Social Movement Digest: JSO’s strategy, the criminalisation of protest and movements of the 2010s
We’ve been working on some interesting new research at Social Change Lab, which we’re looking forward to sharing with you here soon! In the meantime, please see below our latest Social Movement Digest with insights from across social movement research.
Just Stop Oil’s strategy in their own words
We’re pleased to share an exclusive guest blog from our friend Sam Light, who has recently completed research on Just Stop Oil’s strategy by interviewing JSO activists themselves. Sam spoke to activists about their perception of the group’s strategy, tactics and how climate activism can drive change, uncovering some really interesting insights.
Sam’s research explores questions such as:
What does it mean to be the ‘radical flank’ of a movement?
How do Just Stop Oil activists understand the group’s theory of change, and its strategy?
How have the group’s strategy and tactics changed over time, and why?
What are the reasons for targeting cultural events, or works of art, rather than fossil fuel infrastructure?
The criminalisation of protest
A recent investigation by the Guardian outlines how climate protesters are being increasingly criminalised around the world, with heavy-handed policing, repressive laws and the curtailing of protest rights. Other research by The New Republic, Drilled and DeSmog has also uncovered the particular role that a network of think tanks has played in driving this criminalisation and demonisation of activists. Drilled, a true crime podcast about the climate, has also released a series of episodes looking at the repression and criminalisation of protest, with episodes covering countries including Australia, Brazil and Palestine, and another on disruptive tactics in the climate movement.
Liberty has a good overview of the situation in the UK, and this report from Sheila McKechnie Foundation outlines how the UK’s democratic space is shrinking due to a combination of factors, including new anti-protest measures and the undermining of civil society.
Whatever happened to the social movements of the 2010s?
The 2010s saw mass protests explode in countries all over the world, from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement. Journalist Vincent Bevins’ new book, If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution, looks at the history of these movements and asks why so many failed to achieve their aims, interviewing 250 activists from 12 countries in the process. You can read an interview about the book here, and listen to a two-part podcast with Bevins here.
An interview with Everything Mixtape
I recently joined Samuel Gonçalves for a discussion on social movements for his newsletter, Everything Mixtape. We chatted about how social change happens, protest and democracy, and how activists can hold onto hope. You can read our conversation here and other interesting interviews from the newsletter here.
Some recent research we found interesting!
Free riding in climate protests. This paper examines what makes people join a climate protest, finding that individuals who expect many others to participate are less likely to participate themselves. Includes interesting recommendations for protest organisers.
When are social protests effective? This paper attempts to create a new framework for evaluating the effectiveness of protests, looking at targets, tactics and outcomes.
The Power of Protest in the Media. This paper examines real-life portrayals of climate protests in the UK media, looking at how coverage varies according to tactics and across different outlets.
The Radical Flank: Curse or Blessing of a Social Movement? Experimental studies looking at the impact on public opinion of radical flanks and different tactics across environmental and animal advocacy issues.
How politicians learn about public opinion. Using survey data of 900 politicians in five countries, this paper assesses how politicians form their ideas about public opinion on policy issues.
Corporate concessions: Opportunity or liability for climate advocacy groups? This paper presents a framework for analysing the mechanisms of elite concessions to climate campaigners, and how this influences policy making and the movements themselves.
Mobilisation without opportunity. This article examines factors that can drive mass mobilisation under conditions of limited political opportunity, such as the the UK’s 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
If you have any research, campaign plans or thoughts that you would like to share with us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! If a colleague of yours would like to receive this newsletter, please direct them to sign up here. Follow our new twitter account here.