Tag Archives: protest

Reflections on ‘The Problem with Democracy’

[NB Re-post. First published at movements@manchester.]

Parliamentary Affairs has just published an interesting public lecture by Matthew Flinders, along with responses by Jack Corbett and Ian Marsh. The lecture brings together a whole host of complaints that have been targeted at advanced liberal democracies in trying to understand nose-diving levels of trust in politicians and voter turnout among young citizens. It is a systematic and insightful piece that ultimately Continue reading Reflections on ‘The Problem with Democracy’

Occupy! A global movement

Cover: Occupy! A Global MovementThis book is an urgent and compelling account of the Occupy movements: from the M15 movement in Spain, to the wave of Occupations flooding across cities in American, Europe and Australia, to the harsh reality of evictions as corporations and governments attempted to reassert exclusive control over public space. Across a vast range of international examples over twenty authors analyse, explain and helps us understand the movement. These movements were a novel and noisy intervention into the recent capitalist crisis in developed economies, developing an exceptionally broad identity through a call to arms addressed to ‘the 99%’, and emphasizing the importance of public space in the creation and maintenance of opposition. The novelties of these movements, along with their radical positioning and the urgency of their claims all demand analysis. This book investigates the crucial questions of how and why this form of action spread so rapidly and so widely, how the inclusive discourse of ‘the 99%’ matched up to the reality of the practice. It is vital to understand not just the choice of tactics and the vitality of protest camps in public spaces, but also how the myriad of challenges and problems were negotiated.

This book was first published as a special issue of Social Movement Studies. Full details and ebook purchase available via Routledge.

Cite: Pickerill, Jenny, John Krinsky, Graeme Hayes, Kevin Gillan, and Brian Doherty, eds. 2015. Occupy! A Global Movement. London: Routledge.

Special Issue: The Ethics of Research on Activism

Published in 2012 as Social Movement Studies 11(2). Editors: Kevin Gillan & Jenny Pickerill.

From the editors’ introduction (with Jenny Pickerill):

“This article explores a number of key questions that serve to introduce this special issue on the ethics of research on activism. We first set out the limitations of the bureaucratic response to ethical complexities in our field. We then examine two approaches often used to justify research that demands time consuming and potentially risky participation in research by activists. We label these approaches the ethic of immediate reciprocity and the ethic of general reciprocity and question their impacts. Continue reading Special Issue: The Ethics of Research on Activism

Just who do you think we are?

Tom asked:

Just spent the morning listening to a couple of folks who were labour activists in the 40s and 50s. Now wondering how we organise politically under the sociological conditions of late modernity. If the class structure isn’t there to support the traditional labour movement (in the same way), what can we build instead?

An important and tricky question, no doubt; in the following I may only succeeded in rewording it…

Continue reading Just who do you think we are?

We fought the law… and won!

The European Court of Human Rights today issued its judgement on the case that Penny Quinton and I have been taking against the government over section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. They have agreed that this piece of legislation offends against Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and does not contain sufficient safeguards Continue reading We fought the law… and won!

Moral Business: Changing Corporate Behaviour by ‘Speaking Their Language’

Paper presented to the European Sociological Association General Conference, Lisbon, September 2009.

Abstract:

The academic publisher Reed Elsevier also organised the world’s largest defence exhibitions. The exhibitions themselves have regularly met vibrant street protests, and from 2005 campaigners targeted the corporate organisers. A coordinated network of anti-arms trade activists, academics, medical professionals and institutional shareholders formed a multifaceted campaign that sought to persuade the corporation to change its behaviour on its own terms. After initial intransigence Continue reading Moral Business: Changing Corporate Behaviour by ‘Speaking Their Language’

Direct Action, Democracy and Individualism

Paper for presentation at the Alternative Futures and Popular Protest Conference, 15-17th April 2009, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Abstract:

Direct action (DA) is often considered to be a tactical approach to protest, utilised in the service of a wide range of causes. More recently, the notion that DA forms the basis of a radical social movement of itself has gained some currency (e.g. Doherty, Plows and Wall 2003). This paper argues that we should rather understand DA as an orientational frame: a structure of normative beliefs that can form a guide to understanding and action in a variety of contexts (Gillan 2008).
Examining documentary sources on the British DA tradition and ethnographic data from recent instances of DA protest against globalisation and war, I identify the core beliefs that hold the DA frame together. Three elements in particular are identified. First, DA is based on a fundamental belief in individual freedom that motivates an evaluation of the individual moral culpability of both protest participants and their opponents. Second, DA groups have an attitude to decentralised, non-representative decision making that offers a particular understanding of democracy. Third, DA involves the re-imagining of political space as grassroots collective constructs free from systems of domination, that are consciously sought or created by DA groups.
Exploration of these key ideational elements will offer two benefits. First, we will see how the interaction and translation of ideas within particular contexts shapes the possibilities and constraints that movement participants encounter. Second, this analysis opens up possibilities for comparison with (and critique from) more obviously ideological structures of belief.

You can download a pdf version of this paper from: Direct Action, Democracy and Individualism (PDF).

Anti-War Activism: New Media and Protest in the Information Age

Book cover: Anti-War Activism, by Gillan, Pickerill & WebsterThe first academic account of the 21st century anti-war and peace movement. Empirically rich and conceptually innovative, Anti-War Activism pays especially close attention to the changed information environment of protest, the complex alliances of activists, the diversity of participants, as well as campaigners’ use of new (and old) media.

Reviews:

  • “Very impressive … a clearly presented and well thought out study… All social movement scholars will find something of relevance and interest to them in this book.” Nick Crossley, Social Movement Studies.
  • “There are many of us who want to ensure that the British people never again allow a British Prime Minister to get away with what Tony Blair got away with. This book shows what some of us did wrong.” John Sloboda, Times Higher Education.
  • “The authors … skilfully combine different methods in their research … written using easily understood language and supplied with attention-grabbing factual material.” Volodymyr Lysenko, Information, Communication & Society.

Full information, including ebook and free preview chapter are available at the Palgrave MacMillan website.

Cite: Gillan, Kevin, Jenny Pickerill, and Frank Webster. 2008. Anti-War Activism: New Media and Protest in the Information Age. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

2. Identifying the Research Subject: The ‘Movement of Movements’ as Cycle of Contention

This chapter does some more theoretical work. This is important, academically speaking, because my work takes a position mid-way between distinct approaches from US and European scholarship on social movements. Within the European strand of work, one of the most important things going on from the mid-1960s was the development of a politics of protest that seemed more concerned with new identities than with the more obviously materialist politics of labour movements. But, recent protests against the economic effects of globalisation pose a problem for that way of thinking – aren’t the recent struggles really about the distribution of goods and money?

With this question in mind this chapter explores the recent history of protest. I describe some of the links between the anti-/alter-globalisation struggles, the attempts to create positive alternatives in the social forums, and the incredible eruption of protest around the war on terror. In this way I introduce the specific subject of study for the remainder of the thesis. That is, as well as trying to understand the way ideas are used and structured within social movements I’m trying to understand the specific story of recent protest against globalisation and war. By looking at the different versions of the history of recent protest found within the movements themselves, I also give an introduction to some of the differences between the three sets of ideas (the three ‘orientational frames’) described later.

Download C2: Movement of Movements