformist” and “evolutionary backward” movements dynamized precariously by the logic of disintegrating “moral economies” meet their tragic fate as “anomalous historical footnotes in the general trajectory towards modern labor and socialist movements.” The subjective determinants he engages are transparently class-specific with strong Marxist connotations. Simultaneously, there is a functional component to Hobsbawm’s arguments: structurally destabilizing causes of mass conflict at transitional interface are eventually upset by the functionally stabilizing effects of modern institutions and organizations of the new social order (transition-to-order thesis).

In Piven and Cloward’s study of modern American urban movements, primarily a rejoinder to mainstream RMT discourse, Hobsbawm’s relatively dignified subjective determinants are subsumed entirely to the whim of structural constraints. Although unlike Hobsbawm they refer more to political structures, like him these writers trace the ultimate causes of disruption and civil strife to episodic dislocations in the economy leading to temporary de-routinization of civil life and institutional systems-breakdown.


Harrison’s and Moore’s separate accounts of English urban crowds and German workers’ movements, albeit also reflecting vertical linkages fundamentally by way of breakdown and de-routinization assumptions, do keep safer distance from the overstatements issued by the previous duo.

In different ways, they seem to suggest that protest repertoires don’t necessarily have to derive from any one single logic. These may be keyed instead on other equally decisive bases, or more stringently put, on the way economic and non-economic bases interact. In the case of Harrison’s pre-industrial towns (i.e., typically commercial rather than industrial), the urbanization process and the deep symbolic structures it breeds may provide more critical bases of contention (as well as cohesion) than purely economic ones.

Moore shows that while the capitalist economic logic may be primary lid-openers of conflict and change, its assumed homologous dissolving logic may in varying degrees be mitigated by the presence or absence of other non-economic forces producing, indeed, contrasting repertoires, both compliant and confrontational ones.

Pitching in his share against structural determinism and single-base logic, Worsley’s comparative study of differentstrains of popular movements illustrates rather how structural relativism in the sense of a wide spectrum of structural settings and societies from North to South, generates broadly similar, but “indigenized” or vernacular variants of the populist protest repertoire.

Lastly, the staunchest exponent of the multiple-base perspective can be found in Davis who speaks of multiple and co-existing hierarchies of sundry kinds of power, property and control. Within this framework, certain protest repertoires may directly arise from purely non-economic bases, like in the case of religious riots and the rites of misrule performed by youth abbeys of the French Middle Ages, which by no means systematically coincided with economic or class-based relations.

In a sense, Ileto’s and Lan’s peasant-based revolutionary and socio-religious movements tangent this theme of multiplicity when they talk separately about the significant role of deep and durable (traditional) structures other than economic ones vis-à-vis mass arousal, mobilization, and the making of mass rebellion. Like Davis and Harrison, these two zoom in on structural bases of protest of another currency, 15 viz., synchronic structures or systems of thought (mentalities) and culture rather than diachronic economic ones, in which as if the fundamental categories of culture were timeless.

15 Together, this quartet appear to play the cultural/semiotic/semiological structuralist tunes popularized by the likes of Lévis-Strauss, Michel Foucault, Saussure and some of the French Annalists. For a brief summary, see Burke (1 992), op cit.


Contextualizing Complexes: At the Clearing Stations Between Causes and Effects

Notwithstanding above dispute on the nature of general causes (single versus multiple bases), there seems to be a cessation of hostilities on the necessity of contextualizing them in terms of intermediary complexes, meso-structures and institutions, and thereby cutting analytical slack on perplexing protest outputs and repertoire variabilities. Contextualization strikes at the heart of corporate intellectual investments, and it is also in this central area that major assets and liabilities are deposited. Vertical linkages as well as horizontal methodological extensions are resurrected by the contributors’ diverse contextualizing efforts.

As earlier noted, the existence of a wide range of disparate protest forms and outputs convincingly shows that the relationship between causes and effects is far from simple and automatic. Popular causes of alienation (e.g., structural strains engendered by industrial- ization and urbanization, widespread material deprivation, etc.) Have simply not switched on to militancy and mass insurgency. And even when it did, both the forms and the net- results (or impacts) manifesting protest were clearly multifarious and hardly predictable.

Metaphorically, so it appears, standard causes pass through and are processed midway at specifiable “clearing stations” of contexts, which in the final analysis sculpture the quality (whether docility or militancy), shape /particular repertoire assumed), size (relative impact, spelling the difference between success and failure) of variable products of collective response. Indeed, our piece-meal engineers provide salient missing pieces to the jigsaw puzzle of variabilities.

Which contextual “clearing stations” are subpoenaed to testify by litigating writers? For Hobsbawm’s “primitive” social movements, the context in which patterned responses to the structural strains unleashed by advancing capitalism occurs, is provided by the transitional state of pre-existing social institutions. Marginal groups at the interstices of the transition between the disintegrating traditional feudal social and political institutions of kinship and patronage and the integrating blossoming ones of modern capitalism, are extremely volatile and prone under given conditions to articulate nostalgic moral claims and mobilize through disruptive, but in themselves, transitional protest repertoires of rural social brigandage, millenarian movements, urban riots and labor sects.

These marginal movements of the peasantry and the more heterogenous urban menu peuple are bound to modernize into more homogenous, cutting-edge class-based labor and socialist movements following their full incorporation in and consolidation of capitalist class relations and institutions. The schizophrenic state of affairs (the menu peuple having one foot in the feudal past and another in the capitalist present, albeit still at the periphery) to which the context of transition subjects Hobsbawm’s “primitive rebels” is endogenously expressed by the binary opposition of revolutionism and reformism in “archaic movements.”


“Primitive revels” obviously bear the mark of, to paraphrase Moore, revolutionary “iron in their souls,” but it is abrand of moral awakening and commitment which has essentially been informed by backward-looking conservative ideologies and reformistic world-views, nonetheless. Conveniently, but controversially, Hobsbawm’s periodization of the golden age of “primitive, pre-political” protest repertoires co-extends well too neatly with the tumultuous age of European pre-industrialism in the late 19 th to mid-20th centuries.

Harrison, revisiting this historical flash-point of contention, the notorious age of “king and mob,” argued that for all its worth, Hobsbawmian transitional arguments are in fact strategically de-contextualizing. Alongside of capitalist industrialization, the process of urbanization and overlapping structures of urban and national political cultures could very well be sources of tension and contention in their own rights.

While there is evidence to support the general transition of distinct repertoires of protest to another (“primitive” disruptive to “modern” stable forms) in line with the complete consolidation of capitalist class relations, as suggested by Hobsbawm, this may very be prima facie if not superficial. Beyond nitty-gritty economic forces, intervention of urban and national political cultures may, insofar as they provide alternative venues and standards for popular expressions of corporate self-identity, operate in ways that can, as it were, subliminally disguise contention in quasi-ritual and seemingly consensual repertoires, like celebratory crowd events, rather than patently conflictual ones such as mobs and riots.

Such possibility of ritual “smoke-screening” casts a shadow on Hobsbawm and other crowd historians’ arguments resting heavily on conflictual repertoires as quintessential indicators of transition from old tonew social orders. As Harrison intimates, national celebratory events could, for example, be the strategic loci of contention rather than consensus, symbolically encapsulating politico-cultural antagonisms arising from perceived violations of local civic image and corporate identities rather than stereotype class contradictions.

The moratorium of sorts on intervening contexts other than economic and class structures is nowhere more lucidly reliefed than in Davis’ back-tracking investigationof the blue-print and dynamics of French religious riots and purificatory rites of misrule among village and urban youth and guildsmen. Incontrast, but on par with secular urban food riots, there is if you like a distinctive religious moral economy. To the extent that the degree of correspondence between divisions separating religious crowd antagonists (Protestants versus Catholics) was pretty minimal, it is possible to delimit shifting “boundaries” in some spheres of urban activity between sacred and secular as well as the different popular responses engendered by these shifts, particularly during the interregnum between qualitative social transformations.

Apart from reincarnating Harrison’s point on the functional dualism of popular pageantry and festive repertoires, Davis highlights the resilient character of these repertoires as conduits of popular definition of self and community carried over from one generation to another.


These may change more in form than in substance, as the history of transformation of rural to urban abbeys of misrule succinctly demonstrates. Strongly, the French case suggests that changing forms synchronized well with the changing needs of urban growth and attendant social differentiation, without relinquishing basic functions of mediation of self-identity and collective values.

But whatever happened to Hobsbawm’s invincible modern social movements? The historical record speaks more of ignominious blunders rather than victories. For all their vaunted pool of resources and opportunities for mass mobilization, expected subjectivevoluntarism among subordinate groups had not rarely defaulted on revolutionary projects. When they did rarely volunteer, mass participation had been short-lied and eventually ended in dramatic retreat. This lesson can be drawn in the separate cases of urban and working class movements in Moore’s Germany and Piven and Cloward’s United States.

Moore’s detailed anecdote ofdifferential responses(militancy versus docility) among German industrial worker to the more or less standard social strains of modern capitalism poignantly shows how variations in collective action are comprehensively patterned by the conjoining forces of social, political, cultural, historical, and psychological contexts. These intervening parameters extend in both directions between local and national arenas of contention. At the shop and sectoral levels of industry, like in the coal and steel industries of the German Rurh, the relative proclivity of different proletarian segments to either militant or conformist repertoires of collective action hinged on the presence or absence of traditional (cf Hobsbawm’s contrasting verdict on traditionalism as liability rather than asset) of socio- cultural and political (in terms of paternal legitimation by state and political authorities) institutions and moral standards of collective bargaining and belligerency.

Through such institutions, key requisites for disciplined strategic mobilization are mediated, not least ideological and psychological cohesiveness and sensitivity to “social contract” violations, new options and alternative moralities. Once local struggles and conflict enter the larger polity, a squadron of factors intervene – political realignments and balance of forces, different options to exit (e.g., quasi-ritualization of popular disenchantment through electoral institutions), varying elite responses, specific character of national political culture, etc. Since the probability that all these requisites would conjunct all at once is obviously limited, the odds against nationwide rebellions to precipitate would indeed be imposingly formidable.

In the same manner, structural and contextual constraintsworked against initially promising urban mass mobilizations in the United States during the war and inter-war Depressionyears, according to Piven and Cloward. More than Moore, these two writers underscore the (over-) decisive role played by political institutions and culture in undermining both the sustainability and success of mobilization and mass participation. However, there tends to be a slight touch of overkill in their contextualizing arguments. Simply put, these writers claim that mass insurgency failed not despite organizational formalization (RMT advocates’


sine qua non for resource maximization and thus for any movement’s success), but because of it.

Apparently, if we are to take Piven and Cloward’s arguments at face value, what structural dislocations and temporary institutional disarray giveth (maneuvering space for disruptive extra-institutional mass mobilizations) institutional normalization (e.g., restabilization of representative electoral systems, return to normal political alignments within elite ranks, and re-institution of predominant political cultures) taketh away. Once mass movements transform into formal organizations in tandem with political institutional normalization, the strong tendency of movement leaders to be co-opted by elite power-holders – in exchange for nominal reforms and mass demobilization coupled with the emasculating ritualization of political conflict via electoral systems – effectively destroys initial gains delivered by informal militant mass struggles.

While revolutionary failures abound, some struggles, like those in the Philippines (1896) and Zimbabwe (1979) did succeed. What accounts for these success stories? Here, as well as in faltering cases, the conjunction of several contextual streams played a decisive hand in the course of events. Pace Hobsbawm’s traditional-modern dichotomy, these examples graphically portray the reconcilability rather than irreconcilability of binary opposition that made the difference.

Thus, in both revolutions, despite temporal and spatial distance, traditions of folk religion (Shona rituals and practices around mhodoro royal ancestry in Zimbabwe and indigenized Catholic ideology and ritual practices in the Philippines), political authority and its leading agents (Zimbabwean spiritual mediums and Filipino charismatic leaders of socio-religious, millenarian movements and secret peasant brotherhoods and sects) merged positively with their modern counterparts (socialism and liberal bourgeois ideologies, armed socialist guerillas and enlightened middle-class intelligentsia) and provided both impetus and impact to mass mobilizations.

This fusion, as Lan noted in Zimbabwe, reveals the deep symbolic meaning of revolution and the dialectical process of continuity and discontinuity – where “in a changing world (folk) ideology and ritual constantly seek out new material, to feed upon, ingest and absorb inorder to grow and meet challenges change brings and in order to remain essentially unchanged.”

Perhaps a more comprehensive symptomatic expression of this dialectical theme can be seen in the compulsive recurrence of populist politics – marked by a charismatic leadership in direct rapport with the people – which despite context-specific variations are, as Worsley’s comparative study of populist movements reports, reincarnated time and again irrespective of context.


Normative Concepts, Defining Subject Actors, Social and Popular Movements

– Captive or Creative Agency

Finally, vertical and horizontal linkages intersect on how concerned writers elect to define the central object of their inquiry, i.e., social action, actors, and movements. Among some of the authors, these categories are more empirically defined or context-specific. Piven andCloward premise their definition of movement on the mode of action, whether or not it takes to disruptive methods of mobilization. Social action and movement arising from certain specifiable spheres like the religious movement of Davis, Ileto’s socio-religious movements, or Harrison’s association of collective action manifested in different types of crowds and crowd events. Others like Worsley speak more in terms of shared political style than coherent movements, as in the case of populism. Still others, most obviously Hobsbawm, apply classic Marxist class norms in reconstructing the differentia specifika of social action and movements,

a datum against which other movements can be defined. Here, a contradistinction is made

between revolutionary (modern) versus reformist (traditional) movements, as those either possessing or lacking strategic goals and programs designed to qualitatively transform pre- existing social and class structures.

At another level, however, above cleavages tend to subside with respect to evaluating the limits and latitude of collective action. How far are social actors to be credited for the failure or success of action? Or to put it in the jargon of mainstream social science disputants: Do structures presuppose human agency or vice versa in the final analysis? The tilt of the evidence at large seems to point in favor of intermediary contexts and meso-structures – or, as in some cases, “other” durable deeper structures f symbols and meanings – over human agency, but structures nonetheless.

Although the authors scrutinized here muster powerful evidence in terms of the limiting impact of these intervening middle-structures on elected course of action, there is certainly no reason to throw the baby with the bath-water on human agency ( a caveat particularly leveled at Piven and Cloward’s structural determinism), insofar as social actors are themselves mediating forces, whose actions do, in lesser or greater degrees of calculation, have varying impacts on conditioning structures. In this sense, social actors are both captives and creators of structures (see earlier section on the general hazards of structuralism).

Conclusion – Empirical and Methodological Insights and Problems

Syndicated empirical efforts (of course with some few exceptions) help rectify reckless generalizations rampant in mainstream discourses on the theme of popular protest move- ments. Together, the separate empirical accounts offer relevant clues to the haunting riddle of vast variabilities, despite standard object conditions, of forms and outcomes of protest. Below,


we list some of the key insights delivered by reviewd inputs.

Firstly, the empirical inclusivity rather than exclusivity of binary opposites (traditional versus modern) in most of the cases presented convincingly demonstrates the analytical bankruptcy and midget utility of stereotype dichotomies.

Secondly, the same cases also strongly suggest that different protest repertoires and repercussions cannot be deduced a priori from any one single causal base. Although economic/class relations may well be primary sources of tension and contention, they may under certain conditionsbe offset or overridden by other equally decisive, albeit intermediary, sources (e.g., religion, political culture, and other non-economic relations). Moreover, the former are endogenously “segmented” rather than uniform relations (market-based versus production-based economic relations, wherein individual “segments” can by all means midwife particularized forms of conflict and protest repertoires and repercussions. This multiplicity can partially explain variabilities, although it may be difficult to exactly delineate the boundaries of various bases, since they often overlap in reality.

Thirdly, the evidence reviewed here also indicate that contemporary protest repertoires may actually be popular attempts to understand and change unfavorable situations by, as it were, re-linking rather de-linking with the past. In fact, the logic of this statement is quite simple:

collective traditions of the past give meaning and form to collective modes of action in the present. To some extent, the propensity of different fractions among subordinate groups towards either militant ordocile modalitiesof collective action may depend on inheritedsocio- cultural and institutional property. Segments with strong institutional links are usually or logically also those with greater sensitivity to perceived “contract” violations, and would by the same token likely be able to articulate claims. Mobilizability is nothing automatically given by dint of position within pre-existing class structures.

Fourthly, another lesson learned from the empirical depositions is that one shouldn’t judge the book by its cover. Consensualist-looking repertoires of collective action should not be readily dismissed as some sort of counterfeit alternative to the more “authentic” or visibly more confrontational protest forms. In fact, the former may just be symbolic means of articulating critique in highly repressive or power-laden socio-political contexts. Contention then would most likely be camouflaged in the shape of quasi-rituals and pageantry.

Above assets from noted insights now merit juxtaposition with cost-deductions in order to balance the ledger on reviewed contributions. Apart from the caveat on the tendency of downplaying human agency in favor of meso-structures, other notable problems invite attention and vindication.

A central flaw in much of the text reviewed concerns empirical comparability and validity. Certainly, this is the price that has to be paid for detail. Firstly, selected cases of movements


span a wide range of collective action repertoires – from urban to rural, millenarian movements, labor sects, relief, unemployed, civil rights movements, classic workers and labor movements, peasant guerilla movements, secret confraternities, populist movements, etc. Such repertoires are in essence highly context- and historically-specific in a way that lends these cases problematically to analytical comparisons.

Secondly, comparability is also compounded by the fact that selected cases tease out clues to and address a variety of themes and questions within the general problematique of popular protest – from the dynamics of mass mobilization, the impact of protest, the semiotics and semiology of protest, to the history of transitional repertoires.

Thirdly, as previously mentioned, conceptual references and normative terminologies, like the criteria used to assess success and failure, differ between some of the contributions, a discrepancy tending to further thwart comparability. In fact, some central concepts, like Moore’s psychological requisites for militant mobilization or Piven and Cloward’s “trans- valuation,” are extremely difficult to empirically operationalize and validate (or for that matter invalidate).

Another cavity, one associated with the occupational hazards of contextualizing arguments, manifests in tendency towards tautology. Without raising contextualizing output to higher altitudes of generalization via comparative research, elements of tautology and circularity incubated by such arguments may intensify, insofar as their basic design implies that variable effects (protest repertoires and repercussions) are given the variabilities of the very contexts invoked.

Lastly, the contributions show at close inspection that old conceptual biases die hard. Although some authors (Davis, Harrison, Ileto and Lan) have avoided solipsistic hangovers stemming from functionalist and structuralist macro-theories, delinquencies still occur among others. Solipsistic tendencies thrive, for instance, in the rigid dichotomization of repertoires of collective behavior and action, movements and social institutions into functionalist consensual versus structuralist confrontational forms. In operationalizing this dichotomy one tends to focus only on the “literal translations” in reality of binary opposites. Disruptive repertoires like riots are perceived in this sense as self-evident expressions of conflict, whereas festive and celebratory forms are readily written off as manifestations of consensus. Yet, as earlier argued here, consensualist repertoires may under given conditions just as well, or perhaps even better, serve as Trojan horses for contention. Repertoires “pretending” to concede than contend through critical symbolism and dissimulation may be more dis- empowering to those in power when the latter do not sense any immediate threat to their power.



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